Pura Vida: Pros and Cons of Doing Business in Costa Rica

Costa Rica, literally “Rich Coast” in Spanish, is a fitting name for a country with diverse geography which ranges from tropical rainforests to vast oceanscapes. Five million people call Costa Rica home, and the official language is Spanish. Costa Rica’s GDP is US$74.9 billion with 72% attributed to imports and exports like coffee, sugar, and fruit. The average wage for Costa Ricans is about CRC654,059 (Costa Rican Colón) or US$1,150 per month.

Costa Rica is a prime location for entrepreneurs because of its proximity to the United States and because of its many free trade agreements. Its largest foreign investments come from the United States, which led to a 2016 marked a trade surplus of US$1.6 billion between Costa Rica and the US.

In the past few years, large tech companies like Amazon have invested in the Costa Rican market. One of the strong qualities of Costa Ricans, locally known as “Ticos,” is their literacy rate of 97.8%, The country has placed education as a top priority, and English is common among the young population.

Economically, the inflation rate remains low (0.8%), and the relative economic stability is a major plus for investors. Despite Costa Rica’s impressive renewable energy consumption of 98.1% of total energy generated, Costa Rica could use upgrades to both its water and transportation systems. And according to the World Bank, Costa Rica may require a justice system reform with an average of 852 days to settle a claim, compared to the Latin America & Caribbean average of 749 days, which is extremely long compared to 370 in the US and 480 in Chile.

As opportunities are increasing, accelerators and coworking spaces are sprouting up to encourage entrepreneurs to get into business. For example, venture capital firm Carao Ventures invests in innovative startups and provides resources for entrepreneurs, helping them build their businesses. As partners of key networks, like EY Central America and Xcala, Carao Ventures has reviewed over 2,000 applications, creating a successful portfolio and track record. Auge works with university students and entrepreneurs to help develop and grow successful ideas through collaboration, community, and partnerships and began in 2015 with a mission to incubate ideas sustainably with financial resources provided by companies like Coopetarrazu.

Located in Costa Rica’s capital city, San Jose, Creasala is a coworking space and cafe designed to connect business professionals, students, and entrepreneurs in a creative environment. Also based in San Jose is Slidebean, a Start-Up Chile graduate company that helps teams create engaging and interactive presentations. Slidebean will release its 3.0 version with help from the US$850,000 in seed funding it received from Carao Ventures, Magma Partners, 500 Startups, Firstrock Capital and other funds and has an office in New York in addition to its San Jose base. In addition to presentations, Slidebean offers a pitch deck creation tool, allowing startups to track investor activity and quickly create presentations that fit their needs. CEO and Co-Founder, Jose “Caya” Cayasso, runs Slidebean offices out of Latin America and the US. He talks more about his journey on the Crossing Borders Podcast.

Gopato, another Carao Ventures company, operates through Facebook Messenger, taking orders from customers and delivering products on-demand. Gopato works with restaurants, stores, pharmacies and more to deliver consumers products at the touch of a button. Founders José Navarro and Leonel Peralta came up with the courier service in 2015, and by 2017, they received US$550,000 in funding to connect messengers with consumers.

Costa Rica makes it easy to start a gambling business because there are no license requirements, which is also driving entrepreneurial activity. It’s relatively simple to set up an online business for sports betting or high stakes poker in Costa Rica, and it is completely legal. Currently, there are approximately 200 online gambling businesses in the country and that number continues to rise as the expat gambling community grows.

Costa Rica’s sustainable and renewable energy practices are another plus. The Costa Rican Electricity Institute revealed that 98.1% of energy consumed last year was renewable. The country’s strides in sustainability have not gone unnoticed and the “Pura Vida” lifestyle is attracting attention from around the world.

In addition to the eco-friendly movement, Costa Rica is going through a major surge in tech, attracting startups and international corporations alike. Companies like Amazon and Microsoft have set down roots in the country and it is only a matter of time before we see more follow suit. With its proximity to the US, wealth of diverse resources, and vibrant culture, Costa Rica has proven itself to be a prime place to do business.



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