The local innovation ecosystem in Colombia is a rapidly growing one, made up of some 1,100 startups that employ more than 25,200 people. And although a burgeoning startup scene has established itself in the country, it is also presently experiencing some extreme growing pains.
According to an article by Bloomberg Línea, high-interest rates and lower availability of venture capital have led at least 20 startups to start issuing layoffs in the early stages of their companies.
Even still, hope remains. Both the capital city of Bogotá, with its 190 startup companies, and Medellin with its 56 startups have become increasingly popular locations for foreigners and digital nomads to locate their startups. This, among other factors, helped Colombia to be ranked in the top five Latin American countries for startups in 2022’s Startup Ecosystem report.
In order for the country to continue to promote growth for young businesses, it will need to better integrate this international boost into the local economic ecosystem—ensuring that they have constructed a sustainable infrastructure for both parties.
Let’s take a look at 20 startups that are trailblazing new opportunities in Colombia’s market in 2022, working to provide value to the country and its niche within the international entrepreneurship ecosystem.
In Colombia, startup Neu Energy is making it possible to have solar energy without having solar panels at home. The trading company that delivers solar energy generated by neighbors or other suppliers, created in Medellín by Juan Esteban Hincapié, Juan Camilo López, and Daniel López, will soon be building its own solar plants.
This solar energy harnessed by the company is then distributed through the National Interconnected System and then utilizes blockchain to trace the energy that reaches more than 2,000 homes in the country. With Neu Energy’s platform which is a contracted service that uses artificial intelligence, users receive personalized notifications to optimize their consumption.
Neu Energy’s application also allows companies to compare consumption with similar communities or friends to reduce consumption. With it, companies can have more efficient and sustainable headquarters. Liberalization of the regulated market has the potential to turn Neu into an energy giant.
A healthtech startup transforming the way patients interact with clinics, that’s COCO, improving the user experience through AI agendas and increasing revenue, enhancing self-management and telemedicine with the help of chatbots.
This is helping to develop a suite of technological solutions for patients to have better health care and for medical centers to have more efficiencies in their service.
Today this Medellin-based healthtech is just another great example of Colombia’s ingenuity. Led by its CEO Robert Parada and team, the company is valued at more than US$10 million.
Providing 100 medical centers to the health sector in four countries, their solutions for self-service range from scheduling, telemedicine, chatbots, and virtual waiting rooms.
At COCO they believe in technology as an engine of economic and social development. A company that relies on artificial intelligence, they work to increase the efficiency of the region and make this world a healthier place to live.
Co-Founder: Johanna Molina
Driven young professionals eager to help their resumes stand out in a saturated market should look no further than Medellin for an international internship. Colombia is a hub for law, government, NGOs, business, and finance and is near the head of the pack in LatAm in innovation, technology, and business—making it an obvious choice for an intern looking to develop their skill set.
Native Colombian Johanna Molina co-founded The Intern Group platform with the mission to connect students with internships at international companies.
Her new remote modality platform allows a Latin American student to work with a company abroad without the need to obtain a visa or move to another country. Experience in an emerging economy will give interns valuable first-hand knowledge, appreciated greatly by future employers.
Having partnered with the Colombian government and a range of Latin American blue-chip companies, this platform offers leading international internship opportunities for the most talented and ambitious interns.
CEO and Founder: Zach Oschin
Have you ever wanted to have your own specialty store but didn’t have the investment needed to buy the inventory? Or just didn’t want to mess with shipping, collections, and all the logistics that come with running a store?
Well, Elenas is an application that helps you build your own store, just the way you want it, without investing a single dime and without worrying about shipping or collections.
With the app, you can access an inventory of thousands of products at wholesale prices. You create the store, whether in person or online, and Elenas is in charge of shipping, collecting, and consigning your earnings every week.
This platform, founded by Zach Oschin, has empowered tens of thousands of women across Colombia to help them launch online businesses and earn extra income by selling products on WhatsApp, Facebook, and other social media sites.
Currently, 11 million women across Latin America sell consumer good products through direct sales catalogs and door-to-door sales.
President: Mike Hoey
Source Meridian is a medtech company dedicated to the development of software solutions for the industry’s most challenging problems in healthcare practices. The team develops these solutions by leveraging state-of-the-art technology, AI, and machine learning to bring big data analytics, healthcare technology, and interoperability to the industry.
