When did you arrive in the United States, and why did you come?
I left Peru in 1974 and came to the States for college at MIT then graduate school at Berkeley.
Title/Company: Chief executive, Greenwings Biomedical, a Pacific Palisades incubator for biomedical startups
At the time, did you intend to eventually return to your home country?
No, because of free speech, the technology and entrepreneurial scenes, the limitless possibilities, small government and freedom.
Why did you start your business in the United States instead of back home?
I wanted to stay here. I came to the States, got my college degree, graduate degree and had to go to the U.K. for two years because I didn’t have a green card. I couldn’t wait to go back to the States. Everything was kind of crusty and slow and a lot of talk and no action. Everything was kind of more establishment. But I found a computer company in the States willing to hire me and sponsor me. That closed and I started my first business because I was essentially unemployed.
What’s the worst thing about starting a business here?
The toughest thing is cash flow, making it one day at a time through savings, debt and revenue so you can come out of the other end successful. The toughest thing here is the toughest anywhere.
And the best?
The government works overtime to make life miserable, but relative to other parts of the world, going forward is still easy. You can start a business just by wanting to do it. Today it’s easier than ever with online legal services and a few hundred dollars. Figuring out how to keep it alive and growing it is the tough part.
What have been the biggest surprises?
The lesson I keep learning is it’s not about the idea you have, but the execution and luck. You may have this brilliant idea, but it really doesn’t matter that much. A lot has to do with how much you reach out. You’ll come across people and companies who will say, “I like you. I want to work with you, coach you, invest in you.” It’s a networking piece that facilitates the serendipity factor.
Would you tell someone from your home country to start a business here or there?
You have to be in the place where you’re happiest. Now you can start a business in Peru. Now it’s a good place. The economy has been liberalized and it’s growing pretty good. You need to like the environment, culture, location down to the weather and commute. I like being here.
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