Medellin, a cosmopolitan city in the Andes, has recently become a hub for entrepreneurs and digital nomads seeking sunshine and a lower cost of living. With a fast-growing economy, a highly supportive government, and a burgeoning community of local and international entrepreneurs, Medellin may be the perfect city for your next launch.
If you’re thinking about starting a new company, or relocating your startup, this is why you should consider Medellin for your new home.
Colombia’s economy is booming - and a lot of that money is going to encourage entrepreneurship.
Over the past few years, the largest Latin American markets have stagnated or dipped into a recession; Chile, Argentina, and Brazil have been seeing low growth for several years now. Meanwhile, since 2000, Colombia’s GDP has almost tripled, measuring at a consistent 4% yearly growth for nearly 15 straight years.
Currently, it takes just nine days to start a business in Colombia. This figure places Colombia in second place on the World Bank’s Doing Business Rankings for Latin America, right after Mexico. In a region where bureaucracy tends to grind government operations to a halt, it can be refreshing to work in Colombia, where supporting businesses is a priority for the government.
While Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, is the economic stronghold of the country, Medellín has the advantage of being a newer market and a less crowded space. There are some standout advantages to Medellín over Bogotá: standards of living in Medellín are higher, the city is smaller and better-connected through public transportation, and rent is 30% lower. And if you need to visit Bogotá on business, there are dozens of cheap, daily flights connecting the two cities.
The local government is helping Medellín become the biggest tech hub in Latin America.
Santiago and São Paulo are still ahead of Medellín in terms of technology hub advancement in Latin America. However, with several accelerator programs and seed stage investment funds popping up in the city, the government of Antioquia and Medellín has succeeded in creating the most innovative city in the region. This award, given by Citibank and The Wall Street Journal, has acted as a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy since the prize incited an influx of international entrepreneurs to move their businesses to this verdant Andean city.
The government of Medellín has already committed $389M to fund technology and innovation initiatives locally. This included creating federally-funded seed stage accelerator Ruta N, which provides investment, mentorship, and exposure for startups in Medellín with the goal of having innovation as the basis of Medellín’s economy by 2021.
If you are looking for places to work in Medellin, try out NODO Coworking for sleek office spaces, La Casa Redonda for a more communal work experience, or AtomHouse for a fantastic community of international entrepreneurs and digital nomads. Although coworking is becoming well-known in this city, there are still hundreds of coffee shops acting as the traditional workspaces for bootstrapped entrepreneurs and digital nomads. Let the delicious Colombian coffee fuel your next big idea.
The population is highly educated, entrepreneurial, and plugged in to tech.
There are already more cell phones than people in Colombia, with an average of 103.2 mobile phones per 100 people. Colombians are the fourth highest Internet users in Latin America after Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina - and there are over 23 million social media users in the country. Although Colombians are less active on social media than Brazilians and Argentines, social media usage is growing exponentially every year, with Instagram usage growing by 223% between 2014 and 2015 alone.
Currently, the literacy rate among youth in Colombia hovers around 97% for both males and females. Furthermore, Colombia is one of the most entrepreneurial countries in Latin America, with 71% of the adult population viewing entrepreneurship favorably. Half of the top six universities in Colombia are located in Medellin, and these are turning out some of the best tech talent in Latin America. The city is rife with talented software developers and programmers - but there is still a gap in much-needed marketing and project management skills.
This situation presents a strong opportunity for entrepreneurs looking to launch in Medellin, with plenty of skilled labor, and as of yet, low levels of investment. What most startups in Colombia lack is funding, but companies that have secured funding from the US, like superstar delivery service Rappi, have had enormous success. There is a lot of talent here who can be a local contact for any startup -- at a much lower rate than an employee in the US or Europe.
It is conveniently located for international startups.
Medellin is only a five-hour flight from New York, a three-hour flight from Miami or Mexico City, and a seven-hour flight from San Francisco. This proximity means that Medellin only has a 1-2 hour time difference with almost every US city.
If you are working for a Latin American startup, Medellin is well-connected to international airports around the region, and it shares a common language with every country but Brazil.
With its highly educated and entrepreneurial population, as well as the glut of coworking spaces growing in the city, Medellin is an ideal location to launch your next startup. With the low cost of living, you can extend your startup’s runway further than you might have in the US. This is the time to consider working in Medellin, before it becomes the next South American Silicon Valley.