Cali is the most important cultural and economic capital of Southwestern Colombia one of the most prominent and innovative cities in Colombia that has been working hard to promote its budding startup ecosystem through government support and investment. The city has a population of around 2,500,000 people and is culturally and ethnically diverse.
With a rank of 330, the city of Cali is being featured for the first time in the StartupBlink 2020 Startup Ecosystem Ranking Report. The city has claimed a keystone position that they are looking to develop in the future.
For Cali’s rankings in the Startup Blink Global map click here
Unique Ecosystem Advantages:
- 3rd most innovative startup ecosystem in Colombia
- 2 of the 3 most important startup acceleration programs of the country are set in Cali
- More than 2,000 companies with high impact potential.
- $4 million investment in the startup ecosystem in 2020
- High level of support for startups from the public sector
- Network of 164 consultants available to help guide companies in their organizational challenges
- Exclusive Intelligent Capital Network made up of leaders in the region called Polux
- 9 Clusters: Experiences, Macrosnacks, Smart Energy, Fashion System, Beauty, Clinical Excellence, White Protein, Urban Habitat and Digital Economy
- Rigorous data from more than 5,000 companies that allow measuring the impact of entrepreneurship programs’ ValleE and Valle Impacta
Overview of Cali’s Startup Ecosystem
From data compiled by the StartupBlink 2020 Startup Ecosystem Ranking Report, the GDP per capita is $4,917. Furthermore, the average cost of living is 70% cheaper than London. Additionally, Cali is only 2 hours away from the Port of Buenaventura, the most important port in Colombia and one of the 10 most important in Latin America. This makes Cali an affordable city providing startups with strategic geographic access to other regions.
According to the World Bank, Colombia has a ranking of 67 for ease of doing business and it is estimated that opening a new company in Colombia takes only 10 days. This is one of the fastest turnovers for a Latin American startup.
Cali is the third most prominent startup ecosystem in Colombia and is rapidly closing the gap on Medellin and Bogota, boosting processes of public investment opportunities, technological development, social entrepreneurship, collaborative workspaces, and networks.
Public Investment Opportunities
Cali is moving forward to strengths public investment that offsets the scaling of foreign direct investment, although recently Cali is getting more attention for investors. Organizations such as the Cali Chamber of Commerce are committed to funding opportunities for startups to create an empowering environment for entrepreneurs. In addition, initiatives such as the Ley Naranaja (Orange Law in English) focus on protecting and supporting the creative and cultural industry efforts of Colombian entrepreneurs.
In recent years, angel investors have increasingly arrived in search of investment opportunities in the Cali region. Within the education and fintech sectors, investors have funded a few startups, including Loopa and Tranqui. With a growing startup ecosystem, Cali might benefit from an increase in angel investors.
In the words of Cali Chamber of Commerce President Esteban Piedrahita, “Cali has seen the development of a strong entrepreneurship ecosystem with large corporations seeking startups looking for innovative solutions, investment, and a strong mentorship network of local business leaders.”
Tech development and Social Enterprise
A big focus for Cali’s startup ecosystem is technology development, especially software-oriented development. Although Cali’s ecosystem suffers from a lack of foreign direct investment, it benefits from the support of investors such as Creatic.
Creatic is an educational center and technology incubator that partnered with Coderise, a coding boot camp that provides digital skills and programming training to hundreds of people in the city. This digital empowerment helps provide startups with a large pool of digitally savvy workers ready to tackle coding tasks.
In recent years, the participation of companies in the technology sector has become important. In the most recent version of the Acelera Región program, an initiative that trained 80 start ups from Valle del Cauca, 15% of the entrepreneurs belonged to the software sector.
Social enterprise is another factor that contributes to Cali’s startup ecosystem success. For example, Cali startups focus on solving social problems within the Colombian context before moving out to Bogota in order to take their product to market. One of the founders of Rappi, Colombia’s most promising Unicorn startup, is Simon Borrero from Cali. Rappi is South America’s leading online marketplace service for consumer goods and is a perfect example of how social enterprise is influencing the success of Columbian startups.
