Marcelo is beaming and full of pride as he talks about the Palestinian Diaspora community in Chile and his own Grandfather, who he believes arrived in 1910 from the village of Beit Sahour, a journey which took 3 months by boat. ‘All my life I was told how my family came to Chile with nothing.’ Like many other Palestinian immigrants at the time, his Grandfather quickly settled into life there, establishing himself in the textiles industry and helping to bring the first Christian Orthodox church to the city of Santiago.
Marcelo’s own passion as a child for plants and animals led him to undertake a degree in Agronomical Engineering. However, it wasn’t long before he was using the knowledge he gained to develop his own ideas into startups. He believes that watching and learning from his own family instilled in him the passion for startups and investments and he describes his father as his own mentor and key source of support.
He is currently mentoring 5 startups in Chile, an activity which he believes is not only beneficial for the entrepreneurs but also his own continued professional development. ‘I get so much from mentoring and I see it as a way to effectively invest my most important resource – my time. Having experienced his own challenges as a young aspiring entrepreneur, he wants to share the lessons he has learned with others and help them along their journey to success.
As an investor, his proudest moment to date has been seeing the success of companies he has supported in Palestine through the Ibtikar Fund such as Mashvisor. ‘I would advise other Palestinians in the Diaspora to go and see Palestine and I think they will be pleasantly surprised. The young professionals there are so great, many have studied overseas at top universities and are unpolished diamonds, who with the right support network, can fulfil their true potential and have a big social impact. In Chile, the whole country is geared towards entrepreneurship as the best means of job creation and it works really well.’
Marcelo is passionate about technology startups in Palestine as he sees the internet as a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs with less restrictions than other industries, as well as noting the potential in tourism. ‘The most important thing to remember is to be open-minded, the market is right, not necessarily your idea so you must be adaptable. As an investor, 90% of my decision is about the person behind the business idea. It’s about execution and making it happen. For me, Palestine represents an opportunity to great business, with great, honest people!’