Uruguay presents the best Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Latin America, and here is why.
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success” Henry Ford’s words could have been talking specifically about Uruguay’s Entrepreneurship ecosystem.
That is the basic conclusion we get when reading the findings from an ecosystem mapping study recently presented by Global Ecosystem Dymamics (GED), an international investigation initiative affiliate to the D-LAB Local Innovation Group of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which focused on the dynamics of collaboration between actors in the innovation-oriented entrepreneurial ecosystem of Montevideo, Uruguay. It shows that the city counts with the ecosystem with the largest amount of collaborations in the region, with more than 751 mapped collaborations between 198 identified stakeholders, giving Montevideo a collaboration index of 6.9, above Buenos Aires’s 5.9, Santiago’s 5.8, and Mexico’s 4.9. This high rate of collaboration is presented as a great strength for the use of resources, as well as the multiplication of impacts, regardless of the economic resources available. With that said, the report concludes that Montevideo "presents itself with solid foundations to be recognized as a leading innovation-based entrepreneurship ecosystem in Latin America”, and that the city counts with a system that tends towards stability, characterized by the abundance of connections and presents a privileged position in relation to the rest of the cities analyzed.
But that is not a surprise. Uruguay has been working on developing a process of support to the entrepreneurial environment ever since 2009, when Programa Emprender and Prosperitas Venture Capital were created, fostering entrepreneurship and investment for the first time in the country. Later, in 2012 and 2013, that process got much serious, with the creation of the National Agency for Research and Innovation (ANNI) and the Future Entrepreneurs Support Program (PAFE), respectively. And nowadays, to those institutions we can add the National Economic Development Agency (ANDE), the Technological University of Uruguay (UTEC), the Uruguayan Chamber of Information Technologies and Uruguay’s Entrepreneur Network. But why so many institutions, you may be asking yourself. And the answer is simple: they create a network that allows the entrepreneurship ecosystem to count with a shared leadership that reduces the dependence on public policies and gives representation to the different visions that coexist within the ecosystem. This allows new businesses to have better opportunities by having the support of an institution anywhere in the country, because by having the support of one of these institutions, they actually have the support of the entire ecosystem behind them.
With that said, it is not surprising to know why the country counts with one of the highest GDP per capita in Latin America, the lowest economic and social inequality of the region, and one of the best indicators in terms of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. But it can’t be that perfect, can it?
And the answer is no. Uruguay has a great potential and structure but it is not taking advantage of it yet, as the creation of new businesses still does not reach high levels. But the government is taking the matter in its hands too, setting regulations to offer incentives and exempt of taxes to the ones that export their services in tech. That has awaken the interest of giants like Microsoft, that is looking to develop a new project in the region, and has allowed startups like PedidosYa to grow ridiculously fast in app downloads (11 million), employees (3500 people), services offered (supermarkets, pharmacy, pet shops and couriers), and countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Panamá, Paraguay y Venezuela).
And this chaotic year has not stopped it. Uruguay’s entrepreneurship ecosystem has recognized being answering properly and fast to the crisis, and a BID report has confirmed it: it is the least impacted, most resilient and flexible ecosystem of the region. But don’t take it from me, here are the numbers:
“The fall in income is affecting a lower percentage of support institutions in the country (27%) versus the regional average (62%). The same happens with the mood decline of the technical teams (27% vs. 49%) (…), and the uncertainty about the future perceived by support organizations (38% vs. 64%), as well as the difficulty in offering appropriate services to the needs of entrepreneurs in emergencies (50% vs. 68%) and the technological limitations to deploy teleworking (23% vs. 48%).”
With all of that said, Uruguay offers not only economic stability and adaptability to the crisis, but also an entrepreneurial ecosystem supported but several institutions and most importantly, PEOPLE that are willing to collaborate with each other. The recipe for success.