Google expands tech startup acceleration projects in LatAm

The company is turning its São Paulo venue into a hub to foster ventures across the region.

Google is looking to promote integration of technology startups across Brazil and Latin America via a series of initiatives at its Campus venue in São Paulo.

Started this Monday (16) and ending today, the Campus Exchange program is one of the new strategies introduced by the web giant to widen its footprint in the local and regional technology startup ecosystem.

Campus São Paulo is the only Google venue dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship in Latin America, so the immersion week sought to facilitate knowledge exchange, networking and business opportunities between the Brazilian startups it already accelerates as well as ventures from Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.

The startups secured a place in the trip to Brazil as a result of a competition ran by Google earlier this year that was specific to the fintech segment.

"Enabling these connections seems fitting given that the Brazilian financial services industry is one of the most advanced in the world and certainly the leader in the region," says Campus São Paulo director André Barrence.

"We had no ambition of creating products or developing any technology while the founders are here, rather we hope they can translate these great insights obtained and shared here into their go-to-market approaches," Barrence adds.

According to the Google executive, the event made sense given that many challenges seen in financial services are common in most Latin countries, such as large amounts of unbanked population and difficulty for small and medium sized companies (SMEs) to secure credit.

"Brazilian startups are also extremely innovative considering the regulatory challenges they have to deal with. We have a very complicated legal and tax framework here but at the same time, many great ideas are happening in the grey areas that exist within the existing regulations," Barrence points out.

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The group of Latin fintechs visiting São Paulo include Bitso, a Mexican cryptocurrency trading platform that acted as a gateway for donations in Ethereum during the earthquake the country has experienced, as well as Becual, a Chile-based peer to peer lending venture focused on the SME segment.

According to Becual founder Mario Ortiz, the Google fintech tour - which included meetings with established Brazilian players such as credit card firm Nubank and financial planning app Guia Bolso - has been worthwhile.

"I have noticed that there is a lot of disaggregated information around in Brazil - there is no access to data that could have been useful if it was shared. The interest rates practiced here are also extremely high," Ortiz points out.

"But there is also a lot of opportunity, given the size of the population - the market is absolutely huge," he adds.

"Being in contact with companies and sharing experiences with founders doing very similar things reinforces that there is plenty of scope collaboration. There is definitely the potential to bring our products here."

According to Google, the intention is to find other ways to connect with startup hubs in other countries, The company already has a partnership with Mexican and Argentine accelerators Centrall and Area3 and will also encourage founders to come to Brazil.

"We will certainly use our network of partners that is starting to take shape in Latin America, as well as using the proximity of Google's offices in the region to stay connected to local ecosystems," says Google's Barrence.

"In addition, we will soon open registrations for our Residency program and we want to expand our reach so that we have Latin American entrepreneurs signing up and, who knows, being part of our next startup intake," he concludes.