As the year comes to a close, it’s a good time to look back at some Latin American startups that are geared up to make waves in 2014. After quietly gaining traction over the last few months and sometimes years, they are now ready to collect the fruits of their work and pop up on your radar more and more often.
It is important to note that we decided to focus on startups that are still exactly that: startups. In other words, you won’t find names such as Globant on our list, despite the fact that the company is expected to IPO early next year – which, on a side note, should be great news for Latin America. Nor will we highlight e-commerce giants such as Netshoes, Dafiti, Rocket Internet’s Linio and portfolio companies like real-estate site Lamudi, which are already beyond the early-stage phase.
Please also keep in mind that this list is by no means exhaustive. For instance, we previously listed Latin American startups focusing on education and on finance that are very promising. In addition, we expect most if not all of the startups that we listed in last year’s “top 10” to do great in 2014.
As you may remember, our selection back then was the following: Agent Piggy, Bandtastic (runner-up: Queremos), Cinepapaya, ComparaOnline, Cumplo (runner-up: Lenddo), Descomplica (runner-up: Veduca), Ideame, Pagpop, Workana (runner-up: GetNinjas) and Wormhole IT.
Without further ado, here’s our selection for 2014, in alphabetical order:
Aentropico is a big data company that provides company managers with easy-to-use big data applications that can answer their specific business concerns. While these tools already exist, they are rarely used in the decision process outside of very large corporations. This represents an opportunity for a company like Aentropico to democratize the market and offer big data solutions to all sorts of companies, including medium-sized businesses.
Aentropico’s platform is currently in closed beta, ahead of a planned rollout in Brazil in a few months. Its existing dozen of corporate testers inside and outside of Latin America give an idea of the wide range of clients to whom it may appeal, from large Mexican retailers to a Latin American food giant and Colombia’s government.
Aentropico indeed comes from Colombia, where it was born in Feburary 2012 and backed by Fundación Bavaria and INNpulsa. The company also has ties to different Latin American countries, starting from the incubation and capital it received from Start-Up Chile and Argentina’s NXTP Labs. Since then, it has taken part in Start-UP Brasil’s first batch within 21212’s acceleration program in Rio de Janeiro.
In addition, Aentropico’s founders received support from Boston-based accelerator MassChallenge and Massachusetts-based open innovation company Innocentive. As a matter of fact, both Aentropico’s CEO Sebastian Perez Saaibi and CIO Juan Pablo Marin Diaz have impressive resumes, including as a fellowship at Harvard to work on a stat-based system to monitor institutional corruption, building upon their combined 16 years of global experience in applied mathematics and engineering.
Ultimately, Aentropico’s founders want to turn their startup into a leader in Latin America’s predictive analytics market. It is worth noting that they aren’t the only ones to operate in this segment; for instance, the winner of TNW Latin America Startup Rally this year was a Colombian company called Senseta, which sells data analytics solutions to enterprise clients.
Argentine e-commerce platform Avenida.com may only be a couple of weeks old, but it definitely deserves to be on this list due to its founders’ agenda. As we wrote in our monthly roundup earlier this week, it is the first project to come out of Argentine company builder Quasar Ventures (see our previous story).
Quasar itself is the brainchild of Andy Freire and Santiago Bilinkis, fathers of the office supply chain Officenet, of which Quasar’s CEO and third co-founder Pablo Simon Casarino was an early employee. After becoming Argentina’s leader and expanding into Brazil, Officenet was acquired in 2004 for $23.2 million by US giant Staples (it changed its name to Staples Argentina in 2011).
With that in mind, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Avenida.com venture into other Latin American countries in the near future. However, the company makes it clear that the first task on its roadmap will be to expand its catalogue beyond the selected verticals it currently serves, such as home and gardening. Quoted by Argentine newspaper La Nacion, Avenida.com’s co-founder Federico Malek Pascha explained that the site plans to start selling electronics in the second half of 2014.
Ultimately, it is quite clear that Avenida.com will have to start offering “everything for everyone” if what it wants is to become Argentina’s Amazon. Whether it can achieve this goal without opening itself to third-party vendors remains to be seen. Still, Avenida’s decision to have its own warehouse and control its full delivery process seems wise at this stage, in a region where e-commerce startups are often stumped by logistics.
Bunny Inc. is the name of the umbrella company that is home to all of the startups related to voice acting that have been founded by Colombian entrepreneur Alex Torrenegra and his wife Tania Zapata over the last decade. Its portfolio includes Voice123 (2003), VoiceBunny (2011) and BunnyCast (2013), which all focus on different product offerings within the voice over segment.
As some of you may remember, VoiceBunny came into the spotlight a couple of years ago when it took the liberty to offer audio readings of Fred Wilson’s blog AVC.com. The newly set-up venture BunnyCast follows that same line by providing publishers with human narration of their articles.
While Bunny Inc. is now headquartered in San Francisco, it qualifies as a Latin American startup for several reasons. Besides Torrenegra’s nationality, part of the team is based in Colombia, where he also co-founded the co-working space HubBOG and two tech communities, BogoDev and BogoTech.