The company’s solutions are enabling the entire industry to focus on bringing the best care possible to their patients without worrying about time coding forms or building the patient’s database when that time could be used to bring quality health care to those who need it.
Source Meridian has offices in Medellin, Cali, and the United States. The company believes healthcare providers ought to use the technology of tomorrow rather than the technology of today, and are working tirelessly to make it happen.
Digital Lending Platform with flexible and innovative solutions that drastically reduces time-to-market—improving the lending customer experience, are some of the core products included in their portfolio.
In addition, the platform offers alternative scoring and analysis capabilities based on its proprietary models leveraged on ML and AI.
The app has more than 25 current partners in countries such as Colombia, the United States, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru, and Myanmar.
Their CEO Veronica Crisafulli believes that their investment in innovation is one of the keys to their good results. As proof of this, they have five patented technologies to offer pre-approved and instant credit services, bad debt prediction, disposable income, a digital and credit management platform (using open data & open banking), and overdraft in real-time.
To date, more than 30,000 loans have been issued by MO’s partners in the region and more than 210 million credit scores have been performed.
The company hopes to open offices in Brazil, Argentina, Spain, and Singapore in the near future.
CEO: Juan Camilo Botero
With more and more buildings and roads being built, more pollutant generation and single-use plastic use have inevitably followed. This increase in wasteful approach to construction was something that kept Juan Camilo Botero, founder of Glasst, up at night.
The focus of Botero and his partners was to create sustainable materials in the hopes that construction could become an industry that left the smallest possible pollution footprint.
This is how Glasst Innovation Company’s first product was created: A biodegradable coating material, that is the first of its kind globally, replacing single-use plastic, and helping to reduce the negative effects caused by waste in the environment.
Today, this type of pollutant represents 23% of the pollution in Bogotá and Medellín.
Co-founder: Juliana Gutierrez
Low Carbon City, a company operating out of Medellín, is a citizen-led global movement, building collective solutions to tackle climate change in cities.
They educate citizens using creative, participatory, and artistic tools to enhance climate-friendly lifestyles and connect citizens with experts to provide a forum where knowledge can be exchanged.
Through this collaboration, solutions are generated and then can be implemented within communities for building low carbon and more resilient cities.
Juliana Gutierrez, an experienced leader in the public and private sector in international relations, has a goal to shift behaviors so that each community, company, and organization can take personal actions towards building their own low carbon solutions—catalyzing citizen empowerment, communication, and mobilization.
Co-Founder: Sara Bojanini
BIOMMA, a startup founded on the idea that the individual actions of many companies, consumers, and people can save the world, seeks to change the world by connecting the commercialization of products and services with the creation of forests as a tool to combat the climate crisis.
It is no secret that the creation and recovery of native forests throughout the planet is a fundamental tool to mitigate climate change.
The Biomma team is made up of experts in sustainable development, innovation, and forest creation, and passionate people who deeply believe that it is necessary to change the way the world consumes in order to save the world.
Sara and her team’s plan is to recover the native forests of the regions by focusing on territories that have lost their forest cover due to decades of deforestation.
Planting trees and recovering millions of hectares of forests that have been lost is one of the most important ways to mitigate the climate crisis, and company Biomma looks to help create a collective effort towards this.
Co-founder: Juan Camilo Velasquez
In 2018 Juan Camilo and his brother Daniel partnered to transform their company Bohío Playa into a beach brand that focused on social and environmental sustainability. By 2019 they were already creating garments made from recycled plastic, and their business was officially on its way to completing its founding mission.
Bohío, which translates to hut or kiosk, offers a textile solution for the beach with the concept that fabric should be made from the plastics and waste that is removed from the ocean itself.
Their inspiration came from having cool garments, with original designs, that also could contribute something to the environment.
The brothers began to investigate and were able to find suppliers that had fabric finished with all plastics recovered from the ocean. Their T-shirts, face masks, and pants are 50% made from five recycled plastic bottles and the other 50% is recycled cotton from second-hand garments—making it a 100% ecological garment.
Their garments have been made by “Abuelitas” (grandmothers and older women) since the beginning of the brand and recently they have started to work with mothers who are the heads of their households.
Well-known artists such as Juanes, Vicente García, and Juan Pablo Vega have been some of the artists who have contributed their art to be used as designs for their garments.