Innovative Coworking Hubs
Cali has developed an impressive coworking community and has many options for startups looking to network and share workspaces with like minded companies. This is a major factor in Cali’s success, as it allows different startups to work together to create synergy within the ecosystem. Coworking spaces such as Inspiro Workstation and El Lab are the hubs of Cali’s startup ecosystem.
El Lab in particular markets itself as an accelerator for startups looking to connect and build with others. Muelle Coworking is another great coworking hub in Cali that helps bring the startup community together to promote ideas and leverage connections between entrepreneurs.
Aimed at the IT and science industry, ParqueSoft is a social enterprise that helps incubate startups and projects from marginalized communities in Colombia. This initiative’s speciality is in science and technology startups but it supports a variety of projects, including art, marketing and business development. While acting as a networking platform, ParqueSoft provides education and training to help new startups gain experience in their chosen field.
Response to COVID-19
To combat the COVID-19 pandemic, startup-based innovations have been developed in Cali. For example, Rutadevida is a startup that has developed an app that uses contact tracing to identify if you have approached positive cases so that you can avoid possible contact. Another great innovation in Cali has been the development and production of ThermoDeep, a thermographic camera used to detect COVID-19 symptoms.
A truly advanced project in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic is the Ninus Vidabot, an intuitive virtual assistant that provides users with information about the virus. These startup innovations have helped to fight the spread of COVID-19 in the city of Cali and Colombia.
Additionally, Cali has different open innovation initiatives, among those, the cooperation between three companies belonging to the cluster initiatives: Spataro Napoli, Mainco Health Care and Deskansa. These companies allied to provide medical protection kits (pants, gowns, caps, gaiters) for nationally recognized insurance companies covering occupational risks.
In terms of regional aid to reactivate the economy, the Valle INN Reactivation Fund was created to support with supplies, machinery, equipment, and tools the business initiatives of those who were affected by the COVID 19 health emergency and who can prove residency in the municipality where they will participate.
Cali has 21 startups that are actively working on different problems. The city excels in producing startups focused on technology and innovation with solutions to some of Colombia’s biggest problems. Here are some of the most interesting startups on the list.
Rappi – An innovative and robust online marketplace platform that increases accessibility to consumer and retail goods.
Truora – With a focus on preventing fraud in Latin American countries, Truora provides fast and safe solutions for background checks and identity theft detection.
Grability – Aims to revolutionize mobile shopping for consumers through its platform that allows businesses to create online shopping experiences.
Green assistance – We design innovative and sustainable solutions for structuring projects that require environmental implementation.
Kupi – Fintech that offers a social innovation platform through which companies and employee funds can enable members to purchase goods in certain establishments at 0 cost.
Prodigos – It is a startup which through a robust digital ecosystem offers alternatives to comprehensively improve the quality of life of families. Thanks to a digital system and a team of human talent, the best caregivers for the elderly or highly qualified and talented home nurses are selected for the care of our loved ones.
Ecobot – It is an initiative that promotes more sustainable consumption habits, encouraging people to take responsibility for their waste, and take the first step towards a friendlier life with the planet. This is done through deposit machines, located in universities and shopping centers, where anyone can deposit plastic bottles, empty or full of packaging, and in exchange people receive discount coupons in restaurants, stores, apps, and associated brands, thus promoting a cultural change around recycling.
Accelerators and Initiatives
Cali has two of the top three accelerator programs in Colombia, according to Crunchbase’s ranking: Valle Impacta in first place and ValleE or Acelera Región in 3rd place. Additionally, Cali has key accelerator programs and actors that help nurture the startup ecosystem with training and funding opportunities. Here are Cali’s most important initiatives and accelerators.
Valle Impacta – Business scaling program led by the Cali Chamber of Commerce and the Bolivar Davivienda Foundation, which transforms companies to the highest level in their different economic sectors, through accompaniment for extraordinary growth. The program supports the design of the growth path of the companies by providing strategic direction and tools for rapid, profitable, and sustained growth, based on actions on findings in each of the companies served. In a cross-cutting manner, the companies are connected with knowledge, business, and investment networks as part of the comprehensive support offered by the program.
