Panama City — Panamanian entrepreneurs are “getting younger”, have more academic studies, a higher socioeconomic level and have begun to spur entrepreneurship in the center of the country, according to the most recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), published annually by Babson College and London Business School.
Through an annual measurement, the GEM identifies factors that, at the institutional, cultural, regulatory and public policy levels, determine the level of entrepreneurial activity.
According to the GEM, 28 out of every 100 Panamanians of productive age consider it opportune to become entrepreneurs, or have already entered entrepreneurship but have fewer than 3.5 years of experience in the field. .
According to Panama’s Micro and Small Enterprises association (Ampyme), entrepreneurship in the country is more prevalent in the trade sector (49%) and services (37%), and not so much in manufacturing.
An entrepreneur in Panama today could be defined as a person between 25 and 44 years of age, with a medium academic education and of a medium socioeconomic level, who resides in the province of Panama, and is dedicated to independent commerce, in the vast majority of cases.
Boris Wainberg, the founder of Panamanian entrepreneurial network Panama Startups, said the organization was launched in 2015 in response to the need for guidance and support for people who were looking to start a new business.
“There was a need for more content and delivery of tools that entrepreneurs needed, practical workshops and a sense of belonging, knowing that they are on the same difficult path that we entrepreneurs find ourselves, especially at the beginning. The issue of what we call ‘mentors’ in entrepreneurship did not exist at that time in Panama,” he said.
He explained that when talking about startups as rapidly scalable businesses, mostly supported by technology, Panama is just starting out, although he clarified that the difference in recent years is notable, as high-level startups that have received national and foreign investment have begun to emerge organically. These are businesses mainly in the fintech area that are in high demand worldwide, he said.
However, these efforts to nurture startups must be promoted and highlighted at a national level to achieve more interest in this type of entrepreneurship among the general population, thus expanding the ‘funnel’ at the entrance of this sector, he added.
Wainberg points out that the local market is small in size, so entrepreneurs must always look for solutions that apply at least at a regional level, although he recognizes that this “export” of their products or services is not easy and requires a considerable investment, especially if you want to do it quickly.
There are already 25,000 entrepreneurs registered in the database of Panama Startups, and the community has more than 80,000 followers, and the database includes entrepreneurs and micro and small businesses from all sectors, including tourism, trade, orange economy, fashion, fintech, blockchain and the agricultural sector.
Regarding how Panama Startups differs from the rest of the entrepreneurial community, Wainberg said: “we are the first to come in with the concept of ‘community’, where we receive entrepreneurs or people who want to develop businesses without any requirements, without excluding anyone, with a social entrepreneurship format, meaning that the business must also address a social problem”.
“We are self-sustaining, without financial support from any institution, in these seven years that we have been operating, many attempts at community have appeared and disappeared, but their sustainability model has not survived over time,” Wainberg said.
He said the community is consolidating its digital presence to offer its services regionally in the medium term, and at the same time grouping all the organizations of the national entrepreneurship ecosystem together, to start pulling the cart in the same direction, in a coordinated way and to achieve results for local entrepreneurs.
“We expect great news for 2023″, he said in an optimistic tone.
The GEM states that in Panama there is a higher trend of entrepreneurship between 25 and 44 years of age, where 51% of the entrepreneurial population is located, and when analyzing comparatively with respect to the previous year, it highlights a proportional reduction of entrepreneurs aged between 55 and 64 years of age.
For the creator of the community of Panama Startups, the biggest obstacle for entrepreneurs continues to be a cultural issue, a fear of entrepreneurship and the preference for job stability in traditional companies.
Wainberg acknowledges that there are also obstacles to accessing financing, especially in terms of venture capital, although he maintains that there are actually much more fundamental issues, “such as the lack of innovation, which we must first overcome”.