Ivan Xavier Baquerizo, E89, sat in the audience at Breed Memorial Hall at Tufts while teams of students, alumni, and faculty pitched ideas like solar-powered telecommunications for rural populations and hygienic toothpaste dispensers. In February 2016, Baquerizo helped screen finalists for the $100K New Ventures Competition, an event designed to encourage early-stage startups. That April, he traveled from Ecuador to Medford to watch the finalists pitch their ideas in person. “It reminded me of my beginning,” he said. “You start with an idea—then you have to convince investors you can build it into a successful business.”
To encourage the spirit of innovation, Baquerizo has established a new fund in memory of his father, a civil engineer who made it possible for him to attend Tufts. The Rodolfo Baquerizo Fund for Entrepreneurship will support the Tufts $100K Roadshow, an extension of the New Ventures Competition. The fund is the first of its kind to support the Roadshow, which sends student entrepreneurs to New York City, Palo Alto, and San Francisco to pitch their ideas to Tufts alumni and investors. “These kinds of ventures are necessary and useful for emerging entrepreneurs,” Baquerizo said. “What better way to give back to Tufts?”
Like many students, Baquerizo made decisions at Tufts that shaped his professional life. Having arrived on campus with little interest in engineering, he decided to major in the field midway through his first year. “Looking back now, I can’t believe I didn’t consider engineering from the start,” he said. “The engineering program gave me skills and mental openness I use every day in my business.”
That business is A&B, a real estate development company that builds new cities from the ground up. As the company’s cofounder and executive director, Baquerizo has developed more than forty thousand housing units in Ecuador and Peru. After a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2016 devastated entire cities, he brought together members of the Chamber of Housing Developers of Ecuador to provide pro bono urban planning services in three of the hardest-hit areas. The group also donated 150 new homes for families whose homes were destroyed in the disaster.
Baquerizo considers the Rodolfo Baquerizo Fund for Entrepreneurship a way of supporting the university that helped shape his career. “I feel like I have accountability to give back a little bit of what I have gained through my education so that other kids can benefit, and someday they will also give back,” he said.