Honduras is undergoing a rapid emergence as an important technology ecosystem in Central America, with numerous tech startups and entrepreneurs working in unison to develop a valuable community that the government is finally recognizing.
“In the last two years, the tech community has been growing fast, making a strong case for the government to take notice and provide support,” said Ana Romero, Deputy Director of IHCIETI (Honduran Institute of Science, Technology and Innovation). “Previous government participation has affected the trust of some players in the community, but it is now aware of the creative capacity and innovation that people have, and the huge potential this has for the economy.”
Part of this realization was possible thanks to the Honduras Startup program (also headed by Romero), which has helped the government to see first-hand what the community is capable of, since establishing it in 2016. The program is designed to support entrepreneurship projects within app development, game development, and other sectors related to new technologies.
“Last year, we had 500 new startups involved in the project, and 200 of them received funding,” said Romero. “This year, we are also opening up the program to traditional businesses, with winners of the seed fund receiving US$40,000 to US$50,000.”
Spotlight on a Local Success Story
One example of a successful tech startup from Honduras is Movitext, and SMS aggregator providing SMS services for Central and South America.
“When companies like Google needs SMS confirmations from users with two-factor authentication, they hire aggregators like us to access their worldwide connections in different markets,” said Luis Gustavo Flores, Co-founder at Movitext. “In this way, we work with banks and retailers in the region and send around 7-8 million texts per month. The business is expected to end 2017 with revenues of US$1.2 million, and we have plans to scale five times more next year.”
The company has a team of 12 people who are all from Honduras, with the developers having skills in Pearl, PHP open source, and Java. They also integrate with Amazon Web Services, and operate VPNs with SMTP protocols, so the talent is of a high standard.
As an active player in the community, Flores sees first-hand how the government is shifting its mindset toward a more technological future for Honduras.
“It’s an experiment, but the government and the community are learning a lot together, and it’s important that that relationship exists,” he said. “The growth of this relationship is creating some interesting cases that are expected to grow internationally.”
Education and Talent Development
Most projects in the ecosystem are coming from people who have graduated college, with a few entrepreneurs who are self-taught in their abilities.
“The community in Honduras is a union, which is a real strength,” said Flores. “We still have a few difficulties, like bad connectivity across the country, and not many developers graduating from college, so we will have to become experts in specific areas to get even further off the starting block.”
A number of academies are popping up to support talent growth, one of which is Media City Labs Academy, which is focused on coding and technology education.
The programs are centred on creating talent for specific projects, particularly in gaming and 3D modelling, and then moving the talent into projects around the world. Right now, the Academy is providing courses to more than 400 students, working alongside two schools in San Pedro Sula.
Currently, the Academy is still in its first year and programs are only offered in Honduras, but the plan is to evolve it into a massive open online course (MooC).
At IHCIETI, the institute has a lab in Tegucigalpa that is working on drones, VR, AR, 3D printing, and electronics. Some companies there are developing security apps also.
Romero has seen that there is huge interest in applied electronics and robotics at the lab, so the plan is to create alliances with schools and colleges to apply this technology and teach it as a career from a very early stage.
Future of the Tech Community
In line with the government’s openness and support of the industry, the startup community was able to recently gather with the president to propose ways to move forward. This resulted in an agreement to create a community commission that could make decisions for the ecosystem and more easily collaborate with the government.
Furthermore, there have been a number of incubators and innovation center projects proposed by the government and Startup Honduras Startup to create a broader technology culture in the country. The centers are expected to arrive next year and will both complement existing projects and provide new incentives for startup creation.
Ultimately, if the government can maintain an open line of communication with players in the tech community and continue to support the industry, Honduras’ upward momentum should lead to rapid skills development and a respectable position in the Nearshore technology market.
Nearshore Americas has recently partnered with the Honduras 20/20 initiative to execute key components of the program, including an exclusive trade mission taking place later this month. For more information on the partnership, click here, or contact [email protected] to learn more about Honduras “Discovery Mission”.