Colombia has been quickly establishing itself as the underdog to watch out for in international business. With a burgeoning tech and startup scene, the country was recently recognized as the third most entrepreneurial country among the 38 members of the Organization for Economic Growth and Development (OECD).
In addition, with the government injecting $30 billion pesos of capital into the country’s science, technology, and innovation over the next 10 years—it seems that it’s only a matter of time before Colombia is cemented as an important international hub for entrepreneurship and innovation.
In the capital city of Bogotá alone there are already 800 venture-funded startups and the country has minted two noteworthy unicorns. Rappi, a well-known trailblazer, is the largest on-demand delivery company that specializes in “quick commerce,” or 10-minute deliveries in Latin America. A more recent rising star is Habi, the property tech platform that is already the biggest buyer and vendor for used houses in Colombia and México.
With Colombia ranking as the fourth-highest country to receive the most foreign investment in the region, it is quickly garnishing the attention of Latin American entrepreneurs and innovators coming to chase the dream of making their impact. From Tijuana to Patagonia, here are the 2022 Latin American Innovation Leaders that have landed in Colombia and are catalyzing huge transformations.
Alfonso De Los Rios
Alfonso de Los Rios is the CEO and co-founder of Nowports, the first and biggest digital freight forwarder in LatAm. The company blends logistics with financial and technological tools to ship cargo in an efficient, transparent, and secure way. The company is headquartered in Nuevo León, México, and has expanded its offices to the US, and Colombia, among other countries in the LATAM region.
Through a $150 USD million Series C, led by SoftBank, Nowports became the first Spanish-speaking LogiTech Unicorn in LatAm.
With this achievement, Alfonso, one of the youngest entrepreneurs in the region, is looking to strengthen his financing services through FinTech solutions, the user experience in the Nowports platform, and expand the Nowport team.
Daniela Espinosa is the Chief Risk Officer and co-founder of Kushki, a platform that optimizes online transactions and accepts multiple payment methods across LATAM countries while increasing acceptance rates and reducing fraud to a minimum.
Kushki has operations in five different countries and leverages local talent in order to develop personalized solutions for each unique country, also helping accelerate LATAM’s digital transformation which is critical for the economic growth of the region.
Founded in 2017, Kushki is the only unicorn in Ecuador, gaining $194 million in a Series B funding extension. Its main goal is to provide a service that allows digital payments in LATAM, where cash is still widely used and most people are unbanked.
Adrien ChÂtillon is the co-founder and CEO of Actipulse Neuroscience, a Y Combinator-backed medical technology company focused on brain health. Actipulse specializes in non-invasive brain stimulation therapeutics for the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders.
Adrien has previously co-founded two startups in his native France. He is a polyglot, and has lived and worked in more than eight countries.
The Mexico/Boston-based company focuses on bringing hospital-setting treatments to mental health patients’ homes, as a way to help counter the current mental health crisis, ignited by the Covid-19 pandemic.
More than 210 mental-health clinics are currently using their proprietary neuromodulation technology, which has treated more than 10,000 patients suffering from Major Depressive Disorder.
Loreanne Garcia is the co-founder and Chief People Officer of Kavak.com, a disruptive solution looking to change how pre-owned cars are bought and sold in the auto industry. Driven by data, technology, and innovation Kavak formalizes the pre-owned cars industry, offering a wide catalog of guaranteed and certified cars.
Recently Kavak has started operations in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. Turning the company into a 10-country-wide large company, with a team of +20 nationalities. The countries of operation include México, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Perú, and Türkiye.
With a valuation of $8.7 billion, this Mexican unicorn is the second-largest startup in LATAM and one of the fastest-growing technology companies. One of the reasons for their success is that they started a business in a digital environment used to traditional ways of buying cars.
Álvaro Echevarría is the CEO and co-founder of SimpliRoute, the Route Optimization, and Logistics Intelligence revolution solution. Democratizing logistics intelligence, the company is looking to help all delivery and services companies to reduce their logistics costs by up to 30%.
The SaaS platform helps to reduce routing time so companies can take better care of their customers. With SimpliRoute, companies can have real-time insights about deliveries, and customer questions, and take preventive actions to ensure outstanding last-mile performance.
The Chilean company now has offices in Colombia and is reducing 34% of the CO2 emissions in the supply chain, plus reducing 10% of the current vehicle usage for deliveries. In total, SimpiRoute reduces delivery time by 80%, while decreasing logistics expenses by 34%, and increasing delivery performance by 25%.
Mariana Costa Checa
The organization is focused on shaping a more diverse, inclusive, and competitive digital economy, which opens opportunities for each woman to develop her potential and, in this way, transform the future of Latin America. As a result, more than 83% of its graduates find jobs in technology in less than six months.
The startup has seen great success, with today’s leaders, including Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg, praising Mariana Costa and her efforts. Plus, Mariana was included in the 100 Global Tech Changemakers in recognition of her social impact on women of diverse backgrounds.
