Growing up in Chile, where his family owned a small market, Rocio Fonseca, SM ’14, was taught to expect to live a shorter life because of the families he lived with. In his early years, as the first member of his family to enter college, he often encountered difficult business conditions in his home country. Potential new employers want to know who her parents were, or they expect her to go to high school. “I did not get along with people,” she says. “I was a remnant.”
Disappointed, he decided to solve his problem and go abroad. He appreciates his time at MIT as a Sloan friend studying entrepreneurship and supporting his position at Chilean economic development organization CORFO, where he is leading the way in changing the business environment he has struggled with. Natural resources have allowed him to see where Chile’s economy can be expanded and grown, he says.
Although traditionalists still inquire about his parents (and he is happy that he can now go to MIT), he is not using his new position as director at CORFO’s InnovaChile department to get along with their country. Instead, he wants to create a so-called “parallel” route to Chile, which is open to people of all races. One of her favorite things to do is to bring in talented and innovative business owners. His department runs a wide range of courses, including online methods, security skills, and export methods. His team is so well-respected that it is “very easy to knock on doors and connect people,” he says.
Fonseca believes the innovations could create better jobs for everyone — by shifting Chile from its economy, which focuses on mining and agriculture, to something more suited to a climate-changing country. To this end, he manages a $ 40 million annual fund — one of the largest in Latin America — one of the most innovative and sustainable companies in the world. The money is very important because Chilean entrepreneurs do not have access to household income. “You have to be very productive from the start,” he says.
Since 2010, InnovaChile has supported more than 5,000 companies, with the most recent promotion of food production and distribution technology. The partners combine companies that make emulsions to improve the shelf life of the country’s fruit and vegetable shelves, protein-derived proteins, and phage technology to reduce the need for antibiotics in its cattle farms. “It’s not just about profit – it also affects the social and environmental benefits,” Fonseca says.