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Geeks on a Plane: The power of the Latin American market

Posted on May 23, 2011 by nina

Published by The Miami Herald

Geeks on a Plane left Miami this morning with more than 40 startups from around the world, including several from South Florida. Those travelers include Brian Breslin of Infinimedia and Refresh Miami, Davide Di Cillo of Fifth Layer, Susan Amat of UM’s Launch Pad and Bill Hajjar of Senzari. They embark on a 10-day Latin American trip organized by Silicon Valley’s 500 Startups. First Stop: Mexico City.

From Rodrigo Teijeiro, founder and CEO of Fnbox.com (photo of him at the event provided by Pabla Ayala):

Behind the rising tide that is lifting all boats in Latin America is record foreign direct investment and high commodity prices as well as internal factors such as political stability. By 2010, there were more cellphones in Latin America than there were people in the U.S. There are now nearly as many Internet users in Latin America as people in the U.S. Brazil is already the second biggest market for Facebook and Twitter.

“The market is here today. You don’t have to wait,” he said. “The opportunities to disrupt are huge.”

While much is focused on Brazil, there are huge opportunities throughout Latin America. Teijeiro said. For instance, just 28 percent of Latin America’s mobile phone users are in Brazil, leaving 72 percent around the rest of the country. Just 36 percent of Internet users are in Brazil, leaving 64 percent of the pie for the rest of Latin America. However, in e-commerce, Brazil dominates big time: 70 percent of the Latin American market, where credit card use is huge.

And there’s this eye-opening stat from Teijeiro: The GDP of Sao Paulo market alone is larger than all of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia and Paraguay combined.

Of course the flip side is the difficulty of navigating the Brazilian market. While it takes seven days to open a business in Chile, it can take four to six months in Brazil. And rents in Rio are more than in NYC, he said.