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    Feb 6, 2015

    10 New Silicon Valleys In Latin America

    While all eyes are on Silicon Valley, emerging cities a bit further south are creating their own digital footprint.

    While we've been busy partnering with Silicon Valley tech firms, like Apple, Twitter, Spotify, Waze, LinkedIn, and Netflix to help them expand into Latin America, cities around the region have popped up as important hubs for technology. Whether applying pre-existing technologies, building sustainable innovation or cultivating entrepreneurship, these emerging cities south of Silicon Valley are creating their own digital footprint. In celebration of our 10 year anniversary this month, we put together a list of our top 10 cities that are changing the digital market in Latin America.

    1. São Paulo, Brazil

    google.com

    When Brazil hosted the World Cup last summer, the spotlight was on the country about its technological capabilities, sustainable infrastructure, and innovative markets. Brazil has the largest 4G penetration in LatAm as a result of its rapid rollout of 4G before the World Cup and its fast-growing smartphone population. In São Paulo, alone, the city invested in free wi-fi in hundreds of public spaces covering more than 4,000 square miles.

    With mobile broadband connections surpassing fixed broadband connections, Brazil's potential to tap into the mobile startup scene is unprecedented. According to the Brazilian Startup Association, São Paulo is Brazil's thriving hub for startups with 652 officially registered ventures. Many entrepreneurs from all over LatAm flock to São Paulo to bootstrap their startups because of the instability of their national economies and Brazil's investor network. According to CrunchBase data, Brazil is the dominant regional leader in number of rounds and investment totals.

    2. Santiago de Chile, Chile

    seminariodelegislacionarchivistica.cl

    Santiago de Chile's focus is on startups, perhaps due to Chile having the highest internet penetration in Latin America. Start-Up Chile is the first of many state-sponsored seed funds to emerge in Latin America (today there's Start-Up Peru, Start-Up Argentina, among many others. This program, created by the Chilean government, was installed lures both Chilean and international entrepreneurs to the capital to kickstart their companies in the hopes of creating a "Chilecon Valley."

    One startup, though, in particular is making headlines: BitPagos. Sebastian Serrano, CEO and co-founder of BitPagos, wants Argentina to become the pioneer in the bitcoin market. Argentina, like several other Latin American countries, is crippled by international trade fees and currency conversion losses. Which is why, the bitcoin is an attractive alternative to avoid these losses. BitPagos simply charges a 5% processing fee for credit card transactions. So far, the country has received positive support for bitcoin currency, with non-profits such as Argentina Bitcoin Foundation, that promote the use of digital currencies. Bitcoin is poised to change the entire Argentine market, as it will pave the way for sustainable international trade for the first time in years.

    3. Lima, Peru

    Via google.com

    There's some seriously cool stuff coming out of Lima, like this billboard that produces potable water from air. A Peruvian advertising agency and the University of Engineering and Technology of Peru (UTEC) teamed up in 2013 to make a wonderfully creative billboard as a call to action for Lima, the second largest desert capital in the world, and its residents, of which 1.2 million lack running water. The billboard produces around 100 liters of water a day from the Lima's exceptionally humid air. This is the kind of ingenuity that puts Lima at the forefront of digital creativity. Peru is known for innovation and creating new formats for content. What's more, there's an exciting new startup scene in Lima as well. From accelerators like Start-Up Peru and Wayra Peru, to the country's economic growth, to new trade agreements between other Latin American countries facilitating opportunity for expansion, Peru, and Lima in particular, is fertile ground for technology and innovation.

    4. Buenos Aires, Argentina

    Via google.com

    Argentines are very active on social media and in digital services, as the population becomes increasingly connected on smartphones. But Buenos Aires, in particular, has become a pocket of civic innovation in Argentina, as it leads efforts to build a connected country and an open government.

    Since 2011, Buenos Aires' gobierno abierto (open government in Spanish) initiatives consist of opening data to the public, building technology, and working with other city departments to embrace a culture of openness. Buenos Aires is a leader in Latin America for its dedication to innovation, with a dedicated ReadWriteWeb channel, open source software, open data and design on GitHub, and hackathons that engage the community in building software to better life in Buenos Aires.

    When Codeacademy, a free online learning platform that teaches user to code, went global, the government of Buenos Aires worked with Codecademy to create a Spanish version of the website, creating a new resources for hopeful programmers not just in Argentina, but across all Spanish-speaking parts of the globe.

    5. Montevideo, Uruguay

    Via taringa.net

    While Uruguay only has 3.5 million inhabitants, the country has been a major producer and exporter or software and IT services in Latin America, exporting to 52 different markets. The government has prioritized the development of the $600 million IT industry, making it Latin America's leader in per-capita software exports. A recent Harvard University study identified Uruguay as one of the most advanced software development centers in the region, with 700 IT companies currently operating, most of them in the country's capital, Montevideo. But why Uruguay, a tiny country wedged between Brazil and Argentina, that most people hasn't heard of? The country is politically and economically stable, has looser immigration laws than its neighbors, and invests in sustainable practices for its population from a young age. Nearly all 300,000 children in the country's public schools have their own computers (thanks to the One Laptop per Child program) and many high school graduates enroll in computer science, engineering or IT programs. Montevideo also has a thriving startup scene, most notably with video games.