Besides its product and team, which we expect to deliver newsworthy results in 2014, Bunny deserves to be on this list as an example of a successful bootstrapped startup – and proudly so (see Torrenegra’s opinion post in PandoDaily). In an ecosystem that tends to give too much importance to signals such as acceleration cycles and funding rounds, it is important not to forget the fundamentals: the most promising startups are the ones that provide value to their customers.
In addition to his activities as an entrepreneur, Torrenegra also set up Torrenegra Labs to make a series of investments in startups such as real estate company VivaReal and travel platform WeHostels, which was recently acquired by StudentUniverse. He recently gave a great interview to Mixergy on his personal trajectory as entrepreneur and angel.
Cityheroes is a platform that helps citizens chime in to improve their cities, for instance by reporting issues and threatening situations. To go beyond mere reports, the startup is building partnerships with authorities and institutions such as Santiago’s Fire Department and Chile’s Animal Welfare Association to promote specific verticals in which concerns are readily addressed once filed by Cityheroes’ registered users. Some of these are already available via the Google Play app that Cityheroes launched this year, while more features and an iOS version are in the pipeline.
Although Cityheroes’ CEO Ponce and his co-founder Mauro Trigo are Bolivian, they had moved to Santiago to participate in Start-Up Chile. As we learned last month, the team is now about to move again, this time to the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, where it has been selected to take part in the first batch of publicly-funded acceleration program SEED (see our previous post). It was also among the finalists at TNW Conference’s 2013 Startup Rally in Brazil last August.
Dujour is a well-designed fashion app that lets users share the latest trends and looks. In practical terms, these can take photographs of their daily outfits and tag individual items to share what they are wearing and maybe ask for quick feedback. They can also follow friends, fashion bloggers and fellow users from all over the world, building their own personalized style feed.
Dujour has been available for iPhone and iPod Touch since last January, followed by a rollout on Google Play last July. Since its initial launch, it has reached over 125,000 registered users. While most of these come from Dujour’s home country, Brazil, the app also has a significant fan base in the US, France, Portugal, Italy and the UK.
One of the factors that has boosted Dujour’s global growth is the fact that its outstanding UI caught Apple’s attention, resulting in the app being featured in the App Store several times for multiple countries. This month it was highlighted as one of the best apps of 2013 in Brazil’s App Store.
Dujour is based in Rio de Janeiro, where it graduated from startup accelerator Papaya Ventures. Earlier this year, it received angel investment from Sync Mobile’s founder Amure Pinho, investor and mentor André Diamand and a small group of foreign angels. It was also a finalist at TNW Conference in Brazil last August. As we recently learned, Dujour will also be part of Start-UP Brasil’s next batch.
As its name suggests, FirstJob is a marketplace that helps students and graduates find their first job. Its core target are young people with up to two years of professional experience.
On the other side of the equation, it is helping large companies connect with millennials and adapt to their culture to find the best candidates. As a matter of fact, FirstJob knows that its target audience is more likely to read job postings and get exposed to corporate branding on social media networks than elsewhere, which is why it shares all job postings on its Facebook and other social accounts.
FirstJob comes from Santiago, Chile, where it received support and funding from university incubator IncubaUC and Telefonica’s accelerator Wayra Chile. As you may have read, FirstJob’s team has now been selected to join 500 Mexico City’s latest acceleration round.
PulsoSocial interviewed FirstJob’s CEO Mario Mora last November, and reported that the platform had then reached the milestone of 20,000 resumes in its database, based on which it had achieved 400 matches for its clients. Ultimately, its ambition is to expand in all of Latin America.
Interesante could be superficially described as a Pinterest for Latin Americans and US Hispanics. These can use its platform to “discover people, products and content about entertainment, fashion and travel in real-time and based on your personal interests.”
However, it would be misguided to see Interesante as a quick clone of an existing business model: what it has been building is a strong brand with a distinctive design and an engaged community of users within a growing and untapped demographic group that companies are increasingly keen to serve. Its key differentiator is its knowledge of the needs and preferences of Latino users, which have guided many aspects of its approach, such as an emphasis on audiovisual content and mobile navigation.
Interesante was first released publicly around a year ago and already launched in Argentina, Chile, Mexico and the US. It is currently available on the Web and as an iPhone app, with plans to launch on Google Play in the near future. While most of its team is located in Argentina, its founders recently graduated from Manos Accelerator, a new US-based incubator for Latino entrepreneurs. Its first Demo Day took place at Google last November.
Interesante’s targeting doesn’t stop at ethnicity, and it also includes a more granular level of personalization. For instance, its algorithms are set to highlight relevant content based on a user’s location, which could turn it into an attractive customer acquisition channel for SMBs such as hotels and fashion stores.
LastRoom is a Mexican same-day hotel booking service that operates in the same market as HotelTonight, Hot, JustBook and the like. Earlier this month, it won WeXchange, a competition and conference for Latin American female entrepreneurs in which LastRoom’s COO Angela Cois took part.
