Peru: The Surprise In The Latinamerican Startups Ecosystem.
Peru: The Surprise In The Latinamerican Startups Ecosystem.
Peru is emerging as the Latinamerican surprise over the past years, despite being a little bit more lagging than the rest of the region's technology ecosystem. A country that in the last fifteen - twenty years has experienced entrepreneurship particularly through gastronomy, is progressively creating the conditions for an industry of internet related technological developments; and it's promising - a lot.
The initiatives that are contributing to awaken the participation of technological entrepreneurs have been several: on one hand, the state initiative Start-Up Peru, that just as it was done in Brazil and Chile, it landed last November to support entrepreneurs and organizations with mentorship and investments aiming to invigorate such activity in the country. On the other hand, the Fund for Innovation, Science and Technology (FINyT, in Spanish) created by the Inter-American Development Bank, provides financial support to entrepreneurs, just like the Fund for Innovation (FIDECOM, in Spanish) created by the Peruvian Ministry of Production does. Finally, another initiative named Lima Founder Council pretends to, as it is done in other countries, launch ''a billion dollars'' technology companies.
Without a doubt, the ecosystem growth and the local pro-startups initiatives were promoted by the arrival of Wayra Peru, the local version of Telefónica (a prestigious phone company) that contributes with the growth of technological and digital scenarios though all Latin America. From that moment on, and such as in a domino effect, the rest of the initiatives in favour of start-ups were triggered. Gonzalo Villarán, Business Manager of Wayra Peru, explained to us the technological node of entrepreneurship.
Do you feel responsible for the impulse that the start-ups' ecosystem has taken here in Peru?
It's been little time since Start-up Peru was launched, a state initiative that performs something very similar to what we do (seed capital and incubation). Furthermore, they are reinforcing with money the business incubators that are here, to improve their structure and an ecosystem where everyone knows exactly what they are doing can exist. On one side, then, the State is already involved. We'd like to think that is because of Wayra. We have also been part of that development, and we are very proud of it.
Were there any previous initiatives?
The Peruvian ecosystem is being born. It started to blossom three years ago; there were isolated initiatives but they weren't articulated. Universities had and have programmes but they are targeted mainly at students, to encourage them to be entrepreneurs. With Wayra's arrival - two and a half years ago- we could settle the first technological business accelerator. This is an entity that gives you money, mentors, a work-space and that connects you with businesses of Telefónica, a unique opportunity for start-ups, since they can reach 30 million clients only in Peru and other 300 million clients in Latin America.
Was the Peruvian market mature enough for Wayra's arrival?
No, it's the other way round. Wayra is born as a regional project (Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Venezuela, Chile, Brazil) partly to develop local ecosystems where Telefónica would have an interesting presence. The idea is to generate development and innovation locally, so then they can be exported. We weren't expecting a specific moment of the country: the proposal is created for the country and it's launched, almost simultaneously, with other countries of the region.
How would you describe the profile of the Peruvian entrepreneur?
He's an educated entrepreneur, many of them with post-grade studies. We also have students that are still in University but they already have a project. There are 50 year-old gentlemen... a very interesting age-gap. They're usually from 25 to 38, in general they have had a work experience, maybe they had started other businesses and they have a multitask team made.
In what areas or verticals are focused most of the entrepreneurships on?
We've had quite a lot development in e-commerce, a vertical that had been very little explored until now. A remarkable and successful case to mention is Cinepapaya. PlazaPoints, a multi-brand loyalty system, is another interesting case. We've also had projects related to transport - for example, online bus-fare sales and another one that links load generators with carriers.
Are those projects targeted at the local market or at the global one?
Internet's penetration is growing in Peru, partly because of the increase in sales of smart-phones, we have 4G technology, broad-band has got to remote places such as the Peruvian forest, that was disconnected before Telefónica. When you develop a high-tech company for internet, there are no boundaries, it wouldn't be intelligent to limit yourself to a country. What we usually do is to inculcate them not to limit themselves and to start in Chile or Colombia as first steps to go abroad - because they are similar markets, economies and cultures. We expect them to be, at first, regionals and then, yes, to go for the global market.
About the venture capital market in Peru, are there funds or do entrepreneurs look for it in other markets such as the Argentinian or the Chilean?
Usually, the first investment they get is ours (50 thousand dollars). We, at the end of every nine-months acceleration process, take them to the demo day framework, so they can introduce themselves to angel investors or venture capital investors, but yes, there is an empty space in Peru in that sense. This kind of investors do exist, but they are committed to the classical markets, such as Real Estate, M&A (mergers and acquisitions) but we, that provide the seed capital, notice the lack of investment for further development (between 250 thousand dollars to 2 billion dollars). Whoever want to specialize in this particular niche, has an interesting space there.
What aspects would have to be worked on in order to improve the level of the start-ups local community?
There are accelerators in Universities and I think many of us are doing the same. Perhaps it would be better to rearrange the ecosystem, knowing who does what so we don't all do everything, that could be interesting. We aren't seeing many mentors for entrepreneurs, that entrepreneurship culture, of giving back a part of what has been received. The mentors' community hasn't been shaped yet, maybe it is a cultural thing. Fear to failure, fear to share ideas are other issues we still have to work on.