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Don't worry, we speak : Español (Spanish), too!

Rappi Founder and Softbank Partner join with entrepreneurs for Latam Covid-19 fund, IMPACTO

Don't worry, we speak : Español (Spanish), too!

Contxto – Latin America is currently the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic. Mexico and Brazil are now reporting more daily deaths than any other country in the world except the United States.

Understanding the gravity of the situation, startups have already stepped into the breach to make up for lacking services—and lost time—in order to save as many people as possible.

Now, a diverse group of leading entrepreneurs and senior business executives from across Latin America have announced the launch today (30) of a new non-profit organization to source, partner, and fund Latin American initiatives to fight the novel coronavirus.

Its mission statement is well labeled on the new organization’s name, IMPACTO, and it will support efforts in testing, medical equipment, and meals to patients and front-line workers.

Startup founders, doing what they do best

In correspondence with Contxto, IMPACTO Director, Laura Gaviria Halaby, said the nonprofit was legally established in May and the past few weeks have been spent gathering strategic partners amongst the ecosystem, government institutions, and NGOs.

Now, they are reaching out to the broader public for help in funds as well as in volunteering. If you’d be interested in chipping in, there’s a link here where you can check out what is needed.

True to their startup roots, these entrepreneurs are pivoting without reinventing the wheel. Sure, IMPACTO as an organization is new, but I would say that what it is actually achieving is institutionalizing what these startups and founders were previously doing.

This new initiative coordinates them at a time where speed and efficiency are key.

Just take IMPACTO’s head honchos. The non-profit was founded by Sebastian Mejia, President and co-Founder of Rappi, and Ralf Wenzel, Managing Partner at SoftBank Group International. These people were already very much involved in the Covid relief efforts.

The origins of the organization’s founders may also explain the initial focus of IMPACTO’s efforts:

Today we are initially launching IMPACTO through an initiative in alliance with Frubana [a B2B fresh produce distributor] in Colombia. Next month we’ll be starting our next initiative which will be focused on Brazil.

 Laura Gaviria Halaby, Director of IMPACTO

So, what about the rest of the region? Are they being ignored?

Probably not. It’s not a conspiracy. Most likely, the makeup of the entrepreneurs in IMPACTO was more strongly reflected in the alliances that had already been made on the ground in countries like Colombia—remember, IMPACTO’s founder is Rappi’s President.

Also, there is a gruesome coincidence to take into account: The big hitters of the startup ecosystem are now the worst hit by the crisis. Therefore, IMPACTO will support initiatives in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico “that address the most immediate challenges and have a direct impact on people’s lives,” said SoftBank’s Wenzel.

Latin America and Covid-19: Chronicle of a crisis foretold

IMPACTO has come at a crucial memento for the region.

The Economist has published sobering data showing the progression of the disease by region. Latin America now leads the world by a country mile. Worst of all, this is a region with a particularly bad testing record, and the situation is only getting worse.

Poor access to healthcare and basic services means that there is a big gap that IMPACTO will be needing to fill. And yet, the health crisis may not be the biggest problem in the near future. 

This crisis is compounded by the unpalatable choice of having to choose between exposing people to the virus if they go out or exposing them to poverty if they stay away from work. So, the question is: 

Will IMPACTO have to pivot again once the health catastrophe becomes an economic crisis?

Gaviria Halaby says that, for now, IMPACTO’s guidelines are clear and relevant to the crisis at hand, and yet: “If the needs stemming from the crisis change, IMPACTO will support the solutions most needed at that moment.”

Related articles: Tech and startups from Colombia!

-AG

Alejandro González Ormerod
Historian, writer, and editor from Mexico City. He was a book publisher, academic, and cheesemonger before joining Contxto. Still deciding on which Latin American country to visit next; food and fun are the main criteria.

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