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You see, the most recognizable, most-successful Colombian startup has almost become a bit of a problem for the northern South American country. Or rather, the last-mile delivery scaleup has had a strong skewing effect on the Colombian startup ecosystem.
In 2019, when looking at a list of strongest VC (venture capital) recipients in Latin America, you could see Brazil up top, followed by Colombia.
You’d then probably think, good for them! Only to realize that over 90 percent of that cash went to a single company.
Yet, Colombia’s ecosystem is chock-full of potential if people would only care to look beyond the country’s sole titan.
So, here we are, making amends and showcasing the top 11 startups in Colombia that you can no longer afford to ignore.
The Colombian Economy
A story of regional hope for all. Latin America’s third most populated country—and second-largest Spanish-speaking one—has beaten the odds and, after struggling with the longest civil war on record, seems to be emerging in full force.
Colombia’s potential is now being realized as its society gets to work on innovation and entrepreneurship. To prove it’s up to scratch, beyond Brazil and Argentina, it is Latin America’s only other host country of a unicorn—a startup worth over US$1 billion—, but I had already said I wasn’t going to mention that startup by name again in this piece.
However, there are still a few road bumps ahead.
The development of startups and technology in Colombia would benefit from some hefty improvements in infrastructure.
This large, ocean-spanning country is poorly connected considering how populated it is. However, the integration of its disparate regions will be met by the dual challenges of still active guerrillas, rough geography, and regional inequality.
Colombia is not entirely out of the wilderness yet.
The Colombian Startup Ecosystem
Despite the low local VC activity, Colombia is still one of the most relentless ecosystems in terms of tech talent and hungry entrepreneurs.
Government initiatives such as Ruta N and INNPulsa have been great support for founders in terms of advice and, in some cases, funding. And yet the main reason for the nation’s great products are founders themselves.
Despite the missing capital, Colombian founders have made their way into other relevant markets including Mexico, Brazil, and the US.
There are some important venture builders such as Torrenegra Labs, Polymath Ventures, and, most recently, Rubik Ventures. Although direct investment is still a developing industry, Ewa Capital is one of the funds leading the way.
Contrary to other countries, where tech activity is highly concentrated in the capital such as Chile, Argentina, and Peru. Colombia is developing multiple tech hubs simultaneously, where Medellín and Cali stand out, along with the clear leader, Bogotá.
So, there you have it.
And now, these are the top 11 startups in Colombia you need to keep an eye on during 2020 and beyond:
Vozy is the reason you won’t have to talk to those lifeless recordings from your local bank whenever you need phone support. Its text-to-speech (TTS) algorithm enables companies to provide human-like conversational bots able to identify, not only your language, but your accent, and respond accordingly.
The Colombian startup uses Voice UI to talk to brands’ customers in both English or Spanish. Based on neuronal networks capable of identifying linguistic patterns, the algorithm can listen and respond in several accents including Mexican, Colombian, Argentinian, Peruvian, Puerto Rican, and many more.
I can’t stress how bullish I am on Slang. The Colombian startup may look like a nice consumer-facing language learning app, but its data capabilities go beyond that. The company provides English learning modules for specialized careers and professionals.
The problem with 101 English courses is that, while they may be helpful for tourists and watching your regular Netflix show, they’re no good for specific jargon and vocabulary of specific niches such as law, medicine, and even tech.
Nevertheless, the company not only helps people learn more vocab, they also save this data and are able to provide an ever-growing lexicon to speech recognition and Voice UI companies such as Google, Amazon, and Apple.
We’ve been quite obsessed with Whale & Jaguar‘s reggaeton algorithm for a while now. But, to be fair, that’s not the only thing they’re capable of doing.
In fact, Whale & Jaguar’s machine learning algorithm is able to analyze a company’s communication strategy and benchmark it against current trending topics, massive target audience sentiment and potential PR crises.
Its Mai Fina algorithm, which they used to win an AI contest in Spain, analyzed over 7,000 reggaeton songs in order to create its own from scratch. It could also analyze audience response and emotions during live and real-time events such as concerts, sports events, and beyond.
Bodegas are part of everyday life in Colombia. Also known as “tienditas de la esquina” in other parts of the continent, these smaller players often find themselves competing (or not) with bigger retailers such as Walmart.
Chiper believes these bodegas are crucial players in our economy. For this reason, this startup in Colombia developed a platform where store owners can access a large database or catalog of suppliers and compare prices so they can make better decisions and get better products.
Chiper connects stores directly with producers and handles all logistics in-between. Not only that but they promise to deliver the goods in less than 24 hours and allows owners to handle their business operations straight from the platform.
The Venezuelan crisis has turned into a Latin American crisis. It has had an impact on most South American countries in a variety of ways. But, one of the main problems nobody had been able to tackle was the cross-border financial difficulties.
Valiu allows users outside Venezuela to send money to people within Venezuela. The system has some complex arbitrage algorithms using different cryptocurrencies. But don’t worry you won’t end up with virtual Bitcoin; people get it back into fiat money.
DataGran is a codeless tool that allows companies to integrate machine learning analysis into their operation without the need to be an artificial intelligence (AI) engineer.
The Colombian startup allows companies to integrate web, customers, and ads data to analyze, predict, and take action based on it, all in a single workspace. Solve specific business problems like churn, customer acquisition cost, and more.
The combination of analog behaviors and digital analytics is the future. I’m not sure what the name behind this trend is, but I’m calling it omnidata. Nextonia is a Colombian startup that turns physical spaces into smart spaces where organizations can abstract data and information from. Again, omnidata.
Its SenSin algorithm uses facial recognition, AI, and big data to identify consumer patterns, segment audiences based on demographics and behavior and optimize engagement.
“We use AI to humanize workplaces”, says their website. And, as counterintuitive as it may sound, there’s definitely something worth exploring there.
Feelenials is an AI-powered tool to help employers identify the mood, feeling, and wellbeing of employees. With the data, companies can identify areas of improvement in terms of sales targets, productivity, and rotation, all things which are directly correlated to emotions.
The Colombian startup’s algorithm takes into consideration daily facial micro-expressions, voice tone, as well as personality to output applicable insights.
Last year, Truora emerged as a successful Y Combinator alumnus and has not let up the pace since. It is one of the startups in Colombia proudly wearing YC’s badge.
This is basically a background checking startup, but their secret sauce is the fast and efficient way in which they do it.
Not only do they have the tech to go through a large amount of data in no time; they also have it in such high density that they can get into the nitty-gritty details that other background checkers couldn’t dream of.
In the end, companies get a better and more detailed panorama about customers, ensuring their business security.
A search engine for educational programs. So, basically Google, right? Wrong.
Golondrix‘s machine learning chops allow it not only to filter through a searcher’s preferred higher learning programs and online courses across the globe, but also learn from the aforementioned searcher in order to personalize their results based on their own specific behavior, preferred subjects, and interests.
Help the little guy, but learn for the big guy’s mistakes. This is what Ayenda is cleverly managing to do through its platform to give visibility and basic standards to small hotels.
The startup’s platform that provides visibility, booking tools, and basic amenities (like toiletries and Wifi) to small-sized hotels in Latin America, and hopes to be expanding from its base in Colombia and Peru.
Yet, unlike other similar startups in other parts of the world, Ayenda is using its growth spurt to grow slow and steady, consolidating its gains and not getting carried away only to have to shrink down ignominiously later down the line due to unsustainable practices.
Small is beautiful, right?
Related articles: Tech and startups in Colombia!
– VC, AG