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The State of the Rising Bolivian Fintech Startup Ecosystem

June 15, 2020
Por
Juan Zavala Aleman
Juan Zavala Aleman
Hub Leader - Business Development and Account Manager at Mastercard
📷
boliviatravelsite.com
It’s not very often that you hear about startups or innovation coming from countries like Bolivia. It doesn’t mean, however, that there is not an active entrepreneurship community and innovation happening there.
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Bolivia is a midsize country in the heart of South America with a population of approx. 11 million inhabitants. The country has quite a good level of smartphones and internet access- especially in the metropolitan areas of  La Paz (the capital) and Santa Cruz. It also has a fairly “young” population with a median age of 25 years. 

Bolivia has been considered as one of the top-performing economies in the region for the past few years and despite the current unstable government environment,  they continue to have a positive economic growth. However,  Bolivia, as many Latin American countries, has several social challenges: more than 50% of its population is unbanked, it has a poverty rate of around 20-30%, and business informality is one of the highest of the region, among others.  These challenges are sometimes the key drivers of innovation and startups. There is no better motivator for a startup to exist than solving everyday problems in society and today we rely heavily  on  technology to solve, or address, several of these daily challenges people face in countries like Bolivia. 

When we look at Bolivia from the entrepreneurship point of view we realize that Bolivia’s government and overall ecosystem is not optimal and does not provide enough resources for innovators to thrive. This could be part of the reason why there are no “unicorn” startups or renowned emerging tech companies coming from the country just yet. The reality is that today there is not an established Fintech regulation; and as we have seen in other Latin American countries this type of regulations are the seed for fintech startups to blossom. However, there are some initiatives in regards to innovation such as the Startup Law that supports and enables entrepreneurs in the country. 

Despite the limitations of the ecosystem, there  is a movement of fintech startups in Bolivia which is rising and growing exponentially. It is especially seen in the fintech industry, where there are a lot of untapped opportunities that local banks and other financial institutions are not being able to tackle today. We also see young entrepreneurs with the right skills and knowledge taking on this endeavour to be able to add value to the innovation ecosystem and putting their startup name in the radar.  Here is a list of a few of these startups that are helping to frame the fintech startup ecosystem in Bolivia: 

  • Planifica is an online platform that offers a virtual financial guidance coach. Its goal is to help Bolivians to make smart financial decisions, such as getting a mortgage or buying a car through digital tools. 
  • Crowdi a company focused on giving its clients access to the best investment alternatives, value reserves, and profitability all through crowdfunding.
  • Blink  has developed a network of what they called mobile ATM network using taxi drivers.
  • iZi a company that offers technology solutions for businesses to improve their invoicing, ecommerce, data analysis, and overall management  of their business.
  • Initium is a  software company (SaaS) that provides tools, reports, and data to enhance the overall onboarding process of customers for financial institutions.
  • Click is a mobile payments platform that allows users to make and receive payments using QR codes and/or mobile phone numbers, making any computer or cell phone a POS machine for merchants.

Bolivia has everything needed to be positioned as a generator of successful fintech startups.  We will continue to see the government, investors, and corporations pushing the envelope to make innovation a key part of the country's agenda and sooner rather than later, we will have unique and outstanding startups coming out of Bolivia, and who knows, maybe even the next “unicorn”. 

Las opiniones compartidas y expresadas por los analistas son libres e independientes, y de ellas son responsables sus autores. No reflejan ni comprometen el pensamiento u opinión de Latam Fintech Hub, por lo cual no pueden ser interpretadas como recomendaciones emitidas por la platafomra. Esta plataforma es un espacio abierto para promover la diversidad de puntos de vista sobre el ecosistema Fintech.

Bolivia is a midsize country in the heart of South America with a population of approx. 11 million inhabitants. The country has quite a good level of smartphones and internet access- especially in the metropolitan areas of  La Paz (the capital) and Santa Cruz. It also has a fairly “young” population with a median age of 25 years. 

Bolivia has been considered as one of the top-performing economies in the region for the past few years and despite the current unstable government environment,  they continue to have a positive economic growth. However,  Bolivia, as many Latin American countries, has several social challenges: more than 50% of its population is unbanked, it has a poverty rate of around 20-30%, and business informality is one of the highest of the region, among others.  These challenges are sometimes the key drivers of innovation and startups. There is no better motivator for a startup to exist than solving everyday problems in society and today we rely heavily  on  technology to solve, or address, several of these daily challenges people face in countries like Bolivia. 

When we look at Bolivia from the entrepreneurship point of view we realize that Bolivia’s government and overall ecosystem is not optimal and does not provide enough resources for innovators to thrive. This could be part of the reason why there are no “unicorn” startups or renowned emerging tech companies coming from the country just yet. The reality is that today there is not an established Fintech regulation; and as we have seen in other Latin American countries this type of regulations are the seed for fintech startups to blossom. However, there are some initiatives in regards to innovation such as the Startup Law that supports and enables entrepreneurs in the country. 

Despite the limitations of the ecosystem, there  is a movement of fintech startups in Bolivia which is rising and growing exponentially. It is especially seen in the fintech industry, where there are a lot of untapped opportunities that local banks and other financial institutions are not being able to tackle today. We also see young entrepreneurs with the right skills and knowledge taking on this endeavour to be able to add value to the innovation ecosystem and putting their startup name in the radar.  Here is a list of a few of these startups that are helping to frame the fintech startup ecosystem in Bolivia: 

  • Planifica is an online platform that offers a virtual financial guidance coach. Its goal is to help Bolivians to make smart financial decisions, such as getting a mortgage or buying a car through digital tools. 
  • Crowdi a company focused on giving its clients access to the best investment alternatives, value reserves, and profitability all through crowdfunding.
  • Blink  has developed a network of what they called mobile ATM network using taxi drivers.
  • iZi a company that offers technology solutions for businesses to improve their invoicing, ecommerce, data analysis, and overall management  of their business.
  • Initium is a  software company (SaaS) that provides tools, reports, and data to enhance the overall onboarding process of customers for financial institutions.
  • Click is a mobile payments platform that allows users to make and receive payments using QR codes and/or mobile phone numbers, making any computer or cell phone a POS machine for merchants.

Bolivia has everything needed to be positioned as a generator of successful fintech startups.  We will continue to see the government, investors, and corporations pushing the envelope to make innovation a key part of the country's agenda and sooner rather than later, we will have unique and outstanding startups coming out of Bolivia, and who knows, maybe even the next “unicorn”. 

Las opiniones compartidas y expresadas por los analistas son libres e independientes, y solamente sus autores son responsables de ellas. No reflejan ni comprometen el pensamiento o la opinión del equipo de Latam Fintech Hub y, por lo tanto, no pueden interpretarse como recomendaciones emitidas por la plataforma. Esta plataforma es un espacio abierto para promover la diversidad de puntos de vista en el ecosistema Fintech.

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