By Dan BerthiaumeAn increasing number of innovative global IT companies are launching in Latin America using a hybrid model where some employees and resources are located in Latin America and some are located in the US. Serial entrepreneur and Colombian native Andres Barreto, who at 24 has already launched three successful global technology firms, knows first-hand about the benefits the hybrid model offers.
Barreto began his career as an entrepreneur during his freshman year at the University of Florida. Frustrated by the difficulty of finding legal avenues to download music, especially Colombian music, he co-launched the successful global music download service Grooveshark. Although Grooveshark was launched completely inside the US in Gainesville, FL, the experience got Barreto thinking about possible ventures involving Latin America.
From Nowhere to Somewhere
The next step was to explore what could be done in Latin America, which has comparable benefits to Gainesville, which is in middle of nowhere, explains Barreto. “It was cheap to live in Gainesville and grow a team of 80 people from Gainesville, compared to growing a team of 80 people in New York or Silicon Valley. I started to imagine what could be done in Latin America with the low cost, available talent and access to information, which is not as great as some other places but certainly adequate.”
So Barreto developed a team of Latin American journalists and bloggers and spent two years interviewing entrepreneurs and investors. From these efforts he developed pulsosocial.com, which Barreto describes as a “Latin American version of TechCrunch or Mashable. We report and promote entrepreneurship, as well as run events.”
During the last two years, Barreto says the entire entrepreneurial IT culture in Latin America has grown tremendously.
Bringing the Americas Together
Barreto’s third tech start-up, OnSwipe, makes full use of the hybrid model that brings North America and Latin America together. The digital publishing and advertising platform for touch screen devices such as iPads was originally developed by teams working in Guadalajara and Mexico City, Mexico and Bogota, Colombia. Although now based in New York, OnSwipe still has IT employees based in Mexico. Content publishers get an app-like experience in the browser of a touch device, says Barreto. It offers full-page, printlike advertising that is better than a banner.
Getting Up to Speed
During the last two years, Barreto says the entire entrepreneurial IT culture in Latin America has grown tremendously. “Clusters of 300 or more people meet up to discuss entrepreneurship and a few will launch something,” he says. “The last six to seven months have peaked with software development as Latin American companies are finally launching their own products.”
Barreto cites three examples of hybrid Latin American IT companies he is a fan of:
Welcu, a Chilean event management services provider, Pictour.us, a Honduran developer of a digital travel booklet service which has 500 developers based in New York City, and Ovia.me, a firm based in both Guadalajara and Silicon Valley which allows companies to interview multiple job applicants simultaneously via video.
The Future Is Bright
Barreto is confident that during the next five years, Latin America is in a solid position for IT innovation and outsourcing. He says several shops are getting big and getting US clients, and that US investors are putting money into Latin American start-up funds.
They are creating actual products beyond microsites and aggregation, Barreto states. An engineer gets experience (working on a North American outsourcing project) and can then start their own company. Outsourcing is very useful in terms of developing talent. Latin America is getting way more competitive with outsourcing firms in Asia.
The biggest challenge to firms looking to launch Latin American IT ventures? Barreto says they often don’t think big enough. “It’s counterintuitive to launch globally,” he concludes. “It seems easier to launch in the local market, expand in Latin America and then in the US, but that is not the easiest, cheapest or fastest method. It’s actually easier to launch globally.”