LATIN AMERICA • SEEDSTARS WORLD
FEBRUARY 19, 2021
COVID 19 arrived in Latin America in February when Brazil confirmed its first case. Since then, the region has been one of the most affected in the world. Brazil alone has counted over 7 million cases as of now. The disease came to affect an already fragile region jeopardizing its economic growth and social development.
The direct consequences are clear, with the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) indicating a rise in unemployment - 11.6 million more unemployed in 2020, compared to 2019. Further indicators reveal grim numbers: a rise in poverty levels by at least 4.4 percent points (28.7 million more people), with the International Monetary Fund anticipating the region’s economy to contract by an estimated 8.1 percent this year - when prior to the pandemic the GDP was expected to grow at a rate of 1.8 in 2020.
From a social point of view, overcrowded living conditions that don’t allow working from home, a lack of sanitary conditions that could potentially lead to further infections, an increase in informal work, often not regulated and without access to social security, an increment in unpaid domestic work, mostly assumed by women and girls, a cut on household income that puts at stake education opportunities and forces youngster to enter the labor market prematurely, are all serious conditions that put an already vulnerable part of LATAM’s population in a severe position.
Pushing through the pandemic, inspiring entrepreneurs are addressing challenges and using the current situations added motivation to help their local economies reach new levels of development and change. Therefore, Seedstars is happy to bring the Seedstars World Competition 2020/21 local winners for the LATAM region.
Most businesses in LATAM use contact-based biometric machines and spreadsheets for managing time and attendance. Companies have to manually consolidate attendance data from logbooks or fingerprint scanners for processing payroll. Due to the pandemic, contact-based fingerprint biometrics have decreased in use as they have been identified as focal points of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. That’s why SIA, based in Panama and led by Christian Garcia, has developed a simple-to-use cloud software to help companies with time management & scheduling, HR requests, and employee/employer connectivity through an app where employees timestamp using facial recognition. The app runs on generic devices, like tablets and mobile phones, and the solution intends to save companies between 2% to 8% monthly on payroll errors.
From Chile, Javier Graterol brings Cuantix, a B2B company helping socially conscious organizations understand, manage, and communicate their social impact in a simple and accessible way through software and specialized support. In the process, Cuantix will also provide the tools so that the beneficiaries themselves get involved in the process, closing a gap that separates the people that want to do good, from the people that need it.
COGNITIVA, the third startup winning in the field of Enterprise Tech, was born with the objective of closing LATAM’s gap of industrial competitiveness compared with Asia, Europe, and North America, which in the medium and long run may cause obstacles on the boost of employment, innovation, and quality of life to the whole LATAM society. The company from Ecuador created a full ecosystem of operational management digital tools based on IoT, IA, and cyber-presence, to boost performance, transparency, security, and synchrony of LATAM's Industrial companies. CEO Paúl Rivera heads a team of 4 passionate professionals (half women) that work to bring development and economic empowerment to the region.
The World Health Organization reveals that half of the world’s population still lack access to essential health services. Despite the growing life expectancy and the lowering of infant mortality numbers, access to healthcare in the LATAM region is still unequal. Some countries still lack the right number of health workers, training, or appropriate facilities. The costs that health services have on families’ budgets are also clear, according to the Economic Survey of Latin America and the Caribbean: households cover more than one-third of healthcare costs through direct payments and almost 95 million people have catastrophic health-care expenses. Furthermore, 12 million become impoverished as a result of expenditure on health.
Bitmec comes into the picture with a bundle of telemedicine hardware and software that facilitates access to quality medical care. Managed by David Barac, the Guatemalan startup, gathers data that will then be converted into actionable information for decision making for providers, intermediaries, and governments, through the integration of AI. Clear information and data is core in healthcare, and that’s why PEGASI is committed to making medical information accessible, clear, and useful for clinicians and patients in the developing world while tracking epidemic and endemic diseases and creating actionable insights that help strengthen healthcare systems. “In regions such as Latin America, over 70% of clinical information remains unstructured and adverse events affect 1 in every 10 hospitalized patients, due to unclear, inaccessible or insecure information”, says the CEO Luis Santiago. The startup came up with a platform that increases patients' access to better and efficient healthcare while driving collective healthcare improvement through the use of data. The reduction in public and private health costs may also be significant and will ultimately help to rationalize resources and facilities, so scarce in certain communities.
In the Fintech world, and with the premise of fighting financial illiteracy, Alfi from Peru transforms users into sustainable financial clients using gamification and behavioral economics. In a region where half of the population is in-debt and more than half is outside of the financial system, the company’s final goal is to provide “financial education for all”. “We know that a lot of effort has been made to educate people, but there hasn't really been a long-term impact. Financial Education is latent throughout the life cycle of people and promotes better financial decisions to improve their well-being”, says CEO Victor Morales.
The winner Own The Trip from the Dominican Republic wants to be a game-changer in terms of how people plan their leisure and business trips. The technological platform aims at improving the way people plan their trips while providing visibility to high-quality travel professionals. The idea is to connect custom trip requests with travel professionals who curate, quote, and send offers that travelers can book directly on Own The Trip’s website. The website brings the factor of uniqueness and customization into the equation while promoting the work of local tourism professionals and companies and consequently, helps to bring up their revenues. The company led by Avanthi Reddy Obulreddigari currently operates in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
The pandemic changed drastically the way learning happens, with the prioritization of long-distance and study at home solutions - including testing. And EduSynch from Brazil came into the game to help. Offering an online platform designed for educational institutions to deliver exams remotely, securely, and at scale, the system works hand-in-hand with educational outfits around the world helping to test students in many ways, from high-stakes admissions testing, that grant students entry into universities or colleges, to midterms and finals. Consequently, this creation allows institutions to keep the flow of students relatively normal and lets students do their exams normally and proceed with their coursework, deterring the education system from stopping.
By improving industrial competitiveness and productivity, by providing decentralized health services and analyzing essential health data, financially educating uninformed communities, allowing the tourism sector access to empowering platforms, and not allowing the education systems to come to a halt, these startups are pushing forward solutions that will not only serve the ones how directly use them but the entire LATAM region. They create jobs, foster economies, advance the acquisition of knowledge and ultimately, these companies, led by people for people, will help the region improve its living standards.
15 startups from the LATAM region will compete to represent their country at the Regional Finals of the Seedstars World Competition. Tune in on February 8-10 to catch these innovative startups go head to head in the Seedstars Regional Stage.
Follow Seedstars on Facebook to watch the broadcast online.
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