Uruguay took part in the Southern Cone Investment Forum

Together with Argentina and Chile, the country co-organized the leading event on the Private Equity, Venture and Seed Capital Industry.
Publication date: 30/11/2020

Uruguay, Argentina and Chile joined together to promote the first Southern Cone Investment Forum (FICS 2020), the leading event on the Private Equity, Venture and Seed Capital Industry, which brought together the most relevant actors in the sector to discuss trends and business opportunities. 

The Forum was organized by Uruguay XXI, the Chilean Association of Venture Capital (ACVC) and the Argentine Association of Private Equity, Venture and Seed Capital (ARCAP). It was held in a virtual format on November 24 and 25, and had the participation of more than 40 regional and international industry leaders and more than 700 participants.  

"Our countries are known around the world mainly for their agricultural and food exports, but we want people to start knowing us for the entrepreneurial ecosystem and for investment funds, both venture capital and private equity," said Inés Bonicelli, Vice Executive Director of Uruguay XXI during the opening ceremony. On another note, she stressed the importance of "promoting more inclusive entrepreneurship and investment that has a positive impact on society". 

Yigal Erlich, founder and managing partner of the Yozma. investment fund, known as the father of Israel's venture capital industry, was one of the keynote speakers at the event. Erlich spoke about the development of this sector in his country, where the collaboration between the state and investors has helped to consolidate a solid and dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem, which today holds a record number of investments. When asked how to replicate this strategy in the countries of the Southern Cone, he stressed the importance of strengthening the local entrepreneurial ecosystem, which constitutes "the necessary basis for success". 

Another highlight was the presentation of Javier Artigas, the Uruguayan who transformed his illness into a successful enterprise, and who told the audience an incredible story of personal growth. Based on his experience as a kidney failure patient, Artigas developed a digital platform that connects 8500 dialysis centers in 150 countries. In this way, Connectus Medical provides a treatment solution so that the disease is not an obstacle to travel. 

"The business model is based on patients understanding other patients and not doctors," Artigas said. In this exchange, where empathy plays a fundamental role, the mentors of the destination country guide the travelers on where and how to do the hemodialysis, and advise them during this journey. 

Regarding the development process of Connectus Medical, the Uruguayan referred to the importance of passion and resilience, and pointed out that the ventures should be "anti-fragile". This concept, coined by the Lebanese essayist Nassim Taleb, refers to the ability to obtain benefits after overcoming difficulties. "It is possible to withstand an onslaught, turn it around and make it successful," the speaker concluded. 

Venture capital, a development engine for the Southern Cone 

For his part, Martín Benítez, specialist in ICT Investments at Uruguay XXI, highlighted the unique features that make Uruguay an extraordinary location as a business hub for the region. In addition to macroeconomic stability and high reliability - backed by the main international rankings - there is access to highly attractive markets, a battery of specific incentives and the availability of qualified and multilingual talent.   

Along the same lines, Isabella Antonaccio, ICT referent for Aftercare of Uruguay XXI, stressed that the country has funding instruments for open innovation processes, in addition to an academic network and top-level research groups. "We also have an important presence of global companies, in addition to the multi-Latinas companies themselves that facilitate the corporate venture," she said. 

In turn, Antonaccio highlighted the value of the policies deployed in the region to boost the entrepreneurial and investment ecosystem and emphasized the potential of entrepreneurial capital as " a development engine for the Southern Cone".   

FICS 2020 also featured Saul Singer, co-author of the bestseller Startup Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle. As part of the virtues of the Israeli ecosystem, the expert referred to the sustained increase in high-tech capital raising and the growing number of senior entrepreneurs, who reinvest in increasingly ambitious projects with global impact.

Regarding the future of the sector, the expert said that "the most important metric in the race for innovation" is not the number of startups, but has to do with "which countries will be the health, education, transportation and cities of the future. 

In that sense, Singer pointed out that Startup nation is Israel's history of innovation, and that each country has to shape its own destiny based on its own culture, history and strengths. "However, this is not about each country innovating alone, but about building a regional innovation ecosystem, and connecting with the world's great innovation ecosystems," he explained. 

Finally, Singer referred to the importance of unicorns in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, as they constitute those "success stories" that "encourage other entrepreneurs and also position the country in the global innovation scene. 

A national example is the Uruguayan company dLocal, which last September became the first unicorn in the South American country, surpassing the valuation of USD 1 billion. Firm co-founder Sergio Fogel had a special participation in the second day of the event where he reviewed his career as an entrepreneur and told about the emergence of the uruguayan fintech, which has provided payment solutions to global giants such as Amazon, Netflix and Uber, among others.