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  • From a Local Chapter to a Regional Catalyzer
  • Rodrigo Villar Esquivel (bio)

New Ventures México (NVM) started out almost 10 years ago as a small dream, when I was recruited to start a local chapter of the New Ventures program, the brainchild of the World Resources Institute (WRI), a think tank based in Washington, D.C. The program’s purpose was to involve the private sector in the funding of environmental enterprises to achieve large-scale impact. The challenge was daunting: no one even spoke of social or environmental companies in Mexico at the time, let alone supporting or funding them in any way. Nevertheless, it was a challenge I was eager to take on.

At first we supported environmental businesses through an acceleration program, but we quickly built a dynamic team that had contagious entrepreneurial energy, which resulted in something much greater. Our acceleration program is now sustained by the integrated platform we’ve developed, which includes a series of initiatives such as Las Paginas Verdes (LPV), the Latin American Impact Investment Forum, and Adobe Capital. NVM has grown alongside Mexico’s green business ecosystem, and in the process we have learned to adapt to external changes while sticking to our core mission and values. This strategic approach accounts for the progress we’ve made so far.

I hope my story and that of NVM can shed some light on how we transitioned from a local chapter of a think tank to a business platform that is sustainable and scalable, attracts top-tier talent, and is an important catalyst in the region. I also hope my personal story will add to the growing momentum behind the idea that it is possible to do good while doing well, and that the private sector can have a positive impact on problems that were once considered exclusively the responsibility of the nonprofit and government sectors.

My Background and Trajectory

The story begins in 2004, when I was fresh from my MBA program and looking for a job back in Mexico. With my creative and restless character, I knew I could [End Page 93] never be part of a large corporation, thus I had to find something flexible and challenging. I somehow stumbled upon the WRI and its nascent project, New Ventures, and immediately fell in love with its mission: to create and showcase successful environmental and (later) social businesses, to demonstrate their viability, and generate a demonstration effect that inspires other environmental and social entrepreneurs and attracts investors to these companies and strengthens the ecosystem.

After four years of accounting studies at Tec de Monterrey University, three years of work in accounting and finance, and then a two-year MBA program at Australia’s Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, it was exhilarating to apply my accumulated technical knowledge to something so different from the kind of work I had envisioned myself doing for the rest of my life. I also realized that I wanted to rescue the essence of the entrepreneurial self I had manifested as a child. If I had graduated from high school when entrepreneurship was flourishing, I never would have been an accountant and would have been able to thrive doing what I enjoyed at an earlier age. Therefore, the position I was offered as founder and director of NVM was an invaluable opportunity to take my career in a new direction.

Looking back at my childhood, I now realize that I always had an entrepreneurial spirit. As a kid I organized small-scale businesses that I thought would make me rich, such as hunting and selling grasshoppers, organizing fairs with my friends and charging an entrance fee, buying toy cars from one friend to sell them for a profit to my schoolmates, and giving rides to my neighbors in supermarket carts and charging their parents for the service. This entrepreneurial spirit, along with an insatiable desire to shake things up and do something different, led me to accept the position at NVM.

Oddly, I took on the position without having had a desire previously to be actively involved in solving social and environmental issues. It was not something I had manifested early on, as I had my...


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