LatAm List – Tainted by a financial crisis and economic uncertainty, it would seem as though Argentina has little more to offer than tango, red meat, wine and gauchos. However, that isn’t the case as budding startups are beating the odds to emerge despite the crisis.
The State of Argentina’s Ecosystem in 2019
With a population of 44 million people, a GDP per capita of US$14,398, and an unfortunate history of hyperinflation, attitudes towards business in Argentina have been less than favorable. Despite this situation, the current administration has taken steps to make Argentina more business-friendly. The current government’s Entrepreneurship Law seeks to open up Argentina’s markets and attract investment from abroad, as well as to lessen the bureaucratic challenges in opening a business.
Several programs supporting entrepreneurial activity are flourishing in the country’s biggest startup hubs, Buenos Aires, Cordoba, and Mendoza.
Academia Buenos Aires Emprende is a free training program for entrepreneurs that operates in different points in Buenos Aires. IncuBAte and StartUP BA are programs that similarly also offer entrepreneurs access to training and mentorship from a community of entrepreneurs. In Cordoba, Argentina’s second-largest hub, Cordoba Acelera invests in accelerators, and Programa Emprende INNdustria focuses on providing support to industrial startups. Even wine-capital, Mendoza, has private and public programs to boost entrepreneurship, including the Consejo Consultivo Emprendedor and Mendoza Emprende. LAVCA’s data for 2018, show that in the past year international investors invested US$110M across 27 Argentine startups.
Startups in Argentina are not a new phenomenon; the country hosts four of Latin America’s unicorns: e-commerce platform Mercado Libre (1999), IT and software development company Globant (2003), online classified ads company OLX (2006), and, online travel agency Despegar (1999), many of which have already IPO’d on the New York Stock Exchange.
Argentina’s startup ecosystem hasn’t stopped growing since then. These older startups have become mentors to the next generation in building the new innovations that are defining Argentina’s ecosystem. Here are 10 startups to look out for in Argentina’s thriving ecosystem.
Before the Boom: Argentine Startups Pre-2015
1. Etermax (2009)
Etermax develops social mobile games looking to make education more inclusive, social, and fun through technology. The company reached fame with Aworded and Trivia Crack, both of which have been highly ranked in Latin America, United States and over fifty other countries. In October 2018, the company debuted with a sequel to Trivia Crack, and in the past they have also partnered with Mattel to develop the mobile app version of Pictionaryᵀᴹ.
2. Satellogic (2010)
Satellogic specializes in remapping the planet in high-resolution and high-frequency images using affordable Earth-observation satellites. These images can help solve some of the world’s most urgent problems such as hunger, disaster relief, and global warming. It can also aid in monitoring the ripeness of coffee beans, the progress at construction sites, or the potential challenges to supply chains, among other things. Recently, Satellogic announced it will launch 90 microsatellites into space under a contract signed with China Great Wall Industry Corporation.
3. Mural (2011)
Mural is an online tool that provides digital workspaces for visual collaboration, inspiration, and innovation in real-time, regardless of physical location: ideal for those working remotely! By relying on visual inspiration to express ideas, users are better able to understand each other’s way of thinking as they move projects forward. IBM has used Mural for several years in different areas, and results from a 2018 study showed that the IT company was able to save US$23M in three years of using the tool.
4. Ripio (2013)
Ripio is on a mission to democratize access to credit as a bitcoin and digital payments company. It allows users to transmit and receive funds, buy and sell bitcoins, and make installment payments without needing a credit card. Up to 65% of adults in Latin America have no bank accounts, so Ripio focuses on an unbanked customer base. In its initial stages it received a US$600K investment from Silicon Valley, and in mid-2018, the company became the first crypto wallet to integrate Ethereum in Argentina.
5. Coderhouse (2014)
Coderhouse specializes in courses that offer support and education to coders, as well as analyzing their work, figuring out their goals, and helping them thrive. With more than 3,000 graduates, the platform seeks to connect professionals who are passionate about teaching with students that are interested in learning about programming, digital marketing, and digital project management. Coderhouse has also partnered with Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires in #Potenciate by offering 50 scholarships for their Digital Marketing and Web Design courses. The head office is in Buenos Aires, but they have recently opened a new office in Cordoba, and plan to expand to Corrientes and La Plata in the future .
International Investment Darlings: Argentine Startups Post-2015
6. CuidaMiMascota (2015)
Cuida Mi Mascota markets itself as the Airbnb for pets, helping pet owners find safe and affordable sitters for their pets. The platform also operates in Mexico and Brazil and has more than 5,000 active pet-sitters. Listen to CMM’s co founder talk about how pet sitting has become a very hot market globally in his interview with Magma Partners’ Managing Partner, Nathan Lustig, in this podcast episode.
7. Blended (2015)
Blended is a communications platform that helps schools build stronger relationships with parents by keeping them up to date with their child’s progress and any school-related news. In August 2018, the startup won US$1M in the Seedstars World Competition and already has more than 300,000 users across 200 schools in Argentina.
8. Ualá (2017)
Ualá is a personal financial management mobile app linked to a Mastercard prepaid card that allows its users to make money transfers, payments and purchases, both in Argentina and overseas. The neobank has attracted a lot of international attention, including a US$34M Series B round investment led by Goldman Sachs in 2018. They also received an undisclosed investment from China’s Tencent in early 2019. It reached a record of 4,000 cards emitted per day during its first year, and has recently added SUBE top ups to its growing list of services. Listen to Ualá’s CEO talk about the first fully-mobile and free bank card for the Argentinean market in this podcast.
9. Mirai 3D (2017)
Mirai 3D provides 3D printing and software solutions to develop ultra-realistic simulators for non-invasive surgery, endoscopy, and plastic surgery. The project received recognition in the second edition of the Premio Ciudad Productiva Joven at the Federación de Comercio e Industria de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires (FECOBA), a public entity that represents the city’s SMEs. Among its latest accomplishments, Mirai 3D has been used to create high-quality casts for breast reconstruction surgery in mastectomy patients.
10. The Podcast App (2017)
The Podcast App is aptly named; this Argentine app aims to be the simplest way to listen to podcasts. It has a library of more than 30 million episodes and includes the most known channels in the podcasting world. The startup has also participated in the prestigious Y Combinator accelerator in 2018. Early-stage fund, Magma Partners, invested in The Podcast App in 2018, prior to its acceleration in Silicon Valley.
Despite the economic situation in the country (or perhaps because of it), Argentina has bloomed into a hub for innovation and technology. The four unicorns set a precedent that helped bring the world’s attention to Latin America’s third-largest economy, which government initiatives have continued to bring new, innovative startups to the forefront of the regional ecosystem. New legal frameworks under the current administration have also helped provide startups across Argentina with the support they need to succeed. As Argentina opens its borders to international investment, the future looks promising for the growing Argentine ecosystem, despite current economic crises.