Ximena Aleman, is the Co-CEO and co-founder of Prometeo, the largest Open Banking platform in all of Latin America. The company has over 108 API connections and can access banking data from 40 financial institutions in 10 countries via a single access point.
Back in 2018, Ximena noticed that data was still the sole property of financial institutions, so together with her partners, they set out a mission to democratize data so it could be securely shared. Now the platform is capable of A2A payments, creating and access to 100% digital products, and inter-accounts transactions.
Ximena ensures Prometeo is working towards becoming the next Uruguayan Unicorn within the next 4 years. Although funding numbers haven’t been shared, the startup already reached round A investment. Whilst the Uruguayan startup is focused on strengthening its market share in Mexico, Aleman doesn’t rule out opening new markets to continue with Promoteo’s expansion.
Michael Hoey is the Founder and President of Source Meridian, a development software company aimed at the healthcare and life sciences industries. They work on solving challenging problems in healthcare practices, using a variety of technological tools.
The company has a mission focused on providing customers with early access to cutting-edge technology, such as big data and Artificial Intelligence. This helps their clients to maintain their competitive advantage in the marketplace.
They wield a staff of international software engineers and data scientists and have offices in the US and Colombia. Working with clients to analyze their content models and business processes, they help to evolve existing business models, leveraging state-of-the-art technology that helps to build new products and new streams of revenue.
Their motto is to provide their customers with the technology of tomorrow rather than the technology of today.
Joaquin Gonzalez is the CRO and co-founder of Reworth, a Mexican platform that uses cashback reward systems to empower businesses by redefining their relationship with customers. It also uses machine learning to find the ideal buyer based on the product or service offered.
Customers benefit from cashback, and businesses benefit from increased exposure, higher conversion, and client data. It does not charge vendors any commission because the cashback gets deducted from the established budget.
Reworth has focused on shortening and improving user experience on the platform. “70% of loyalty points never get redeemed as people don’t know their worth or how to do it”, mentioned Joaquín to TechLA. With this in mind, Reworth is an intuitive platform with a simple onboarding procedure for businesses to sign up as affiliates. The tech processes the transactions automatically and connects the businesses with customers, so they can check who is giving cashback via their personalized interface.
Felipe Chávez Cortés
Felipe Chávez Cortés is the CEO and co-founder of Kiwibot, a robotic delivery service that has completed over 150,000 food deliveries with semi-autonomous robots—partnering with Rappi, LATAM’s largest delivery platform.
Kiwibot has grown massively over the past two years and its offices today span Medellín, CO California, USA, and even Taipei, Taiwan. Having completed hundreds of thousands of food delivery orders already, the tiny bots are now cruising the streets of US cities including Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Miami, Pittsburg, Denver, Dallas, Detroit, and more.
The startup has recently signed a collaboration with Careem, a subsidiary application of Uber operating in the Middle East, to launch 1,200 delivery robots in Dubai, UAE.
Joaquin Olmedo is the CEO and co-founder of Filadd, a platform available as a webpage and application that helps pre-university and university students improve their education by providing virtual courses with specialized teachers in a variety of academic subjects.
The company was founded in 2017 by Argentinians and now has over one million users in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Brazil. The Platform has more than 300 courses and 78 different faculties in LATAM. Plus, recently they’ve become part of the famous regional startup accelerator, Y Combinator.
Recently, Joaquin has been nominated to the Argentinian entrepreneurship cohort “Cordoba Empresaria”, which for 19 years has been awarded to those with the entrepreneurial spirit and best solutions in the region. In addition to this, in November 2022, Joaquin will be a panelist at Endeavor experience, an entrepreneurship community dating back to 1998 that is focused on promoting economic growth within its more than 2100 entrepreneurs members.
Alan Gongora is the Managing Partner at Langon Law Group, a law firm with offices in the United States and Colombia. His firm works with enterprises across North and South America.
He is also the General Counsel at ‘WISH’ by Wuauu Inc. WISH is a unique service designed to provide consumers with a price bargaining system via a mobile device, also helping retailers to sell their backstock inventory quickly.
Alan is an alumni of Harvard Law School.
Sjoerd Martens is Chief Client Officer (CCO) of Publicize, a digital PR company for technology startups and enterprises that’s headquartered in Medellin. Martens, who is from The Netherlands, was the company’s Head of Account Management prior to being promoted to CCO.
Publicize is a digital PR agency providing result-driven digital PR and marketing solutions. The company’s mission help drive forward results-driven public relations—providing measurable solutions that offer consistent and strategic outcomes for startups.
Their primary focus is offering tailored digital, pr media, and marketing to a wide spectrum of companies from ones getting stared, all the way to fortune 500s. Publicize is a company that is helping to shape the startup community in Colombia, and opening up new international opportunities for entrepreneurs in LATAM.
Disclosure: This article mentions a client of an Espacio portfolio company.