ValleE or Acelera Región – Program that seeks to accelerate the growth of innovative early-stage ventures in the regions of Colombia. It focuses on ventures with potential for rapid, profitable and sustained growth.
Valle INN – Entrepreneurship program that provides advice and support to startups that are in the ideation stage of a business or are just entering the market. This initiative has provided more than US$1 million in seed funding and has created more than 255 jobs.
ProColombia – A platform that promotes the export of Colombian goods and services, the expansion of Colombian companies, the attraction of foreign direct investment to Colombia, the positioning of the country as a tourist destination, and the Country Brand.
Invest Pacific – An initiative created by public-private sector cooperation to promote investment in the region and Cali.
REDDI – Technological development agency that solves business challenges based on specialized technological knowledge, promoting innovation and competitiveness.
Zonamerica – Colombia’s first free trade zone dedicated to services and technology.
The Orange Law – With the aim of promoting and protecting Colombia’s creative industries, the Orange Law or Ley Naranja creates incentives for new companies working within these industries.
MEC – Movimiento de Empresas Creativas in its three versions has focused on detonating creative and cultural industry companies in the city. In the 2020 version, it had a total of 917 virtual attendees and 508 in-person attendees.
Sistemas de Innovación – Innovation program that seeks to generate capabilities in companies through the creation and/or consolidation of Innovation Management Systems. This innovation training program has supported 186 companies.
Alianzas por la innovación – Innovation program that seeks to increase the number of companies with innovation capacity in order to increase regional competitiveness through the promotion of business innovation culture and strengths capabilities in companies to keep developing innovation projects. Thanks to this initiative, 635 companies in Valle del Cauca have been trained and boosted in innovation practices.
CEmprende – A space focused on strengthening entrepreneurship, where the university and the public and private sectors come together, seeking to promote the generation of employment in the region. It currently trains young innovators and high-impact companies and expects to serve around 10,000 entrepreneurs in the region.
Cali has more than 60 entities that affect the entrepreneurship ecosystem, where around 90% of them have also an offer designed for high-impact ventures in the region. These entities nurture the ecosystem from different fronts: financial actors, unions, support entities, the media, public policy managers, and human capital developers. Some of these key actors are:
Cali Chamber of Commerce – The Cali Chamber of Commerce is committed to improving infrastructure and support networks for small businesses and start-ups to drive innovation throughout the region.
Universidad del Valle – Universidad del Valle also abbreviated as Univalle is a recognized institution of higher education in the Cali region. It provides funding and initiatives for some of the projects in ideation and early stage.
Universidad ICESI – Universidad is a private educational institution, founded by different companies in the region and has a focus on training in entrepreneurial and innovative skills. It has a Center for the Development of Entrepreneurship and a varied offer for entrepreneurs in their initial stages.
Gobernación del Valle – Entity in charge of the departmental administration covering the department of Valle del Cauca, of which Cali is the capital. The Governor’s Office is in charge of executing projects that favor entrepreneurship and business growth. The most outstanding strategy is the 9 INN Valley Centers that aim to serve 10,000 entrepreneurs per year.
By taking an active approach to ecosystem development, Cali’s startup ecosystem has become a fundamental part of Colombia’s startup scene and a strategic centre of innovation in the Andes region of Latin America.
Overall, Cali is a city with an up and coming startup ecosystem, aimed at producing innovative tech development and forward thinking solutions to some of Colombia’s biggest problems. The city has its sights set on becoming a leading startup ecosystem in Colombia and with some development of investment opportunities and startup curation, the city is well positioned to achieve this.
The city’s entrepreneurs have different features that distinguish them and make them unique: carry out projects despite obstacles, attentive in the market to explore and exploit an opportunity, manage scarce resources to launch their business, ability to face risks, tolerate uncertainty, among others. All the features mentioned above positions the city’s ecosystem as a space of resilience and opportunities for development.
For more information on startup ecosystems download the Startup Blink 2020 Global Report