    6. Bogotá, Colombia

    Via bridgetefl.com

    After years of civil war, Colombia has rebuilt itself into Latin America's third largest economy and the fastest-growing economy in the region. Colombia's success can be attributed to many things: the country's gold, oil, and natural gas resources and the United States' financial assistance. But Colombia is also rich in passion, which is why in recent years several cities have sprouted up as hubs for entrepreneurship, innovation and technology.

    Bogotá (Colombia's capital) is home to most of the country's corporate and financial institutions, and the largest immigrant community in the country. It's also often considered Latin America's Silicon Valley. This is because the Colombian people have a great passion for entrepreneurship, and the government is offering support.

    The government is currently offering unprecedented tax breaks for foreign investors with investment incentives such as Free Trade Zones, Single Company Free Trade Zones and Income Tax Deductions in technological, innovative and scientific projects in the country.

    What's more, the city counts 115 higher education systems with over 100 thousand graduating professionals and technicians every year. Bogotá's young and highly-skilled demographic has not only helped the startup culture thrive, but it's also encouraged big tech companies like Facebook and Google to open offices in the city.

    7. Monterrey, Mexico

    Via pharmaceutical-technology.com

    Considered Mexico's most "Americanized City," Monterrey already has a promising future as an industrial hub as many major Mexican companies are headquartered there, international companies such as Samsung, Boeing, and General Electric have manufacturing facilities in the area. Nuevo Leon, the state where Monterrey is located, generates nearly 8% of the country's GDP, while accounting for less than 4% of the country's population. But Monterrey is taking a new path towards entrepreneurship. A new factor in the country's GDP is Monterrey's budding startup scene. Much of the new technology being developed caters to the city's well-established industrial economy and is supported by accelerator programs and global events like Startup Weekend. Recent security improvements within the city and the population's tenacity for growth despite hardships show Monterrey's refusal to be defined its violent past as it sets off towards a future in technology innovation and software development.

    8. Medellín, Colombia

    Via news.southamerica.travel

    Bogotá's not the only Colombian city making waves. Medellín has traded in its former reputation from the world's most violent city for the title of the world's most innovative city. In the last 20 years, Medellín has been on a sustainable rampage, building new schools, museums, public transportation, public libraries and parks, as well as cultivating a wealthy startup scene.

    Though not yet on the radar of many private investors overseas, Medellin is strongly backed by its government. Last year, the city dedicated almost $400 million to innovation and technology and local public initiatives continue to support the city's future in tech. RutaN, a government organization that promote the development of innovative technology-based businesses, committed $3 million to venture capital last year and approximately 7% of Colombia's GDP can be attributed to the Grupo Empresarial Antioqueño, a conglomeration of Medellín-based businesses that supports the Paisas – the name for Medellín's residents who are known for being business-savvy and entrepreneurial – contributing to the city's budding tech scene.

    9. Yachay, Ecuador

    Via convenioandresbello.org

    You've probably never heard of this Ecuadorian city tucked away in the northern highlands, but American whistleblower Edward Snowden hoped one day to take refuge here before settling for Russia. Yachay, often referred to as the City of Knowledge, is poised to become a destination for technology and science, alongside the world's biggest innovation centers like Silicon Valley, Japan, and South Korea. Researchers and scientists already come to this city for its concentration of natural resources, but the reason for Yachay's City of Knowledge surname is because of it is planned to undergo immense changes in infrastructure.

    Yachay will become a completely eco-friendly city focusing on sustainable architecture and design and dedicated to limiting energy costs and water consumption in order to protect its natural resources coming from the Amazon forest. The plans are very futuristic, as the city will be divided into four main districts, each dedicated to a particular area of expertise. The District of Agriculture and Biotechnology, for agricultural innovation and production; the Industrial District, for industrial technology and investigation; the District of Knowledge, for education and research; and the District of Entertainment, for culture and the tourism industry.

    10. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

    Via shedexpedition.com

    Rio de Janeiro has made strides in technological advancements in the past couple of years. With a focus on civic access to information, Rio has 176 officially registered startups according to the Brazilian Startup Association. International companies see a future for Rio's digital market and are pouring investments into the city. Cisco Systems, Siemens, IBM and Microsoft are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to build innovation centers in the city, which will serve as tech incubators for Rio startups.

    Rio's City Hall recently hosted a hackathon, the first of its kind in the country, to encourage entrepreneurs and engineers to build technology that will improve the city's infrastructure. The focus of the hackathon was on apps and the government opened up public data to engineers so they could create technology for the country's booming smartphone users – with 114 million mobile users, Brazil accounts for over a third of LatAm's total. What's more, Apple, which has stores in only 14 countries worldwide, opened its first retail store in Rio, just in time for the World Cup, a nod to Brazil's potential in technology and innovation.

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