I had a fabulous time in Costa Rica but I have to keep moving along on my journey through Latin America’s startup hubs so next I am headed to Panama City, Panama.
Panama is very unique within Latin America in that it is the home to the Panama Canal – key to international maritime trade because it connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the isthmus of Panama saving ships the hassle, time, and expense of traveling all the way around South America. The Canal was operated by the United States for nearly 100 years, so Panama uses the U.S. dollar – a distinct difference between it and the rest of Latin America. Additionally, the city’s feel and culture have a visible U.S. influence and the country is well-accustomed to international business people and investors. It’s also a central travel hub throughout the rest of Latin America and into the United States.
While it seems like the atmosphere is ripe for a startup hub, I honestly didn’t find all that much going on (if you feel otherwise, please respond and let me know why). Searching for meetups and activities I could only find 1 startup group and it didn’t appear to be all that active. Speaking with entrepreneurs in the space I was told that the climate is more competitive than collaborative and that nepotism is a force to be reckoned with.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (which has only kept stats on Panama since 2009), entrepreneurship was starting to tick up a bit from 2009-2011, but it’s since started declining again. Take a look at the graphs below to get a feel for what’s going on in Panama versus the United States:
Next week we’ll jump into the interviews with entrepreneurs to hear their takes on what the entrepreneurial ecosystem is like in Panama City.