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Medellín

Medellín has endured one of the most promising comeback stories of any city with a violent past. Traditionally the commercial center of Colombia, Medellín is frequently rated as one of the most innovative cities in the world. Compared to Bogotá, where young talented graduates are encouraged to join large corporations, locals in Medellín have a stronger tradition of entrepreneurship. A lower cost of living further encourages them to do so. RutaN — an organization founded through the collaboration of the Medellín Municipality , utilities company EPM, and the telecommunications giant UNE — serves as the launch pad for many local entrepreneurs by giving them access to equity-free cash and much-needed resources. However, a lack of startup exits also serves as a psychological challenge for entrepreneurs and investors. While Colombian startups do struggle with regulatory red tape, those in Medellín benefit from the presence of some of the largest conglomerates in the world, many of whom are taking an active interest in their local startup community.

In This Market

These businesses offer industry expertise and are a source of startup talent and potential customers. They help fuel the local startup community.

Opportunities

  • Rated as one of the most innovative cities in the world by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) for incredible improvements in infrastructure and revitalizing poor neighborhoods.
  • Pride and community: Medellín's remarkable transformation has created significant local pride and mental resilience. The startup community has a sense of collective action, and embodies the Silicon Valley mindset of “expanding the pie” and working together.
  • In Bogotá, there is a greater expectation to work for a large company, but in Medellín people are more likely to start their own businesses.
  • The presence of RutaN has had a significant positive impact on the local startup community by making it easier to access capital.
  • The city has a strong industrial and commercial history, with the headquarters of some of the largest conglomerates in the world. This means that promising verticals include banking, insurance, cement, consumer packaged goods, retailing, and much more.
  • Compared to Bogotá, Medellín is cheaper and much more relaxed, yet it’s still fairly professional. This reputation has made the city a magnet for expats from all over the world.

Risk Factors

  • Access to angel capital is challenging, forcing many founders to turn to other means, such as the government, for funding.
  • Compared to Bogotá, Medellín does not get as much government money that is intended for startup investing. This is due to the fact that much of the government money comes from the central government, which is located in Bogotá.
  • Compared to the United States, the time it takes for a new product to go to market is significantly longer because developers aren’t as experienced.
  • Startups are generally replicas of successful North American models because the need has not been fulfilled, and are therefore not as disruptive.
  • The lack of competent English speakers poses a challenge for startups who wish to scale globally.
  • There has not been a major IPO or acquisition, causing startups to focus on growing locally rather than aspiring to grow large and exit.
  • Colombia does not have an easy-to-use mobile payments system, which causes issues when it comes to eCommerce.
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