What do international experts and businesspeople say about Uruguay?

Business leaders participated in the Test & Invest Uruguay Business Summit organized by the IDB and highlighted the advantages of Uruguay as a business and innovation hub.
Publication date: 24/11/2022

Stability, unique quality of life, security, talent, an attractive place for foreign and sustainable investment were some of the concepts that authorities, experts, businesspeople and investors from the region and the world expressed about Uruguay at the Test & Invest Uruguay Business Summit of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

This conference was “a true global landing of the world in Uruguay,” said IDB Integration and Trade Sector Manager, Fabrizio Opertti. The meeting was attended by more than 1,000 participants, 40% of them foreigners from more than 40 countries. A variety of topics were analyzed in the fields of biotechnology, sustainability, global services, the audiovisual sector and human capital, all areas in which Uruguay stands out.

“Uruguay is being projected as a global services hub, both for the region and the world, from where to innovate, test and scale,” Opertti said.

He added that the country has important characteristics, such as being one of the largest per capita exporters of software in the world.

“Exports in the first quarter of this year grew 40% versus 20% in the region. In the year 2021, Foreign Direct Investment placed Uruguay in the top three in the region. Uruguay is growing, has political and social stability, legal predictability, tax incentives and a green energy matrix. Uruguay has many elements that make it very attractive for foreign investment and international trade,” he summarized.

Brazilian businessman Marco Stefanini, founder and global CEO of Stefanini Group, said that Uruguay is “a safe country” and that this is an important aspect for Latin American countries, especially for Brazil.

“Uruguay is also stable and secure from an economic point of view, which is also a very important point for Latin America today. It is a nice, attractive country, with a good quality of life and good talent,” he said.

The Stefanini group landed in Uruguay eleven years ago by acquiring the financial products company Top Systems. It took the name of its Topaz banking product and made it grow in Latin America. “It was a company with less than 80 employees and today it has 200 in Uruguay and a total of 1,600 throughout Latin America, but with the operational head from Uruguay,” explained the businessman.

“First, we chose the country because of the company, which has an excellent product, but the most important thing is that we have chosen Uruguay again to invest now. We have a company that works very well, with good management and we like the ecosystem model,” acknowledged Stefanini. 

The company’s plan is to expand investment because Topaz has grown a lot outside Uruguay. “We understand that we can contribute more to the country by making acquisitions with financial companies. The objective is to create a larger ecosystem in Uruguay, and we know that we have the support of the Uruguay XXI Institute,” explained the investor.

In November 2021, the U.S. company Newlab together with the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining (MIEM) announced its landing in Uruguay. Its CEO, Shaun Stewart, explained from Punta del Este that they are committed to creating a new innovation system, which requires an open collaboration between all the necessary stakeholders to successfully test and come up with new solutions.

The businessman indicated that for this to happen it is necessary to involve companies, the government with an agenda to promote innovation, research and academic institutions and the community of entrepreneurs and startups. But he also considered that an attractive location is needed to attract them. He found that location in Uruguay.

“When we looked around the world, we saw in Uruguay a very active government, driving an innovation agenda, testing, and investing. We love Uruguay’s strategy. We got to know the Minister of Industry Omar Paganini and his vision and energy around the concept of bringing technology to be tested in a real environment. He was very aligned with Newlab’s vision,” said Stewart.

The businessman highlighted the country’s position in terms of energy and assured that “it is actually one of the most energy efficient countries in the world.”

“Uruguay has some of the biggest industries around pulp and wood, and all these different industries that are crucial to the planet and how it works. It has a community and an appetite for innovation that is unparalleled in the region, there is an enthusiasm for testing and developing new systems, you have hydrogen bases and different solutions that are still being tested in other parts of the world or even debated, but Uruguay is addressing them and continues to build new industries from that,” he stressed.

The Argentine company Mercado Libre already has a history in the country. It has had its offices in Uruguay for more than 10 years and has decided to grow from and in the Uruguayan market.

“We have chosen Uruguay because it is a country with a wonderful talent, really world class, and an economic and political stability, with rules of the game that really make it almost like a paradise in Latin America,” said the company’s Vice President of e-Commerce, Karen Bruck, who participated in the IDB Summit.

Almost a decade ago, when I was Country Manager in Uruguay, the company had less than 300 people and only 20 in the technology team. They currently have more than 1,500 employees and the technology team has grown to more than 500 people.

“We really believe in this talent, and we are proud to have such a strong base in this country that has also supported us so much,” said Bruck.

Regarding the country’s advantages, she said that the first one is the capacity it offers to test initiatives that can later be scaled to countries such as Brazil or Mexico. This, she explained, is thanks to the possibility of building focused teams that work globally.

“Uruguay is a country with clear rules, where you can invest with predictability regardless of the government that has been democratically elected, where there are really many benefits to work in all areas. We have had examples of technology, of course, but also of biotechnology, examples of sustainability. I am proud to say that 98% of Uruguay’s energy is produced from renewable sources. Regardless of the area, I think there is a huge opportunity to discover the jewel that is Uruguay,” she added. 

Three other international experts highlighted several favorable aspects of the country in terms of business development. The Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Marco Muñoz, said that “Uruguay is a young country, with a great desire to do things well, which is getting prepared and looking to the future.” In his first visit to the country, he discovered companies with “first class” teams and “fantastic” production. “Here you have the capacity, the perfect location, the fantastic human capital and a political stability that is enviable for all of Latin America, to do even more,” he evaluated.

The Executive Director of Born2Global, the South Korean JongKap Kim, said that Uruguay has been changing rapidly in recent years. “Everyone here is talking about digital, technology and innovation. It’s really amazing,” he said.

The Asian businessman considered that Uruguay is beginning to project its human capital with a 100-year forward vision.

Meanwhile, the President and CEO of the U.S. company Mana Common, Moishe Mana, expressed his surprise at what he saw in the country. “Uruguay is very impressive, very encouraging, it shows that Latin America can work. I am encouraged to see the energy and enthusiasm and the people here. Uruguay is the next South Korea. It is very encouraging to see this platform and to see a functioning political system and trust between people,” he said, adding that Uruguay will create many opportunities.