CEO & Co-Founder: Brynne McNulty Rojas
Habi is a technology platform (PropTech) originated in Colombia that allows for the purchase or sale of used housing in record time.
Offering a complete portfolio of real estate solutions, this company helps improve the process of purchasing and selling houses or apartments in an easy and safe way.
Along the way, Habi became the largest home buyer in Colombia, simply because of the fact that people do not want to take a year or a year and a half to sell their homes. So Habi buys homes in 10 days, assuming the balance sheet risks.
For Brynne, CEO of Habi, the two main headaches in the proptech industry are that it takes sellers almost two years to sell, while buyers are also unable to get a mortgage loan because it takes much longer than expected.
They have been working hand in hand with many of the main banks in Colombia in helping to construct a mortgage credit line that is compatible with the digital era.
One of the main objectives of Colombia’s latest and greatest unicorn is to accelerate its expansion into Mexico.
Co-Founder: María Echeverri
Muni is a community group buying platform seeking to transform e-commerce in LATAM by leveraging the power of communities by bringing savings and convenience to middle-income households in the region.
The process is as simple as it gets, consisting of community leaders that centralize the orders by sharing a link to the WhatsApp online store. Next, neighbors put in their orders and the supplier drops off the orders with Muni, which picks up and packs. Finally, Muni brings the orders to the community leader to take care of the last-mile delivery and collect the cash payments.
Muni operates in Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil, and has over 15,000 community leaders utilizing the service. Offering over 6,000 SKUs across more than 20 categories, that vary from groceries to fresh produce to packaged goods to electronics.
At the same time, there are over 40,000 customers who already enjoy prices up to 40% lower than the competition, with no extra shipping or service fees. Muni has grown 20% month over month since its launch in June 2020.
Polymath Ventures is the pioneer Venture Studio for Latin America, with a mission to build large and transformative companies for the emerging middle-class in the region.
Headquartered in Bogotá, the company’s efforts are focused around using human-centered design to develop scalable technologies and business models that solve the largest, most urgent, and unattended problems of the middle class in LatAm.
Through their Venture Studio model, Polymath Ventures designs startups from scratch and selects and trains the most capable talent to lead and scale business models based on intentional and innovative solutions.
The company believes that solving the problems of the middle class empowers and transforms the lives of the people who are part of it, and by proxy generates the social and economic boost that the region needs.
Looking to build companies from scratch rather than funding them, this company hopes to help build an equal, stable, and prosperous overall society.
Co-Founder: Santiago Gómez
Simetrik is a company that automates repetitive data reconciliation processes without any coding knowledge needed from the client user. Allowing businesses to import their data by allowing them to upload data from any system used by the company makes this process simple and easy.
With more efficient data incorporation, companies can keep their information updated through manual upload from computers or automatic connections.
Simetrik executes companies’ configurations by using a spreadsheet-like interface, creating both custom reports and dashboards with the results of each business’s reconciliation.
Finding any inconsistency or error in your transactional processes as soon as it happens, Simetrik can then update processes automatically, freeing a company up from repetitive tasks forever.
CEO: Felipe Chávez
Kiwibot is a last-mile robotic delivery service founded by Felipe Chávez and Sergio Pachón, two Colombian entrepreneurs. The company is on a mission to revolutionize food delivery by utilizing semi-autonomous robots.
Kiwibots have already made over 200,000 deliveries on university campuses and across US cities to boost opportunities for locally-owned businesses and grant equitable access to food, medication, and libraries.
Kiwi’s service model allows customers to launch a last-mile delivery system at a fraction of the time and cost—all without the hassle of hiring a courier.
The startup has managed to expand its fleet of robots servicing college campuses to executing deliveries for businesses in cities across the world including Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Miami, Pittsburg, Denver, Dallas, Detroit, in the US, and even Dubai.
Kiwibot also plans to expand to more than 1,200 robots across 50 U.S. college campuses by the end of 2022.
Co-founder: Daniela Ávila
Torre is a matching network for work helping to connect the supply and demand in the remote work world.
Flexible work models aren’t always easy to adapt to, but they are possible with the necessary allies.
At a time when many people are looking to work remotely and applying for positions in different parts of the world,
Ávila and her crew help these workers to optimize their time and prioritize tasks when working. Through this mission, the Torre platform aims to become the go-to global remote work platform. Torre currently has more than 1.5 million profiles and 200,000 monthly active users.
