1.4 million cars joined the roads in Latin America in the first quarter of 2018. In a region that struggles with automobile safety, the increase of motor vehicles on the road raises challenges for policymakers, auto manufacturers, and citizens. Over 115,000 people die every year from car accidents in Latin America. In 2000, 26.2 people per 100,000 died in car accidents and that number is expected to rise to 31 car-related deaths for every 100,000 people by 2020. In the US, the rate of accident deaths hovers around 11.4 per 100,000 people.
Managing Latin America’s growing automobile fleet is one of the most significant challenges that startups and governments will need to tackle as cities swell. Latin America is home to many auto producers, so manufacturers will also need to pay attention to new technology to stay competitive.
Opportunities in autotech in Latin America
Worldwide, startups and giant tech companies are tackling the conventional auto industry with solutions that include self-driving vehicles, electric cars, pay-per-mile insurance, and car-shares. Latin America is experiencing a wave of autotech startup launches, including a few that raised notable international investment rounds.
Much of this innovation remains concentrated in Latin America’s two largest markets: Brazil and Mexico. This disparity makes sense as 70% of vehicles on the road in Latin America are in these two countries. In Brazil, there is approximately one car per four inhabitants, while in Mexico, the ratio is one in three. Argentina, Colombia, and Chile trail far behind in quantity of vehicles but maintain similar ratios.
YaEsta was one of the first sites to pioneer the Ecuadorian e-commerce market in 2012. When Alejandro Freund returned to his native Ecuador after studying in Argentina, Italy, and the US, he was shocked to see that there was virtually no way to purchase goods online. Freund had grown used to buying many commodities online while abroad from sites like MercadoLibre in Argentina. So, with funding from Kruger Labs, Freund and his co-founder, Martin Jara, decided to help grow the Ecuadorian e-commerce market from scratch and started what would become YaEsta.
If the most significant challenge to e-commerce in Ecuador today is convincing customers to buy online, one can only imagine what YaEsta faced six years ago. Freund and Jara originally built a site similar to Groupon, but eventually moved on to selling home goods, apparel, and appliances at a discount. At the time, YaEsta was called Revolucionatuprecio.com and mostly helped small producers sell their products online and reach a wider audience.
Fast forward to today, YaEsta now has a team of 25 people in Quito and is generating over US$3M in sales each year. Having raised a US$3M Series A round last year, YaEsta is taking on a strong position in the Ecuadorian e-commerce market. If you want to learn more about YaEsta, you can listen to my interview with Alejandro Freund on the Crossing Borders podcast.
When I first got to Chile in 2010, it took me five years to understand all the nuances of how business was conducted. There are several important cultural differences between LatAm and the US that foreign entrepreneurs should pay attention to if they want to be successful. There are also very important differences across Latin American countries that should also be accounted for. Here is a distilled list of what I’ve learned about doing business across borders. This podcast is based on a talk I gave to Start-Up Chile and the subsequent blog post that I wrote called Advice to Foreigners Running Startups in Latin America.
I recently wrote a column in TechCrunch called A new era in Latin American startup investing where I talked about how things have changed since I first moved to Chile in 2010 as part of the pilot round of Startup Chile.
Some of the pioneering investors and entrepreneurs have started to be successful, paving the way for the next generation of startups. Other founders who tried and failed in the early 2010s have learned their lessons and are starting second rounds of companies. The ecosystem is much more developed, including startup specific attorneys and more experienced venture investors. From the link:
Startups in Latin America are using creative solutions to address not just local but also global problems. For investors outside the region, the prospect of working with these startups can appear attractive, yet complicated. Investing in early-stage startups in Latin America can present challenges; however, despite the challenges, time and time again I’ve found it can be well worth the effort.
When I first came to Santiago, Chile in 2010 as part of the pilot round of Start-Up Chile, there was hardly any talk of startups. Most people didn’t even know what startups were. Within nine months of returning to the U.S., the company I co-founded was acquired. So I decided to go back to Chile to look for more opportunities in this emerging market.
Over the next couple of years, I taught entrepreneurship in Chile, mentored local entrepreneurs and eventually started investing in Latin American companies myself. I’ve now invested in more than 30 early-stage companies in Latin America, and I firmly believe the time to help early-stage startups in Latin America has never been better. Here’s why.
Continue reading A New Era for Startup Investing In Latin America on TechCrunch.
Photo credit: Alessandro Pautasso