How a contentious region became your new best partner in technology.
When I started to pitch Latin America as a technology partner for the US to Silicon Valley corporations nearly 10 years ago, people were hesitant. I came up against a chorus of skeptics saying: Latin America, no way. There's nothing but bananas, coffee, and security problems. However, today many companies in the US have turned their attention to the region. Why?
Well, there are several reasons:
- Positive numbers in technology adoption and growth.
- Remarkable human talent.
- Latin American presence in the Valley.
When looking at a region’s appeal one must first consider the numbers. In Latin America, they are quite good when it comes to technology adoption and growth. Out of Latin America’s total population of 593 million, almost 255 million use the internet. This is a comparable number to that of the US, but growing at a much faster rate. Latin Americans are adopting Software as a Service at a rate of 26% (1) and Social Media products at 20%. (2) There are 632 Million cell phones, 204 Million of which have broadband connections, and this number is estimated to grow to 500 Million by 2017. (3) This makes Latin America an exceptionally attractive market to mobile and cloud providers.
In addition, the region has shown steady economic growth almost doubling that of the US. Latin America, for the most-part, has established democracies, and significantly improved security, along with a strong commitment to pass and enforce of laws that protect intellectual property and foreign investment.
It is not only the geographic proximity, lower costs, and shared time zones that makes the region unique. The quality and warmth of the human talent makes Latin America very attractive for international partners seeking educated, resourceful workers. Latin American professionals are constantly looking for ways to add value to the client, suggest improvements, and interacting in real time, aiming to reduce the total cost of investment, and speed up projects and products’ “launch to market”.
More and more, well-trained bilingual engineers travel to Silicon Valley to identify the needs of companies in the US, in order to develop solutions in Latin America. In turn, Americans are going to visit companies in Latin America, often opting to establish teams in the region.
Latin American governments have started preparing and bringing local technology companies to do business in the US. Through Globaltech, I have been fortunate enough to have worked with many of them, helping them design, establish, and maintain incubation and acceleration programs.
Mexico’s TechBA, one of the earliest adopters of this model, prepares and brings close to 100 companies each year.
Chile established programs through CORFO and ProChile providing capital to companies to travel to the US and learn about the Silicon Valley ecosystem and look for opportunities in the global market. They have also developed programs to attract investors to Chile.
Other governments, including the City of Buenos Aires, Proexport Colombia, and The Brazilian Ministry of Technology, have prepared groups of qualified technology companies to explore opportunities in the US, looking to promote investment, and to find international partners.
Furthermore, every day, independent groups and organizations from all over Latin America travel to Silicon Valley to familiarize themselves with the best practices in innovation and entrepreneurship, and to learn about the latest trends in technology. I believe that this growing cultural interchange will make Latin America even more attractive to global companies, and qualified to develop innovative products and services for partners in the US.
There’s much more to Latin America than just bananas and coffee. This up-and-coming region is much like an attractive start up: good people with potential, growing rapidly, making this an ideal time to invest.
Constanza Nieto is the Co-Founder and CEO of Globaltech Bridge, an established Silicon Valley international business consulting and acceleration company, and has nearly 10 years of experience successfully helping Latin American companies and governments expand to the global market, and is an outspoken advocate for promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in the region.