To many people, Colombia still might seem like an unlikely place to find a rapidly expanding startup scene. However, with significant government investment in tech, this Andean country of 47 million people is quickly finding a permanent toehold as a major contributor to the Latin American startup scene.
The larger incubators in Colombia, including Ruta N in Medellin and INNpulsa in Bogota, have already nurtured hundreds of startups, so we compiled a list of ten Colombian startups to keep an eye on this year.
Starting as a food delivery app that promised to deliver “anything you need in minutes, 24/7,” Rappi has quickly grown to become one of Colombia’s most popular apps, providing over three million deliveries in their short two-year lifespan. Rappi connects customers with ‘Personal Shoppers’ that deliver just about anything to their door, including groceries, alcohol, and even cash withdrawn from an ATM. The quirky Rappi Favors section of the mobile app allows people to ask for any service, even help with homework!
The rapid growth of this app has allowed Rappi to receive over $9 million in investment despite the challenges that delivery companies often face with high operating costs and small profit margins. It makes up for these difficulties by allowing large companies to promote their products on the app for a fee. Though Rappi is not the only delivery app on the market, its exponential growth is proving that Latin America is ready for on-demand services.
In a mountainous country like Colombia, it can be hard to get fresh produce from farm to table. SiembraViva is fighting this urban-rural divide by directly connecting rural farmers to urban consumers.The three-year-old startup promises never to stop delivering produce until all fruits and vegetables are fresh, locally-sourced, and sustainably grown. They are committed to helping farmers keep a larger margin of their profits by offering them a transition from low-value cash crops to organic produce farming, which SiembraViva sells through an online marketplace to urban consumers. Not only do farmers receive up to 160% more income as a result, but also the emphasis on organic produce means harmful chemicals are no longer being released into the soil.
SiembraViva seeks to incorporate 370 families into their network, impacting over 1,350 lives. They are already well on their way to achieving that goal. By offering both on-demand produce deliveries, as well as a brand new subscription service, SiembraViva is helping more Colombians eat their vegetables in cities like Medellin and Bogota.
Classpass, meet your Colombian rival. Fitpal is a gym subscription service that allows members to take classes at over 100 fitness centers across Bogota, Medellin, and Mexico City. “Varied workouts are 30% more effective at toning muscle than repetitive ones,” says Founder Julian Torres. So why not have an app that lets you change up your workouts every day, without paying extra?
Fitpal offers two flexible plans to fit user’s needs. The “Benefit Plan” gives access to unlimited classes for under $50 a month - but you can only go to each gym up to 4 times, and only in one city. Use it as an excuse to keep your routine fresh! The “Premium Plan” provides unlimited access across Medellin and Bogota, in-home personal training, monthly health evaluations, and a cute gym outfit - all for just over $80 a month. Got out of work late and want to hit the gym on the way home? Use the mobile app to find classes close by and map your route. With over 2500 monthly subscribers, Fitpal is helping make workouts more accessible.
4. Kiwi Campus
Have you ever stayed up late in a university library wishing you’d had time for more than just a Kind bar for dinner? Kiwi Campus is solving that problem - with robots. Nix the ramen; three Colombian students have decided to change the way college students access healthy food on a budget. Kiwi Campus delivers to six university campuses across three countries - for now - with the goal of expanding to 50 campuses by the end of 2017.
Big dreams one might say. But Kiwi Campus has already taken the campus delivery industry by storm, going up against huge competitors like UberEats and Postmates. Their innovative robot delivery system, which cuts delivery costs by up to 80%, has attracted the attention of Startupbootcamp’s FoodTech team, so it looks like Kiwi Campus has a bright future in college food delivery.
