World Economic Forum promotes Latin American startups

16th March 2018 Manuel Manrique

The World Economic Forum brought together representatives of 50 Latin American startups in São Paulo this week to promote responsible leadership and economic progress.

Young Latin American entrepreneurs presented their products, services and business models under across sectors ranging from agriculture, education, energy, health and commerce.

“The event helped strengthen new technology-driven businesses in Latin America and identify measures to overcome some common obstacles faced by young entrepreneurs in the region, such as securing financing and expanding borders to expand their businesses,” said Marisol Argueta, director of the forum for Latin America.

In Chile, a science laboratory costs approximately US$4.9 billion dollars. In other Latin American countries, the figure is similar, giving clues as to why 88 percent of the schools in the region do not have laboratories on offer to students. Most Chilean students however own cells phone.

One of the startups invited to speak was Chile’s Lab4U, part of an overall initiative to democratise the learning of science using mobile technology. Lab4U began in 2013 when students of the Master’s degree in biochemistry at the University of Chile came together at a hackathon held in Santiago.

“I did not know it was a hackathon. What caught my attention was the slogan of the event: Startup weekend, change the world in 54 hours, “says Komal Dadlani, co-founder of Lab4U.

“We’re currently thinking about how to improve scientific education by reducing costs, making it possible for all students to have access to practical experience and make science classes interesting.”

Lab4U already uses mobile sensors to transform phone devices into tools for experiments. Their scientists have visited colleges to present these mobile devices and now the initiative has more than 10 thousand students. In Mexico only there are more than 25 thousand Lab4U students.

“Lab4U makes it easy to learn science. In Chile, students who have used the app have improved their grades by 40 percent. Practical experience has increased knowledge and interest in science and technology. That makes us happy and motivates a lot,” says Dadlani, who won the Toyota Mothers of Innovation last year.

Other startups include Laboratoria, a Peruvian start-up that trains and offers young women a career in coding technology. Launched in 2014, the initiative has graduated more than 580 women from various countries in Latin America.

“Of our students graduated in 2017, we managed to connect with jobs to around 80 percent, demonstrating that we can build an education that prepares young people with the skills that the market needs,” says Mariana Costa Checa, co-founder of Laboratoria.

“Today, the average salary of a regional graduate is more than U$800 per month – comparable to what graduates from good universities earn after five years of study.”

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