IT outsouring in Latin America has proven to be fertile training ground for a pair of startup-minded tech stars – who both have purposely tapped into the largest economy in the region (the United States) to launch their organizations. Their decision to go north, instead of launch their companies in Latin America, says a lot about the appetite of entrepreneurs to transverse international borders to pursue their fortunes and comparatively deeper pools of funding.
Crowdsourcing and Open Data, two relatively new forces that are rather abstract in terms of how they can be integrated into traditional business models and leveraged to create value, are technologies underpinning the startups created by Luis Enrique Corrales and Diego May.
Luis is working on a “hyper-localized” mobile application called Ourcast that crunches weather data from 20,000 sources across the country and its user base. “It is equivalent to having hundreds of weather stations within one city. When you login you are immediately presented with a two hour forecast, you have a set of icons to either report the weather anonymously or you can check-in to Facebook and post your location along with the weather,” remarked Luis. The series A round of venture capital was raised by Starfish Ventures out of Australia, the firm likes the idea of creatively disrupting the weather industry.
Riding the Open Data Movement
Diego May is CEO and co-founder of Junar, a company that has created a cloud based platform “for opening data to drive innovation, collaboration, and to meet legislative goals,” as stated by Junar. The open data movement is gaining steam with governments. The US government’s Data.gov is celebrating its three year anniversary; hundreds of citizens have built clever apps based on data sets released by the US government.
Junar is banking on the fact that foreign governments, universities, NGOs, companies, etc. want to open up data, but do not want to undergo the process of building proprietary systems to do so. Instead they can subscribe to Junar and have a proven end-to-end solution immediately.
“This is the third renaissance of the Internet. So much data is being created by universities, federal and local governments, companies, etc. and those organizations are not publishing portions of it in a way that brings them value,” exclaimed Diego.
At this point profiting from opening up data is somewhat ambiguous, but so seemed online retail at one point. Diego explained that there are innumerable ways data can be opened to bring a company value, something as simple as releasing facility location data a developer can take and integrate into an app can benefit a customer.
Entrepreneurs like Diego and Luis would find it much harder to realize their ventures if they were back home in their domestic markets. Access to capital and the lack of support for entrepreneurs are widespread barriers to growth for startups across the region.
“Latin America as a region is significantly behind in terms of technical entrepreneurship, the numbers are very small. It is a generational thing and it is progressing, just slowly. It takes more than teaching people about entrepreneurship, it takes capital,” stated Mario Chavez, CEO of Avantica, a nearshore software engineering services firm.