Continuing our series of interviews on why to choose Uruguay as place to visit, work and invest in, meet Pablo Brenner – serial investor and co-founder of the PuntaTech MeetUP in Punta del Este. In this interview, Pablo shares his own entrepreneurial story. He also tells us what brought him to Uruguay, and why he wouldn’t dream moving anywhere else.
Pablo, you are one of Uruguay’s leading entrepreneurs and the co-founder of the annual Puntatech meetup – do you remember what first brought you to entrepreneurship and technology?
My case is somehow different from that of other entrepreneurs. I started my career in Israel, and the first company I worked for (Fibronics) had a very entrepreneurial culture. As a matter of fact, many Israeli start-ups were founded by people working at Fibronics, in the late 80s.
Briefly, can you tell us which projects you have been involved in so far, and the main lessons you’ve learned from each, as entrepreneur and investor?
Back in time in Israel, I was co-founder of a (at the time) very successful start-up (alvarion), which even did IPO in Nasdaq (before the internet crushed). I learned a lot from the experience, growing from two people to over 1000. Reaching sales of 100M+ etc.
Back in Uruguay, I applied my learnings at Prosperitas Capital Partners, the first VC in Uruguay and Fondo emprender (first seed fund). At both I learned a lot, about both entrepreneurship and investing.
I participated (directly or indirectly) in tens of start-ups, with some nice wins (Alvarion, Globant for example), some losses (junar and greentizen for example), and many still ongoing (Collokia, and others).
As serial entrepreneur based in Uruguay, do you experience the country as particularly entrepreneur-friendly?
Uruguay is very entrepreneur-friendly for the initial start-up phase. There is a lot of government and NGOs support, so it is relatively easy to get seed funding and mentoring. But it is harder on the next phases (Series A, gotomarket, etc.).
Imagine you meet a group of international IT entrepreneurs and investors at a conference. They have not heard about Uruguay as IT destination and just spoke to Israel, Chile and Canada about setting up shop there. What would you tell them, in terms of why they should choose Uruguay instead?
Talent is everywhere, so there is obviously also good talent in Uruguay. Add to this the good entrepreneurial ecosystem, good quality of life and flexible immigration rules, which make it easy to bring worldwide talent into the country.
Clear regulations, and a good judicial system, minimal corruption plus minimal capital flow control (when legal) make Uruguay safe for investors.
In a nutshell, what is the Puntatech meetup all about – and which new insights have you gained from this year’s, 2019 edition?
PuntaTech is a tech/entrepreneurship gathering, with a clear focus on networking, where you can meet investors, entrepreneurs, and CEOs, in a very relaxed and friendly environment. Every year, we hear new stories of business deals, investments, and/or acquisitions that started at the event.
In the last years, we started widening the public, going beyond the pure tech world (recognizing, that technology is everywhere), so we are adding speakers that address other markets, like biotech or finance.
Do you observe growing interest among tech entrepreneurs and investors from overseas in working and living in Uruguay? Or is Puntatech mostly about bringing the local community – entrepreneurs together?
Puntatech has been since the beginning a regional rather than a national event. Almost half of the attendees are from abroad, mainly Argentinians. But slowly the event is becoming more and more international. This year we had a delegation from Japan, and in previous years had professionals join us from Peru, Costa Rica and Canada, for example.
Now in operation for over a decade, has Puntatech met your and your partners’ expectations? Any challenges you were not expecting, or hurdles you’ve had to overcome?
Sincerely, we had zero expectations. It all started as a very informal event, with the intention to gather together 50-60 people from the entrepreneurial communities of Uruguay and Argentina. It simply kept growing, and we “just complied with the demand”.
You can think of this as applying Lean Methodology: we started with an MVP (Minimum Viable Product), listened to the customers, learned, and applied learnings for next year event. That’s how it grew from 60 people to over 1300.
Sometimes people ask us why we do the event, and sincerely the best answer I have is: “Because we enjoy it!”. It is like doing a Birthday party: you simply invite friends, have a good time, with no real reason beyond that, just having fun.
Looking at the Latin American market more broadly, which trends or developments do you observe, likely to affect Uruguay’s attractiveness as country for IT companies to invest in, or for talent to move to?
As mentioned before, talent is everywhere. And even though Uruguay started earlier (even before Chile), all other countries are advancing, and closing the gap. Governments in different countries are incentivizing, some way or another, VCS are becoming regional and investing across the region, universities are updating their curricula.
This is good news for Latin America as a whole but makes it difficult to differentiate.
How strong do you consider Uruguay’s brand and reputation at the moment, with regards to its potential to attract IT investors and talent?
Uruguay has a strong brand. It belongs to the D-9 (9 most digitalized countries in the world), is a large exporter of software per capita, etc. But still for many people beyond Latin America this is kind of a “secret”.
Five reasons for international tech start-ups or angel investors to consider Uruguay?
- Good and friendly ecosystem
- Easy immigration rules and good quality of life
- Excellent infrastructure (FTTH, etc)
- As a country with a small domestic market, most entrepreneurs think globally
- Low corruption
Thank you, Pablo.
Our interview with Pablo Brenner is part of our special report on Uruguay. More about the country and why you might want to consider living, working or investing there, here.