Colombia’s startup scene is beaming with innovation and activity. The country is one of Latin America’s strongest nations in terms of technological, business, and economic developments. These positive qualities foster an attractive environment for a successful startup sector in the country. While Colombia prides itself on its infamous drive and hunger for innovation and invention these days, foreigners are making use of the favorable conditions as well. Startups in Colombia, while mostly domestically founded and run, are experiencing a new wave of founders and funding. Many foreigners are flocking to the country for its incredible culture, cuisine, cities, and people. Most importantly though, they come with the founding of their new startup seemingly inevitable, whether they know it or not.
Business is increasingly globalized and interconnected. Strict boundaries and loyalties to your native country are not the only matters guiding business decisions nowadays. Individuals can uproot their lives, move to another country, and take advantage of the opportunities they find there. These ‘ex-pats’ are rather easy to spot, and in this case, the foreign-owned startups in Colombia stick out too. Not for their roots or founder history, but for the success and prosperity they are realizing as they do business in Colombia.
Favorable conditions for startups in Colombia
Colombia’s economy, international partnerships, and diverse market opportunity make it an attractive place for startups to emerge and flourish.
As for its economy and global status, Colombia has been making headlines. Since national security and safety have increased tremendously, the government, corporations, and individuals have been able to focus on economic development and connectivity. This led to a never-before-seen dedication to economic growth, innovation, and support for startups. Bogotá has become a major hub in Latin America for business, diplomacy, and the formation and fostering of international relationships, both professional and political. Through tireless efforts, Colombia has also reinvented one of its other major cities: Medellin. Now, Medellin is famous for beating out Tel Aviv and New York City for the title of “Most Innovative City” in the world. New transportation systems, art murals and sculptures, unique architecture, and support for startups are just some of the amazing qualities of this rebirthed city.
A new focus on economic and international growth benefitted the country and startups in Colombia tremendously. These changes launched growing needs and new markets in industries and niches that would have otherwise been nonexistent. Well-established companies and corporations took advantage where they could, but the real difference makers became the startups. Unmet needs that were unfamiliar to many companies had to be met with out-of-the-box thinking, ingenuity, and technology. Forward thinkers pounced on these opportunities, thus igniting the growing flames of entrepreneurship and formation of startups in Colombia. Industries like food delivery, FinTech, business services, transportation, and even social interactions are just some of the new market opportunities that grew out of Colombia’s favorable conditions.
Advantages for foreign-owned startups
Beyond the country’s favorable situational qualities, there are also major benefits for foreigners to form startups in Colombia. Beyond growing market opportunities, Colombia also has rich opportunities within the work force. It’s working population is young, educated, and wildly competent. Your team for your startup in Colombia will be comprised of the best of the best. Moreover, in cities like Bogotá and Medellin, the population is considerably diverse. There are many people from different countries, origins, backgrounds, and native languages. Access to these individuals will make your team highly diverse with unique advantages, points of view, and resources.
With great access to great talent comes the question of compensation though. You might be thinking that since everyone is so incredibly impressive, compensation must be a bear. Not so much though. Another advantage of foreign-owned startups in Colombia is how you pay your team. Since the cost of living in Colombia is most likely lower than where you are coming from, the salaries you pay out will be lower too.
Finally, another one of the many advantages of forming startups in Colombia as a foreigner is the increasing support for foreign entrepreneurs. Incubators, accelerators, and venture capital in Colombia are looking for startups to launch off the ground. Moreover, with the increase in governmental focus on international business, foreign direct investment, and economic growth, foreign-owned startups are being welcomed with open arms.
Setting the example
Foreign-owned startups in Colombia are realizing great success. Below are just a few examples of the many that are paving the roadmap to success in this vibrant Latin American country. Each occupies a unique market and/or niche. None compete with each other for the same target markets. Once again, this wide array of market representation showcases all the different types of opportunity in Colombia.
Biz Latin Hub
First to set the example of foreign-owned startups in Colombia is Biz Latin Hub. Founded by Australia native Craig Dempsey, Biz Latin Hub provides back-office services and commercial representation to businesses moving to or throughout Latin America. Headquartered in Bogotá, Colombia, BLH utilizes its competitive advantages like multi-lingual teams, streamlined processes, and expert knowledge and experience to serve both local and foreign entities. Total, the company operates in eighteen different countries, sixteen of which being within Latin America. The remaining two run out of Australia and New Zealand.
