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The Innovation Journey of Latin America

Lizi Peretti shares insights from her experience delivering capacity building and accelerator programmes in the region.

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Published on August 04, 2020

A region of growing opportunities

In recent years Latin America has become an attractive territory for some of the world’s largest investment funds.  This attractiveness derives from multiple factors: the size and diversity of the region, which offers a range of natural resources and opportunity for business; the financial means of the local population, which is mainly middle-income; and an inclination to exploiting digital technologies such as smartphones apps as platforms for business. All these factors contribute to great market opportunities.

Thus, an unprecedented amount of capital for startups and entrepreneurs has been invested in Latin America, attracting the attention of multinational colossi such as Google, Facebook and Amazon, which have begun to see Latin America as a target area for business development. The recent arrival of Japan’s Softbank in the region, planning to invest an ambitious sum of USD 5 billion in local technology startups, comes to further accelerate the potential of the region.

Some countries in Latin America have leveraged these developments to their advantage, growing into highly efficient innovation hubs.

Colombia is a good example of this.  Here the government has made significant contributions towards innovation, sponsoring schemes to support research entrepreneurship. Among others, INNPulsa has contributed a great deal through multiple programmes that facilitate the transformation of ideas into businesses and enterprises. Similarly, RutaN in Medelin supports startups through accelerators, funding, and mentoring schemes. Moreover, the creation the Colombian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation in 2016 brought further support to deep tech startups and university spinout initiatives.

Another factor that makes Colombia one of the most attractive hubs for research entrepreneurship and innovation is its biodiversity, which is one of the highest in the world.[1] This provides the local scientific community with unique opportunities to discover and develop methods to manage the country’s natural resources and its sustainably, stimulating innovative solutions and the creation of new technologies.

Thanks to the high-speed internet network coverage across all parts of the country, the population in Colombia is very open to new technologies, especially phone apps.  This has favoured the creation and commercialisation of very successful pieces of software which are now used all over Latin America for every-day activities. Among others we name Rappi, a running app; MUY, an app for interactive, remote restaurants orders; and Authy, an app providing internet security assistance.

In 2018, Colombia secured 12% of investments in new businesses made across Latin America, and international funds are increasingly more attracted towards the creativity of Colombian entrepreneurs. A remarkable example is SoftBank’s investment in delivery startup Rappi, that received in 2019 USD 1 billion. SoftBank also announced that it will invest in early-stage companies jointly with Colombia’s government. To date, Colombia counts over 300 startups founded since 2016.

The Oxelerator Colombia Experience

Oxentia has been working hand to hand with partners in Colombia for more than 10 years, witnessing the impact that public and private investment in innovation has had on transforming society and strengthening the local economy.

During the past 3 years, we have actively participated in this mission complementing local efforts by running our successful Oxelerator programme in partnership with prestigious Colombian institutions such as CESA, Connect Bogota, and Fundacion Bolivar Davivienda. Through the Oxelerator we provide innovators with skills and tools to develop ideas into robust, investment-ready products ready for international markets, ultimately aiming to connect them with local and overseas investors.

Rather than cloning business models that thrive in mature economies, the Oxelerator encourages the development of new businesses leveraging the strengths and opportunities offered by the country where the programme is run. In the case of Colombia, this has led to unprecedented successes, with the third cohort of finalists starting their acceleration phase this month, after an intensive bootcamp that took place on the last week of July.[2]

Oxentia plays an active role in the innovation journey of Latin America. Through programmes such as the Oxelerator, we work in partnership with local institutions to create global opportunities for innovators in the region, contributing to shape some of the liveliest innovation ecosystems in the world.

Bring the Oxelerator to your region. Discover more at www.oxelerator.com.

[1]https://www.cbd.int/countries/profile/?country=co

[2] https://www.cesa.edu.co/news/oxelerator-impulso-eficaz-a-proyectos-de-tecnologia-y-ciencia-en-colombia/

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