Op-Eds

10 Startups You Never Knew Came From Ecuador

Ecuador is one of the smallest and most diverse countries in Latin America. With a population of just 17 million people, Ecuador’s size has pushed many entrepreneurs to scale outside the country quickly, building regional or even global businesses. 

Today, Ecuador has almost 200 registered startups. Much like the rest of the region, Ecuador’s strongest sectors for startups include fintech, e-commerce, logistics, and edtech. 

Even before tech took off in Latin America, Ecuador established itself as a hub for software companies with a global reach. The government often provides five-year income tax exemptions for companies working in food production, forestry, metal mechanic, petrochemical, pharmaceuticals, tourism, renewable resources, logistics in foreign trade, biotechnology, and software. 

Today, several of the software companies built in the 1990s and 2000s are producing angel investors and entrepreneurs who have boosted the local tech ecosystem. With a relatively low cost of living, combined with strong engineering talent, Ecuador has become a strong, albeit small, base for local entrepreneurs to use as a launchpad for the region and the US. 

The History of Ecuador’s Tech Ecosystem

The architects of Ecuador’s entrepreneurial ecosystem built their companies in the 1990s-2000s and have since turned around to mentor, nurture, and invest in the next generation of founders from the country. 

One of the earliest leaders in this movement is Cobiscorp, a tech-driven finance firm co-founded by Richard Moss, a tech pioneer in Ecuador, Paraguay, and the US. While Cobiscorp has raised over $12M and has offices all across Latin America, the firm still maintains a strong tech base in Ecuador. Moss and Cobiscorp broke ground for tech in Ecuador as early as the 1950s, innovating constantly to remain at the head of the current growth of tech and entrepreneurship in the country today.

Later, software development firm Kruger Corporation, built by Ernesto Kruger in 1993 followed in similar footsteps. Kruger Corp is now operating in several countries in Latin America and also runs a local accelerator called Kruger Labs, founded in 2013 to give back to the local ecosystem. Kruger Labs specializes in supporting innovative tech startups with mentorship, work space, and exposure to potential investors. 

Similarly, Fernando Rivera co-founded development firm, ETF.com, in 2001, which was acquired by a US firm in 2016. Since then, Rivera has invested in several Ecuadorian startups through his VC firm, Buen Trip, widely recognized as the only early-stage fund investing in Ecuador.  

Grupo Céntrico, founded by Jacobo Moreno, Jorge Mejía, and Daniel Ponce, has also developed several tech startups that spun out of its main business to dynamize the ecosystem. Grupo Centrico’s company, PATIOTuerca, led by Jacobo Moreno, was acquired by LatAm Autos, an Ecuadorian-led used car platform for Latin America. In 2014, LatAm Autos became one of the first Latin American companies to list on the Australian Stock Exchange; the platform has also acquihired several other local startups, bringing on top executives to grow the company. 

Among Ecuador’s entrepreneurial pioneers is also Argentine-Israeli Daniel Wainmann, founder of connected car platform Location World, which uses the IoT to aid in fleet management and car insurance policies for Latin America. An Endeavor entrepreneur, Daniel was the LATAM partner and VP at Waze for its LATAM operations, playing an instrumental role in the app’s expansion achieving 13 million users in the region in three years and eventual sale to Google. With Ecuador as a base, Daniel has played an instrumental role in mentoring several local startups that have since scaled regionally.

This technology base has prepared Ecuador to become a hub for regional tech startups looking to solve problems in the Latin American market. Here are some of Ecuador’s top startups today:

10 Ecuadorian Startups to Watch 

1. Cuyana

Cuyana is a sustainable women’s clothing company co-founded by Karla Gallardo (Ecuador) and Shilpa Shah (USA) while both were in business school. The luxury brand encourages women to live with fewer, better things, and has gone on to raise over $30M in Silicon Valley, all while supporting artisans in the US, Latin America, Europe, and China.  

2. Jobsity

Jobsity is a nearshore software development firm with offices in New York, Medellin, and Bogota, with its headquarters in Quito. Founders Andres Garzon and Santiago Castro have been recognized as Endeavor Entrepreneurs and Jobsity currently has more than 150 employees providing high-quality nearshore development services to US corporations, digital agencies, and Saas companies. Notably, Jobsity has never raised any VC funding, bootstrapping to create their international operations. 

3. Inspectorio

Inspectorio was one of the first Latin American startups ever accepted into the Techstars accelerator in the US. Founded by the Ecuadorian Moncayo brothers, Inspectorio provides tech-driven quality inspections on factory floors and companies to build trust with consumers and has raised over $13M.  

4. Kushki Pagos

Kushki is one of the largest online payment processors in Latin America, founded by Ecuadorians Aron Schwarzkopf, Sebastian Castro, Daniela Espinosa, and Colombian Madeleine Clavijo in 2015 to streamline and simplify digital payments for the local market. Aron and Sebastian previously founded payments startup, Leaf, in the US, which was acquired by Heartland Payment Systems. They built Kushki to solve a major issue in their home market and maintain most of their tech team in Quito today. 

5. Shippify

Logistics startup Shippify was founded in 2014 by Luis Loaiza and Miguel Torres to solve the challenge of same-day delivery in Ecuador and Latin America. Today, Shippify has its headquarters in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and is active in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil. 

6. iBillionaire

iBillionaire is an automated investment app co-founded by Ecuadorian Raul Moreno and Argentine Alejandro Estrada to help people invest using the knowledge of billionaires. The app targets the US market and has raised over $2.4M to help people improve their savings plans. 

7. Keyo

Keyo is an authentication startup that uses a biometrics platform to scan the palm of a user’s hand to do anything from in-store payments to unlocking doors. Co-founded by Ecuadorian Cayetana Polanco, Keyo is based in Chicago and serves the US market. The startup has raised over $2M to date since it was founded in 2015. 

8. Nuvocargo 

Founded in 2018, Nuvocargo is a software-enabled freight forwarding startup focused on managing shipments across the US – Mexico border. Founded by Ecuadorian Deepak Chhungani, Nuvocargo was accepted into Y Combinator in 2018 and currently has headquarters in New York. 

9. Kriptos

Kriptos is a cybersecurity startup that automatically classifies sensitive documents for large companies to prevent data leakage. Founded by Ecuadorian cousins Christian Torres and Alfonso Villalba, Kriptos was the first Latin American investment for British bank, Barclays, and US investor, SixThirty Cyber. The startup participated in the Techstars Barclays accelerator in Israel in 2018 and has since expanded its operations to Chile, Colombia, and Mexico within its first year of business. 

10. MiPos

MiPos is a mobile point-of-sale system developed for restaurants in Latin America. Founded by Orlando Espinoza and Roberto Yoncon, MiPos participated in Y Combinator in 2019 and went on to raise funding from Silicon Valley investors and Latin American VC, Magma Partners

Ecuador has quietly built a solid local startup ecosystem that produces entrepreneurs who are scaling out of the country to solve problems at a regional scale. While several of the startups mentioned are still in early stages, their rapid growth in international markets provides promise that these companies will gain a foothold in the region. Notably, many of the newer generation of entrepreneurs worked for, or were mentored by, the business people who built Ecuador’s software layer in the 1990s. 

While Ecuador’s tech ecosystem still has a lot of room for growth, the country is off to a strong start, producing top-quality entrepreneurs who are already having an impact on Latin America and the US.

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