Back in 2014, when Miryam Lazarte transformed into reality the concept of a Canadian accelerator for Latin American emerging companies, there was hardly any volume of deals flowing between Canada and Latin America when referring to angel investments, venture capital, and cross-border collaboration for startups.
The geographical area between Mexico and La Patagonia was, in many ways, still highly misunderstood, and even if some of the leading economic voices recognised it as holding significant potential and as the booming market of the future, many facts deterred further penetration by the broader business community: lower rates of digital technology adoption, a significant wealth gap that restricted purchasing power for a majority of the population, and in several cases, complex political and societal issues that made the overall commercial environment challenging to navigate.
That, however, was about to change.
A bridge between startups from Canada and Latin America
“We began to notice a gradual increase in many indicators that showed us that there was something, indeed, brewing when it came to the collaboration between Canada and Latin America: more investments, M&A, and of course, a larger pool of talent looking to relocate to an ecosystem where they could fully exploit the potential of their business ideas,” says Miryam, Co-Founder and current CEO of the Toronto-based LatAm Startups Hub, who spoke with Lattin Magazine about the incubator and accelerator which, at its core, has the mission of helping startups to scale.
To Lazarte, it was clear that there was a potent concoction happening south of the continent, and that the issues pinpointed by experts as deal-breakers, in reality, made the region ripe for innovation and consequently, for the development of a creative class that would generate groundbreaking solutions that could be transformed into high-growth companies.
Toronto’s Startup Scene Is Having A Moment
If this was the case, then, it was also clear that there would be a need for these ventures to, at some point, scale globally, and to do that, they would need to be well-rooted in a market that by itself was more global. Toronto, one of the most multicultural places in the world and home to prominent innovation centres such as MaRS Discovery District and labs sponsored by CISCO, Scotiabank, and Johnson & Johnson, among others, proved to be this market.
Finding the right base from where to start a global expansion solved the first part of the equation, but how could an investor, a supplier, a customer, or any other member of the stakeholder circle distinguish among these promising startups, which ones were truly capable of becoming global and established companies?
With LatAm Startups, Miryam Lazarte stepped in to fill that role.
“Our goal is to be a bridge between Canada and Latin America, to connect and enhance cooperation, but also, a filter that helps to detect which startups have the core competencies and the right team to scale up, and then, help them scale up globally having Toronto as a base.”
That mission, daunting as it may sound, became the launchpad for what now is an awarded and recognized organization when it comes to entrepreneurial achievements in both Canada and Latin America. In a field of action where many of the programs in the market can be shady and underhanded, the LatAm Startups boot camps have positioned themselves as a credible alternative for those who are genuinely seeking for the opportunity of expanding the scope of their business operations.
Pioneering a road is not easy. But it is often pioneers that get the best results.
When it comes to spearheading investments from Canada into the Latin American region, among those pioneers we can also find Randy Thompson, who acts as the Chairman and CEO of Valhalla Private Capital and in 2018 was granted the honour of being named as the Canadian Angel of the Year, a distinction awarded by NACO, the National Angel Capital Organization.
Thompson, who was one of the first angel investors to operate in Latin America by overseeing a portfolio of joint-venture businesses in Mexico, together with additional leading figures in the technology, innovation, and venture capital ecosystems of Latin America, such as Liliana Reyes, the CEO of AMEXCAP (Mexican Association of Private Equity), and Ozan Izinak, from the renowned investor network Keiretsu Forum, will be part of the remarkable speaker lineup at the LatAm Startups Conference 6.0, which will take place in the City of Toronto on May 16th, 2019.
LatAm Startups Conference 6.0 is coming to Toronto
The forum, which was introduced recently to the public by the LatAm Startups team, presents itself as one of the most challenging feats that the organization has set itself to overcome this year.
“We are planning on growing the event from 200-250 attendees to over 600 attendees,” says Miryam Lazarte, who also mentions that this year, the summit will feature a wider array of nations featured as main panellists and speakers. “In addition to countries like Mexico and Chile, we will also have the participation of nations such as Colombia, Peru, and Uruguay, as well as Brazil. It will make the conference way more diverse and attractive for attendees looking to learn about all the different innovation ecosystems that coexist in Latin America, and truly understand them.”
LatAm Startups 6.0 will also feature breakout sessions focused on strategic trending topics, like creative industries and financial technologies (fintech)
LatAm Startups 6.0 will also feature breakout sessions focused on strategic trending topics, like creative industries and financial technologies (fintech). Lazarte remains confident that, if achieved, the successful completion of the event will represent a significant step towards consolidation for the organization, primarily after a solid 2018 which was their most fruitful year to date.
“In 2018 we opened our New York office, which in turn helped us host a boot camp program over there, and we also sealed an important partnership with the City of Toronto, meaning that they recognized our expertise and authority in the process of selecting talented entrepreneurs to relocate to Canada,” mentioned Miryam, also emphasizing on the fact that besides these achievements, LatAm Startups participated in the scaling process of the operations of thirty-four companies that hailed from all over Latin America.
A new Startup Visa-approved organization
Of these companies, three already have revenues higher than $1 million dollars: Aiontech, a fintech startup founded by Victor Salinas and creator of streamlined solutions such as EasyTransfer, a system designed to ease the process of transferring money for students abroad, SISAT, a company focused on logistics optimization related software, and MagmaLabs, an e-commerce and software consultancy. Furthermore, the LatAm Hub portfolio includes other lauded companies such as Inkspired, an engaging platform for writers and storytellers, ClickSitter, an application designed to connect parents with on-demand babysitters, and Nautilus Innovation Lab, a social venture that develops sustainable products that provide environmentally-friendly solutions to fight climate change.
The impact generated by scaling these companies becomes more important if we consider that LatAm Startups has just unveiled the news of their latest accomplishment, which is, receiving the official designation that recognizes them as a Startup Visa-approved organization by the federal government in Ottawa. “We are tremendously excited to be able to offer qualifying, high-growth startups an easier path to permanent residence in Canada,” said Miryam Lazarte, who also mentioned that “the Startup Visa program gives Canada the competitive edge it needs to attract startups looking for an alternative to Silicon Valley.”
Will the next big thing be in Latin America? Miryam Lazarte and the LatAm Startups team are surely betting on that.