Though Silicon Valley may be the tech hub of fame, many other locations in Latin America have nailed innovation and development.
We spoke directly with senior developers from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and other countries about the most buzzing tech hubs in their regions – asked them which locations they think are most promising and tech-enabled and what governmental technology initiatives are currently in progress. From what innovations are underway to where they prefer living and working – here’s a glimpse into some of their insights.
Belo Horizonte (Brazil)
The population of Brazil – 214.3 million
Number of universities – 95 (based on edurank.org)
Number of tech professionals – 475,272 (Statista)
Located in the heart of Brazil and boasting a population of over 5 million people, Belo Horizonte is one of the largest cities after São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Being the capital of Minas Gerais state, Belo Horizonte is home to many technology firms that have been gaining attention from tech giant Google. The search engine giant invested more than $200 million in this city, with more than 100 technology professionals now working there. The center is headed by Berthier Ribeiro-Neto, an Associate Professor at the Federal University of Minas Gerais. This is summed up by being the center of Facebook and Microsoft, said Luís, a local Node.js/React.js developer with 15 years in the software industry.
With the price tag of a city like New York accompanied by plenty of traffic, there has been a recent shift in people choosing to work remotely from neighboring cities. For example, Recife and Fortaleza are great cities with lively atmospheres that are relatively inexpensive and attract high-caliber technology talent. Florianopolis and Campinas City also provide excellent remote working locations without leaving town.
The population of Colombia – 51.52 million
Number of tech universities – 36
Number of tech professionals – 64,638
Colombia is quickly becoming the Silicon Valley of Latin America – for a good reason. The government invested $2.5 million in tech education for teachers and students, pushing to close the digital skills gap. Colombia’s Technology Ministry offers public programs to help locals of all ages develop better digital skills and understand upcoming modern trends.
Medellin is quickly becoming Colombia’s own little Silicon Valley. The ability to work remotely makes more and more people migrate to smaller towns to manage their lifestyles better. This shift has only been amplified by the government stepping in; public projects support this expansion of tech companies, and a presidential law that made Medellin a district of science, an honor previously only granted to Bogota, Colombia’s capital. All these factors put together make Medellin a rapidly growing hub for tech talent with plenty of growth potential.
Jorge, a senior Node.js/React.js developer, noted that Medellin is a great place to live and work. “60-80% of the people that get their degrees from his small town move to Medellin for better work opportunities. Medellin is not as heavy of traffic, monthly expenses are a bit lighter, and better public transportation, making it better than Bogota for many.” Jonathan, an RoR developer for 10+ years, adds that the Medellin secret sauce is in government support, many initiatives, and the support of their current president.
The population of Argentina – 45.81 million
Number of tech universities – 23
Number of tech professionals – 114,576
Buenos Aires is the startup capital of Argentina, housing almost two-thirds of all identified startups. Córdoba and its surrounding area is a close second with over 100 businesses taking up shop! Although much smaller than Buenos Aires, this city seems attractive for entrepreneurs seeking to launch their tech ventures.
Cordoba also goes by another name – La Docta (the learned one), highlighting its reputation for learning and knowledge in Argentina. The second-largest city, it has long been the nerve center of tech innovation in the country. It earned this reputation thanks to local and national governments’ support and their streamlined company formation process, which can be done in a mere 48 hours. This was further solidified in 2016 when Founder Institute – an esteemed startup launcher based out of Silicon Valley – opened up its program in Cordoba. Currently, this cluster has more than 230 associated companies and actively promotes collaboration among entrepreneurs.
The population of Mexico – 126.7 million
Number of tech universities – 43
Number of tech professionals – 223,398
Guadalajara takes the cake when it comes to the Silicon Valley of Mexico. Despite having big league competitors like Monterrey and Mexico City, who also boast impressive tech hubs, what sets Guadalajara apart is its rising heartland cities. It draws the attention of major tech companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, Netflix, and LinkedIn.
