Colombia has one of the most dynamic and competitive economies in Latin America; Colombia’s VC landscape continues to flourish and the rapid acceleration of the ecosystem shows the potential of the country. In this new blog post, our team analyzes the current VC Landscape and Investment Opportunities through a deep dive into the state of the top industries, the most relevant players in VC and CVC, and an overview of the international investment coming to the region.
In 2019, startups in Colombia received more than 1.1 billion U.S dollars, up from only 20 million dollars reported in 2017, according to Statista. In early 2021, Colombia’s unicorn company Rappi announced the official launch of Rappi Bank and Rappi Travel, just a few months after closing a $300M round. Around the same time, other startups closed important rounds, La Haus raised $35M, and social-commerce pioneer Elenas raised $6M.
The rapid development of Rappi, along with the exponential growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem reflects the take-off of LatAm’s venture capital market in recent years. In 2019, LatAm’s venture capital financing amount exceeded 4.6 billion US dollars, of which Colombia’s financing amount alone was as high as 1.09 billion US dollars, which ranked second in LatAm, far exceeding Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and other countries.
Macroeconomic Pattern Of Colombia
Colombia is the fourth-largest economy in LatAm, with a land area of about five times that of the United Kingdom and a population of nearly 50 million. According to the World Bank, the annual GDP growth rate in 2019 was 3.3% and despite the impact of COVID-19, the country has shown a sustained recovery that will be consolidated in the second half of 2021 with an expected GDP growth of 4.8%.
Colombia’s positioning is also related to the fast growth rate of internet penetration and mobile adoption; Internet penetration in Colombia stood at 68.0% in January 2021, reporting 1.3M more users than 2020. While, according to Statista, the penetration rate of mobile voice services in Colombia amounted to 134.2 percent in 2019, which means that there were more than 1.34 mobile lines per inhabitant in the South American country.
Some of these key metrics were reaffirmed during the pandemic; e-commerce giant MercadoLibre, which is active in the country, revealed that four out of 10 Colombians had changed their purchasing habits through e-commerce as a result of COVID-19. Overall, online sales in Colombia increased by 47% from February to March with a 29% increase in sales in the first week of April.
Today, Colombia is one of the countries with the most stable economic development, one of the best business environments, the most innovative vitality, and one of the most promising VC ecosystems in LatAm.
Among all those star tracks, Fintech takes the lead, accounting for about one-third of the venture financing. Colombia, as a pioneer of Internet innovation in LatAm, is the bellwether of Fintech’s development.
Fintech gets the most financing
According to the latest data released by Finnovista, the Fintech sector in Colombia grew by 26% in the past year or 212% between 2016 and 2020.
Among the 220 active start-ups, Aflore, a company built by Polymath Ventures, has attracted wide attention thanks to its innovative model that aims to solve the financial exclusion in Latin America. The company recently raised both debt and equity rounds, the first one for US $10 million in debt from Accial Capital and then a $6.6M pre-Series B funding round led by Women’s World Banking Capital Partners II. Amador Holding, Unreasonable Capital, and Polymath Ventures. Since 2014, Aflore has issued more than 25 thousand loans to individuals and businesses, with a total value of nearly $20 million.
Aflore is changing how Colombians experience the financial system, mainly because thanks to its innovative approach they are enabling access to a demographic that historically has been neglected by the traditional structures. This is possible thanks to an empowered network of over 23,000 informal advisors who use Aflore’s digital platform to offer financial products to their friends and family networks.
Speaking of the sectors with rapid expansion during the epidemic, we can not miss the distribution industry. According to Statista, the most popular distribution apps in Colombia during the pandemic were Rappi and Domicilios.com. As one of the fastest-growing companies in LatAm, Rappi has more than 25 thousand delivery workers in Bogota alone, occupying 61% of the distribution market in Colombia. According to Matías Lask, general manager of Rappi, before the pandemic, the company’s app downloads were about 10 thousand per month. However, when the epidemic became serious in July 2020, the demand for apps increased sharply, and the total number of APP downloads reached 600K.
As the only country with a Ministry of E-commerce in LatAm, the Colombian government has given full attention to the development of e-commerce. In the first half of 2020, the growth rate of E-commerce sales has reached an amazing 230% in LatAm. Of the 50 million Colombians, nearly 34 million started using the Internet during this period, of which about 22 million became online shopping users. Now, Colombia is considered the fourth largest E-commerce market in LatAm and is expected to generate 6 billion US dollars of E-commerce sales by 2022.
In 2020, the per capita E-commerce consumption expenditure in Colombia was 557 thousand pesos (about US $150). Vertically, the figure is 125% higher compared to the 246 thousand pesos (about US $69) in 2016; horizontally, the per capita amount in Colombia has exceeded the average level in LatAm (about US $132).
At present, the top E-commerce platforms in Colombia are all non-local companies, including Mercadolibre and Mercadoshops in Argentina, Dafiti in Brazil, and Linio in Mexico. This also reflects the openness of the Colombian market and the activeness of E-commerce in LatAm. Local representative E-commerce startups in Colombia include BlackSip, which provides digital transformation services, and Elenas, a social E-commerce platform built by Polymath Ventures,
The epidemic has accelerated the spread of online applications and digital technologies in all areas. Among them, E-health and online education have achieved significant growth, and have brought rare opportunities for investors and foreign technology companies. Due to the epidemic blockade, people are turning to online services in education and medical care.
According to Statista, as of May 2020, the total number of online medical appointments in LatAm has reached nearly 1.5 million, and various online medical platforms in Colombia have developed rapidly during the period. In September 2020, 1Doc3 received a total of 690 thousand visits; during the epidemic, the number of online appointments on doc-doc increased by 300%; Lentesplus, a platform focused on contact lenses, has received about US $31.7 million in financing.
