In Guatemala, a Silicon Valley-style startup hub

In a tough neighborhood in Guatemala City, tech-savvy creatives are building a community to foster the development of startup companies.

Guatemala wants to be known for more than great coffee.

In the capital of the Central American nation, a taste of San Francisco is apparent as young creatives -- from entrepreneurs to computer engineers -- seek to create startup companies that leapfrog over the country's reputation for class divisions, drug violence and java.

The New York Times' Damien Cave reports from Guatemala City:

For now, it is just a single brick building called Campus Tecnológico, with workspaces, programming classes and eco-friendly signs asking people to turn off lights in unused bathrooms. But the developers’ goal is to turn this five- or six-block area in the city’s center into an entrepreneurial campus, and a residential outpost for the hip, savvy, successful and young.

“For people here, it’s the same as in Silicon Valley,” said Juan Mini, Campus Tec’s founder, who returned to Guatemala after starting a successful Internet company in California called ZipRealty. “What matters is your brain.”

Cave refers to the campus as an "urban microprocessor" that is, powered by the Internet's wide reach of capitalistic opportunity, helping revive a neighborhood. (It certainly helps that the average cost to start a business in Guatemala is only $7,569, versus $17,513 in Brazil and $39,670 in Costa Rica, according to The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor.)

Just as important, those 375 young, digitally-proficient dreamers are helping diversify a long-ignored nation's economy, pitting Guatemalan against San Franciscan against Berliner against Shanghainese in the race to innovate in the hyper-horizontal online economy.

A Silicon Valley Dream Grows in Guatemala, Despite the Risks [New York Times]

Photo: Campus TEC

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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