Itzel Lerma started a career on the corporate ladder in her native Mexico before moving on to tech-focused VC fund and accelerator, 500 Startups. She instantly caught the startup bug which then took her to Washington DC prior to landing here in Luxembourg in February 2016. After holding positions from Investor Relations Director to Early Stage Investment & Entrepreneurship Consultant, Itzel is now Partnerships and Growth Manager at nyuko (accelerator and co-working space), as well as Ambassador of LOIC (Luxembourg Open Innovation Club). And to boot, she can shake up a mean margarita…
(Featured Image: Itzel Lerma / Image Credit: Anna Katina)
You moved to Luxembourg this year. How are you finding the country so far?
Luxembourg is great! I love living in this country and I’m grateful for everything Luxembourg has given me: an exciting professional environment, an international community of interesting people, beautiful natural surroundings and a peaceful place to call home.
What do you like the most about the country and Europe? And your least favourite thing?
Europe is incredibly rich in culture and history; every building tells you a different story. I love the architecture, the festivities and the food. Coming from a country with a deep historical heritage, it is very important for me to find meaning in the form of culture and traditions. I also love that I am just 45 minutes’ drive from three different countries. The downside (as there is always one) is the weather. I miss the sun!
How did you get involved in the startup world?
I immersed myself in the startup world while working for one of the most active accelerators in Silicon Valley. It was a fascinating experience that allowed me to learn best practices from the “Mecca” of entrepreneurship and adapt them to a much younger ecosystem in Latin America – no small challenge!
What motivated you to join nyuko and the LOIC initiative a few months ago?
I was driven by the opportunity to bring value to the local ecosystem. The Silicon Valley model is a great inspiration, but it doesn´t suit everybody, and doesn’t have to. nyuko understands this and I knew they were on a mission to decode Luxembourg’s own entrepreneurial DNA. This resonated a lot with me and when I met nyuko’s CEO, Martin Guérin, it was clear that we had some very similar ideas. When Martin told me about the LOIC, it was music to my ears. I started out my career in a corporate environment so have always felt very comfortable between these two worlds.
How do you see innovation in Luxembourg?
Luxembourg knows innovation is more than just a “hot topic”; it’s key to creating a prosperous nation. I believe innovation and entrepreneurship are slowly but steadily positioning themselves at the core of the national agenda.
What are the main differences between the ecosystems you have been exposed to so far (the US, Mexico, and Latin America etc.) and Luxembourg’s ecosystem?
Every ecosystem is different, but there is something here in Luxembourg that I haven’t seen anywhere before, and that is the lack of young nationals involved. Entrepreneurial activities are usually driven by young, passionate individuals questioning the status quo. Here, however, we see less of that and it’s more of the experienced, talented professionals who venture into the startup world. This is not necessarily a bad thing; it just brings another set of skills to the table.
If you had a magic wand for a day, what would you to do?
(Laughs) Wow…what wouldn’t I do?! The first thing would be to open the hearts of all humanity. Cooperation is fundamental not only to enable innovation, but also to overcome the massive challenges facing our world.
Coffee or Margaritas?
Three words to describe your journey so far?
Excitement. Change. Growth.
This article was first published in SILICON