Co-founder at Wisy
Orlando Reyes has been an entrepreneur since the age of 12, participating in TV commercials as a child star in his hometown Costa Rica and developing several businesses from selling bottles to founding a school for leaders with his family and expanding an AI startup to Silicon Valley. At age 40, after 16 years at large corporations in Panama, he co-founded Wisy, a leading startup in Panama that raised US$1.2 million dollars in angel investment and expanded to Silicon Valley. Orlando is also Director of the Panamanian Association of Business Executives, a board member of the National Entrepreneurship Council and member of Venture Club, the first angel investor club in Panama.
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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.
In the last decade, Panama has experienced one the biggest growths in the region not only because of the expansion of the Panama Canal but also by building infrastructure to connect the Americas. Thousands of immigrants have come to Panama to establish their businesses and take advantage of our weather, infrastructure, connectivity and skilled labor.
In the last 3 years, a group of nearly 30 founders, some of them immigrants, has been able to build startups in Panama together with local entrepreneurs that have high international potential. Most of them have been incorporated in the US using SAFE notes with the idea of giving investors more security, attracting new investors and growing in one of the biggest markets in the world.
This group has been able to attract more than $100 million in angel investment and venture capital from Panama and abroad. Some of them have participated in the well-known Y Combinator accelerator program, and others have been accelerated by Google, Nasdaq and SAP. Startups such as Selina, Encuentra24, Wisy, Cuanto, Criptext, Boxit, Merkadoo, Appetito24 and Degusta are leading the way to set up Panama as a digital hub for the Americas.
The ecosystem has the potential to have several unicorns and at least 2 or 3 major exits either being acquired or making an IPO.
For this to happen, we need 3 things to happen: first, the private sector is more aggressive on innovation and works together with startups to solve their biggest challenges. Second, the educational system needs to accelerate the development of talent needed for these startups not only in the technical aspect but also including entrepreneurship, startup lessons and promoting hackathons and grants. Finally, the flow of talent also will be crucial, with startups using Panama as a pilot market and establishing Latin American headquarters there.
Editor’s choice of the country’s top 10 emerging tech startups.
Panama City/New York
Panama City/San Francisco
Panama City/San Francisco
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.
Panama has a long story of commerce. It has been the path between the oceans for more than 500 years with the Camino de Cruces. Tons of gold and stories of pirates are shared from generation to generation. The land of opportunity came then with the construction of the Panama Canal where thousands of immigrants and Panamanians built the canal and created new communities around this marble. That’s why Panama is so diverse and brings together different cultures from Europe, Asia, Africa and every corner in America.
Panama has consistently grown since the US invasion in 1989, which returned democracy to this country and opened new markets and opportunities with free trade agreements around the world. In recent years, the political situation in different countries in the world has made Panama a magnet for new nomads following this dollarized economy and commerce hub.
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Venture Club Panama (Panama City): Invests in early stage startups and organizes events to connect angel investors with startups.
AJOEM: The Association of Young Entrepreneurs AJOEM is a non-profit civil association dedicated to promoting Education and Entrepreneurship in the youth of Panama. The association was born in 2014 under the slogan "Educate yourself to undertake," highlighting the importance of education as a mechanism to empower entrepreneurs and generate sustainable growth.
Canal de Empresarias: Canal de Empresarias' mission is to impact the development and growth of businesses led and managed by women, thus reducing inequality between women and men at the business level, improving the performance of these companies, their access to financing and new markets and income.
CAPATEC: In August 2004 , CAPATEC was born, as a result of the initiative of companies in the sector to group and integrate the main actors into a single union with the main objective of promoting and promoting the development of the ICT Industry in the country.
CNC Panama: The National Competitiveness Center (CNC) is a non-profit organization, where in a public-private convergence, the presidents of organizations of the business sector, representatives of the labor sector, businessmen of recognized trajectory and officials of the highest level of the sector participate. Together, in order to make Panama a more competitive country, they promote actions that lead companies to produce more and better, within an appropriate climate for local and foreign investments, thus promoting the well-being of the population.
Fab Lab EcoStudio (Panama City): Fab Lab EcoStudio is an educational space based on technology, design thinking and science, which aims to stimulate creative culture through access to digital and manual manufacturing tools in Panama.
QLU Emprende (Panama City): QLUEmprende is an initiative led by Quality Leadership University to support students and graduates of the university to promote their ventures, and thus contribute to the socio-economic development of the region.