Interview with Daniel Breitenmoser, CEO and Co-Founder of Ongresso
At Ongresso, we encourage our employees to follow their own path and be true to themselves. Daniel Breitenmoser, Co-Founder and CEO with an adventurous spirit, is a great example of how by following his own path he achieved success as an entrepreneur in Latin America. In the following interview, he discusses how and why he ended up in Latam as well as what might be next.
You were born and raised in Switzerland. How did you end up in Latin America?
My first visit to Latin America was in 2000 as a young student backpacking through Ecuador. I wanted to discover a new part of the world, live adventures, immerse myself in a different culture and improve my Spanish. More such trips followed, to Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico and Central America. As you can see, I got hooked on Latin culture right away.
Can you recall your first impressions?
The language, the music, the beauty and joy of life in its people – I loved the whole package from day one (laughs).
Did you plan from the beginning to start a life here?
Not really, after all I was just a young student starting adult life and discovering the world. Back then my life was still in Switzerland where I finished my MA in International Relations before moving abroad. But I did feel a strong connection with Latin America and sensed that it would keep playing an important role in my life.
What motivated you to start a business in Colombia?
Even though my professional path first led me to Asia, the Middle East and Africa, my passion for Latin America stayed with me as I had expected it might. It was this passion and the dream of starting our own business that finally made my founding partner and I become entrepreneurs in Colombia back in 2010. We chose Colombia because we saw a country with a massive untapped potential that offered the perfect opportunity.
Were you afraid of what others may think about your decision?
No, because before starting Ongresso in Colombia I worked in places such as Afghanistan, Liberia and Haiti. That’s why people have been telling me that I’m crazy for so long that I’ve become used to it (laughs). Once you start visiting places that are off the beaten path you realize that the world is a lot less dangerous than what the media make us believe. Incredible beauty and great opportunities can be found in such places. This was a real eye-opener for me. It was this insight that made me follow my own path in life and not limit myself based on the opinions of others.
After living 10 years in Colombia, you and your family decided to pack your things and move to Peru. Was this a difficult decision?
Yes and no. It was a joint decision of my wife and I and happened surprisingly fast. We were sad to leave Medellin, my favorite city in the world and the place we consider home. Yet the excitement of getting to know life in a new country and share this adventure with our children more than made up for it.
What was your first memorable experience in Peru?
Watching the sunset over the Pacific ocean from the Malecon Cisneros in Miraflores, Lima. What a view! In general living close to the sea is new to us. That’s why we enjoy the fantastic Peruvian seafood and frequent trips to the beach.
Can you describe your first impression of Peru?
Economically, Peru has had over ten years of economic growth and relative macroeconomic stability. This has led to the emergence of a growing middle class, fostering internal consumption. You can see this creation of wealth in the nicer neighborhoods where nice apartment buildings are springing up like mushrooms, fancy cars clog the streets, and the pricey high-end restaurants and bars are never empty. This is a good sign for international companies and investors.
At the same time, inequality continues to be very high with many Peruvians living in poverty and the informal sector making up almost 70% of the economy. And its main driver, the mining sector, has been affected by the slowdown in global demand, especially China.
So far, what differences have you found between doing business in Colombia and Peru?
The Peruvian economy is more centralized, the majority of the country’s business is located and conducted in Lima. This makes it pretty easy to build a network here. The economy of Peru is also more dependent on the mining sector while in Colombia it is more diversified. Obviously each country has its cultural idiosyncrasies you need to be aware of, but in general, business culture in both countries is pretty similar.
Where do you see yourself living in the next few years?
‘Follow your own path.’ This motto still shapes my life and that of my family. For the moment, Peru is our base but we’re open to what the future might bring. What is certain is that Latin America will remain my focus, and the same is true for Ongresso whose mission is to ‘Unlock the Potential of Latin America’. Any destination where I can help achieve our mission is a potential destination in the future.
You can contact Daniel Breitenmoser via Linkedin.
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