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Latin American Start-Up Outlook Looks Bright

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Latin American technology entrepreneurs are forecasting a bright future for “unicorns” as technology start-ups are gaining importance in the regional ecosystem. It is a matter not only of market valuation and breaking the $1 billion mark, but also of helping to solve “significant problems for the region and create jobs,” said Enrique Ortegon, Chief Operations Officer of Salesforce.com, USA.

“We have gone beyond the tipping point in Latin America. We are going to see many more unicorns. I am optimistic that this will lead to sustained growth during the next decades,” said Hernan Kazah, Managing Partner at Kaszek Ventures, Argentina. “We still lack players, but we have many more than we did 15 years ago. In 20 years from now, we will see much better coverage [of start-ups].”

Start-ups should have the right to fail before they succeed, as experimentation is often the key to success. “Becoming a unicorn is a symbol of success, but we want to have long, sustainable companies to improve life,” said Amiram Appelbaum, Chief Scientist and Chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority, Israel. “You want to solve human beings’ issues. You do it locally and then you can distribute it worldwide … You have to accept failure. It is a story of failures and successes,” Appelbaum said.

Governments play a crucial role in supporting academia and reducing bureaucracy, as well as injecting capital where market forces fail. “The challenge of connecting scientists and entrepreneurs is more important than helping to induce start-ups,” said Andy Freire, Legislator, City of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Argentina is has recently implemented pro-business legislation. “We have been working towards improving entrepreneurs’ lives. Before, it took 100 days to set up a company. Now it can be done in a single day. Everything is on the cloud,” said Freire. “We provide them with tools to become entrepreneurs.” Still, there is still progress to be made. Marco Crespo, Head, Latin America, Gympass, pointed out that, although it is easy to do business in Argentina, there are still restrictions in terms of human labour and moving staff from one country to another.

“We have seen some positive measures that have allowed entrepreneurs to accelerate,” said Kazah. “The ecosystem is much more developed. We are on the right track with talents.” Kazah noted that, although the region is still lagging in terms of technology, the situation in Latin America is encouraging. “There will be more unicorns breaking through the crystal roof,” he said.

The World Economic Forum on Latin America is taking place in São Paulo on 13-15 March.


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