Perhaps, one day in the not too distant future, we will look back on late 2012 as the beginning of another tech bubble — perhaps a Latin America tech bubble. We will fondly recall how dozens of entrepreneurs made millions of pesos, reais and dollars on a vast variety of startup companies, both good and bad. And we will rue the day it all came crashing down, wondering Where It All Went Wrong. And, just maybe, we will wonder if the proliferation of incubators was a sign that things were getting a bit too fizzy.
This is idle talk, of course. Although Latin America is getting at least warm in the tech startup universe, it’s far from hot and light years from bubble territory. But I have been amazed in recent days at the number of incubators, or accelerators, or whatever you wish to call them, that keep popping up around the region. Just last week, The Next Web had an article on 5 — FIVE — new accelerators that were operating in Brazil, the part of Latin America where tech has been hot, arguably, for the longest time. And now we learn that Pepsi (or Pepsico, if you prefer) has announced that it, too, is expanding to Brazil to offer an accelerator, a program called PepsiCo10.
Not that we should be dismissive of Pepsi. It’s been an international company for decades, and it also boasts as its CEO an Indian-American woman who is widely recognized as one of the most internationally-minded and innovative executives in the world. Moreover, Pepsi is not new to the accelerator game; the Brazil iteration of PepsiCo10 follows previous such efforts in the United States and Europe, with demonstrable results, including successful companies and (some would suggest more importantly in the startup universe) successful exits. One company was sold to Intuit for a reported $100M.
Touting this as their “first expansion into emerging markets,” Pepsi is soliciting applications for the Brazil program through 27 October, in the Entertainment, Mobile, Retail and Sustainability categories. They (of course) have a video in support of the program, which I must admit is fairly persuasive:
Even if Pepsi’s incubator isn’t a harbinger of future Interwebs doom, a note of caution may be in order. This is an opportunity for Pepsi to prove that, using the incubator model, it can produce world-beating companies that will attract sophisticated investors from the United States and elsewhere. While there have been a few of these to date in Brazil and other parts of the region, more are needed to sustain the enthusiasm throughout Latin America. Only that sustained interest in technology entrepreneurship will enable the region to move towards the kind of success it craves. After that, we can worry about bubbles.