Uruguay Tech Veteran Sees Three More Unicorns Emerging Soon
(Bloomberg) -- Uruguay could be home to a trio of new unicorns in the next two years as the country’s vibrant tech industry brings together local talent and institutional money.
Companies specializing in fintech, gaming and e-commerce are the most likely candidates to join the club of privately-held startups valued at more than $1 billion, according to Nicolas Jodal, a veteran investor who co-founded one of Uruguay’s biggest software companies in 1988, GeneXus SA.
Uruguayan startups are in the spotlight after digital payments provider dLocal Ltd., which was the country’s sole unicorn, saw its market capitalization balloon to more than $10 billion after an initial public offering in June. Investors including Mexico’s Grupo Axo have since poured into local companies that are looking beyond the country of 3.5 million people for potential clients, like clothing marketplace Vopero, which received $7.5 million in a funding round, and payments firm Paigo that raised $8 million.
“Uruguay is going to have two or three unicorn opportunities” in the near-term, said Jodal in a video interview from Montevideo. “There are several companies that are at least ponies or centaurs by valuation.”
Jodal said he doesn’t expect GeneXus, which uses artificial intelligence to create and maintain software, will list on a stock exchange. Instead, the closely-held company might seek a strategic investor, such as another software firm, to raise growth capital.
“The world of technology is looking at Latin America,” he said. “We’re in the right place with the right technology. I think this is the right moment” to consider outside money.
The 61-year-old systems engineer has personally invested almost $1 million in more than half a dozen local companies including cloud gaming company Abya Corp. and autonomous farm vehicle developer Seriema Robotics. GeneXus is also feeding the local startup space with spinoffs such as Genexus Consulting and Unanimo.Design.
GeneXus plans to create a joint-venture with its local distributor in China next year after opening a research and development office in Japan in 2020. Asia will deliver about a third of the company’s estimated sales of $30 million this year and its share of revenue is set to grow, Jodal said.
“Our main source of growth is Asia right now and we assign a lot of importance to” that region, Jodal said.
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