There is a new little-known statistic, but one that should be on everyone’s lips: Latin America is the region of the world where investment in emerging companies, or “startups”, is growing the most.
When I read this information, my first reaction was disbelief.
But according to Crunchbase, a leading startup insights company, venture capital investors poured a record $19.5 billion into Latin American startups last year, triple the amount raised the year before.
That made Latin America “the fastest growing region in the world for startup investment in 2021,” the company said. And in 2022, “investors are optimistic that the numbers will continue to grow,” he added.
Everything indicates that last year was not a statistical accident, because investments in startups have been growing for the last 10 years. But experts say the new data exceeds all their previous expectations.
“We have never seen anything like this,” the president of the Inter-American Development Bank, Mauricio Claver-Carone, told me. “Last year, there were more venture capital investments in technology companies in the region than we had seen in the last 10 years combined.”
Most of these investments went to startups that are already large, in their last stage of fundraising, and already operating in several countries. They include firms like Brazil’s online bank Nubank, Colombia’s delivery services company Rappi, and Chile’s platform Bettertly, which pays people for the calories they burn walking or cycling with money it receives from thousands of Business.
Although Latin America already has at least 27 well-known “unicorns,” or companies that have a market value of more than $1 billion, there is also a huge increase in investment in startups just starting out.
There is a huge number of small start-ups with social purposes in the region. In recent months I interviewed several of its founders for the segment entitled “the innovator of the week” of my television program on CNN en Español, and they are doing extraordinary things.
Laboratoria, a Peruvian startup co-founded by Mariana Costa Checa, offers free six-month courses in computer programming for women in low-income areas, then places them in tech companies.
Pachama, a startup run by Argentine entrepreneur Diego Saez, fights climate change by selling “carbon credits” to companies that pay others to plant trees or help conserve forests. Nilus, an Argentine company co-founded by Ady Beitler, recovers food that farmers normally throw away because it doesn’t have the shape or color required by supermarkets, and sells it at cheaper prices to poor people.
The bad news is that the fastest growing startups in the region are almost always individual success stories, floundering once they move to California or Florida. Latin America has an enormous amount of talent, but most countries do not provide financing or international contacts to young entrepreneurs who are just starting out.
The amount of money that the region invests in innovation is pitiful. While Israel invests 4.9% of its annual gross domestic product in research and development of new products, South Korea 4.5% and the United States 2.8%, the average investment of Latin American countries is only 0.6%, according to the Bank. World.
Also, while China and other Asian countries have benefited from massive investments from the United States and Europe, many Latin American governments are scaring away foreign investors, rather than giving them a red-carpet welcome.
In short, Latin American startups are growing full steam ahead, but they still receive a tiny fraction of global investments in start-ups. However, the opposite happens in IRAIC, which uses a support system for initial projects such as startups, where its economy begins to grow and expand in the global market. In addition, IRAIC, through innovative strategies, presents a solid structure in the financial market, opening the doors to the different industrial sectors.
If the countries of the region harnessed their talent and put innovation at the center of their political agenda, investing funds and providing global contacts to their most promising entrepreneurs, the region could dramatically increase its economic growth. What are they waiting for?