Medellín’s reputation for innovation and startup culture may be oversold in some ways, but it remains one of the best hotbeds of tech and entrepreneurial culture in Latin America. Add in Bogotá and some of the nation’s other big cities, and Colombia can compete with anyone in the region outside of Brazil and Mexico.
One organization looking to discover and inspire local talent is LatAm Startups. To find the very best, the organization is kicking of an accelerator program in Toronto that just opened up its application process last week.
Photo: Miryam Lazarte of LatAm Startups oversees a panel at one of the organization’s many conferences to foster more entrepreneurial growth in Latin America. (Credit: LatAm Startups)
The LatAm Startups Hub will be accepting applications until January 15, with the 10 best beginning a four-month residency beginning on April 1, 2017.
To learn more about the organization and its new LatAm Startups Hub, Finance Colombia’s Jared Wade recently sat down to speak with Miryam Lazarte, CEO of LatAm Startups.
Finance Colombia: Can you tell me a little about the background and beginnings of LatAm Startups? What do you do and how long have you been around?
Miryam Lazarte: LatAm Startups has been around since 2013. We run the annual LatAm Startups Conference. Our focus is to scale startups from Latin America globally, using Canada as a launching pad.
Finance Colombia: I know you hosted a Colombia-oriented conference last year. Have you worked with many Colombian companies?
Miryam Lazarte:Sure, we worked with ProColombia to organize a trade delegation to Toronto last year. More than $16.2 million in deals were closed during the matchmaking sessions.
We’ve also worked closely with Ruta N in Medellin, an organization that is doing some amazing work.
Finance Colombia: What does the opening of the new LatAm Startups Hub in Toronto add to the experience? Who will benefit and what services can you provide to any entrepreneur who thinks they have the next Uber or AirBnB?
Miryam Lazarte:We help startups scale. There’s plenty of incubators in Latin America, and no shortage of seed money. Our interest in taking those companies and scaling them globally.
Not every startup is an Uber or an AirBnB. And Silicon Valley is known as a shark tank for a reason — very competitive, a very expensive place to make mistakes when growing a startup.
Toronto offers most of the benefits of basing your startup in the United States without almost none of the downsides. The startup community is supportive, Canadian society is extremely diverse and welcoming
of newcomers, and the “Startup Visa” makes it easy for qualifying startups to get permanent residence in Canada.
Most startups fail. Most startups that succeed aren’t unicorns. So if you’ve got a unicorn? Go to California. But if you’re not sure? Come to Toronto.
Finance Colombia: I personally don’t hear as much about Toronto when thinking about accelerators and startups. What does the location offer? From the perspective of a startup in Colombia: Why Toronto? Why Canada?
Miryam Lazarte: For startups looking for an alternative to Silicon Valley, Toronto and Berlin are the two up-and-coming places to be. If Europe is right for your business, then Berlin. But if North America is your goal, then Toronto can’t be beat.
Finance Colombia: And so any startups from anywhere in Latin America can send in their application now to join the hub? How does that process work? When does the program begin?
Miryam Lazarte: Any startup that is ready to scale may apply. What does that mean? Your startup should have a working prototype, plus proof there’s a market for your product or service. Have you received investment? Do you have customers? Do you have revenue?
Startups are best served by incubating in Latin America — but scaling from Canada. Anyone who wants to know all the details, can visit this link and apply.
We welcome our first cohort of 10 startups from Latin America in April, 2017. As a Colombian myself, I look forward to seeing applications from the best startups in Colombia.
Photo Credit: LatAm Startups