Central America is going through something of a startup revolution. Thanks, in part, to government-backed accelerator schemes and foreign investment from multinational brands who are looking for new growth opportunities, entrepreneurs in every industry, from technology right through to cleaning, are seeing a change. Access to funding and low running costs has meant that Central American entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurs from further afield, are choosing to enter the market and sell more of their products and services to the people of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama – and even venturing further afield into Latin American territories, too. Below, we’ve rounded up some of the exciting and innovative startup programmes in Central America, and give you the low-down on who to watch.
Biz Latin Hub
With offices in Panama, El Salvador and Costa Rica, Biz Latin Hub is a Central American company that is making waves within the industry. As more and more businesses are choosing to expand into territories across Central and Latin America, back-office services are in high demand – and that’s where Biz Latin Hub comes in to help. Now considered the leading provider of commercial representation and back-office services in Latin America, Biz Latin Hub offers services such as company formation, visa processing, accounting, taxation, recruitment, legal services, due diligence and much more, enabling entrepreneurs from around the world to make their first steps into a new market. And with plans to open new offices in Australia and the UK, it appears that this Central American startup is only going to go from strength to strength, helping companies from around the world turn into truly global brands with customers in every country.
Perhaps one of the reasons why Biz Latin Hub is performing so well in the market is that they are, in many ways, like a middleman between businesses and governments, employees and the hoops that are associated with entering a new market. Indeed, it’s never been easier to grow a global business, perhaps in part thanks to lower running costs, and the internet, which has allowed for ecommerce brands to take off without having to even step foot in a country. But without help, it can still feel like a daunting prospect – knowing that you have a professional on hand to guide you through the process will no doubt take away some of that pressure.
San José Brewing Company
Offering authentic beer from Costa Rica, founder William Fernandez Nuñez launched the San Jose Brewing Company back in 2016. The company is dedicated to making unique, tasty craft beers, aiming to launch two new varieties per year over the next four years. Whilst local beers in Costa Rica such as Pilsen and Imperial continue to perform well in the market, there’s a growing trend toward craft beers, which now hold a 23% of the $111.4 billion U.S. beer market – with similar saturations around the world. In simple terms, craft beers have never been so popular.
To add to its appeal, the San Jose Brewing Company ships its beers in kegs and bottles, and each comes with an information sheet, which outlines the brewing process. It’s just one example of the country’s entrepreneurial spirit and shows that Central America can export delicious food and drink. The San Jose Brewing Company’s next step is to implement a worldwide rollout, with plans to stock the beer in bars across the United States and Canada by the end of 2018
As manufacturers flock to Central America thanks to its quick turnaround times and high-quality labour workforce, entrepreneurs across the region are also utilising skilled workers and creating their own fashion brands with a Central American edge. Enter Salvaje Swimwear, a bikini brand based in Playa Hermosa. Founded in 2013, two fashion designers quit their jobs in California in the United States and decided to move to Costa Rica for an adventure and to experience an entirely different way of life. In the process, they launched the Salvaje brand, offering a whole range of tops, bottoms, surf shorts, bikinis and yoga pants, with a mix and match style designed to appeal to modern women – both Costa Ricans and tourists, as well as international trade.
One of the best parts about this growing fashion startup is that all of their clothing is made with the flexibility of being reversible – once you’ve worn an outfit one way, it can quickly be switched the other. Not only does this make its products truly good value for money (indeed, it’s like you are buying a two-for-one deal with every item of clothing), but it helps the environment and is perfect for those who like to travel. Available online and shipping around the world, Salvaje is making a name for itself in the fashion industry, particularly within backpacking communities.
Unlike some countries in Central America, El Salvador still doesn’t have its own accelerator or incubator, which makes it harder for new businesses to get off the ground and raise the capital they need to succeed. However, one businessman managed to get around this and launched a company that not only delivers great results but is changing an entire industry. Hugo, a delivery and transportation technology company, has built a name for itself in Central America, despite launching just two years ago by entrepreneur Alejandro Argumedo. Since then, the company has employed more than 25 members of staff and has secured more than $250,000 in funding.
The app, designed for consumers, allows you to ‘ask for anything you want’. You can order food from your phone, get drinks delivered to your property, or even order medication, transportation or an entire basket of supermarket shopping. You can order any product or service, pay with your smartphone, and track your order in real time. Think of it as Uber for shopping and food – and expect to see the company appear on more lists in the coming years as it dominates the market and expands into new territories, with Northern and Latin America on the cards next.
There are so many fantastic startup businesses in Central America, but we only had time to run through four of our favourites in this article. Whether you’re thinking about investing in a Central American business, or even start your own, we wish you the very best of luck with your journey.