From a One-Man Show to International Cast: Nearshore Americas Makes Its Mark

Back on September 30, 2009, Managing Director Kirk Laughlin launched Nearshore Americas with only himself at the helm. For company he had some big ideas and a logo. …

In five years and over 640,000 air-miles, Nearshore Americas' founder Kirk Laughlin met with CEIRD Executive Director Jean Alain Rodriguez in Santo Domingo.

Back on September 30, 2009, Managing Director Kirk Laughlin launched Nearshore Americas with only himself at the helm. For company he had some big ideas and a logo. Today, Nearshore Americas employs 15 people full and part time, and is recognized as the authority on outsourcing in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Back in 2009, a key driver was my sense that U.S. business had no idea how motivated, capable, and personable the people are in Latin America and the Caribbean,” says Laughlin, who previously had worked as a business media executive and editor for twenty years in the United States and Asia.  “We then set an ambitious mandate to get deeper into the issues and the business context of technology project work across the Americas region. It’s a topic that, until we came along, really was not adequately brought out into the open.” Nearshore Americas and newly formed partner unit, FutureSource Group, has staff and contributors in the United States, Mexico, Colombia, Jamaica, Peru, Argentina, Brazil and India.

Within 1,000 days of launch, the brand had already launched and executed two editions of its own conference, Nearshore Nexus, with the biggest highlight coming in April, 2012 when the conference featured a special dialogue between CNN”s top Latin America reporter, Rafael Romo, and former Colombia President Alvaro Uribe.  Since then, editors at Nearshore Americas have interviewed and met with Prime Ministers and Presidents, current and former, from Antigua, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mexico, Guyana, and Jamaica. All told, 3,275 articles have been published, with an estimated 8,150 sources interviewed from 45 countries.

“Before Nearshore Americas, it was difficult to find information from experts in the area,” says David Cooley, Managing Director at Global Research and Analytics firm, Evalueserve, and a close friend of Laughlin’s who helped provide some encouragement early on.  “Now if you are doing business in the region it is an essential source.”

Part of the mandate for Nearshore Americas is to drill down into intricate issues, and to reflect the diversity of the region. This is done with an eye to the requirements of global executives – either those already active in the region, or assessing their options.

“There are so many unique situations, there is a risk of painting the brush too broadly,” says Laughlin. “However, one general trend is young people in Latin America striking out to be entrepreneurs in a variety of areas, from services, to programming, to emerging digital technologies. These are impressive people fighting to make their way onto the world stage.”

 More Than a Website

Laughlin may have been the founder of Nearshore Americas, but he is also quick to identify the major contributions of people like Dan Rubinetti, who joined as vice president of business development in 2010 and was instrumental in helping the brand extend into new channels. Both Rubinetti and Laughlin worked together at Ziff Davis Enterprise, the business-to-business media offspring of highly-regarded Ziff Davis Media – the publisher of such brands as Road and Track and the legendary PC Magazine.

Experiences at Ziff helped provide a road-map for Laughlin and Rubinetti, who understood how to optimize a business media brand so that both buyers and sellers in the marketplace realized real, tangible value. The first major step came through creation of Nearshore Nexus, launched in 2011.

“Conferences are really important,” says Laughlin, who has flown an estimated 645,000 air-miles into and out of the nearshore market since 2009. “They demonstrate what we are here to do. We can talk about things that matter to businesses, and bring them together. It is part of the core definition of a B2B business model for a media property like ours. All told we’ve organized nine international conferences and trade missions.”

This helps explain how Nearshore Americas has been able to conduct business with over 85 sponsors, including the very largest ITO and BPO suppliers in the world. It also explains why, most recently, parent company Next Coast Media and the new FutureSource Group have announced the launch of FutureSource Summit, a conference designed to assist those North American corporations looking for business opportunities with Mexican outsourcing providers, in-house IT centers, software partners, and service providers.

“FutureSource is really about leadership – we have 30 U.S. executives coming to the event in Mexico City this year, with the majority never having been to Mexico before,” says Laughlin. “It is about how to find guidance, insight, and how to get the most out of a supplier and manage vendors. All of these issues are not only relevant for the US executive, they also are an increasingly critical issue for local, Mexico-based CIOs, CTOs and sourcing leaders.”

Balanced Analysis 

To report on these issues, and to hold conferences that allow for global executives to seek opportunity, requires credibility. That means you can’t always be a cheerleader for the industry. “As a news source, Nearshore Americas does a good job of walking the fine line between consulting and reporting, because its reputation is on the line,” says Cooley from Evalueserve. “Credibility and viability are important, which is why people now see it as having an advisory role.”

And it is also why Nearshore Americas is keen to take on controversial topics, and to dig, while also telling the larger story of opportunity in the region. “We are not just here to applaud the market,” says Laughlin. “One day we are cajoling and admonishing the market, and the next day acknowledging a success. We have to be specific and pointed about the weaknesses and the promise.”

Readers of Nearshore Americas can expect a diverse range of voices – so far they’ve heard from 217 writers, reporters, experts and columnists.  That also helps explain why 470 sites worldwide promote or link in to Nearshore Americas, with 38% of readership coming from the United States.

Over the past five years, some predictions have come true: the market is bigger, more formidable, with a growing and more educated workforce. Uptime is taken for granted, and cell phone penetration across the region is impressive. But there were also expectations that came to naught.

“Early on we had a belief – a hope – that somehow Cuba would become viable,” says Laughlin. “Now, it is not even in the cards, at least not in this generation. There are other markets like Antigua and Guyana where telecom liberalization has been slow. There are still places out there that are really hurting themselves.”

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And though most other markets have liberalized, there are still large segments of the overall population in the region that are not convinced the change is for real, and permanent. This is a legacy of years of economic stagnation, when political instability and corruption were the norm.

“We believe that Latin America and the Caribbean has every reason to stand on the same stage as other markets, but there is still a hesitancy, a caution, even a fear that can inhibit people,” says Laughlin. “It can be frowned upon to be seen to be bragging, whereas when you look at the Philippines and India, they have historically been better at organizing around a message and promoting themselves.”

Nearshore Americas certainly doesn’t have that problem. By covering cultural issues as well as business and IT, and by leveraging top-notch website design and functionally, as well as webinars and quality video, Nearshore Americas demonstrates the capacity of a much larger media group.  That should stand it in good stead as it continues to track the remarkable transformation of Latin America as a nearshore destination.

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