Ecosystem Facilitator at Swisscontact
Andrea Mazariegos is an Ecosystem Facilitator for Swisscontact, based in Guatemala City. Before leading an action research project for the Guatemalan entrepreneurial ecosystem, she was an entrepreneur and co-founder of Pepita Labs, a coworking/innovation laboratory that provided support services for startups to grow. Her current role aims to identify the gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and co-create tools and interventions alongside key actors to close those gaps.
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Disclaimer: all content within the Startup Ecosystem Summary and Editor’s Guide sections is written by and reflects the personal perspective of the guest editor. The guest editor is not responsible for content within the Country Snapshot and Community sections, as much of this content is compiled from external sources and does not necessarily reflect the guest editor’s view.
The Guatemalan startup ecosystem is still a nascent one. The ecosystem is focused on tech startups and social entrepreneurship, with a strong infrastructure to provide support to both of these types of businesses. There are several key players that act as leaders to create events to connect and foster collaboration within the ecosystem (FLII, Volcano Summit, Go Innovate, Training Day, etc.) as well as strong support organizations that provide incubation and pre-acceleration programs (Alterna, Multiverse, Pomona Impact, CME, Heurística).
There’s also a strong (yet nascent) infrastructure developed for entrepreneurs (coworking spaces, innovation focused projects, such as the CIT from the Del Valle University, TEC, fab labs) and a relatively new law (Ley de fortalecimiento al emprendimiento) that aims to strengthen entrepreneurship by simplifying the process to create a company and offering government funded training and financial support for entrepreneurs.
The Guatemalan entrepreneurial ecosystem presents a good mix of experienced founders, resources, an educated workforce and a growing tech industry. The multiplier effect caused by the successes of Guatemalan founders in international settings is influencing traditional players to invest in the Guatemalan startup ecosystem. Recently, the creation of more refined support programs and the government working actively to coordinate efforts in the entrepreneurial ecosystem have led to a new generation of more sophisticated startups with growth potential.
Nevertheless, the country still faces several macro challenges, such as inequality, corruption, malnutrition and criminality. Interestingly, this is what provides an extra “edge” to Guatemalan born startups: They’re always seeking innovative ways to solve human and social issues that affect bottom of the pyramid (BOP) populations and have enormous expansion potential all over the world. Plus, prototypes and MVPs can be developed at competitive costs as the country has enough critical mass to make pilots representative without breaking the bank. Regarding opportunities, healthcare, insurance, logistics and tourism are interesting fields where startups are dabbling. With an average of 2M tourist visits per year, the hospitality industry presents a clear business opportunity for economic growth.
The startup ecosystem is at a tipping point. Building a critical mass of investable ventures is key to harvest the exponential potential and the resources that exist in the country. There is money to be invested, and investors, but trust needs to be built between them and entrepreneurs, creating a two way street of education on startup investment.
Editor’s choice of the country’s top 10 emerging tech startups.
Artificial Intelligence, Marketing Tech
Editor’s pick of which ‘Featured Startup’ is especially worth following and why.
Editor’s choice of the industries with the most potential for technology disruption and growth.
Editor’s perspective of the maturity level of talent in the ecosystem.
Editor’s commentary on how the country’s culture and history have impacted the ecosystem.
Guatemala’s history is a complicated one. Conflict and civil war in the 1980’s severely influenced the local culture, affecting trust building and how people and organizations collaborate within the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The existence of silos is quite clear and they’re difficult to break. Businesses are created and scaled on a proximity basis. In the Guatemalan entrepreneurial ecosystem, ‘contacts=contracts’ describes the dynamics quite well. Most startup teams are built based on this proximity approach as well.
Given the economic inequality and relatively low salaries, local consumers tend to opt for bulk, affordable products and freemium options rather than more expensive, higher quality purchases, but are still quite demanding.
Interested in becoming more involved in this ecosystem and connecting with local ecosystem leaders? Let us know.
Multiverse (Guatemala City): Multiverse is regional platform providing value to startups through an array of services. They connect creatives and entrepreneurs with investors and corporations, creating esential coalitions for the ecosystem. They prepare, structure and connect anyone who wants to grow their business to the next level.
Multiverse is a proud member of GAN Launch Program. GAN is a highly curated community of accelerators, partners and investors that creates opportunities around the world for startups to access the human and financial capital they need to create and grow their businesses, wherever they are. (Source: Andrea Mazariegos)
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