5. Bunny Inc.
Founded by serial entrepreneur Alexander Torrenegra, Bunny Inc. promises ‘creativity on demand’ and lists an impressive group of customers including Disney, Amazon, and Airbnb. So what do they do? Bunny Inc. provides three primary services: VoiceBunny, WritingBunny, and TranslationBunny, although the latter two are still in beta testing. Their main service, VoiceBunny, uses complex algorithms to match aspiring and established voice actors to creative projects. With a database of over 135,000 voices to choose from, Bunny Inc. provides high-quality voice-over services at a global scale.
6. City Taxi
Trying to find a reliable taxi quickly can be hard in a small town like Manizales. That’s why 62-year-old Carlos Muñoz founded City Taxi with the help of his two sons. The app promises to get users connected with a taxi in under 15 seconds, and on their way within five minutes. No more call centers, or worrying that the driver is ripping you off. All of City Taxi’s partner vehicles are verified, and you pay through the app to guarantee transparency. Going up against giants like Uber and Easy Taxi isn’t easy, but in smaller cities like Manizales where the app was founded, City Taxi has your back even where other apps don’t have much coverage.
Think: sophisticated Venmo. ePayco is an online payment processing company that allows flexibility in payment management for businesses and individuals. They have two main services, ePayco Collect and ePayco Split Payments. Collect is targeted toward smaller businesses, startups, and individuals who need to set up online or mobile payment systems. Split Payments markets to larger firms that need to split revenues between intermediaries, or among staff. ePayco has already gained the support of both Ruta N and Wayra incubators and is quickly going mainstream, helping electronic businesses regulate commerce smoothly and simply.
With 9000+ monthly transactions, ePayco is well on its way to helping streamline the way Colombians manage their money.
Ice cream may be an indulgence, but it doesn’t need to be packed with chemicals to taste good. Using liquid nitrogen, MistyCream makes ice cream before your eyes, and with no additives, conservatives, or artificial colors.Starting as a small cart in Bogota in 2016, MistyCream has spread to four cities around Colombia spreading the magic of ‘instant’ ice cream. They operate several carts around Bogota, Bucaramanga, Sogamoso, and Cartagena, and have one brick-and-mortar shop in Bogota’s Parque 93. Promising smoother and creamier blends, MistyCream has captured the public eye (and stomach) and is rapidly expanding to other locations around Colombia!
With so many airlines out there, finding the cheapest ticket for your trip can take a while. Viajala aggregates all of Colombia’s domestic airlines on a single, user-friendly platform that organizes flights by location, airline, and country to help you scope out the best deal. The website doesn’t accept payments but rather streamlines the search process as an independent search engine connected to real-time updates on flights across Colombia and Latin America. Customers are redirected to each airline’s site in order to complete the transaction.
Currently, Viajala is the region’s most exhaustive flight search engine, beating out the competition with a whopping 322 national routes offered through the site. With an ambitious goal of becoming the ‘Google for flights,’ Viajala is helping over 800,000 Latin Americans plan the vacation of their dreams.
These days, online courses abound, but most of them are only offered in English. Platzi, which was accepted into the prestigious Y Combinator in 2015, is a platform that offers online courses in business, tech, design, and marketing taught by industry leaders. Most importantly, it markets to a Spanish speaking audience. And unlike other online learning platforms like Khan Academy and Udemy, who achieve less than 10% completion rate for their courses, 70% to 90% of Platzi students complete their courses.
Platzi is currently undergoing rebranding in order to open itself up to English speaking audiences this year. Its simple payment system, by monthly subscription or single course drop-ins, allows students to access courses on the platform in the way that best suits their needs. And Platzi offers live courses too, allowing students to receive constructive feedback from top executives at Google, Microsoft, and Facebook. Platzi’s innovative and user-friendly platform is bringing online education to a Spanish speaking audience that is rapidly joining the global tech movement.
While Colombia has only recently joined the Latin American startup scene, it has already proven itself as an active player. These startups serve as proof that Colombia has far from reached its heyday as one of the leading centers of Latin American innovation.
Are there any Colombian startups that we missed? Comment below to let us know who we should check out!