Colombia’s VC LANDSCAPE
Top VCs in Colombia
- Acumen LatAm Capital Partners（ALCP：ALCP focuses on agriculture, education, and energy in Colombia, Peru, and Central America. The portfolio includes SunColombia, Crehana, and Levee.
- Ewa Capital：Ewa Capital focuses on education, health care, financial services, and retail. The portfolio includes companies such as Platzi, Mercqueo, and 1DOC3.
- InQlab：InQlab mainly invests in seed-stage and round A, with an average investment amount of US $0.3 billion. The portfolio includes Lentesplus, Laika, and Mesfix.
- Impulsum Ventures：Impulsum Ventures focus on seed rounds. The portfolio includes Sempli and Vozy.
- Magma Partners: Magma Partners originated in Chile, with offices in Colombia, Mexico, the United States, and China. The portfolio includes companies such as Truora and Omnibank.
- Odiseo：A venture capital fund widely supported by domestic and foreign investors. The portfolio includes companies such as Mesfix.
- Velum Inverlink：Velum Inverlink focuses on seed round investment of start-ups in Latin America. The portfolio includes OFI, Hogaru, and Merqueo.
Top CVC in Colombia
According to Wayra’s research, CVC in Colombia invested $50 million in startups (50% of which went to venture capital) in 2019. Unlike in other countries, companies in Colombia are very willing to invest in start-ups rather than just cooperate through business alliances.
- Bancolombia Ventures: The venture capital division of Bancolombia, one of the largest banks in Colombia. The portfolio includes Plug＆Play Fintech.
- FCP Innovation：FCP Innovation focuses on high-tech innovative enterprises applied in public services. The portfolio includes Leal, Choice, and Playvox.
- Veronorte：Veronorte primarily invests in insurance, health, and financial services, as well as in energy, infrastructure, and construction. The portfolio includes companies such as Alkanza and Acendo.
Accelerator / Incubator / Company Builders
- Antwerp Ventures：A start-up focusing on the food and beverage industry, with a cumulative investment of about $15 thousand in the seed round.
- BICTIA：Funded by the Norwegian government, they mainly invests in technology-based enterprises (AI, big data, IOT, E-commerce, etc.). Its start-ups include Ruedata.
- CorporaciónVentures：Columbia start-up accelerator. Its start-ups include Going, Coschool, and Holi
- Polymath Ventures：Polymath Ventures is the Venture Studio for Latin America with 9+ years of experience building digital platforms to empower the middle-class. Operating since 2012 and with offices in Bogota, Mexico City, and Lima, Polymath has generated 200 business concepts, launched 10 ventures, seven of them still operating, and raised US$41M+ of equity across the group. Its start-ups include Aflore, Autolab, Elenas, and Ropstar.
- Rockstart：A Dutch-based venture accelerator and venture capital fund with an office in Colombia. Focus on cutting-edge technologies such as AI, blockchain, and sensors. Its start-ups include La Manicurista and Foody.
Government Innovation Agency
- Apps.co：Established by the Ministry of Information Technology and Communications of Colombia to promote the creation and development of technology start-ups, it focuses on mobile applications, software, and content development. Apps.co have worked with 2175 teams and companies. Its start-ups include Peiky, Vozy, and Datagran.
- iNNpulsa Colombia：It’s an entrepreneurial innovation organization jointly established by the government of Colombia, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, and the Ministry of Tourism, and is responsible for promoting the development of start-ups in Colombia. Its start-ups include Ecobot, Paqua, and Smart Coin.
- Ruta N：As the business innovation center of Medellin, Colombia’s second-largest city, it was founded to promote technology and innovation as well as advanced business ideas.
In Colombia’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, angel investors and family offices are very active.
- B2 Capital：B2 capital was founded by Andrés Bilbao, co-founder of Rappi, and Daniel Bilbao, co-founder of Truora.
- INVX：A venture capital fund in Medellin and Bogota. The portfolio includes OFI, TPaga, and Foody.
- Red de Ángeles Inversionistas：Located in Medellin, it has made nearly 50 investments in many cities across the country. The portfolio includes companies such as Ayenda, Liftit, and Rebus.
- Ventura：Home office based in Colombia, investing in start-ups in Latin America, Central America, and Mexico. The portfolio includes Rappi, Truora, and Logysto.
International Investors role in Colombia’s VC landscape
In March 2019, Softbank announced the establishment of a $5 billion Softbank Innovation Fund (SIF) for targeted investment in LatAm technology enterprises. As soon as the news came out, global capital set off a wave of upsurge to enter LatAm, making the total amount of VC financing 2.3 times more than that in 2018. In April of the same year, Softbank invested US $1 billion in Rappi, Colombia’s unicorn company, which is the largest financing deal of LatAm technology companies so far. In February 2020, Softbank announced US $1 billion for the SIF in addition to the previous investment, and another US $200 million was injected a year later to establish a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) for LatAm technology enterprises.
Alibaba, Didi, Tencent, and other Chinese Internet giants are also entering the market in succession. Recently, Alibaba and Ruta N, Colombia’s government innovation and entrepreneurship service platform, have reached a cooperation, including the establishment of an IT center, the provision of training for about 200 business owners, and the incubation of local enterprises. It plans to transform Medellin, the “Silicon Valley in Latin America”, into the LatAm E-commerce center.
According to the World Bank, Colombia’s economy is expected to rebound in 2021-2022, especially with the help of the technology industry. Under the favorable economic environment of recovery, the establishment of the enterprise ecosystem, the support of the government, and the influx of international capital are bound to bring Colombia opportunities to surpass.