While Biz Latin Hub assists with starting, expanding, and managing businesses abroad, at the core, it focuses on increasing global ties and operations. As a leadership figure in the foreign-owned startup community in Colombia, BLH works tirelessly to increase ties between Colombia, and Australia. In 2019, the company had its very own representative attend the Inaugural Dialogue between Colombian and Australian representatives. Held in Bogotá, the dialogue centered around building a future whereby Colombia and Australia promote each other’s interests, prosperity, and wellbeing. As a foreign-owned startup with representation at this event, BLH is helping pave the way for future business, collaboration, and success for foreigners working in Colombia.
Occupying a completely different market niche, Gringo Tuesdays is another successful, startup in Colombia. Started by U.S. native Tiffany Kohl, Gringo Tuesdays is a social language exchange that happens every week. Now, the event takes place at Vintrash Bar in the Zona Rosa area of town in Bogotá. The event begins with a language exchange lasting from 5pm until 9pm. After conversing, and a couple friendly rounds of beer, the staff moves away the tables and chairs and turns the rest of the night into a party.
Gringo Tuesdays has become a staple event, not just of the week, but of the entire city of Bogotá. Kohl has successfully built a reputation, and from that, a brand. Practically every travel magazine, column, article, and blog about Bogotá mentions the infamous Gringo Tuesdays. Coming up on its ten-year anniversary in 2021, Kohl looks back upon its start with memories of fond times and challenging obstacles. Forming a startup in Colombia is no easy task, and as a foreigner it can seem even more daunting. Kohl is proof though that no matter the niche, its all possible.
BBE Languages is a language service company which helps Latin American companies grow their teams, skillsets, and measure of success. The company works with their clients using cross-cultural communication training to foster multi-lingual and multi-cultural teams within the organization. Founded by native U.S. citizen Eric Tabone, BBE Languages brings personalized teaching tactics, experienced professionals and teachers, and a wide array of cultural knowledge to Colombian businesses. Having a diverse and adaptable workforce is essential nowadays for international business and corporate expansion.
The inspiration for BBE came to Tabone after his three-month post-graduation trip through Latin America. Upon his return from the trip, he decided to return to Colombia full time. He planned on teaching English in the morning and learning Spanish himself in the afternoon. After quite a few months of this routine, Tabone saw it as a business opportunity. The demand for Colombian businesses to learn business English was, and still is, very high. Tabone took advantage of this seemingly niche market and created an empire within Colombia.
The Bogota Post
The Bogotá Post takes pride in being “your English Language voice in Colombia.” The paper launched in 2014, with its first piece being an interview with famous Irish politician Martin Guinness. Born out of a growing ex-pat desire to have an English newspaper in the city, The Bogotá Post aims to serve the needs, interests, and wants of this large community in the capital. However, the paper and its online platform are increasingly popular with native-born Colombians as well. Those that know, are learning, or wish to learn English find themselves reading The Post. Now, the paper has an official readership of around 15,000 every edition.
The Bogotá Post aims to capture the heart of Colombia’s vibrant capital city. It captures Colombia’s national and business culture with each and every story it covers. Through deliberate market analyses, up-to-date information, and proper networking, this wildly popular newspaper was born. Now, its reach goes beyond its initial target market, including all of Bogotá as a community, and incidentally creating its own.
Golden Lion Premium Cider
Finally, wrapping up the list of successful foreign-owned startups in Colombia is Golden Lion Premium Cider company. Occupying the alcohol niche, Golden Lion successfully differentiated itself in what seemed to be an already saturated market. Between bountiful access to aguardiente, foreign beer, domestic beer, and even international drink favorites like pisco sour, the market for alcohol in Colombia seemed overwhelming. However, founder Dan Hill of New Zealand would add another player to this competitive game. Inspired to bring cider culture to Colombia, he set out to found and establish Colombia’s first ever hard cider company.
Now, Golden Lion practically owns Bogotá’s hard cider market. Where there was no market previously, Golden Lion created one out of thin air. The local bars, restaurants, and pubs all serve Golden Lion loyally. Proudly, the company represents a mix of Colombia and New Zealand culture, with the unrelenting urge to bring a smile to the consumer’s face with every sip.
Foreign-owned startup help
Colombia’s industry for foreign-owned startups is extremely supportive and presents many opportunities. No matter the industry, foreigners have certain advantages and benefits when they form their startup in Colombia. The list of successful and impactful startups in Colombia is endless. Many of which are foreign-owned. For more information on foreign-owned startups in Colombia and Latin America, follow The StartupVC on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.