José Miguel Alfaro Gómez is an Attorney at Law in Costa Rica and Founder of s.e.e.d, a boutique law firm targeted to social impact ventures in Costa Rica. Before coming to Oxford, he joined Arias & Muñoz, the largest corporate law firm in Central America. He worked as coordinator of a multi-field legal practice in corporate and commercial law, real estate, trusts and estates, mergers and acquisitions and litigation and arbitration. Here, he founded the Costa Rican Pro Bono Committee, which familiarized him with such NGOs as Techo and Grameen Bank. In 2009, at the age of 21, he launched s.e.e.d. As Partner at s.e.e.d. he coordinates legal affairs of outstanding ventures in various fields of the impact investing spectrum such as sustainability, clean tech, conservation, microfinance, fair trade, culture, education, volunteering, health, sports and development. He also actively promotes socially responsible investments and the enhancement of the social business ecosystem in Costa Rica.
After completing his MBA at Oxford, he is back at s.e.e.d where he allocates his time between his legal practice and business development for s.e.e.d., scaling the model to other jurisdictions. He was also selected as Global Shaper, in the World Economic Forum community.
Q: What is your background? Why are you doing this?
A: I’m an Attorney by training, passionate about corporate counsel and pro bono. With s.e.e.d. we aim to serve all legal needs of players in the impact investing world with the quality and efficiency of a top legal firm but also with a clear understanding of its social DNA.
Q: What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
A: Entrepreneurship is an attitude in life in which people see and seize opportunities in favour of ultimate growth and prosperity for humanity.
Q: What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
A: From a legal counsel standpoint, I wasn’t satisfied with how players in the impact investing world were served. I didn’t have any institution or organization at hand that could have helped me in assisting the sector. Therefore, my partner and I had to create our own.
Q: So what would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
A: Being persistent, passionate and emotionally intelligent. Success is very unlikely without these three skills.
Q: What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
A: Motivating and helping others to achieve the best in their endeavors.
Q: What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
A: Pamela Hartigan is my role model in entrepreneurship and impact investing. She was passionate, even obsessed about making this new form of business and entrepreneurship viral, to permeate the market as a whole.
BWB is a British law firm that I really admire. It’s basically s.e.e.d. on steroids.
Q: If you could have 5 minutes with the above indiv/company/org, what would you want to ask or discuss?
A: Luckily, I have had and continue to have open channels of communication with them.
Q: What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
A: Seeing how our clients progress, grow and mature as businesses.
Q: What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
A: Most mistakes and failures come when you let your personal weaknesses interfere in your business. This is why it is so important to have people in your team that would compensate these weaknesses.
Q: What challenges do you face as a social entrepreneur, as opposed to a “traditional” entrepreneur?
A: As Pamela said, we need to start migrating from the notion of “social entrepreneur” to just “entrepreneur”. All entrepreneurs should be social. If they don’t consider positive social and environmental impact in their ventures, they are jeopardizing their sustainability.
Q: What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
A: The best part of being an entrepreneur in Oxford is the access to the community of incredibly talented people. The limitation, in my case, is that the community’s connection with Latin America is not the strongest when compared to its connection with Africa or Asia.
Q: If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship information or resources in Oxfordshire, where would you send them?
A: To the Skoll Centre of Social Entrepreneurship or the Launchpad.
Q: Any last words of advice?
The Oxford environment is impossible to replicate, so my advice is to take advantage of every opportunity.