South America’s 10 Most Innovative Companies: An Evaluation

Latin America’s ability to innovate is evident, and the region proves that it can play with the big guns each and every day. But who’s really leading the way? Try Globant, Wayra and Samba Tech.

Last week, Fast Company released its annual list of the 10 most innovative companies in South America. And while some of the picks are obvious, others are a bit of a surprise. Here’s how the list shakes out:

  • Braskem. Out of Brazil, petrochemical giant Braskem is making “green” plastic, replacing petroleum with sugarcane.
  • BCMF Arquitetos. Also Brazilian, BCMF Arquitetos is an architectural firm that is designing the world’s first solar-powered stadium.
  • Magazine Luiza. The e-commerce platform has innovated on a number of fronts, from its virtual store model to its ability to reach the remotest areas of Brazil.
  • Wayra. Telefónica accelerator Wayra has an impressive regional reach, with academics in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia and Chile.
  • Monte Alto Renovable. Monte Alto Renovable is on the forefront of Chile’s renewable energy efforts, providing comprehensive biomass energy services to off-grid hotels and communities.
  • Globant. Prepped for an IPO this year, Globant is one of Latin America’s biggest tech success stories to date.
  • ContaAzul. ContaAzul’s business management software serves thousands of small businesses throughout Brazil.
  • Samba Tech. As Latin America’s leading online video platform, Samba Tech last year became Samba Group to further leverage its tech prowess as a holding company.
  • Tátil Design. Tátil Design is a Brazilian design firm that last year made a splash with eco-friendly packaging for Natura.
  • Advanced Innovation Center. From Chile, Advanced Innovation Center is creating a solution to provide clean drinking water to the world.

Our take? Fast Company’s list is certainly Brazil-heavy, with over half of the listed entities based there. Given the country’s place on the international radar, it doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. Chile also has two representatives – a sign that its innovation-focused efforts are paying off.

The list is also weighted towards environment-focused companies, including those making strides in energy and waste. There is also an interesting mix of global and local solutions. ContaAzul is hyper-local in its approach, as is Magazine Luiza. Globant, on the other hand, has a wide global reach, as does Wayra.

Finally, it’s worth noting that most of the ranking’s constituents are well past the startup phase. Is that a sign that the bigger players are still the top innovators, or is it simply that the little guys are just too new to get noticed?