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Two engineers who already sell Colombian software in Mexico, Chile and the US.

“We already have some clients in the USA, Mexico and Chile to whom we have been able to bring our services. “We just established our company in Miami.”

“In the last 2 years, we have managed to digitally transform more than 30 companies and train more than 1,700 people, including young people and professionals, in strengthening their digital skills. At Firefly we are strategic allies of small and medium-sized companies in our region so that they can transform their businesses through information technologies. We constantly work to close the digital talent gap in the country through our training programs and, hand in hand with organizations and associations, we seek support through different means to encourage our youth's interest in information technologies," says Raquel. Cañón Clavijo and Diego Converse Laverde, the two founders of this venture that is in the international growth phase.

But, beyond the speech, what do they do specifically? They are “custom software developers for web and app, devops, Big Data & Analytics developments”. And in the Entrepreneurship and Leadership section of El Espectador we came to them because they are one of the finalists in the 19th Edition of the Excellence Award for micro and small entrepreneurs, so we looked for them and this is their story told in 23 questions for entrepreneurs and their ventures:

1. How old am I? That I studied?

We are a pair of systems engineers, 43 and 40 years old respectively, who not only came together as a couple to start a family but to build a business project that allows us to bring information technologies to our community and entrepreneurs. A good story to read: The story of the entrepreneurial couple behind “Bottles of Love”

2. What was my idea and when was it born? What was it that I created?

Firefly-e was born as a life project that would allow us to put our skills and knowledge in digital transformation at the service of our clients, small and medium-sized companies with the need to generate changes in their organizations by leveraging software as a tool for innovation.

3. How did I manage to make it a reality and put it into practice?

There were several years of maturity as entrepreneurs that taught us that the best asset is talent. Little by little, we have specialized in being knowledge managers, where we have built a solid team, specialists in different areas of knowledge and who support each other. Our collaborators have been a key piece to keep us motivated, to achieve our goals; It is with them that we grow. Each of our company's successes has been accompanied by the fulfilled dreams of our work team. The key is persistence, learning from mistakes, overcoming them and moving forward.

4. Where did I get the money to start it and how did I pay for it?

Initially we had a base capital product of our life as employees. However, that money ran out quickly. Then, it was our family who initially helped us finance ourselves with personal loans. In this way we manage to comply with the obligations of suppliers and collaborators. Fortunately, this lack of capital only lasted a couple of years, then we learned to carry out better negotiations, to choose our clients better, and soon the business was self-sustaining.

5. What am I achieving with my venture? What am I changing with my idea?

We are managing to change the mentality of our entrepreneurs, they now see technology as an investment and not as an expense. We are managing to inspire children and young people in the region to see information technologies as a very attractive alternative to be chosen as a profession. This industry is very grateful: with what you learn in this country you can practice anywhere in the world, it is a very well-paid profession and in demand by the market. At this time, in the world, the gap in digital talent, in Latin America alone, exceeds 40% according to Forbes magazine in a 2021 study.

Another story to read: He started a 'trattoria' and the theme of the movie “The Godfather”

6. Am I happy?

Yes, we are very happy doing what we like, being a bridge between knowledge and those who need it, undertaking as a couple.

7. Would I sell my venture, my company?

We had not contemplated it, we believe that we still need a lot to contribute from our initiative to the companies and community of our country. However, if this means that we can carry the message of innovation and transformation in a more meaningful way and we see that with this we can inspire more people to fall in love with technology, we would possibly do it, as long as we could continue being part of the project.

8. How hard was it for me to start a business?

At the beginning it is always difficult to have the capital, the people, the support of family and friends. The most difficult thing is to convince yourself that it is that project, that undertaking, that is going to allow us to fulfill our life project.

In our case, we were both successful employees and the decisions to leave that relatively stable and predictable world were painful; then, to begin walking in the uncertain direction of the entrepreneur. The first clients are always the most difficult, we expected them to come from our circle of acquaintances and former co-workers, but that was not the case. It was strangers who first believed in us. However, every new client we got filled us with strength and motivation to keep going. And you have to understand that in many cases those failed meetings or failed sales translate into learning and possible future sales. We have had clients where the period to close a deal after establishing contact with them can take years, then the meetings have to be constant and the process must be improved with experience.

Starting out, it was even difficult to find an ally financial institution that believed in us, that treated us kindly and helped us, which is why Banco Caja Social has our loyalty.

9. Did I fulfill my dream? What I'm I missing of?

We still have a long way to go, we're just getting started, we're just crawling. However, this short path has allowed us to have successful projects and relationships, we hope to continue building them. We are convinced that by showing people the benefits and advantages of our sector we will positively change the lives of many people.

If you are looking for more stories of entrepreneurship, their creators are here, in Entrepreneurship and leadership of El Espectador.

10. Now what? Whats Next?

The next step for Firefly-e is internationalization in the American market. We already have some clients in the USA, Mexico and Chile to whom we have been able to bring our services. We have just established our company in Miami and we want 2023 to be a year of expansion in this market.

11. Is my business scalable?

A: That is one of the great advantages of information technology. Our services are services based on technologies such as cloud computing. Therefore, the languages ​​and systems we use are widely accepted globally; This allows the growth of technology to be virtually limited, our solutions support an increase in clients in terms of infrastructure and technology.

