About a year ago today, I spent a winter in Quito, Ecuador in the hopes of understanding the nascent innovation economy in Latin America. I realized I hadn’t really written much about the trip, so I thought it would be best to explore and recount my experiences. Ecuador was my first trip to Latin America. It’s a tiny little country filled with adventure, optimism, and individuals striving to make a difference in the ever-changing country. I’ve studied abroad before, first in Madrid and then again in Toulouse, but compared to Europe, Ecuador is still a developing nation that has its head in the clouds with big dreams.
When we first arrived in Quito, I was expecting to see similarities to many other Latin American countries, but Ecuador is the country leading the path to innovation in Latin America. Ecuador is attempting to change its people’s lifestyles through special labels on all food products that showcase the fat, sugars, and grease that is in every food. Ecuador is even attempting to develop a city centered on Innovation in Yachay, a small city north of Quito. Current regulations would restrict businesses from importing certain products, allowing certain businesses to grow while restricting others from attaining the necessary goods they need. or in Ecuador. One way or another, Ecuador is looking to make waves in Latin America.
We met some ambitious entrepreneurs during our trip who are attempting to make a difference in Quito. One of which started a nonprofit called ROMP. ROMP is a for-Impact healthcare organization dedicated to providing prosthetic and orthotic care to those without access to these services. They believe in the power of mobility, and work to prove that quality prosthetic and orthotic technology is possible for everyone.
David from ROMP is a great example of a US student who took it upon himself to help disabled people in Ecuador receive the proper medical equipment that affects their daily lives. He could have found a nice job in the United States or started his own business, but he chose to make a difference in Ecuadorian lives. He is an ambitious individual with big dreams and plans for Ecuador. No matter what regulations attempt to restrict his business or the contracts he loses, he still aims to find a way to make it work.
It’s also worth noting that a UIUC PhD student, Aadeel Akhtar has partnered with ROMP and is looking at ways to make prosthetics more accessible in third-world nations. Head over to PSYONIC to find out more.
Clearminds was another successful company with wavering origins. It is a small business that focuses on programming capacitation (courses), software development, and consultation. Their primary products are the variety of software certifications they offer from JSE, Java Server Faces, and Enterprise Java Beans. These specific certifications are in big demand in Quito. They offer courses in HTML, Angular JS, J Boss Administration, Pentaho, and Design patterns. They are also attempting to educate kids about programming through simplified software that would allow young children to specify a path in the software and allow a physical robot to follow that path.
Santiago from Clearminds is another determined individual. His company is slowly growing as the sole provider of programming education in Ecuador, but he’s had his fair share of mistakes in the past. He chose the wrong co-founders, he’s lost thousands of dollars, sold his house, and through it all, he stayed focused, stayed determined, and against all odds resurfaced with a company that is on track for success. One thing we can learn from Santiago is that no matter how many times you fail, or the number of mistakes you make, it’s important to stay focused on your ultimate goal and pursue it for as long as it takes.
I created a short video to promote the company and to cover our experiences with Clearminds during out visit.
Inga Alpaca is a small family business involved in the breeding of Huacaya alpacas. Their farm is located in the eastern ridges of the Ecuadorian highlands, on a small mountain called “El Inga”, 11.000 feet (3.350 meters) above sea level. Their story started over a decade ago, when they decided to convert their cattle farm into an alpaca farm. They currently have more than 900 alpacas living in an organic and self-sustainable free range farm.
Inga Alpaca is another great example of a business that pivoted to adapt to the times. They initially started selling yogurt, but as they saw demand decrease and saw a renewed value in their land, they pivoted to harvest alpaca fur and are now a leader in alpaca goods in Ecuador, something that can easily be expanded globally. They are a great example of a business that knows when to pivot and change direction. It’s easy to get invested in an idea that you’ve been working on for a long time, but it’s also important to know when to pivot and try something new when you’re failing.
This experience in Ecuador has truly changed my perspective on Latin America. I had arrived in Ecuador to see a third-world nation, but instead found a country that is on the verge of innovation and is making rapid changes to achieve that vision.