If you ask Carlos Varela, he will tell you he’s not an entrepreneur.
Sure, he has a role in three separate businesses, including as a partner for a company that grows high-value Chilean flowers. Varela, though, focuses on applying the skills and mindset of an entrepreneur in his role as the director of entrepreneurship and public responsibility at the University del Desarrollo (UDD), in Santiago, Chile, and named to the Babson Collaborative Advisory Board.
“I recognize myself as an intrapreneur,” Varela said. “You could say, I have started many businesses within the university.”
He manages and develops the entrepreneurial programs at UDD, where he also has taught several entrepreneurial courses, held accelerators and workshops, mentored students, and brought the first entrepreneurship elective course in the engineering program to the school, among other accomplishments. And, most significantly, Varela continues to build and grow the ecosystem of entrepreneurship and innovation in Chile, and on a global scale. That includes continuing UDD’s relationship with Babson Academy and the Babson Collaborative.
The Babson Academy for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurial Learning leads the way in educating faculty of all kinds to teach entrepreneurship. And the Babson Collaborative for Entrepreneurship Education is a global network of 38 institutions in 26 countries through which members share advice, best practices, strategies, and knowledge around entrepreneurship education. UDD was one of the first universities to join the Collaborative in 2016, and is today a member of the Collaborative Circle of Influence.
For his work and leadership, Varela recently was honored as Collaborative Member of the Year at the Babson Collaborative Global Summit at UDD in Santiago.
“As one of the most engaged leaders in the history of our organization, we were thrilled to surprise Carlos with this very well-deserved honor,” said Jamie Kendrioski, senior director of the Babson Collaborative. “Carlos is an exemplar, demonstrating our belief that educators and institutions working together can create more value for their institution and students, and more impact on the field, than those working alone.”
“Everyone Can Be a Changemaker”
Varela served as the lead host and part of the core planning team for the Babson Collaborative Global Summit, which attracted entrepreneurship educators from 20 member institutions in 15 countries. The summit provides an opportunity for Collaborative members to share best practices in pedagogy and advance thought leadership, gain exposure to host school and local ecosystems, network, and of course, have fun.
Varela, who has been active in the Collaborative since UDD joined in 2016, also presented several topics and introduced key panels on themes such as how and when to engage high school students with innovation and entrepreneurship education.
“We believe that entrepreneurship is the best engine for positive change in society. And, everyone can be a changemaker.”
“We believe that entrepreneurship is the best engine for positive change in society,” he said in his opening remarks. “And, everyone can be a changemaker.”
To him, the Collaborative is “not only about what products for the very specific programs. It’s mainly about the people collaborating, and being friends,” he said. “When you have a network that is managed in that way, you feel the love. … It’s not easy to find.”
An Entrepreneurial Mindset for All Occasions
Through the windows of Varela’s office at UDD, the Andes Mountains are snowless this winter. There’s a drought, Varela said. But, in Chile, the entrepreneurial landscape is fertile as ever. Entrepreneurship and social responsibility is in UDD’s roots—having been a university founded on principles of innovation.
Entrepreneurship itself, Varela said, is still a relatively new word in Chile. And, most of the time, it’s associated with ventures. Students who attend UDD, however, know that entrepreneurial learning is what to expect. “It’s the first or the second value that they recognize in UDD,” he said.
Students bring talent and resourcefulness, and new venture ideas to their studies, though they sometimes are a bit shy about them. Whether students start their own ventures or find employment in an established company, “mindset and skill set” is always at the forefront of entrepreneurial learning, he said.
For UDD graduates who find employment, employers comment on the “special touch” they have—something that also can be said of Babson graduates. And, for those who do embark on their own entrepreneurial journeys, Varela notes that sustainability and technology are key areas of focus.
The Chilean school year starts in March, and UDD’s second semester is keeping Varela as busy as ever, including with the promotion of UDD’s incubator and accelerator programs, as well as its own Entrepreneurship Academy.
As UDD continues to innovate and grow, Varela, who hopes to attend the next Babson Collaborative Global Summit in Mumbai in 2024, knows he can rely on the Babson Collaborative along the way.
“I know that if I make a call to someone,” Varela said, “I will get an answer.”