Colombia & New York Connect To Chat about the Future of Commerce
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traditional e-commerce giants, which simply replicate their online experience on phones. Airbnb and HotelTonight, she said, have stood out in tourism and hospitality by designing mobile experiences that are completely different from the Web. For instance, HotelTonight, she said, lists five or fewer hotels at a time on a smartphone screen rather the dozens usually found on a full website. That helps drive spontaneous decision-making, she said.
In spite of the potential for digital commerce to level the field internationally, Morris said startups outside the major technology hubs may face pressure to move.. When she co-founded her company in Istanbul, Turkey, she was advised by others to relocate to Silicon Valley or New York because of the access to funding and mentors. “I wonder when it will be just as easy to 100 percent start your startup in Medellín or Bogotá, and have the same resources, opportunity, and ecosystem you have with the venture capital community in the U.S.,” she said.
If Colombian officials and other leaders want to encourage talented entrepreneurs to come to their countries, Teten of ff Venture Capital said there could be ways to steal interesting startups from the U.S. He said the Canadian government already has a systematic way to help its local startups come to New York, while retaining their footholds on native soil. “They know it will create jobs back home in Canada,” he said.
Further, Teten said Colombia, and other countries, could take advantage of confused immigration policy in the U.S. “Chile figured out the American government is really, really stupid about immigration because we’re dysfunctional,” he said, referring to foreign citizens who get educated at U.S. universities, but then must leave after graduation. Chile saw an opportunity and so encouraged such talented people to come to South America instead, he said. The Colombian government could adopt a similar approach, offering work visas to graduates of top U.S. universities, he added.
Another way startups in Colombia could become more competitive would be to innovate not just in software and apps. Teten said many non-U.S. governments have focused on nurturing startups in the digital space, but he thinks Colombia could explore devices and other markets. “Some of the most successful tech startups in recent times have been hardware companies, like Nest,” he said.
Technology driven changes in commerce make it possible for more startups to operate seamlessly around the world—and Colombia could benefit from this trend. For example, Teten said Bottlenose in Amsterdam, one of his portfolio companies, tracks and visualizes trending topics that relate to businesses. Its software finds patterns in data, which Bottlenose has access to thanks to international media platforms such as Twitter. “The fact they’re in Amsterdam is neutral, in many ways it’s positive,” Teten said.
Being in Amsterdam means lower costs and reduced attrition of employees compared with operating inside the United States, he said. “You don’t have the noise of being in Silicon Valley or New York.” And as technology makes a company’s geography less relevant, more opportunities may emerge for Colombia and beyond. “It’s much easier now for a non-U.S. startup, or a company that is partially based outside the U.S., to build an internationally successful company,” said Teten.