Business Plan Competition for Latin American Diaspora



Latin America’s increasing affluence represents a unique opportunity for Hispanic entrepreneurs in the United States. Latin America is a region with fast-growing economies and a rapidly expanding middle class. The Hispanic community in the United States numbers at least 50 million. This diaspora includes highly skilled and educated entrepreneurs who can serve as an important engine of growth and development in the United States and Latin America. Today there are 1.6 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the nation. All told, they employ another 1.5 million people and boast some $222 billion in annual gross receipts.

The Latin American IdEA Partnership (La Idea) is a business competition platform that fosters collaboration between entrepreneurs in the United States and Latin America with the goal of expanding innovative businesses that will generate employment and economic growth throughout the Americas. La Idea’s objective is to maximize the ongoing collaboration and shared expertise between U.S. and Latin American business communities to increase economic opportunity and jobs in Latin America. Its goals are to:

    • Generate awareness for resources available to entrepreneurs in the U.S. and Latin America through the business plan competition platform.
    • Strengthen entrepreneurship within the Latin American diaspora through events and a virtual marketplace platform.

La Idea provides the following forms of support and resources:

    • Awards to innovative and scalable businesses. Competition winners receive up to USD$100,000 in cash and in-kind awards to support their businesses.
    • Access to financing
    • Assistance to global markets and investors
    • Individual business counseling
    • Tools that foster local sustainable development and expand opportunities

La Idea is a public-private partnership with the Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, OPIC, the Association of Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Univision Networks, Boom Financial and WellSpace. The implementing partners of La Idea are ACCION, The U.S. Network, and FHI360. For more information on La Idea, please visit or contact

Press Release

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced La Idea on November 14, 2011 during Global Entrepreneurship Week. On April 13, 2012, President Barack Obama highlighted La Idea as a key component of the Small Business Network of the Americas (SBNA), which will strengthen partnerships between small business development centers and their clients throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Please click here to download the full press release.

Click here to read a full transcript of Secretary Clinton’s remarks.

Eligibility Criteria

General Requirements
  • True Partnership: Proposals must represent formal partnership between the U.S. based entrepreneur or company from the Latin American diaspora or with a demonstrated commitment or connection to target country, and a local entrepreneur or company in one of the eligible countries. Examples of partnerships include equity relationships, trade relationships, contractual relationships, joint ventures or other types of legal structure of business relationships.
  • Sectors: Proposals will be accepted in all sectors.  La Idea will not consider proposals which are not in compliance with exclusions by U.S. Government.  For a full list of exclusions, please see Attachment A.
  • Business size: La Idea applicants must not exceed the definition of small and medium size enterprise (SME). An SME is defined as a business that has no more than 300 employees and total annual sales of no more than USD $15 million.
  • Innovation: Proposals must include novel business or organizational models, operations, production processes, products or services that lead to substantial improvements (not incremental ones) in executing against a business or development challenge.
Submission Requirements
  • Proposals can be submitted by either the U.S. based entrepreneur or Latin-American based entrepreneur as long as they are doing so in partnership with each other. Only one proposal from the partnership will be accepted.
  • Entrepreneurs are required to submit their application, supporting documents, and business plan in English. Guidelines will be available in Spanish.
  • All proposals must be submitted on-line at by the deadline. Applications will not be accepted through fax or mail.
Business Location:
  • Proposals must include partnerships with one of the following eligible countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela.


Evaluation Criteria 

Partnership True partnerships include equity relationships, trade relationships, contractual relationships, joint ventures or other types of legal structure of business relationships. In addition to being under any of these categories, the partnership will be assessed as follows:

    • Clear articulation of the nature of the partnership.
    • What motivated its creation, pre-existing accomplishments or what it wants to accomplish?
    • What makes the partnership a good fit for La Idea.

Overarching question: does this partnership have both the foundation and potential to succeed in the context of La Idea?

Management Expertise or Potential Management expertise or potential is equally as important as the partnership. Factors in the evaluation will include information regarding the team composition, relevant qualifications and/or motivations, and demonstrated track record of success. The partnership should demonstrate the following:

    • Knowledge or clear vision of the industry from both partners,
    • Experience in the industry or transferable skills to enter a new industry, and
    • Key accomplishments.

Overarching question: what skills and experience of the partners reflect their competitive advantage and ability to excel in the business venture and in the industry?

The Idea Business ideas most be innovative, well-structured and aligned with local needs/opportunities. They will be assessed as follows:

    • Sound understanding of industry,
    • Relevance to local and country markets, and
    • Demonstrate what is new and different about it.

Overarching question: What makes the business idea unique, innovative and different from others?

Accountability: Match/Contribution Potential The partnership’s potential to make a contribution (in-kind and/or cash) to add value to the grant. Partnerships will be expected to:

    • Tap into their resources,
    • Think creatively about their existing capital, and
    • Articulate how this can strengthen the grant from La Idea.

Overarching questions: What existing resources make the Partnership a good match for La Idea? How does the Partnership contribution complement the resources provided by La Idea grant?

Potential for Growth and Sustainability Business ideas must demonstrate potential for growth and become self-sustaining. This will be assessed as follows:

    • Clear understanding of competitors,
    • Revenue goals in the first year and five years years out, and
    • Types of jobs the business hopes to create, and innovative ideas on how the business can support the development of the industry/sector in-country.

The overarching question is, “Will this business thrive beyond La Idea?”

TOTAL 100%


Key Dates 
December 8, 2012 Business plan competition launches in Miami
mid-January 2013 Application for the competition opens
February 21, 2013 Roadshow event in San Antonio, Texas
February 23, 2013 Roadshow event in Houston, Texas
February 27, 2013 Roadshow event in Dallas, Texas
March 16, 2013 Roadshow event in Los Angeles, CA

La Idea en Acción is a series of events designed to promote the competition through workshops and outreach events engaging Latino entrepreneurs in key cities. La Idea en Acción will host events in the following cities: Miami, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Albuquerque, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Phoenix, San Diego, Sau Paulo, Mexico City, and Bogota. Events are free and open to the public.

Media Coverage

Watch Univision’s coverage of the December 8, 2012 La Idea en Acción launch event in Miami