“If you build it they will come.” Not if they can’t find you. This certainly applies to Latin America, a region of contrasts and contradictions. On the one hand, tech start-ups are rapidly emerging throughout the Mercosur and Central American countries. But paradoxically, many of these companies are invisible to the Internet and social media radar. So what does this mean to the ambitious “expatreneur or digital nomad?”
Picture the following scenario: You’ve chosen a country for your new business start-up, and selected a specific region and neighborhood. Do you know if there are complementary or well-established competitive businesses in your chosen area? What about co-working spaces, incubators, accelerators or venture capitalists? You might not find this information on the Internet. In fact, given that many Latin American businesses sit on the upper floors of local buildings, you might not even discover them while perusing the neighborhood. Enter, Start-Up Map Latin America.
StartUpMap.LA evolved from the infrastructural needs of the growing Latin American start-up trend. These requirements include, but are not limited to:
- Lean Startup
- Work Space
- Finding Investors
How It Works
This innovative tool provides a visual map of Latin America’s key business players, as well as newcomers to the start-up game. In addition to a physical map of each business’s geographic location, StartUpMap.LA provides the company profile, explains its mission and notes its websites social media pages and other important contact information. Consequently, the program facilitates communication and collaboration among entrepreneurs, investors, accelerators, incubators and anyone interested in general business information. The maps are currently available for:
Crowd-Sourcing and Verification
Even better, Startupmap.LA also functions as a crowd-sourcing platform. Businesses can add their profile to the local maps, along with any information they wish to share. In order to avoid business fraud, the StartUpMap.LA management team verifies all information, before putting the company on the map. Future plans for StartUPMap.LA include a help-wanted section, with employment opportunities at these start-ups, and a “Team” section, with detailed profiles of the founders and company members.
Aerolab: The Brains Behind StartUpMap.LA
Aerolab, the brains behind StartUpMap.LA, is a digital agency that specializes in interactive design, user experience, design interface solutions and technology development for startups and major brands. Hip, versatile, unique, creative and most of all, fun, this Buenos Aires company personifies a growing trend in Latin American start-ups. Sebastian Falasca designed the icons.
Other Mapping Companies
LatAMStartUpMap works on a similar principle. While not as detailed as Startupmap.la, the map provides an overview of all of Latin America in one big image. If you look at the map, you’ll see that there’s a whole lot happing in Colombia. The helpful sidebar features a key to the different icons, which include:
- Co-working spaces
- Hacker spaces
The Multiplier Effect: Taking the Map to the Next Level
Although these mapping tools are useful, they are still in beta. Some might find them counter-intuitive. Endeavor has created a different kind of mapping system, called the multiplier. The company describes itself as an organization that is catalyzing economic growth by “selecting, mentoring and accelerating the best high-impact entrepreneurs around the world.”
Endeavor’s founders argue that “connections among entrepreneurs create the game-changing ideas upon which hotbeds of entrepreneurship like Silicon Valley depend.” They call this the “multiplier effect.” To illustrate this concept, the Endeavor creates maps, which show how different companies have inspired, mentored or invested in new companies. The maps also shows startups started by former employees of these businesses.
In Latin America, the Endeavor staff has created multiplier effect maps for:
- Colombia: Through their mapping system, Endeavor researchers discovered that although the city of Bogota has more than 90 tech entrepreneurs, mentorship and investment are limited. The Endeavor team speculates that this is because Colombia’s technology industry lacks what they call a “big win”–a company that has achieved significant financial success. Big win companies provide the financial support and mentorship that inspires new tech entrepreneurs. In this type of scenario, the multiplier map has a problem solving function.
- Chile: Most people know about Start-up Chile, but did you know that Endeavor has been helping Chilean start-ups and entrepreneurs since 1998? To see how Santiago, Chile evolved into one of the world’s top entrepreneurial ecosystems, watch the video of Chile’s multiplier effect map,
- Uruguay: Uruguay’s multiplier effect map is interesting, because much of the influence stems from one entrepreneur: Gabriel Colla. With Endeavor’s help, Colla founded Infocorp, a software training company. That was back in 2002. Since then, Infocorp and its employees have mentored and supported other companies throughout Uruguay and Latin America.
- Argentina: How does a country that does everything wrong develop a burgeoning tech sector? Thus begins Endeavor’s video about the Argentinean tech sector. The answer, according to Endeavor, lies in the entrepreneur’s ability to make connections with other start-up founders.
Of course, Endeavor’s multiplier effect maps are biased toward the successes of their organization, but they do provide a helpful gestalt of the start-up scene in each country.
Infographics: A Different Type of Map
Some people love maps. Others prefer a linear representation of the data. Infographics appeal to those who prefer the latter. Within the past few years, some research organizations have created infographics about the business ecosystem of Latin America. Near Shore Americas, for example, created an infographic that details the 10 most transparent and the five most corrupted countries in Latin America. The chart shows Uruguay as having the most transparent government, and Venezuela as the most corrupt.
The same company produced an infographic that details and compares the digital profiles of different Latin American countries. Its features include braosdband subscription and Facebook penetration. Since social media is an essential marketing tool for entrepreneurs, this is useful information.
Seed Stars World put together a detailed infographic about the start-up scene in Rio de Janeiro. It includes the Twitter handles of entrepreneurs to follow, information about the e-commerce market in Brazil, along with details about financing.
By combining mapping tools, infographics, local new stories and visits to the countries, entrepreneurs can make informed decisions about investing in Latin America.