Guanacaste: Costa Rica’s Quiet Corner Builds a Tech Footprint

Located in the northwest of Costa Rica, Guanacaste has a lot of potential to be the country's next technology hub

Guanacaste

Guanacaste is one of Costa Rica’s northwestern provinces located on the coast, bordering the Pacific.

There has been an influx of technology companies in recent years, such as Ad Astra Rocket, an American rocket propulsion company, Continum Data Center and even Nimiq, a blockchain developer.

We spoke to two IT outsourcing companies in the region to find out what brought them there and get their thoughts on the province.

Regional Roots

Avantica is a software development company that established its first office in 1993 in San Jose, Costa Rica. In 2012, it opened a new office in Libera in Guanacaste where it currently has nearly 50 employees.

Juan Carlos Porras Rodríguez, the QA Unit Manager, believes the reason the office was set up there was because many of the company’s high level executives are from the region. The CEO is from Liberia and the VP of delivery and Sales Director are from Nicoya.

“We wanted to give something back to our province and since there are many universities in the area we thought to open an office there to provide people that were finishing their computer science degrees with the possibility to stay there and stay with their family and work for a tech company with clients in the US,” said Porras Rodríguez.

The company also carried out research and found out the area is one of the best areas with talented people and even has an international airport that allows US companies it is working with to fly directly to Liberia.

Jessica Saavedra, the Marketing Coordinator, outlined how the company has partnerships with three major universities; the Universidad de Costa Rica, the Universidad Nacional and a private one.

She said the company has worked with the universities for the last seven or eight years.

Porras Rodríguez added that sometimes the company has an internship program with the universities where they select final year students to do an internship.

“They can start implementing their technical skills and we started training them in the testing area and providing them with the knowledge of how to do tests etc. When they finish the internship we normally select the best student or the best people and we offer them to stay at the company as employees,” he said.

“The interesting thing here is that this university provides the talent, skills and educational background that Avantica needs. Since Avantica is the biggest and most reliable software company in Liberia the students have the opportunity to do their professional practice with us,” said Saavedra.

Saavedra also thinks that Guanacaste has a lot of potential.

“Ad Astra Rocket has given an impulse and confidence to other companies to want to settle,” she said. “For example, the new biomedical research center developed by the Costa Rican agency for biomedical research is being built in Liberia too. Coca Cola has also recently decided to install one of the largest and most modern plant in the world in Liberia.”

Porras Rodríguez pointed to other companies settling in the area, such as a datacenter that provides services for companies in the local area but also ones in San Jose.

“The international airport in Liberia is opening a lot of possibilities for companies to start it there in order to avoid the congestion we have in the San Jose valley like traffic jams and a lot of building,” he said.

Porras Rodríguez also underlined that the quality of life in Liberia is very good.

“We established our facilities there to allow people to stay there and work from there and now we are promoting to people in San Jose to move to Iberia because the quality of life there is a lot better than the one we have in the capital,” he said.

Saavedra agrees: “It is a pretty convenient area because of the weather, airport and tourism.”

Porras Rodríguez mentioned that there are lots of national parks, in Liberia you are only 30 or 40 minutes from the beach and there are plenty of outdoor activities to do.

He said: “For example, the millennials are more oriented towards green environments and to do outdoor exercise so working there allows you to do all of these activities in a very very nice environment.”

Connected to US Hubs

Emer Harkin, who is originally from the UK, set up Unidad 22 15 years ago and found it very hard to find talent locally as web development was in its infancy.

Now that has completely changed: “There are many universities in the area and IT is a very popular career choice. There are very few development companies in the region, so most graduates have to leave their families and go to the capital,” said Harkin.

Harkin added that Costa Rican society is very family orientated and people prefer to live in their family home for as long as they can.

Located in Liberia, the international airport is 10 minutes away from her which connects her to all the major US hubs.

“Our clients from the US have come down, spent the days in our office meeting the team, and staying by the beach. They always enjoy the work trip. I can visit US companies easily and cheaply and at short notice,” she said.

Harkin added that the company is often in the same time zone as its clients, or within a couple hours, and that many of its US clients have a good reputation of Costa Rica and Guanacaste.

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Similar to Avantica, Unidad 22 has a close relationship with local universities.

“We have a good relationship with the university and each year they chose the best 8 students, one of our developers goes and gives them a test, we then choose the best two students who do a 3 month project with us. We then hire them if they are good candidates,” said Harkin.

Harkin underlined that the quality of life in the area is great too, especially since there is so much natural beauty in the area including beaches, volcanoes and rainforest.

“Its safe and the area is developing, you can now get everything you need right here. During the week you can be working on projects for large US brands, and at the weekend you are only 30 minutes from spectacular beaches,” she said.

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