Miguel, a senior RoR developer, told us that although he lives in Monterrey, he’s in love with Guadalajara. “The culture is amazing there; you have all the traditional things, and there is less traffic compared to other cities.”
With access to resources from venture capital firms and technology incubators, Guadalajara appeared to be one of the most developed cities in Latin America – proving that age is just a number when embracing new technologies. The city boasts a vast talent pool of developers and engineers, complemented by an environment conducive to innovation and entrepreneurship. Several universities are training top talent in software engineering and other specialties that make this city a center of digital progress.
Guadalajara is not Mexico’s only talent magnet. According to Omar, another RoR developer, who has been in tech for 20 years, smaller cities like Aguascalientes and Ensenada can join the technology boom soon. Miguel also mentioned that Colima is a cheap promising place for tech professionals that could start to grow as a tech hub and Queretaro.
The population of Uruguay – 3.426 million
Number of universities – 2
Number of tech professionals – 14,112
Uruguay’s reputation as a central hub for technology and innovation has been steadily growing. The Uruguayan government supports the tech industry by implementing initiatives such as Plan Ceibal, which helps increase equal access to technology by envisioning that all public schools have Internet access through WiFi and each student is given a laptop.
Colonia is a satellite neighborhood of Buenos Aires that is currently making its way to becoming a leading technological hub. From Juan, an RoR developer with 10+ years in the industry, we learned that to add to Colonia’s potential, Uruguayan entrepreneurs have recently announced some lofty goals: creating a Silicon Valley setup in Latin America to add to Colonia’s potential. Earlier this year, they announced that they would be investing US$500 million towards real estate projects intending to make Colonia a technology hub. This venture seeks to attract young Uruguayans, Argentines, and tech companies from all over South America, creating a brand-new “smart city.” Its viability will depend on how many Argentines, especially young people, will live in the city or take the hour-long daily ferry across the Río de la Plata.
The population – 19.49 million
Number of tech universities – 26
Number of tech professionals – 61,068
Chile is one of several countries launching aggressive initiatives designed to create local tech innovation and entrepreneurship hubs. In 2010, the Chilean government set out to make their country the world’s center of entrepreneurial excellence. Their program “Start-Up Chile” was launched by CORFO (an executing agency of government policy in the field of entrepreneurship and innovation) and has already awarded more than $40 million in funding across 80+ countries across 1,300 different businesses.
Alex Barrios, a senior RoR developer for 15 years, thinks Santiago can become Chile’s next Silicon Valley. Chilean capital has attracted significant investments from global corporations, providing financing and support for local startups and fostering extensive international partnerships. The rise of areas such as startup accelerators and coworking spaces is allowing entrepreneurs to thrive in this burgeoning ecosystem. Chile also provides strong government incentives that spur innovation and drive growth in the tech sector, making it an attractive option for those looking to expand their offshore talents internationally.
San José (Costa Rica)
The population – 5.154 million
Number of tech universities – 3
Number of tech professionals – 22,701
San José is quickly burgeoning into a new Silicon Valley of Costa Rica. The country’s central location, well-educated workforce, and proximity to innovation hubs like Austin and Florida make it ideal for fast-growing US companies.
Costa Rica has also been known for being a major player in microchip manufacturing. This sector had grown to North America’s second-biggest electronic components exporter in a decade. In 1999 Intel opened up shop within one of Costa Rica’s Free Trade Zones, sparking an influx of new companies that have only helped the country to flourish over the past two decades.
Laws in Costa Rica are quite friendly towards entrepreneurs, making it easier for growing tech companies to get established there or hire local software developers.
The bottom line
The expansion of tech companies from the US activated tech hubs in Latin America to bring together strong talent in locations for systematic selection, as in Silicon Valley. It’s no surprise why so many developers choose to make a career change in these new locales either – their culture is often stimulating, authentic, and full of promise for technology innovators.