The company’s first beta was released in December 2012 during Startup Weekend Guadalajara, followed by an app launch in April 2013. Its platform is now available on both iOS and Google Play, which have been downloaded 100,000 times in total. Over the last few months, LastRoom expanded from Mexico to Colombia and Chile, while broadening its catalogue beyond 4 and 5 stars properties to offer mid-range properties as well.
The company has gathered $100,000 in funding so far, including bootstrapping plus an investment from NXTP Labs, and is now working on a larger round to finance its growth. According to LastRoom’s CEO Josue Gio, LastRoom’s plan for 2014 is to focus on the corporate travel segment, which has proven more promising for its model:
“When we launched LastRoom we thought that our clients were both leisure and business travellers. After 9 months of operations, we realized that the leisure industry is too seasonal and it does not guarantee a constant flow of sales. [As a result], we concentrate our efforts on the business travellers, more disposed to take last-minute decisions and who [buy from] LastRoom at least 2 or 3 times per month.”
Last November, LastRoom launched a side product called HotelWalla, which complements its customer acquisition strategy. Thanks to this tool, event organizers can easily add a widget to their website and let attendees look for accommodation near the event venue.
Mural.ly is a web-based collaboration tool that lets teams and groups easily add links, web content from multiple sources and other comments onto a virtual shared wall that is directly inspired by real-world pinboards. Hence the company’s tagline: “Google Docs for visual people.”
As we reported last year, the startup launched publicly in September 2012 with seed funding from a group of investors including Intel Capital, 500 Startups, NXTP Labs, Alta Ventures Mexico and business angels.
Mural.ly’s CEO Mariano Suarez Battan moved to San Francisco earlier this year, while the startup’s development team remains in Buenos Aires. This decision reflects the importance of the US market for Mural.ly’s freemium approach: although its 250,000 users so far came from all over the world, 50% of paying customers are American.
Most of these are corporate clients such as Ancestry.com, IDEO and Steelcase, who have been using Mural.ly to do research, ideation and design collaboration. In addition, Mural.ly is gaining traction in the education sector, where it is used for class projects or for remote collaboration around MOOCs.
Suarez Battan co-founded Mural.ly alongside CTO Pato Jutard and Head of Product Agustin Soler. Both Suarez Battan and Jutard previously founded Three Melons, a maker of social games which was acquired by Disney’s Playdom in 2010.
According to Suarez Battan, Mural.ly is set to make a big push around mobile and touch screens in 2014. In addition, it is currently beta testing a new algorithm-based feature than can detect sticky notes from a physical wall before cropping and arraying them into a mural.
Properati is an Argentine real estate platform that helps brokers, developers and owners find leads without charging upfront listing fees. On the other hand, its app and website helps prospective tenants and buyers find the property they are looking for.
As we reported earlier this week, it acquired its Brazilian competitor Imovel do Proprietario for an undisclosed amount of cash and stock to boost its growth in a market where it already passed the 100,000 listing milestone. Following the deal, both sites will merge next March and Imovel do Proprietario’s CEO Renato Orfaly will join Properati as country manager for Brazil.
According to its CEO Gabriel Gruber, 2014 will be a year of regional expansion for Properati, which is now set to launch its beta in Mexico in January 2014, followed by a beta rollout in Chile and Colombia next July. In addition, it will join Miami-based accelerator Venture Hive next January. Properati had previously participated in NXTP Labs’ acceleration program that has also received seed capital from investors such as GroupArgent and Eastpoint Ventures.
Nubelo can be described as a Latin American Freelancer.com, which makes it a direct competitor to online staffing platform Workana. As you may remember, Workana won TNW Latin America’s 2012 Startup Rally, a competition in which Nubelo also participated earlier this year as a finalist.
Nubelo participated in the fifth generation of Start-Up Chile and subsequently raised a $1.3 million USD round of funding led by Latin American VC firm Nazca Ventures and supported by South Ventures and Spain’s La Caixa Capital Risk and Finaves. With several offices across the Spanish-speaking world, it is working on launching a pilot program in the US to connect Latin American talent with American clients. It decided to tackle the Brazilian market by acquiring a local competitor, two-year-old company Prolancer. Following the deal, its goal for 2014 is to reach a total of 50,000 published freelance job opportunities.
Sympla is a Brazilian ticket and event management platform that seems to be on the road to success. Even if it does not get acquired by Eventbrite like its Argentine counterpart Eventioz, it looks perfectly able to reach profitability: since its launch in 2012, 300,000 event tickets have been sold through its platform.
Aceleradora’s founder Yuri Gitahy has been a mentor to Sympla’s team since its early days, later taking part in the angel investment round the company raised earlier this year.
According to Gitahy, Sympla is on track to hit R$20 million in revenue (around $8.48 million USD) in 2014. Earlier this month, the company had already passed the milestone of R$5 million ($2.12 million USD) in annual revenue. In addition, it expanded its reach from 250 cities to 1500.
If you take a close look at Sympla’s home page, you may notice a logo that reads “Made in San Pedro Valley.” As you may know, this is a reference to the company’s home town, Belo Horizonte, in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, which is increasingly positioning itself as a tech hub.
Which Latin American startups will you be following closely in 2014? Let us know in the comments.
Image credit: Shutterstock
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.
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