Coming up on one year ago, I assigned myself the task of writing about LatAm technology, i.e. about technology startups in Latin America. I was seriously considering moving to Mexico (which I subsequently did) and was also considering a fairly radical career move, from consulting to entrepreneurship (which I also subsequently made).
I wanted to validate my assumption that there was serious interest in what was going on in the startup ecosystem in Latin America, and I had noticed that there was no single news source in the English language about the startup scene in the region. So I decided to create one. Not so that I could get rich or famous writing about the scene — I knew that both of those things were unlikely — but because I also wanted to validate my assumption that Latin America was the emerging market of choice for technology startup companies.
I’ve been rather surprised at what a positive reaction I’ve gotten to writing the blog, and it’s unexpectedly turned into an excellent networking tool. So today I thought I’d share a little bit about what things I’m looking for in a LatAm technology story. This post is also aimed at people who might be interested in writing a post for LASB and/or people that want to get their company covered by LASB.
It’s about LatAm technology (duh!)
This may seem obvious, but I look for a serious — not incidental — nexus to Latin America. I have received a number of inquiries from people that want their companies covered, but only have a tangential connection to LatAm technology. For instance, I heard recently from someone that works at a startup company in New York that is expanding to Latin America. I don’t care! And I don’t think my readers will either — because (1) it’s an AMERICAN company; and (2) if it has enough traction to start looking outside the United States, it probably won’t qualify as a startup for much longer. I’m looking for Latin American companies, run by people from the region, making a difference.
I’ve written a lot about copycat or clone companies, but that’s not what I’m talking about when I say I look for originality. Clones can be original. What I mean is that I’m looking for companies that can come up with original approaches to problems. That could be a clone, if it uses a business model to attack a different vertical, for instance. Or it could be a genuinely new, interesting approach to a problem that people don’t even know they have. A number of people have observed recently that if LatAm technology companies want to truly get to the next level, they need to come up with ideas that are truly original and can scale globally. In the time that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve seen that start to happen and I think we’re on the verge of a real breakthrough in this regard.
The startup community in Silicon Valley recently has begun a sort of internal discussion over what the term “startup” actually means. Eric Ries believes that a startup can be in just about any field, as long as they are dealing with conditions of extreme uncertainty. There are others that believe that it has to be in the field of technology. Still others believe that the real differentiator for a startup is incredibly fast growth. I tend to believe that what makes a company a startup is scalability. That can mean scalability within a particular market vertical, or it could be scalability within a particular country. The main point here is that entrepreneurs choose approaches that allow them to start with a particular set of customers and products and scale that success.
While there are many stories in Latin America of businesses that are original and even scalable, technology is the area that I am not only most interested in, but I think has the greatest capacity for LatAm technology growth in the near future. Look, for example, at how “social” people in Latin America are — five of the top ten most “social” countries in the world are in this region! Additionally, the growth of the middle class in the region — not everywhere, but in many places — will herald commensurate growth in technology adoption. I’ve always been interested in technology and I could even be described as an early adopter, but I’ve never worked in the industry, until now. I’m thrilled to be in this dynamic environment, and so I want to concentrate my efforts where I have the most passion.
I’m looking at all sorts of ways to focus more on LatAm technology, encourage originality, identify scalable ideas, and call out new technologies as I see them. I plan to roll some of those new approaches over the next several weeks. I hope you like what you see.