By Natalia Martinez-Kalinina
Miami has a ways to go before we can truly claim th e title of regional epicenter, but Argentina has long been recognized as one of the primary entrepreneurial - albeit not particularly stable - ecosystems in Latin America. Figuring out how to support Argentina’s wave of growth and appetite for engagement represents a unique opportunity to add value to the region and truly deliver on our vision as a gateway.
As a first step to test these waters, a group of us came together to co-author a full day of programming within StartupWeekBuenosAires - the largest event of its kind in Latin America- specifically focused on how to engage with the U.S. ecosystem and market by way of Miami. Ahead of the full agenda being announced shortly, if you are interested in participating or learning more, please fill out this form.
Leading up to the event in December, we will be featuring interviews with a varied range of Argentine entrepreneurs and companies making their way to Miami. The first installments of this series have featured interviews with Balloon Group and Wolox. For the third feature, we spoke with Joaquin Molla, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of the community - a multiple award winning and globally recognized creative agency, designated as the 2016 multicultural agency of the year by AdAge.
Tell us about the community/la comunidad. What’s the genesis story? What has been the trajectory?
We wanted to create a company where people can create and produce great work for great brands. The community was born around the idea of collaboration—how people from different cultures can influence each other and do amazing things when they work together. We deeply believe in the power of culturally-driven ideas.
What’s next? How do you see the company’s future growth and development?
At the community we think about growth differently. Most agencies approach the question of growth in the traditional way—the growth of their business; but we think growth is the product of something bigger: following a vision. Our vision remains the same: we believe in the power of culturally-driven ideas and technology. It’s all about our cultural sensibility, and we believe this is a global concept. So where that vision takes us, we will follow…
When did the community/la comunidad come to Miami? Why?
There were a few reasons. One of the most important ones was the idea of being able to do amazing things when you work and being able to have an amazing life when you get out of the office. We thought Miami could help us achieve a better balance between work and life. Some cities tend to give better work options, but with a harder side of life. We opened in Miami in 2001 with the idea of having a company with very high standards on both sides of life. We love the ocean! And it’s very rare to have both the opportunity to work in advertising and the ocean so close. It’s a luxury we celebrate every day. Also it is a very strategic place to be. You can be in New York and Chicago in three hours, in Buenos Aires overnight. You can cover all the Americas fast, and also be in London in six hours. It is in the middle of everywhere.
What kinds of opportunities were you looking for here? What aspects or risks worried you? How have those played out over your years here?
Again, the idea of a better work-life balance. At the beginning, we were worried about the standards on creativity. Buenos Aires is a very intense city where you are surrounded by culture, and it pushes you beyond your limits all the time… in a very interesting way. So our concern was that Miami could have the opposite influence on the company and on us, but that didn’t happen.
Besides, Miami has changed a lot in the last 16 years in a fascinating direction. I feel like we are also part of that change, and I always felt the city received us and supported us a lot during all those years because we made that bet at that time—and we took it very seriously. Now I feel like Miami is the right place at the right time. I feel honored to be here surrounded by so many talented people who want to find a balance but also want to keep pushing the limits of what’s possible. I feel very lucky to be here.
From the perspective of a Latin American entrepreneur/founder but a long-time Miami transplant, how do see Miami today? What works, what surprises you, what frustrates you?
I am very happy with the evolution Miami is going through. I like that it is becoming a more interesting place on the culture side. But the sense of “belonging” is something Miami has to work on. Somehow, it is hard to have strong roots in the city – everyone is moving around, and it feels like you are somehow another tourist in town. Whatever Miami can do to make people feel like a “local” and celebrate that you chose this city to raise your family and build your company would be great. More and more interesting people are choosing Miami to live, but how do we give them the sense of belonging and that extra “local” feeling that makes them stay?
In light of this perspective, what can Miami do better to become a truly value-adding “hub” for the region? (in your industry and in general)
I think any effort on culture is very well received. We were always perceived as a shallow city, but now the amount of thinkers living here is amazing. What do we do with all of them to bring that truth to the surface?
How has it worked to have your company straddling Miami and Buenos Aires? Any lessons or advice for companies exploring similar moves?
We have a lot to learn on both sides. We should mix process and intuition more. Both extremes are bad. In the U.S., things become too process driven, and sometimes you lose a bit of the magic; and the opposite is also true in Argentina, so that mix has helped our company ha lot.
Organizations like Endeavor have talked at length about the “Argentine Model,” but Argentina is also a country that has lived through rocky political and economic cycles. Is there something Miami can learn from the Argentine case study?
Well, you can always learn from anything. I think the biggest thing would be the ability to adapt fast to anything. You become tougher, and you can adapt easily to change. I think that is key these days. That is the only thing we can be sure about: Everything is changing all the time. So being raised in a country like Argentina prepares you for anything. You also learn how to react quicker, because you know timing is key. These days with technology, that speed drives everything we do. The “speed of culture” is dictating a faster way to communicate all the time.
Do you see potential for collaboration and bridge-building between the entrepreneurial ecosystem and the creative economies in Buenos Aires and Miami? Why or why not?
I think Miami should build a bridge between all the big cities of Latin America, not only Buenos Aires. We should be able to see the best artists' work, the best plays, movies, books and more. There should be a connection between Miami and the best of each of those cities that is more direct, fluent and consistent. This happens sometimes: you see something amazing from one of these cities. For me, however, this should be a serious long-term program curated by interesting people to make sure we have a pulse in each of those cultures to see not only the best but also what’s coming, what’s under the radar. In Miami we are at the center of it all. We can connect the south and the north, and we can do amazing things with that amazing mix.
[This is part 3 of a series. Read part 1 here - Honey vs. Vinegar: How are we luring and keeping the companies we want in Miami? and part 2 here]
Natalia Martinez-Kalinina is the General Manager of CIC Miami and the Founder of Awesome Foundation MIAMI. If you are an Argentine company looking to expand to Miami or a Miami-based entrepreneur/investor looking to connect with the Argentine ecosystem, please reach out to Natalia at email@example.com