When discussing global startup hubs, one cannot overlook Latin America. Yeah, there haven’t been many “unicorns” (startups that surpass the one billion dollar evaluation mark) emerging out of the region, and only a few cities have established a global presence in the tech world. Either way, that doesn’t mean there isn’t something brewing here.
In recent years, various governments and private firms have created incubator programs, co-working spaces, and tech events that have pushed innovation in the region and instigated local solutions for problems that lingered in the culture.
With a prominent wealth gap in Latin America, startups create an opportunity to build a strong middle class, and impact local communities by adding technology services to their persistent import /export economies. This region does not have a “Silicon Valley” or one single hot spot for innovation, but rather a collective of many up-and-coming startup ecosystems.
If you look at Latin America with Silicon Valley in mind, you will surely be disappointed. Instead, if you look at Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America as various hubs that together form a hard working, passionate, and creative startup ecosystem, you will see what myself, and AngelHack see…an opportunity to be on the verge of change.
In Santiago, Chile you can find StartupChile accepting 100 new startups into their program twice a year. While a lot of these startups are from Chile, a vast majority come from other cities around Latin America and the rest of the world in an effort to induce job creation, and industry growth in Chile.
As Latin America’s second largest economy, Mexico has been a huge supporter of startups. Programs such as Startup Mexico, INADEM, Founders Institute, 500 Startups Mexico, and Alta Ventures have brought focus to Mexico’s startup ecosystems. With that said, Mexico has also faced some competition in LatAm.
Brazil is the obvious heavy hitter in the region; with its massive population, economy, and startup evaluations, it has created major tech hubs in metros such as Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Recife. These regions have thrived through increased wireless internet access, mobile phone adoption, and smart foreign investments. With a few of these startups reaching “unicorn” status such as B2W Digital (BOVESPA), and TOTVS (BOVESPA), it’s obvious why VC’s keep coming back. With Latin American cities sharing a relatively close time zone with the U.S., and having been great economic and political allies for decades, I believe that it’s only a matter of time before startups begins to create more competition with the Americas region as a whole.
If you venture further, you will find other programs that aim to achieve similar results. For example, Telefonica’s very own Wayra has roots in Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Spain, Germany and the UK. Their name meaning, “wind” in Quechua, brings a fresh vantage point to this telecom giant’s venture capital. Their mission is to scout young and talented entrepreneurs from all around the world.
If you look even further you will find Dave McClure’s 500 Startups in many cities around “LatAm” with the hopes of finding the next big thing. And they’re not the only ones — all kinds of accelerators such as YCombinator that have helped successful companies scale. A good example is Platzi, an online learning platform that emerged out of Colombia.
With all of this interest, you can only imagine what’s to come for Latin America.. You should make a trip and take a look for yourself — you won’t be disappointed with the massive communities who share an intense passion for building the future. From Meetup groups to tech conferences to AngelHack’s Global Hackathon Series — there is opportunity around every corner.
Matt (author), Team BoxTrip and Cassey from AngelHack in Mexico City
Startups have emerged from the woodwork to bring tangible solutions to their local communities, and eventually scale to feed the demands of their existing global markets. We at AngelHack see a lot of impact to be had here, and as you can see, we’re not alone.
Being fairly new to the startup game, this LatAm community is continuing to form new ideas and a culture of its own. These innovators go on living as artists. Sure, they may see themselves as the next startup or tech influencers in their region, but in reality they are much more. They are the next Frida Kahlo’s, Paulo Coelho’s, and Pablo Neruda’s…adding value, artistry, and culture to technology.