The Business Year


COLOMBIA - Finance

Maria Isabella Munoz Mendez

Executive Director, Invest in Bogotá


Maria Isabella Muñoz Méndez is an industrial engineer from the Javeriana University and a specialist in Economics from Los Andes University. She has more than 18 years of experience in private and venture capital funds, entrepreneurship, investment and business structuring. She is currently the executive director of Invest in Bogota, the investment promotion agency for the city, a public-private partnership between the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce and the city’s Mayor’s Office. Prior to joining this entity, Isabella was one of the first promoters of the private equity industry in Colombia since 2008, the year in which she was a partner at MAS Equity Partners, a pioneer private equity fund manager in the Andean Region and previously, she served as executive director of ColCapital, the Colombian Association of Private Equity Funds in Colombia since its inception.

"We have over 418 active projects in different sectors ranging from railways, to metro, mobility, health care, and schools, among others."
TBY talks to Maria Isabella Munoz Mendez, Executive Director of Invest in Bogotá, about macroeconomics, infrastructure in the capital, and goals for 2023.
What exactly does a year of transformation mean for Invest in Bogotá?

When I arrived one year ago, I faced three challenges within the company. The first was the fact that we embarked upon strategic planning in the first three months of my leadership. We set up a new business unit, the Bogota Convention Bureau. Then we decided to include, as a part of our strategy, the attraction of events worldwide. This meant that if we brought important events from different sectors to the city, it would be a chance to show people, who in any other context might not consider visiting Bogotá, that they could participate in conventions, conferences, and incentive events in the city. The Bogota Convention Bureau is a pilot for this new strategy. The second was that we included in our investment strategy a new line in our investment promotion unit. We have five units in the corporation, namely the investment unit, bureau unit, communication and marketing strategy unit, data analysis and strategy unit, and our back office. In our investment unit, we decided upon two different routes to attract investment. The first was to include M&A. Formerly, we exclusively looked to greenfield projects, but today we are putting considerable effort into M&A, observing that the latter is a robust way to navigate the local market and efficiently arrive at a chosen commercial destination. The second part of our investment unit strategy was to support the entrepreneurial ecosystem position our entrepreneurs and become visible to the world. We decided to create a unit focused on identifying those entrepreneurs ready for the financial rounds. Second, they would be in charge of identifying those international partners, such as private equity funds, venture capital funds, corporate ventures, accelerator, angel investor among other investors, that according to their investment strategy match with the entrepreneurial ecosystem. We are now working on an amazing platform together with the Secretary of Development of the city. We will be partnering with an international brand platform catering to over 10.000 investors (venture capital funds, private equity funds, corporates, accelerators, angel investors, and so on) that will monitor local entrepreneurs. We expect to be on the market sometime in 1Q2023. The final challenge, for me, is the constant change in the way we measure the impact of investment in our city. We made the decision to figure out a methodology through numbers to show the market the sheer extent to which we impact the investment decision process. After considerable research, we created a methodology featuring a list of all the services we as investment promotion agency provide; we qualified the importance of each of those services in the investment decision process and created a quantitative tool to include how many times we participated in decision processes, and any other aspect that could be quantified. Overall, these are the three key points on which we have been focused throughout the year. We are still working to position Bogota as a business hub in Latin America.

How would you characterize the macroeconomic effect on Invest in Bogotá’s work?

We are trying to figure out how to navigate that in 2023. For 2022, the growth of the Colombian economy is estimated at around 7.1%, according to the World Bank. We will have the highest economic growth in South America by the end of 2022 and are poised to close in an excellent shape when compared with our regional peer economies. The first year of my leadership was focused on taking care of internal issues and giving efficiencies to processes and procedures, as same as strength the team to face the new challenges. Now, we are undertaking a new strategic plan to contain with the macroeconomic conditions of 2023, which promises to be a particularly challenging year for all. We are analyzing each of the 16 clusters identified as being the most competitive and productive sectors in terms of Bogotá’s economic potential. At Invest in Bogotá, we do not necessarily work with all the clusters, and rather, have identified the priorities: services; life sciences; manufacturing; infrastructure; creative and cultural industries; and entrepreneurship.

How do you assess the potential of the capital’s major infrastructure projects?

Today, we have over 418 active projects in different sectors ranging from railways, to metro, mobility, health care, and schools, among others. They are in combination worth over USD13 billion. Of course, the most attractive projects due to their size and impact are metro lines one and two (one is already under construction, with two being promoted). We are helping local entities and consortiums that have been created to build those projects to roadshow them internationally.

What are the priorities for 2023?

The first is Bogota’s entrepreneurial platform. The challenge for 2023 will be to ground the platform and ensure we have the commitment of involved parties. The second is identifying the prioritized sectors central to the new economic opportunities and aligned to sustainable development goals. We will also be supporting the construction and development of the Science, Innovation, and Technology District. Its vision is that in 2025, it will be consolidated as a city laboratory, which will dynamize and articulate the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem, to enhance the economy and social welfare, positioning Bogotá Region as an R&D&I hub, at an international level. Despite prevailing challenges, our responsibility remains to help the international companies that are installed locally to not terminate their investments. We need to work hand in hand and daily with them, analyzing what the impact of the reforms might be, how we can navigate those reform, how we can give them the tools necessary to make the right decisions. In terms of events, we are forecasting an excellent 2023. We will have several key events next year in line with the end of the incumbent mayor’s tenure. Smart Cities will take place in May-June; P4G, where we will host the mayors of key nations to discuss Sustainable Development Goals, and the Regional Event Women Deliver 2023, among others. Supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem is also important due to the appetite of investors in recent months. In the first semester of 2022, 71 transactions worth USD1,08 billion were realized in Bogota’s entrepreneurs. Last year, Invest in Bogota attracted 35 companies from the traditional sectors with an investment of over USD100 million. We need to ensure that our work remains focused on the most relevant investment projects.



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