In the early-2000s, the Argentine economy went through a severe crisis, causing Argentina to default on its foreign debt and place strict controls on currency. While Argentina’s economy quickly recovered over the next few years, the Argentine Peso remains famously unstable, passing through periods of rapid inflation and deflation.
Why Are Argentines Bitcoin Early Adopters?
As a result of the instability, Argentines became some of the earliest adopters of cryptocurrency in Latin America – and the world – in an effort to protect their savings against inflation. With an inflation rate of 32% per year (or higher) and a restrictive foreign exchange policy, Argentina was a prime location for cryptocurrency adoption.
Buenos Aires currently beats out most global cities for businesses that accept Bitcoin, with 6.1 businesses that accept Bitcoin per one million people, while New York has just 4.7 Bitcoin-accepting businesses per one million people. However, the Argentine government does not necessarily sanction investment in cryptocurrencies. The Argentine Parliament does recognize cryptocurrency, but they see it as property rather than currency. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are currently legal in Argentina, and the country reportedly installed as many as 200 Bitcoin ATMs last year.
Only 11% of Latin Americans have access to credit from formal institutions. In fact, in Chile, 37% of adults have no accounts with a formal financial provider, even though Chile has one of the highest levels of financial inclusion in the region.
In comparison, under 40% of adults in Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have formal bank accounts. However, in one of the most chronically underbanked parts of the world, improvements in financial technology have opened the doors for widespread financial inclusion throughout the Latin America.
More and more people are accessing mobile payments, credit systems, and P2P lending opportunities through recent advances in local fintech, and investors are catching wind of the enormous opportunity.
While there have been considerable advances in financial technology in Latin America in the past five years, many tools are still only available in the countries where they were founded. A report by Oliver Wyman, released in September 2016, provides a snapshot of local fintech players in Chile, Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia.
I asked Cristobal Perdomo to join me on this episode of crossing borders to talk about venture capital in Latin America. Cristobal is one of the founders of Jaguar Ventures, a Latin American based VC firm.
After getting an MBA and consulting for a couple of large companies in Brazil, he realized that the VC world was largely ignoring the rest of LatAm, so he set about to expand funding opportunities for startups in Argentina and Mexico. He shares advice for managing a business in multiple countries, investing in startups across the region and tips for managing teams across borders.
Silicon Valley is no longer the only hotspot for startup activity. Many more startup hotspots are popping up across Latin America, and new programs are not only bringing life to local economies but also helping Latin American entrepreneurs tap into international networks.
I was part of Start-Up Chile’s pilot round in 2010, which was the pioneering equity free accelerator in the world. Chile’s government-backed and equity-free accelerator program is well known for producing a vast network and many startup success stories.
By 2015, Start-Up Chile led to over 1,500 new jobs, its successful graduates raised over $100 million, and the program changed the culture around startups in Chile.
Now, under the direction of executive director Rocío Fonseca, Start-Up Chile offers multiple programs, including The S Factory, designed uniquely for female founders. Through its successes, Start-Up Chile has demonstrated Latin America’s incredible potential and sparked a movement across the region. (more…)