Lean Startup Machine Part 3: Connecting With Uruguay’s Startup Ecosystem

Lean Startup Machine Part 3: Connecting With Uruguay’s Startup Ecosystem

a group of techies
Lean Startup Machine Team

Welcome to the Lean Startup Machine Series Part 3. This post will cover the Lean Startup Machine ecosystem in Tech Hub Montevideo Uruguay.

Uruguay’s startup ecosystem is alive and kicking. Just ask Sergio Delgado. Meeting this fascinating person was one of the highlights of my Lean Startup Machine Montevideo experience. Delgado is the co-founder and managing director of Fundación DaVinci, one of Uruguay’s top incubators for startup entrepreneurs. In 2014, he authored a book titled Fundadores.UY. This inspiring work highlights 12 Uruguayan entrepreneurs, who are, or at least were, under age 35 when they started their businesses.

The book includes bios of Álvaro Azofra of Ironhide Game Studios, Martin Larre of Kidbox, Agustina Sartori of GlamSt and others. Some of the featured entrepreneurs were former participants in Lean Startup Machine Montevideo. Many of them worked on their projects in Montevideo’s coworking spaces. If you intend to use Uruguay as your base for a new, location independent businesses, coworking spaces provide excellent networking opportunities.

Co-working in Montevideo

Sergio Delgado is also an esteemed member of the CoWork Latam Montevideo managing team. This coworking facility houses the DaVinci incubator, as well as UY Angel Club. Co-founded by Martín Alcalá Rubí — also featured in Delgado’s book — is an organization that links investors with startup entrepreneurs. It’s easy to see the benefits of having these three companies under one roof. Members can rent co-working space, network with other entrepreneurs and attend business-related workshops and lectures. In the meantime, projects developed at CoWork Latam have the potential to draw the attention of venture capitalists. If UY Angel Club chooses to invest in a project, DaVinci acts as the incubator that helps develop the idea. The logic of this integrated system makes it work.

In fact, the co-working scene is so hot in Montevideo, that Lean Startup Machine often features their owners and managers as speakers and mentors. Last year, the organizers chose Macarena Botta, Executive Director of Sinergia Cowork. Like DaVinci, Sinergia Cowork, offers mentoring workshops, and functions as an incubator program. The six to nine month program commences twice each year. Approved projects receive $25,000 from Uruguay’s National Agency for Research and Innovation.


Collaboration is the Key to Success

Botta and Delgado agree that a willingness to engage in supportive team work is essential to business success. In an interview with IDG Connect, Botta said

“I think through spaces like Sinergia we create collaborative communities of empowered people who have vision and tools to create sustainable business by solving social problems. Collaboration is the only way to forge a better world.”

And in an article featured in Global Delivery Report, Delgado argues that

“The limits of innovation are related to people’s will to collaborate with others. It doesn’t matter if you have the money, if you have the technical skills, an MBA, a PHD, or access to resources. There is something more important, and that is the will to work together.”

This willingness to collaborate and support other startup projects was one of the many things that struck me about Lean Startup Machine Montevideo. Although the startup groups were in competition with each other, all of the participants produced a thunderous round of applause for the winning teams. Here’s some food for thought:

Equipo Means Both Team and Equipment in Spanish
Equipo Means Both Team and Equipment in Spanish


What This Means for Entrepreneurial Nomads

US expat and digital nomad Evan Henshaw-Plath spoke at Lean Startup Montevideo 2014. He came to Uruguay in 2007 and founded Cubox SA, Latin America’s first agile Ruby on Rails consultancy. As the first employee and lead developer at Odeo, the company that evolved into Twitter, Henshaw-Plath is no stranger to the tech startup scene. When asked why he chose Uruguay over other Latin American countries, he tells the following story.

A North American, Japan-based technology investor planned a trip to South America. His mission: To discover startups to invest in or acquire. When he learned about the bureaucratic ordeal that US citizens must endure for obtaining a visa for entry into Brazil, he decided to go to Uruguay, which has no such visa requirements. The businessman eventually bought Cubox, Henshaw-Plath’s company.

Connecting to Uruguay’s Startup Scene

DaVinci Labs occasionally accepts foreign applicants, but your team must have at least one Uruguayan member. The solution: Spend some time at one of Montevideo’s coworking spaces, and attend the next Lean Startup Machine Montevideo event. If DaVinci labs accepts your project, you will receive $25,000 equity-free funding, along with workspace in a coworking environment, and 6 to 12 months of mentoring.

A company called Softlandings offers a different option. It is open to Uruguayans living overseas, or foreign occupants living in Uruguay for less than one year. Accepted applicants receive $40,000 US startup money, as well as incubator services at Ingenio – the facility where Lean Startup Montevideo workshops take place.

See the rest of the posts in this series:

This post was penned by...

Lisa Marie Mercer

From the heart of New York City, to the hill towns of Italy, to the ski towns of Colorado, to the beach towns of coastal Uruguay, Lisa Marie Mercer has journeyed across the globe, often stopping to stay a few months or a few years. A widely-published writer, she covers topics such as travel, expat living, health and fitness, skiing, social media, Latin America and startup entrepreneurs.

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