This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)
Contxto – Canada is very dear to my heart. I lived in Montréal for about six months when I was in college. I truly l
“Hey, Victor! But why are you talking about Canada? This is a blog for Latin American startups!” Rest assured, there’s a reason why I’m talking about Canada here.
Let me introduce you to LatAm Startups, a Canadian initiative helping regional startups validate, launch and scale in Canada. It connects both ecosystems across the continent.
Last week I spoke to Miryam Lazarte, CEO of LatAm Startups, the Canadian accelerator empowering Latin American founders in the northern country. We discussed the similarities between both regions and how LatAm Startups is helping both economies work together.
What is LatAm Startups?
Latam Startups is a non-profit organization based in Toronto dedicated to fostering entrepreneurial growth. As part of its mission, the association helps startups (mostly Latin American ones) scale.
How so, you may ask? Well, they have different acceleration programs, boot camps and provide soft-landing support.
In terms of network, the group has partnered with the city of Toronto for a LatAm Hub Toronto Event that prepares startups for international expansion. LatAm Startups is also a member of NACO (National Angel Capital Association) – pronounced “
Even better, Latin American founders can now apply to the accelerator’s Visa Program with support along the way. For this program, Canada grants a working visa to startups with a maximum of five co-founders as well as their families.
Startups can participate in various programs based on their stage.
- Scalable boot camp: This is when startups validate their solution on the market. Generally, companies that try to scale before developing a product or securing a market don’t do well in the long-run.
- Soft-Landing: As an extension of the boot camp, this is a three-month program for “market ready” candidates. Most likely, this program would be appropriate when
you’re already wentthrough the first program.
- Work Visa: Chosen candidates can earn a four-month work visa in Canada.
Startups also require to fulfill some criteria before scaling:
- Be an innovative, disruptive and scalable startup
- Be financially stable
- Billing at least US$250,000 a year (except if you’re an
agroor clean-tech startup,since they require more R&D and testing)
Though they accept startups from all over Latin America, they tend to receive the most applications from Brazilian and Mexican startups.
Why is this initiative important?
Latam Startups started back in 2014 as an “umbrella-unit” from GoSouth! Consulting. The founders identified many similarities between the two regions, and Canada is well known for supporting SMEs and startups, so it just made sense.
What they observed is that many Latin American startups were being rejected by Canadian accelerators. Part of the root problem is that founders not only needed financial resouces but also mentoring.
Long story short, they weren’t well acquainted with Canada’s business culture, which is kind of a shame considering Toronto’s influence. For example, there are over 50 accelerators in Toronto, which is considered to be the second largest tech startup ecosystem in the world after Silicon Valley.
At first, Latino Startups were performing poorly since they didn’t understand the business culture nor what Canadian investors and accelerators wanted.
In 2016, LatAm Startup emerged as a non-profit to help remedy this predicament. The following year, the first batch of startups to do chain scaling arrived in Toronto. Over 34 startups participated in an acceleration program in 2018 and they expect over 30 more in 2019.
Why Canada and not the US?
According to Lazarte, there are many commonalities between Canada and Latin America. Firstly, the way people handle and contextualize business matters in these two regions is more comparable than in the US.
Sometimes, U.S.-startups and business can be too stringent. Decisions are binary, either black or white. Moreover, corporations can yield the most influence in the US compared to Canada and Latin America where small businesses can still compete fairly.
On the other hand, Canada and Latam rely more on people, gut feeling, trust, and ultimately, warmth. There are more gray tones and both parties believe in prior networking before conducting business.
In 2014, the accelerator launched the first edition of Latam Startups Conference in Chile.
“I call this event the Disaster Conference, because it was the first time every Latin American ecosystem got together, including Startup Chile, Startup Mexico, Startup Brazil, and even Startup Canada.” – said Miryam Lazarte in our interview.
With this, they defined the various needs of the Canadian and Latin American ecosystem, figuring out how both regions can worth together.
Now in Toronto, they’re launching the 6th generation of startups with high profile personalities in both the Canadian and Latin American ecosystems invited. In this edition scheduled for May 16, there will be more than 20 keynote speakers, including the renowed angel investor, Randy Thompson.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that they do not want to involve the US. It’s just that the organizers believe that there are already plenty of US events available.
Participants are already looking forward to the event at Toronto Conference Center followed by a tour of Waterloo and the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Toronto is the second biggest financial center in America after New York City. Ontario does the most investing out of any Candian province with 405 made (is this the number of investments or amount of investment firms in Ontario?).
Waterloo also happens to be Canada’s talent pool center since most R&D operations and universities are there.
In the short term, Latam Startups has set their eyes on a more global approach. Not only does it want to connect Canada to Latin America but the rest of the world, especially emerging markets.
There are many emerging markets with similarities, also looking to be more globally competent and enter developed markets.
In the long-term, LatAm Startups is thinking about launching their own VC fund for Canadian and Latin American startups. It would be an immense opportunity to collaborate with investors from all over the American continent.