Sandwiched between the two mammoth nations of Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay and its 3.5 million inhabitants are able to play an important role as a test lab for entrepreneurs. Businesses can test the market for their products at local level with relative ease and, if they prove successful, can then expand into regional, or even global markets.
The Uruguayan government has carved out a meaningful role for itself by providing the startup ecosystem in Montevideo – the capital city, with 1.5 million inhabitants – with a highly useful support structure. The ANII (National Agency for Research and Innovation) offers startups, and also business incubators and accelerators, the funds they need to get started, at the same time allowing them to use the government’s contact network and providing them with support from day one.
There have been a number of success stories that should inspire and encourage dynamism in the Uruguayan ecosystem. One example is PedidosYa, a meal delivery startup founded in 2009 in Montevideo, which now operates throughout Latin America. However, if this ecosystem is to stabilise and flourish in the longer term, freeing itself from reliance on government aid, it will soon need to attract the trust of, and funds from, the private sector.