Uruguay’s nickname is the “Switzerland of Latin America”. It is indeed well known for being a financial tradeplace, as well as the safiest and less-corrupted country of all Latin America (together with Chile). A stable democracy, with a philosophy of financial deregulation, a culture of financial secrecy, which is friendly to foreign investors, lacks of foreign exchange controls, has no limits on fund transfers and profit remittance, and registers a lower crime rate than many Western European countries! The government policy is too watch after the investments and the intelectual property.

Unlike its giant neighbors Brazil and Argentina, it’s really common to exchange all kind of foreign currencies in Uruguay. Most business laws are oriented to external trade: a company established in Uruguay will only pay a symbolic fee to the government if it only has activity out the country, whereas any investment made within Argentina’s frontiers cannot be taken back without paying a prohibitive fee.

The History of Uruguay highlights a culture of progressivism and change. It settled advanced democratic institutions before most european countries did, and it’s one of the first countries in the world to adopt women’s vote in the early 20th. Lately, Pepe Mujica, “the world’s humblest president”, has in one single mandate authorized abortion, gay mariage, and canabis production control. A revolution on a deeply catholic and conservative continent. This likeliness for change also implies a predisposition for technologic innovation. Uruguay is considered one of the most advanced in the world regarding the use of Open Source in the public administration, and it’s a laboratory for Open Data experiences. They have allowed drone comercial use before anyone, and they have set a favorable legal frame to the use of virtual currencies.

The main exportation sectors of Uruguay are: meat, software, and seeds. It is both a software factory and an agricol market. The tech scene has been growing for the past two years. Lately, the success of a Latin America wide company: PedidosYa!, which gathers all delivering restaurants in your neighborhood on one single platform, has probably inspired the local startup community. What’s more, the Government Innovation Agency, the ANII (Agencia Nacional de Investigación e Innovación), has recently decided to take a step onwards and invest in the creation of a whole incubator network to support Uruguay Startup Scene.

Even though Uruguayan businessmen are likely to get out the country as soon as they can, it is only for a matter of size of the market. The high consumption level makes it a perfect laboratory to develop a prototype and test the market validity of a product. It’s also the only country which do everything to maintain entrepreneurial stability in the Mercosur Free Trade Area (the other members, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Venezuela, are all known for being reluctant to foreign investment and have the reputation of being complicated places to do business). Uruguay is definitely the safest option to start a Mercosur oriented business, along with being a promosing emerging tech hub.

PROS

  • Promising startup scene (half a dozen of brand new incubators)
  • Pro-innovation public authorities
  • Software developement ranks second in the country’s exportations
  • Stable, open and political risk free country
  • Free Trade Agreements with the three most important markets of Latin America: Brazil, Mexico and Argentina.
  • No tax on companies that have no activity within the Uruguayan territory
  • Steady Economic Growth over the past 10 years (about 5-6%)

CONS

  • Tiny market (3.4 millions inhabitants, GDP of 56 billions USD)
  • Lack of local investors
  • The growth drivers are mainly in the agriculture sector (mainly cattles and seeds)

TOP STARTUPS IN URUGUAY

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MONEERO

Moneero is a mobile payment platform.

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PEDIDOSYA!

PedidosYa! gathers delivering restaurants of a neighborhood on one single platform.

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IEETECH

Social enterprise that looks for efficient engineering solutions to current day to day problems in Uruguay, such as remote cattle tracking.

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COLLOKIA

Collokia analyzes and uses the collective experience of IT workers to generate Enterprise Collaboration.

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SOFTLANDINGS URUGUAY

State initiative to attract entrepreneurs with projects on a global scale.

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SCRAPINGHUB

Scrapinghub is a platform to turn web page content into structured data. Its founder is behing the Scrapy open source project.

TOP PEOPLE TO KNOW IN URUGUAY

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Eleonora Repetto

Manager

Softlandings Uruguay

Mentor at Softlandings Uruguay, a support network which aims at relocating businesses in Uruguay to launch their international business platform.

Linkedin

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Mauro Betschart

COO, co-founder

Moneero

Argentinian graduated in Business Administration, he’s one of the three founders of Moneero, a mobile payment platform.

Linkedin

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Oliver Sócas

Manager

DaVinci.uy

Spanish entrepreneur, today manager of one of Uruguay’s newly born incubator: DaVinci.uy.

Linkedin

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Victoria Alonsopérez

Founder

IEETECH

Founder of IEETECH, a platform tracking cattle remotely and autonomously. Nominated Innovator of the Year 2014 by the MIT Technology Review.

Linkedin

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Pablo Brennet

Partner

Prosperitas Capital Partners

This VC and serial entrepreneur is also VP in charge of innovation at Globant. He has recently launched a new startup: Collokia.

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Sarah Goldberg

Operation Manager

ANII

At the ANII (Uruguay’s government agency for Innovation), she is in charge of the support to SME and startups.

Linkedin

URUGUAY

GDP (in billions USD): 56
GDP per capita (in USD): 16,351
Population: 3,407,062
Population in 2050 (est.): 4,128,000
Internet Penetration: 58.1 %
Mobile Penetration: 155 %
Banking Penetration: 24 %
Credit Card Penetration: 27 %