Latin America has become one of the most productive regions within the digital arena, showing fantastic potential in technological innovation. In this blog post I want to go further and tell you what is happening right now inside of South America’s most innovative Startups. Prepare to be surprised. Uruguay, Brazil, Chile and Argentina are the countries that have the biggest startup movements and that are linked to the forefront of technological innovation in Latin America. Colombia and Peru are gaining presence in this area as well, although in a different way as their entrepreneurial community is younger and less experienced.
According to several entrepreneurs surveyed for this blog post, cultural differences are one of the biggest challenges to overcome.
Every startup in this post share the same key characteristics for success: they were born with the global marketplace in mind, they are competitive, they aim to bring value to the digital arena and they were created to make a dream come true.
FOOD EXTRA: Innovative Startup in Argentina
Food Extra is a social network to find out where food comes from, created in Argentina. This social network was built to connect food consumers and food producers. Food Extra allows each part of the food chain to interact with each other building trade relationships. On the other hand, Food Extra gives consumers information on how food is processed, as well as where the food comes from.
The central concept of Food Extra is food traceability. According to an article written by Sebastian Nader, Food Extra co-founder, traceability is one of the current useful tools in the Internet. Sebastian Nader -a graduated in Economics- , Fernando Valdivia -Veterinarian- and Sebastian San Juan – Systems Analyst and graduated in Management- are the founders of this new Argentinean Startup which has already landed in Silicon Valley. (Update 05/23/2011: Sebastian San Juan doesn’t work in Food Extra any more. Currently, he is a member of the Celeste Olivieri‘s team)
“Food Extra allows its users to get information about the products they consume: data about the company which has processed the product as well as the people involved in the production. In addition, users can read, write and share reviews and comments”, said Fernando.
Once Food Extra’s mobile app launches (which will be in May, 2011), the iPhone’s screen will read the bar-code of each product registered in Food Extra’s database and the system will send all of the information available about that product to the user. People could also use geo-location to find other users as well as food production spots.
However, to start using Food Extra at all, we have to wait some time as the public version hasn’t launched yet.
SOCIAL WEB: Innovative Startup in Chile
Social Web is a young startup that offers digital services such as social media marketing, web and app development.
Social Web won the Startup Weekend -Chile- in 2010 with its innovative product: Social Meter, a new web platform where TV ratings are measured using social networks. Cristian Correa and his team won the Santiago Startup Weekend 2010 competition and received 5 million Chilean pesos in funding.
Social Meter is a web platform where people share what they are watching on TV in real time through social networks, such as Twitter or Facebook. Social Meter’s goal is to improve the quantification system of People Meter. The platform measures the audience more effectively. It creates an interactional network with the user who receives discounts as a reward for participation. Users can also comment on the TV show they are watching and see what their friends are watching.
This Startup will offer a new TV rating measurement system to TV companies that is real time, covers a wider range of people and is web based. Social Meter will launch “soon”, per its website.
VIVA REAL: Innovative Startup in Brazil
Brazil stands out as one of the countries where innovative ideas are born every day and whose entrepreneurs are constantly searching for new opportunities. VivaReal is a good example of these innovative ideas. It is a real estate portal for buying, selling and renting properties.
This Startup received the award “Best Real Estates Portal in Emerging Markets”, given by Property Portal Watch.
VivaReal’s founder, Brian Requarth and his partner Thomas Floracks have a lot of experience in the US real estate market and since 2008 they have worked only in Latin America, where they have been living for a long time. Requarth and Floracks wanted to be on top of the real estate search in Brazil and expand to Latin America. Viva Real has been recently launched in Latin America and even in the USA and shows great potential to reproduce the success it has had in Brazil.
According to Alice Allan, editor of Property Portal Watch, “VivaReal has combined the traditional sales and marketing system with a very innovative educational approach. For example, they offer seminars in order to educate people about the value of online marketing”.
RING2SKYPE: Innovative Startup in Uruguay
Ring2Skype is an Uruguayan Startup that gives local telephone numbers to Skype users.
MEGUSTA-PE.COM and ROM.PE: Innovative Startups in Peru.
Besides, its design and content isn’t entirely neat and user friendly.
Rom.pe is an online magazine that promotes original articles about Fashion, Technology, Businesses, Economy, Art & Design, etc.
Like “megusta-pe.com”, Rom.pe covers a large range of topics but in this case they are organized into categories and its content is a 100% original (without any copy-paste or translations from others sites). Although this doesn’t mean a lot to many of us, it is just what makes Rom.pe special, because most of the successful Startups from Peru are only copies of successful business models from the USA. There are only a few companies which stand out thanks to their innovative and genuine spirit.
Rom.pe is a personal project of Lynn Mora -launched in December 2009-. Mora admits that his project “has demanded a lot of effort but it has finally reached success”. The site -which is currently running its second version- has incorporated advertising and has started to sell articles to other media.
Right now, 30 writers and 3 editors are working for Rom.pe, which so far has produced 157 genuine articles.
The entire content of Rom.pe can also be read by mobile devices.
FACTORY INTERACTIVE MEDIA: Innovative Startup in Colombia
Factory Interactive Media is a young Startup that offers audiovisual technological development. Its “star product” is called HeartView, a technological platform for cardiovascular disease.
Personally, I agree with what Alan Colmenares wrote in his blog: “I’ve seen a lot of initiatives here in Colombia and many of them have merit, but I haven’t seen initiatives which, in my opinion, take Startup space (specifically, Startups which make use of technology to innovate) to a level that’s really required to get Colombia more competitive (especially when compared with Chile, Argentina and Brazil)”.
A good example of this is the Colombian Startup Factory Interactive Media which won the second prize in the “Startup Competition of Red Innova” which took place in Madrid last year.
While Factory Interactive Media won several contests with HeartView, its way of presenting itself isn’t as innovative as this Startup could be. The design of its website lacks readability and its style is quite old fashioned, in contrast to current sites which are filled with “whites” and stand out because of the simplicity of their message.