Regarding our commitment to the development of ICT talent, and although the sector has a shortage of human talent, our priority is the development of new professionals who support the industry. And the programs that we are developing in schools and with university students aim to grow the sector and strengthen us as a company.

12. To grow, would you receive investment from a stranger? Would I give you part of my company?

Yes, as long as we find in that ally a person or organization that shares our vocation for service and that prioritizes the strengthening of digital talent.

13. What would you never do again?

We would not interact again with people who do not share our service-focused vision. We think that for a company to be sustainable and successful over time, it must seek to contribute to society, to the ecosystem, to the community. A company and an entrepreneur cannot only think about profits and recognition. The true value of a company is how much it contributes to its customers and its community.

14. Who inspired me? Who would I like to follow?

We are inspired by those entrepreneurs in the industry who tell us their stories of success through resilience, who continue to do things well, who do not sacrifice their principles for an occasional profit and who generously share their knowledge and learning with entrepreneurs like us who We are inspired and motivated through their experiences.

15. Did I ever fail? Did I think about throwing in the towel?

The path of entrepreneurship, as in life, is always full of challenges, but you do not fail as long as you continue to persist. The hardest thing for us has been building loyalty. There have been situations and people that have disappointed us, however, today we can say that there have been many more positive experiences, loyalty and collaboration than those small potholes and today we have many people who share our vision and are committed to our project. The sector has allowed us to adapt to circumstances and gives us great flexibility. Few sectors can adapt as easily as the information technology sector. What we do we can do from anywhere in the world and to any type of client, something that does not happen in other sectors.

16. Am I part of some type of community that helps me on this entrepreneurial path?

Yes, at this moment we are part of the Software Federation, Fedesoft, there we have found business strengthening, mentoring, relationships, knowledge and representation in the sector. Procolombia has also been a very great support in this internationalization process that we are betting on.

We also have Parquesoft Bogotá, where we have been able to interact in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, share experiences and exchange services.

We also find it important to highlight that we have found along the way several entities that have allowed us to strengthen ourselves as a company in these years: Aldea, Innpulsa, Connect, Secretary of Development of Bogotá, Chamber of Commerce of Bogotá and the government of Cundinamarca.

An inspiring story: They use technology to appraise a home, do renovations and already manage credits

17. Does what I am doing transcend? Will it impact new generations?

Yes of course. In the case of the digital transformation line, we are making companies more productive, competitive and innovative, companies that are more resistant to eventualities and durable over time. The pandemic showed us that those companies that could not turn their operations to digital alternatives, that could not transform, had a very bad time and even had to close operations.

One of the biggest challenges we have had has been to show the value of technology in production processes, and this is very noticeable in companies where the administration comes from the “old school”, but the generational change is taking place and everyone The benefits of the fourth industrial revolution are becoming more and more important and are more visible in the middle and upper ranks of organizations. Then projecting these changes and these new paradigms is key, and maintaining the culture of constant evolution in our processes allows us for the new generations of the company's employees and eventually the new leadership to continue constantly learning and promoting innovation.

18. How do I see myself in 10 years and how do I see my venture, my company, in the future?

We hope to grow as a company and position ourselves further in the market. The evolution of large Colombian companies and development houses is always on our mind, and we hope to reach that level, but one of the great objectives we have is to get more people to study Systems Engineering or related careers and achieve their own goals, Then the social part and support for students is on our roadmap, things like seedbeds in universities and support in local schools are already being developed and we hope to grow this type of initiatives in the future.

19. What role have my family and friends played?

Our family has been unconditionally supportive, they have always believed that we can achieve it and they have been there to take care of us and give us a hand in moments of weakness. As for friends, there is everything, those who pat us on the back and those who carry us in their minds and hearts. Many of our clients have been referred by them.

It is very important to say that we have found new friends, allies and partners in the ecosystem of entrepreneurs. We are convinced that it is easier to grow in collaboration than to compete, in this way strong business networks can be created.

20. I did it. Would you help other entrepreneurs achieve it?

We do not consider that we have completely achieved it, we have managed to travel a path and we have learned a lot in the process. We are in love with teaching and knowledge is our pillar, therefore, sharing those things that have taken us to where we are becomes one of our desires and hopefully with this we can support other entrepreneurs.

We, personally, appreciate the wisdom that the industry's greatest have shared with us and we look forward to continuing this legacy.

A service enterprise: They use technology to appraise a home, do renovations and already manage credits

21. What role did my team play? Who is it?

The team is everything, and everyone has contributed in many ways, even from bad experiences we learn. The important thing is to maintain unity in the team and find those people who want to grow together. When the team is small, it manages to have an identity and acts almost as a whole. Growth can lead to the loss of that team identity, but efforts should be made to bring that sense of belonging to smaller groups in the organization. We believe that more than individual people, forming a team and valuing the contribution of members and empowering them makes the company grow.

22. What is my personal seal? What sets me apart from the rest?

Our hallmark is service. What differentiates us is that we are allies, not suppliers of our clients. This means that we always seek to give them the greatest value and find for them the technological solutions that best suit their needs.

23. What have I learned from all this?

There have been many learnings and in some cases difficult to explain. Each experience has shaped our personality and each team member who passes through the organization teaches us something, but perhaps the most valuable lesson is to believe in oneself and enhance what we excel at.

The biggest learning and the key for us is to find that talent that is definitely better than us and make them part of the team.