When discussing startups in Latin America, most people think about Brazil and its enormous potential. Other big players, namely Argentina, Colombia, Chile, and Mexico, are thrown into the mix, but the talk pretty much stops there. Latin America has a diverse ecosystem of startups, and though not all of the countries are where Silicon Valley is today, many are on their way.
Three small countries, Bolivia, Panama, and Uruguay, are making strides towards becoming startup hubs in Latin America. They might have ways to go before being a São Paulo or Buenos Aires, but the governments and entrepreneurs in these countries are ready to be noticed.
Here’s why you should pay attention to Bolivia, Panama, and Uruguay.
Startups Rising in Bolivia
Landlocked Bolivia is home to roughly 11 million people. CochaValley, the Silicon Valley of Bolivia, boasts exciting projects, such as:
- AmerPages, a large, South American business directory
- N.nu, an easy-to-use website builder
- Tumomo, the largest classifieds website in the country
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), Bolivia had the sixth highest total early-stage entrepreneurial activity (TEA) rate in 2014. Additionally, the government has a small incubator in La Paz that helps give a few startups access to resources to push their ideas forward.
Bolivians have a strong drive for entrepreneurship, but government corruption and lack of resources are the biggest hindrances for growth. However, the country has been making gains, albeit slowly, fueling entrepreneurial growth in the country.
Panama’s Growth Potential
Panama has an attractive geographic location, as it’s home to the Panama Canal, which is key to international maritime trade. Located across from the canal is The City of Knowledge, a Campus dedicated to fostering innovation and home of the Panama Business Accelerator. GEM noted a low “fear of failure rate in the country”. This, coupled with the ease of doing business in Panama, has made it a place to watch. Some startups that have already gotten recognition:
- GoGetIt, a real estate website for Panama’s neighborhoods
- MercaTrade, a B2B online platform for companies that want to do business in Latin America
- Legalys, specialized legal consulting
Entrepreneurial education will be key to growing startups in the country of only 4 million people. But with the newly constructed canal, maritime startups are sure to keep their eye on Panama.
Uruguay’s Sprouting Community
Uruguay is home to 3.4 million people and many innovative reforms. Because of its low crime rate and high level of English speakers, Uruguay is a great place to start a business or work on a startup. Some companies already gaining recognition include:
- FengOffice, a work collaboration and project management platform
- InfoCasas, buy and rental website for Uruguay real estate
- GPSGay, an online space for the LBGTQ community worldwide
The National Agency for Investigation and Innovation is a state-run organization that provides support and resources for entrepreneurs across the country. This group offers conferences and events for the startup community. There are more incubators popping up and a call for more innovation on a government level.
Uruguay XXI, an organization that promotes imports and exports of Uruguay, wants to make this country an investor destination. The group provides information for companies looking to expand to Uruguay and information for investors looking at this key region for opportunities.
Becoming Startup Hubs
These three countries are often overlooked when it comes to doing business there or starting a company in the region. However, as the cost of living is low and the innovative drive is high in all three countries, entrepreneurs are beginning to take note. Each country is seeing a startup push as communities come together to share information and make the global community aware of ongoings in each country. And as cities like São Paulo and Mexico City become overrun with startups, we’re sure to see these three countries grow the startup community even more.