Remote Year Experience: Colombia

By Gemma Hughes

When I saw Colombia on my Remote Year itinerary I was very excited because I had previously worked with one of Bogota’s most experienced startup founders, Alex Torrengra, when he brought his company, VoiceBunny, to San Francisco and was looking to hire a Chief Marketing Officer. I had a great experience working with him and his team and was always curious about the country's push to rebrand from its notorious drug trade to an emerging technology center.

Colombia quickly became one of my favorite countries, I spent 2 months across Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena, and one of the most relaxing, off the grid places I’ve ever been, Casa en el Agua. As someone who loves the outdoors, the varied landscapes in Colombia were what really sucked me in. There are snow capped volcanoes, the Andes, tropical beaches, deserts, grasslands, forests, jungles, and of course the Amazon! For those interested, there is a spectacular trek through the jungle of the Sierra Nevada mountains to the Lost City, one of the largest pre-Colombian towns discovered in all of the Americas.

I spent my first month in Colombia’s capital City, Bogota, home to the national government, most of the country’s corporate and financial institutions, and the largest and most diverse expat and immigrant community in the country. Bogota is located in the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes, offering a variety of hikes that you can easily do before the work day as it is so accessible from the financial district. Bogota is a very modern city, the workspace that I was in is located right above a Starbucks, with a Hooters on the street behind it, and a large mall with popular brands across the street! It also boasts one of the hottest graffiti scenes in Latin America.

Medellin, up-and-coming tech scene, was our home the second month. In 2013 the city government launched ‘MedellInnovation’, a 10 year, $389m investment aimed at making Medellin the Latin American capital in science, technology and innovation by 2021. Medellin’s vibe is more hipster than the buttoned up scene in Bogota and I ended up working in a variety of cafes along with many other remotes, expats and local professionals, rather than using the official workspace.

Who are the established and up and coming tech companies in Colombia?

Rappi - a delivery service across Latin America, which became widely used across the Remote Year community! City Taxi - Another service that we used often, especially with Taxi drivers becoming increasingly more resistant in Latin America to ride share apps like Uber. Viajala - a real time flight and hotel search engine. Mercadoni - A grocery delivery app across Colombia, Mexico, and Argentina that has just raised their Series A. Panter - A creative agency that develops custom mobile apps, websites and animations. Visionar - an augmented reality platform.

Co-working spaces

Work&Go - I used this space in Bogota and Medellin, they both offer a lot of natural light, full-time reception, call and conference rooms, soft seating, and their Bogota location also has a great garden area. AtomHouse - Located in Bogota, a space for innovators, hackers, and entrepreneurs. HubBOG - Located in Bogota, with a large open space and 3 private offices. Epicentro - Located in Medellin, a creative community of new entrepreneurs based in a vital, inspiring and collaborative space. Casa 98 - Located in Medellin, a space for independent professionals and entrepreneurs. Colabora - Located in Bogota, a community of freelancers, startups and small businesses.

Startup Incubators/Accelerators

Espacio - Located in Medellin, focused on advancing the media and PR industries. Socialtom Ventures - Located in Bogota, offering seed investments and in-house services that range from recruiting to business development, with a significant focus on helping founders build elite engineering teams. iNNpulsa - A government entity founded in February 2012 to promote entrepreneurship, innovation and productivity in Colombia. Medellin ACI - Focused on international investment in Medellin. Rockstart - a 150 to 180 day program for startups to fine-tune their businesses and prepare for international scaling through mentoring , workspace and access to capital.