StartupBlink Blog

Cali is 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
  • Excels at producing hardware innovations
  • $4 million investment in the startup ecosystem in 2020
  • High level of support for startups from the public sector 
  • Offers a network of 156 mentors to consult on startup projects around the city

Overview of Cali’s Startup Ecosystem

From data collected by the StartupBlink 2020 Startup Ecosystem Ranking Report, the GDP per capita is $4,917. Additionally, the average cost of living is 70% cheaper than London. This makes Cali an affordable city that provides startups with strategic geographical access to Colombia and other Latin American countries. 

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 quickly closing the gap on Medellin and Bogota. With access to the Pacific Ocean, Cali is the main city and economic hub of Colombia’s Pacific Coast in the Valle de Cauca region.

Public Investment Opportunities

Cali might not be the best place in Latin America for foreign direct investment, but it makes up for this through local public investment. Organizations like the Cali Chamber of Commerce are committed to funding opportunities for startups in order to create an empowering environment for entrepreneurs. Furthermore, initiatives like the Ley Narnaja (Orange Law) focus on protecting and supporting creative endeavours of Colombian entrepreneurs. 

The majority of angel investors in Colombia look for investment opportunities in Bogota and Medellin although there have been some recent developments in the Cali region. Within the education and fintech sectors, investors have funded some startup projects including Loopa and Tranqui. With a growing startup ecosystem, Cali is sure to benefit from a rise in angel investors.

In the words of the President of the Cali Chamber of Commerce, Esteban Piedrahita, “Cali has seen the development of a strong entrepreneurship ecosystem with large corporations looking at startups for innovative solutions, investments, and a strong mentor network of local business leaders.”  

Tech development and Social Enterprise 

A big focus for the Cali startup ecosystem is tech development, most notably software orientated development. Although Cali’s ecosystem suffers from lack of foreign direct investment, it does benefit from the support of investors like Creatic

Creatic is an education center and tech incubator that partnered with Coderise, a coding boot camp, to provide digital skills and programming training to hundreds of people in the city. This digital empowerment helps supply startups with a large pool of digitally literate workers ready to tackle coding tasks.

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 who is 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 leading factor to Cali’s success as it allows different startups to work together to create synergy within the ecosystem. Coworking spaces like Inspiro Workstation and El Lab are the hubs of Cali’s startup ecosystem. 

El Lab in particular markets itself as an accelerator for startups that want to network 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 tech startups but it supports a variety of projects, including art, marketing and business development. While also 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, there has been a development of startup based innovations in Cali. For example, Rutadevida is a startup that has developed an app that uses contact tracing to identify if you have come near 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 combating 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.

Top Startups 

Cali has 21 startups that are actively working on different problems. The city excels on producing technology and innovation focused startups with solutions to some of Colombia’s biggest problems. Here are some of the most interesting startups from 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. 

Accelerators and Initiatives 

Cali has a few key accelerator programs that help nourish it’s startup ecosystem with funding and opportunities. The city also benefits from initiatives aimed at promoting their startup ecosystem. Here are the most important accelerators and initiatives in Cali.

Valle INN – An entrepreneurship program that provides advice and support to startups who are in the ideation stage of a business or that are just entering the market. This initiative has provided over a million dollars in seed funding and created more than 255 jobs. 

ProColombia – Colombia’s official investment platform brings a large amount of foreign direct investment into the region. Basing a startup in Cali will allow startups to benefit from this inflow of FDI. 

The Orange Law – Aimed at promoting and protecting the Colombian creative industries, the Orange Law or Ley Naranja creates incentives for startups working within these industries.

Invest Pacific – An initiative created by the cooperation of the public and private sector to promote investment in the Cali region. 

Key Organizations

Cali Chamber of Commerce – The Cali Chamber of Commerce is committed to improving the infrastructure and support networks for small businesses and startups in an attempt to boost innovation throughout the region. 

Universidad Santiago de Cali – The University of Santiago de Cali is the leading university institution in the city of Cali. The Universidad de Santiago de Cali supports major startup initiatives and works closely with the government to promote the development of the startup ecosystem.

Universidad del Valle – The Universidad del Valle also abbreviated as Univalle is a renowned higher education institution in the Cali region. It provides funding and initiatives to some of the startup projects in Cali.

Startup Summary

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.

For more information on startup ecosystems download the Startup Blink 2020 Global Report