Chileans, Argentines, heaps of Colombians, a trio of Uruguayans, a self-professed “gringo” and a smattering of other nationalities in one room–this is not the setup to a cheap, stereotype-laden joke.
On March 27th, inside a conference room that peaked over Washington Square Park and the famous Washington Square Arch as the sun escaped the skies over New York, a group of innovators, investors, entrepreneurs and students did the opposite of build stereotypes: they paved the future of tech innovation in Latin America.
They were brought together at New York University’s Stern School of Business by PulsoSocial to celebrate PS10: Pulso Social’s annual list of the 10 best startups in Latin America.
This year, the top prize went to KienVe, a Uruguayan second-screen mobile TV app that rose out of Start-Up Chile to win not only Pulso’s top honor but also the 2012 Festival of Media LatAm’s “Hot Company of the Year” distinction.
KienVe was one of four Latin America-based startups to demo their product last night in New York. They were kindly flown to the States by American Airlines, who has partnered with PulsoSocial to enhance entrepreneurial activity in Latin America.
KienVe Founder and CEO Gabriel Roizner took center stage to explain how KienVe’s mobile platform connects TV viewers with each other and with advertisers.
Also on the docket tonight in New York was a panel discussion between top American and South American venture capitalists and investors. Moderated by Andrés Barreto, the forum featured Cate Ambrose, Executive Director of the Latin American Private Equity & Venture Capital Association (LAVCA), Patrick McGinnis, Director of Dirigo Advisors, Marcus Dantus, Director of Wayra Mexico, Sergio Romo, Co-founder of InvestoMex and Derek Footer, Managing Partner at Origo Ventures.
The team of experts batted around various topics related to tech investment and development in Latin America. “Is the Latin American tech scene experiencing a budget?” Footer asked. “How can companies move beyond initial investment thresholds and ensure that their ventures will live to see follow-up rounds?” Romo wondered. “Are copycat companies–Latin American iterations based on extent American models–dangerous to the South American tech ecosystem?” Ambrose asked. The group touched on these issues and more, including the best ways to establish “low-pyramid” growth and scaling startups to work internationally.
Building off of the panel’s discussion of creating growth at the lower end of the class system, Colombian Minister of Technology Diego Molano Vega surprised the crowd with his presence and led a discussion about how his country has expanded internet applications to the lower classes that give them better access to government and health services.
“We have to understand our market,” Vega asserted. “Do we understand what it’s like to be a poor family?” He believes that Colombia needs to move forward and encourage a demand for internet services among the nation’s poorer classes. “If we don’t start a demand it will never be there,” he said.
Guest Startups with a Colombian Focus
As a complement, four guest startups joined the PS10 presentation to share their entrepreneurial experiences with the audience:
For WeHostels, Argentine founder Diego Sáez-Gil took the stage to discuss his journey from Northern Argentina to Barcelona, and from there to all over Europe and New York. Sáez-Gil’s global experiences helped him found his hostel booking and connection site, and he told the audience that the investments he’s received are a product of his international networking.
Next, Colombian entrepreneur Jefrey Bulla explained the genesis of his travel itinerary application Tripazo, which uses algorithms to plan vacations for travelers so they spend more time enjoying their vacations and less time poring over guidebooks.
Colombian Ricardo Garcia-Amaya wowed the New York audience with his demonstration of AngelPolitics, his web application that matches political donors and candidates for public office, eliminating the strain and logistical mud of modern fundraising.
Finally, Peruvian Andrea Cornejo of Coderise shared her experience bringing coding camps to Colombian classrooms to inspire students there to build web tools and companies that directly address inequality and local problems in Latin America.