Craig Dempsey, co-founder and CEO of the Biz Latin Hub Group, outlines three Central America tech companies who’ve been growing since the COVID pandemic started in 2020.
In Central America, as throughout much of the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic has crushed many businesses and placed a tight squeeze on government purse strings. Yet with the distribution of vaccines underway in many parts of the world, the end of the situation is in sight, and technology sectors throughout Latin America promise to be key players in recovery efforts.
In recent years, governments throughout Central America have shown increasing appreciation for the benefits that the tech sector can bring — not only in terms of being a source of skilled employment and an attractive proposition for outsourcing, but also because they promise to develop novel solutions to daily problems faced by businesses and people.
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Efforts to innovate and problem solve take on particular relevance in the context of the “new normal” of commercial life during a pandemic, which has majorly shaken up the way work is organized and undertaken — including through increased digitization and greater remote working.
With those patterns unlikely to recede after the global health crisis, and remote working becoming far more widespread, companies are also increasingly likely to look for new talent overseas, attracted by the major financial savings and minimal operational inconveniences that come with hiring via a professional employer organization (PEO).
In the meantime, tech companies that have succeeded in posting growth during the pandemic — thanks to being well positioned commercially or adapting to the new circumstances — can be expected to continue moving in the right direction and offer some food for thought with regard to investment opportunities.
Here, based on a recent series of articles Biz Latin Hub ran examining the tech scenes in different countries around Latin America, we’ve picked out one tech company each from Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Panama to demonstrate how they have succeeded on an individual level, and also to highlight more general business trends seen during the global health emergency.
Costa Rica — OmniMoni (fintech)
OmniMoni serves as a prime example of an app-based tech firm that has made a bold operational move in the context of the pandemic, because OMNi, the company that developed it, began the pandemic offering transport-related services.
Originally launching OMNiBici in October 2019 as Costa Rica’s first on-demand bicycle hiring service, in January 2020, the firm branched into the ride hailing space with OMNiTaxi — a fairly natural pivot for a company focused on intercity travel.
In June 2020, three months after Costa Rica began implementing restrictions to control the spread of COVID, the company launched OMNiMoni, a 100% digital app-based banking platform. OMINiMoni boasted over 150,000 downloads within three months of launch.
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Guatemala — Kingo (social inclusion via clean energy)
While Guatemala’s Kingo has been around since 2013, its mission connecting remote communities to clean energy and internet supplies will take on even greater urgency in the context of the pandemic and its aftermath.
The health emergency has cast light on the state of connectivity — or rather the lack of it — in some of the more remote regions of many of the poorest countries, where remote working or learning is not just inconvenient but impossible.
While the company started out focused on Guatemala — and estimates to have brought power to one in eight of the country’s 400,000 families living without electricity — the international attention and financial backing it has received in recent years have seen it pivot to a more global outlook.
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Panama — Fygaro (SME digitization)
Fygaro helps small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) take their business online, facilitating digitization through the use of payment links for social media, and issuing of online invoices.
Fygaro has established relationships with local banks, courier companies, and other partners to provide a comprehensive service to SMEs moving into the online retail space. It has also seen significant growth during the pandemic, with more than 15,000 businesses from Central America and the Caribbean registering on the platform during 2020.
In recognition of the growth of the firm, and the innovative solutions it offers to SMEs, in October 2020, Fygaro was selected as the best tech company among the more than 300 contenders during the Visa Everywhere Initiative (VEI).
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These three tech firms from Central America offer insight into survival during the pandemic.
They highlight how firms able to offer novel solutions to problems that have deepened in the context of the crisis have been able to thrive, and can expect to keep growing in the future.
Personal finance management, social exclusion, and the need to digitize business have become all the more critical amid the uncertainty of the crisis. They were already issues that needed to be confronted pre-COVID, and will continue to be so even once the pandemic is over.
Craig Dempsey is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Biz Latin Hub Group, an
organization dedicated to assisting investors in Latin America and the Caribbean.