The First Six Months

Updated: Feb 28, 2019


The cohort from the Colombia Leadership Bootcamp 2018.

Dear LALA Community,


The verdict is in. My parents, friends, girlfriend, exes, former bosses and current advisors agree! I am not the *most* proactive communicator. Forgive me. Bear with me. I am aware of it and I am working on it.


After spending the last six months under a rock—or “in the trenches”, whichever sounds most exciting (I think I prefer “in the trenches”)—I return to you with news from the front. In this update you will find 1. Our ask for your help (COO Nominations!); 2. Several exciting LALA updates; 3. A student’s story of her LALA experience (by María José Cardeño, Colombian alum), and 4. An update on our crowdfunding initiatives (by Daniel Velilla, Comms Intern).

I hope you enjoy this update!


PS. Forgive my lack of brevity. I am overcompensating for not sending you updates sooner. Forgive me. Bear with me. I am aware and I am working on it. Thank you!


First, Where we Need you Most:


We are launching a search for our first Chief Operating Officer and need your help! I need your nominations and subtle winks about exceptional operators we should talk to. You can find all the info at the end of your LALA Newsletter email.


The Telegraph:

  • Total bootcamps to date: eight (two in Medellin, five in Sao Paulo, one in Buenos Aires). Alumni community now has 220 young leaders from 12 countries; it is 54% female, and 90% have received financial aid.

  • Ran first Educator Leadership Bootcamp, January 13 - 19. Success! Experimenting with v2.0 now.

  • Launched first Portuguese-language bootcamp, January 28 - February 3. Success! Non-English bootcamps = more diversity.

  • Ran first Argentina bootcamp, February 10 - 16. Success! Proof-point that lean & scalable high-quality bootcamps model is possible. Next season: Mexico & Ecuador’s first bootcamps.

The Longer Read


We are Building our Foundations


  • David and I were selected among 35 new Echoing Green Fellows out of a pool of 2847 applicants from 155 countries.

  • LALA is now incorporated in Colombia, with our non-profit status coming soon. We have submitted our incorporation application in the US, too, where we will establish Latin American Leadership Foundation (LALF).

  • We secured US$400K in seed funding to cover our core team through December 2019.

  • 115 donors committed US$26,000 for our 2019 Scholarship Fund. This amount allowed us to unlock the full US$25,000 matching grant offered by The Efrusy Family Foundation, bringing our scholarship fund to $51,000! These funds will allow us to enroll 146 young leaders who need financial support in the coming year!

  • Ale Palma became our first Board member! Andrew Motiwalla and Ale Mejía join our Advisory Board (which is starting to look like a Fantasy Football team of social innovation, business and education!).


We are Strengthening our Programming


We are creating a life-changing experience for our students. 100% of participants recommend us with enthusiasm. They describe our program as the most “life-changing,” “empowering,” “inspirational,” “intense,” “meaningful,” and “transformative” experience of their lives. Their parents describe our programs as “powerful,” “fantastic” and “magical,” “surpassing their highest expectations,” and “a turning point” in their children’s lives.


We are having a multiplier effect through our students. 100% of our participants have launched social impact projects after our bootcamps, reaching on average more than 100 people each. For example, Breno has launched Construindo o Futuro to mobilize Sao Paulo youth towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and Davyd has launched a new non-profit, Homefull, which has already permanently transitioned seven people out of homelessness in Curitiba, Brazil.


We are building a lean and scalable model. Our Bootcamp logistics are now being led by LALA Fellows - high-potential pre-MBA volunteers who are leading LALA’s entry into their countries. Fellows choose the right date and location, build local partnerships, find local sponsors, and manage their own budgets. Meanwhile, at LALA we lead student admissions and financial aid decisions, and we bring our program and facilitator team. This pseudo-franchise model emerged serendipitously, after Daniel Uribe and Marcelo Peterlini offered to lead our December 2017 Colombia Leadership Bootcamp and our July 2018 Brazil Leadership Bootcamp, respectively. Daniel, who has recently been admitted to Stanford Graduate School of Business, describes the experience as “Incredible. The experience of leading CLB 2017 made me realize that I wanted to become a social entrepreneur, and encouraged me to convert my passion project, Mentors4U Colombia, into a full-time venture.


Marcelo, who is now LALA’s Bootcamps Director, responsible for selecting, supporting, coaching and overseeing Fellows, states that “Organizing the entire bootcamp was one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced in my life and the one that offered me the largest amount of growth in such a short period of time. It helped me improve my entrepreneurial skills, expand my network in Latin America and believe in myself, realizing how capable I am of doing much more than I thought I could.”. Now, Fatou Fall, an African Leadership Academy alum from Senegal who has been living in Buenos Aires since 2016, is our first Argentina Fellow. She successfully led our February 2019 Argentina Leadership Bootcamp, proving that this model can work! Meanwhile, we are already planning our June - September 2019 Season, with Fellows in Mexico and Ecuador already working, and with potential Fellow candidates in Panama and Peru! Do you know someone who would be a great Fellow? Please tell us about them!


We are improving our Bootcamp revenue model. We have experimented with our full-free pricing (taking it from US$500 to US$1200 for the week), and full-fee students consistently inform us that our bootcamp is worth much more than what they paid. So you can expect continued experimentation with our pricing. Furthermore, we have been excited to encounter scholarship students who volunteered to mobilize their community, crowdfund, hold events, and even work to pay a portion of our fees. We are now refining how we approach financial aid conversations, increasingly pushing students in this direction. The unexpected good news: they report after the fact that they learned valuable lessons from having to push themselves that way, and they had a special appreciation for our bootcamp because of it.


We are experimenting with a new stakeholders group: Educators. We piloted a Leadership Bootcamp for Educators in Jan 13-19, 2019, in Sao Paulo. We had 32 exceptional educators from 12 countries represented. Based on participant feedback, we are excited to run a v2.0 that is aimed at educators in position of influence and leadership in schools (e.g. school and college counselors, service learning and leadership coordinators, IB coordinators, and so on). These educators can benefit most from our programming around leadership, purpose and social emotional learning. They are also in positions to shape the culture of their schools, so we can have a multiplier effect through them. Finally, they are best placed to identify and nominate the young leaders we are searching for! We hope to run this v2.0 bootcamp this summer.


We will continue to refine and experiment with our programming. If you have any ideas or suggestions based on what you’ve read, please share them with us!


With gratitude, Diego Ontaneda Benavides Co-Founder and CEO Latin American Leadership Academy

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