I’ve written a lot on this blog about all the great (and not so great) startups that are being created almost every day in Latin America. There is all sorts of creativity, even when the startups in question are actually re-creating a business model that exists in the United States or elsewhere. I’ve said before that there is usually no shame in copying a business model, as long as one puts his (or her) own fingerprint on that copy and improves it or, as is the case in many parts of LatAm, makes it fit appropriately within the local community.
In this post, however, I’d like to talk a bit about Latin American startups I WISH existed. Readers will note that quite often I reference existing business models that haven’t been moved to Latin America. Sadly, in many cases, the US version of these startups either hasn’t been able to crack the Latin American market, or hasn’t made the effort. There are a lot of things that make the LatAm market special, so perhaps all it will take is a local entrepreneur to make these work.
So, in no particular order:
- Social/crowdsourced invention (e.g. Quirky): There are plenty of brilliant engineers all over Latin America that probably are tinkering around in their garages on the weekends, maybe even inventing something. Why not give them a way to get it to market?
- Geek Squad: I know this technically exists already in parts of Latin America since Best Buy has expanded to the region, but it seems to me that the Best Buy Geek Squad has gotten away from their roots, i.e. solving technical, computer-y problems. I recently had BBGS people at my apartment installing a stove. That isn’t what GS was created to do.
- Threadless/Cafe Press: This was originally on my list but F#$% Yeah Tees in Hermosillo, Mexico, is starting to do the Threadless bit of it. But what about Cafe Press? The print-your-own-and-sell-it model is brilliant and shouldn’t be difficult to execute, but I haven’t seen it in LatAm.
- A publisher that also sells (e.g. Refinery29, Thrillist): There are certainly flashy magazines and group buying sites in Latin America, but as far as I have seen, nobody has tried to create content specifically to sell products. There are plenty of hungry consumers out there that would buy goods if they had quality content directing them to it.
- A “social” social mobile advertiser (e.g. Blyk): I’m constantly getting spammed on my mobile from the phone company (that shall remain nameless) trying to hook me up with their affiliates, but none of it interests me and certainly none of it is targeted. An opt-in, social mobile advertiser that actually delivered content people wanted would be a boon to Latin America.
- Flash sale aggregator: There is no shortage of flash sales sites in Latin America, but I bet that both sellers and consumers would welcome a one-stop-shop for flash sales/daily deal sites. Some people think this is the next wave of e-commerce.
- Turnkey flash sales site: Just because there are a bunch of them doesn’t mean that all the verticals are covered. There are probably any number of flash sales verticals or markets that haven’t been addressed, and creating an easy way to make them in LatAm would probably be popular. Companies like Conekta (previously covered by this blog) are already doing this for e-commerce.
- Niche monthly subscription service: Again, there are probably at least a dozen verticals that could be addressed in Latin America by monthly subscription services. If Dollar Shave Club can (apparently) be successful in the United States, a market of about 300,000,000 people, why couldn’t any type of men’s accessories, women’s shoes, or pet sales site be successful in, say, Mexico, with a population of over 100,000,000?
- Tech business that matches supply with demand (e.g. TaskRabbit): One of the things I’ve noticed since coming to Mexico is that manual labor is not efficiently used; there are always people cleaning, washing, or delivering things, but they are rarely deployed effectively. A car wash company, for example, that took reservations for a particular (affluent) part of a city using an app, and deployed the workers on a tightly scheduled basis could be successful. This model has been used in the United States to do mobile car detailing. I’ve seen mobile pet groomers in Mexico City — why not car washers?
- Turnkey website design repository (e.g. Themeforest): There are probably thousands of talented web designers that are underemployed or underpaid that could design WordPress themes like this and sell them in a Spanish (or Portuguese) language marketplace. Many people overpay for web design, when all they needed was a nice looking WordPress theme.
- Centralized digital goods marketplace: While some companies in Latin America (e.g. Torneo de Ideas, also previously covered here) are trying to replicate 99Designs‘ bespoke design service, there are plenty of digital goods — e-books, music, photography, video, etc — that could be aggregated in one place and sold. Digital goods are the ultimate scalable product.
- Curated creative community (e.g. IdeaLists, WorkingNotWorking): Lately in the United States there has been a rebellion against the O-Desks of the world and their Race to the Bottom for creative labor. Companies like IdeaLists and WorkingNotWorking are creating curated, members-only communities to provide a variety of high-end creative services to large companies that want to outsource but don’t want to send everything to India (no offense meant to India). Talents include art direction, creative direction, photography, print design, branding, video production, etc. — high-value services.
Let us know in the comments (or using the contact form) if there is some existing company in LatAm already doing one of the things I’ve listed above!
And if you think you want to start one of these businesses and you live in Mexico City, also get in touch!