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Corporations

Medellín: A City of Centralized Influence

This is our second post in our Colombia conglomerate / family research series.

Our understanding of Medellín is that the city is reasonably tight-knit, with the majority of businesses influenced by a core group of ‘five families’ that operate behind closed doors. Gathering info on these families proved to be remarkably challenging.

Before we continue further, please note the legend below to help you follow the maps and ownership patterns.

A map of Grupo Sura and Grupo Empresarial Antioqueño in Medellín

The primary entity of the Medellín region is ‘Grupo Empresarial Antioqueño’ (see map below), an unofficial consortium of 125+ companies. This confederation or ‘sindicato’ is comprised of three significant conglomerates that are interconnected with each other: Grupo Sura (insurance), Grupo Nutresa (food and chocolates) and Grupo Argos (cement). This joint ownership across different business entities was created as a way to prevent hostile takeover in past decades, both from outside businesses and from drug traffickers.

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The Conglomerates and Oligarchs of Colombia

Many countries around the world are influenced by de facto oligarchies. These oligarchies frequently take the form of multi-generation families that own / control major economic industries of that city, country or region. These families are incredibly influential. They can act as kingmakers in politics and business. They can make or destroy opportunity. They often build empires (or ‘conglomerates’) of inter-related businesses. Sometimes these families collaborate or co-invest with each other; other times these families maintain distaste for each other. Of course, these families and their empires are most often very opaque.

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Microsoft: Intrapreneurship and corporate investing

As we expand our series on corporate innovation and startup investing, we wanted to interview Microsoft and one of its innovation leaders. As many know, Microsoft is an active supporter of startups around the world. It’s initiated a wide range of programs to reinvent its internal culture while growing its brand with the innovators and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

Jim Brisimitzis is currently General Manager for US Startups at Microsoft, and was formerly the Director of Operations for Microsoft Ventures. In addition to spending more than a decade at Microsoft, Jim successfully founded a startup within the corporation (and raised >$1 million for the project,) while growing a team of specialists to facilitate corporate engagement with startups in key markets across the US.

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Watsco: Corporations and the open innovation model

Today, we continue our corporate innovation and startup investing series by heading south to Miami where Watsco — one of the world’s largest HVAC companies — is pioneering the next generation of their business.

Ivan Rapin-Smith currently leads Watsco Ventures and is on a mission to invest in new technologies and business models. He formerly ran the startup accelerator program at the Venture Hive in Downtown Miami, and co-founded the first startup accelerator in Belgium. Ivan brings more than twenty years of experience in startup creation, mentorship, and strategy to his role as a corporate investor.

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Achieving productive intrapreneurship

We are beginning a new series that explores the role of corporations in startup investing and best practices in corporate innovation. For our first interview, we sat down with Lori Anne Wardi of Neustar to discuss her experiences in corporate innovation and ways to achieve productive intrapreneurship in the corporate space.

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