Doing Business in Mexico: A Look at the Opportunities & Challenges

Mexico’s business opportunities rival those of any other emerging economy in the world. Despite a complicated history with violence and corruption, the country is starting to transform its negative reputation into new opportunities. New initiatives, especially to boost Mexican innovation, and an ever-expanding middle class with disposable income have given way to a new era of business opportunities for residents and foreigners alike.

To attract new investment, the Mexican government is making significant improvements to its infrastructure to compete globally in sectors like telecommunications and transportation. According to a recent PWC report , Mexico will become the 7th largest economy in the world by 2050.

But, to understand how Mexico will get there, it’s important to understand Mexico’s history and some factors that led it to become what it is today. Continue reading…

Parallel 18: Equity Free Startup Accelerator in Puerto Rico

I recently visited Parallel 18, an equity free accelerator in Puerto Rico, to mentor their 3rd cohort of startups. Modeled after the successful Start-Up Chile program, Puerto Rico is trying to grow it’s startup ecosystem and change their culture to try to diversify their economy and start to build a tech sector.

Started in 2015 and now just starting Generation 4, Parallel 18 works with ~30 entrepreneurs per cohort. Parallel 18’s director Sebastian Vidal, an ex-director of Start-Up Chile, has iterated on the model and made improvements, including bringing investors and other mentors like me to talk to the teams each week. They’ve also created a local fund that can match VC investment that Parallel 18 companies are able to get.

I was really impressed by the quality of the teams and it’s clear that Parallel 18’s 3rd generation is way ahead of where Start-Up Chile was in their 3rd generation.

I was also interested in to learn about some of Puerto Rico’s tax incentives for startups, funds and successful entrepreneurs. I think Puerto Rico is an interesting example of a small place doing all it can to attract startups and will continue to keep an eye on the teams that come out of Parallel 18. Continue reading…

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Doing Business in Colombia

Colombia has come a long way as a country and as a place to do business. The sensationalized version of Colombia that Narcos depicts is no longer accurate, though the reputation lives on.

Colombia’s history is long and complicated, filled with violent groups trying to control the country’s lucrative drug trade. But there’s so much more to Colombia than just drugs. 2017’s historic peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC, the largest guerrilla group, is a potential inflection point in Colombia’s history. And if I had to bet on a single Latin American country for the next 10-15 years, Colombia would be my pick.

Though many think it’s coffee, Colombia’s largest export is actually petroleum, which makes up over a third of the country’s exports, followed by coal, coffee, cut flowers, and gold. Coffee, however, was responsible for pushing Colombia toward a manufacturing based economy. After the War of a Thousand Days, which ended in 1902, Colombia’s coffee boom pushed the country to seek better transportation and manufacturing mechanisms.

Coffee production consistently grew in the 20th century, employing more than 500,000 families. While the government managed Colombia’s economy conservatively, the the political atmosphere turned increasingly unstable, corrupt and violent from the drug trade.

In 1991 the country adopted a new constitution. The motive for this wasn’t necessarily economic, but rather political, in order to make peace and bring drug lords to justice. Colombia remained relatively stable economically until the late 1990s when fiscal deficits cause a higher public debt which resulted in the country’s first economic recession in over 60 years. But by the early 2000s, the economy began to recover, due to high petroleum prices and stable coffee prices. Continue reading…

The Opportunities and Challenges of Doing Business in Argentina

I’ve written extensively about doing business in Chile, and since Argentina, the country next door, has been making a lot of noise, I decided to write up an overview of opportunities in Argentina. Argentina has the third largest economy in Latin America (after Brazil and Mexico), and the 2nd highest GDP per capita in the region in PPP terms (after Chile).

You may have heard the saying, “As rich as an Argentine,” a phrase that was coined to describe Argentina’s wealth and prosperity in the 1800s-1929. Argentina had the 4th highest GDP per capita and was one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Between 1890 and 1930, the capital city of Buenos Aires transformed from a colonial town to the sprawling, mammoth of a city it still is today.

Unfortunately, the Great Depression followed all of that prosperity and then decades of political turmoil. Over the next few decades, Argentina borrowed from foreign banks and ran hefty budget deficits. In the 1970s, Argentina’s credit rating dropped so low that leaders resorted to printing more currency, leading to the Argentinian Peso’s steady decline.

Argentina next went through a period of hyperinflation and political instability which lasted until the 1990s. By the 1990s and Dot Com Bubble era, the government launched new initiatives to reopen the country, and Buenos Aires became the birthplace of some of Latin America’s most successful technology companies. A group of Argentine Internet pioneers founded companies like MercadoLibre (the eBay of Latin America) and OfficeNet (which was eventually acquired by Staples). Continue reading…