Since January 2020, the platform’s growth on its English site has skyrocketed, keeping in mind that English is a universal business language globally.
For now, only the home page and some sections can be used in Spanish, but to register and feed all the information in the biography, the options are in English.
The team is currently working to build out their Spanish option too.
CEO and Co-Founder: Esteban Velasco
Sempli is a Colombian fintech of simple and transparent digital financial solutions that drives the growth of micro and small businesses in the country.
Through a technological and automated process of information analysis, coupled with a proprietary methodology of risk analysis, Colombian companies can access financial products such as digital credit, insurance, or a Sempli Business credit card to continue their growth path.
The efficiency of the processes, coupled with the simplicity of Sempli’s platform, allows companies to apply for a product in a matter of minutes and 100% digitally.
Through a digital process, agile, transparent, and without paperwork or queues, Sempli can provide an entrepreneur with the resources he/she needs in less than three business days, counting from the moment the requested documentation is approved.
Through the digital credit product, Velasco aims to generate better access to resources for working capital, expansion, and obligatory payments such as bonuses and severance for young businesses in Colombia—offering an amount that ranges from $20 million to $200 million COP (USD $4,800 to $48,000).
The requirements are very simple: first, a company needs to be legally constituted in Colombia (no age limit), second, they need to have a minimum turnover of $200 million COP in the last 12 months; and third, the company must have an active digital presence.
CEO: Mads Schmidt
Hippo.Build, a Y-Combinator W22-backed startup, helps small and medium-sized (SME) construction companies connect existing siloed software solutions into one single cloud space with the competitive advantage of Enterprise Resource Planning.
Their aim is to help clients use their existing tools and software without having to retrain staff, helping to increase productivity and streamline project management.
The company does this by using an add-on that integrates with your solutions and sends data and documents simultaneously to keep all processes in sync.
This leads to increased collaboration, a narrower margin of error, and automation of what has been a slow and tedious operation in construction to date—directly impacting a construction company’s bottom line.
Hippo believes in a world where SME construction companies have access to the IT solutions they deserve, no matter where they are based.
Co-founder: Ana María Sandoval
Bold is dedicated to developing tools that make life easier for small and medium-sized businesses, so they do not waste time and focus on what really matters—which is to sell. From the very beginning, Bold’s priority has been to promote financial inclusion for small and medium-sized companies in Colombia.
This is a response to the fact that more than ever, these companies need easy and practical tools to transform their businesses from traditional market solutions to ones that are more relevant to today’s digital ecosystem.
According to Banco de La República, 87% of Colombians still use cash as their usual form of payment.
This is due to the restricted access to financial products and the inaccessibility of merchants to other means of payment. To change this reality, Bold has launched low-cost data phones that today are used by more than 100,000 merchants.
Co-founder: Carolina García
Already working alongside over 40,000 corner stores in Colombia and leading the industry as a primary supplier, Chiper, founded 4 years ago, developed an e-commerce ecosystem that is designed for corner stores.
This helps these traditional store fronts to shift their market to into the digital realm.
This platform seeks to improve the process of collection and supply of corner stores, offering a varied assortment of products from a wide network of suppliers, thus ensuring for neighborhood stores, greater compliance in deliveries, confidence and competitive prices.
The business has grown 7X year over year according to the company and has the highest gross margins seen in this space globally, which speaks to the strength of its value proposition and the company’s first-mover advantage.
Chiper has secured over 3,000 product SKUs and closed 10,000 orders every day over the past year, expanding its business both in Colombia and México.
Co-Founder: Daniela Izquierdo
In order to create a flexible and efficient model to take advantage of the booming delivery industry that began in 2020, which reached $72 million in Latin America, Foodology was born.
The creation of a cloud kitchen, from the beginning of the search for a space until it starts operating, takes six weeks according to its founders; but its goal is to actually create the largest network of cloud kitchens in Latin America.
Currently, the company is present in Colombia, Mexico, and Peru with 37 cloud kitchens with a huge gastronomic variety, which represents savings of about 30% compared to that of a physical restaurant.
Additionally, thanks to the data collected by the platform and the behaviors of its users, Foodology has the ability to understand and know the trends, habits, regularity, and tastes of its consumers, very valuable information for growing kitchens.
Disclosure: This article mentions clients of an Espacio portfolio company.