When Google announced last month that it was building its first Latin American data center near the Chilean capital, Santiago, it was not a huge sorpresa.
For the past couple of years, there’s been a digital revolution in the country, powered in part by a government-sponsored program aiming to create Latin America’s own version of Silicon Valley.
That initiative, Start-Up Chile, is inspired by business accelerators in the United States. It aims to attract foreign entrepreneurs who are willing to spend a year building their business in Chile (instead of the typical U.S., European, and Asian hotspots) by offering a $40,000 grant, free office space, and all the connections that come with being supported by the government. And all without requesting any equity stake in the finished business.
Sounds like a great opportunity for the entrepreneur, right? Well, it’s also a major boon for Chile, whose students and young professionals won’t have to leave the country to interact with and, the country hopes, be inspired by the tech industry’s rising stars.
One of the program’s early successes has been Babelverse, a real-time voice-translation tool that was named the “Audience Choice” at Techcrunch Disrupt NYC in May; it announced its seed round last month.
Chile’s initiative has made news because the government has been so present, but it’s certainly not the only country battling for Latin America’s tech crown.
Inspired by young and wildly successful founders like Mark Zuckerberg, a crop of “technolatinas” has risen up throughout the region, most notably in Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil.
The latter two countries have thriving scenes in part due to the head start they had in terms of high internet penetration and engineering talent, as ABC News reports. But Mexico is quickly catching up. In fact, Juan Pablo Capello, a Miami-based entrepreneur, told the outlet that he sees a “tremendous opportunity” there.
“Mexico is the market that has been overlooked and will outperform many of the other markets in the next 18 months,” he said.
To that point, Mexican start-ups raised $459 million through 22 deals in 2011, compared to $211 million the year before, according to the Latin America Venture Capital Association.
“The tech boom in the U.S. has ignited the imaginations of entrepreneurs in Latin America,” Capello said.
Judging by the region’s quickly developing innovation centers, it won’t be long until entrepreneurs in the United States say the same about the influence of the “technolatinas.”