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Young Latin American entrepreneurs celebrated for their innovative solutions to region’s development challenges

“Demand Solutions – Ideas for Improving Quality of Life” at the Inter-American Development Bank links creative start-ups with investors, mentors and thought leaders

Sixteen young entrepreneurs from Latin America showcased their innovative products and services Dec. 2 at an international event in Washington, D.C. aimed at encouraging bold new solutions to the region’s toughest development problems.

A standing-room-only crowd of 635 people attended “Demand Solutions – Ideas for Improving Quality of Life” at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB),where top international experts shared their insights on how entrepreneurs can come up with disruptive, game-changing ideas that can have a big impact on business, government services and the overall quality of life. Nearly 800 people throughout the hemisphere followed the event via webstream.

“We need to create a culture that celebrates the achievements of our scientists, our entrepreneurs and our innovators,” said IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno. “We need to create platforms to let our innovators shine, to help them connect with other groundbreakers, and to inspire new generations.”

This was the second year that the IDB has organized Demand Solutions, in conjunction with the Blum Center for Developing Economies at the University of California, Berkeley, part of an effort to encourage out-of-the-box thinking to promote equitable economic development and growth in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In the evening, the 16 young entrepreneurs participated in Venture Night, where they pitched their innovations to a jury composed of leading start-up specialists, including representatives of 500 Startups, YouNoodle, Fly Garage and Agora Partnerships, venture investors including Accion Venture Lab and Socialatom Group and Fnbox, as well as Mastercard and 3M New Ventures.

Victoria Alonsoperez, a 27 year-old electronics and telecommunications engineer from Uruguay and co-founder of IEETech, won a $30,000 prize from the IDB and Master Card as the Most Innovative Startup in Latin America and the Caribbean, to help expand Chipsafer, a platform that can track the location and health of cattle herds. Devices located on each animal’s collar transmit information on its location and health to a central server, allowing owners to instantly detect theft or the spread of diseases that could threaten the herd and the country’s exports.

Other innovators who were recognized included:

Technological Innovation with Greatest Impact: Carolina Medina Gutierrez of Sokotext (Colombia), which allows small shops in poor neighborhoods to create a virtual purchasing group via cellphone so that they can buy at wholesale prices; Carlos Edmar Pereira of Livox (Brazil), a tablet application that allows people with disabilities to communicate; Veronica Alonsoperez of IEETech. All three will travel in March 2015 to the IDB’s annual meeting, which will be held in Busan, South Korea, and will participate in an innovation and entrepreneurship event there.

Most Creative Startup: Tales Gomes of Plataforma Saude (Brazil), a social impact business that uses mobile technology to provide users of public health systems with information on their status for 15 chronic non-communicable diseases in just 20 minutes. The prize given by IQ Latino includes legal, tax, planning and capital-raising advisory services for one year.

Best Pitch: Ignacio Puig of Acámica (Argentina), an online learning platform designed to teach students skills needed for jobs of the future, including web design and development. The prize given by Agora Partnerships includes participation in a special retreat for entrepreneurs in Nicaragua in March 2015 aimed at accelerating their growth and impact.

Highest Expansion Potential: Daniel Antonio Monroy Gómez of Digital Partners (Guatemala), creator of educational digital games aimed at preserving cultural heritage and promoting financial education; Mayer Mizrachi of Criptext (Panama), a platform that provides secure email messaging for businesses. Prize from YABT and MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation offers study visits to Israel on innovative entrepreneurship and microenterprise support systems.

Performance with Purpose: Juan Carlos Guáqueta of Acuacare (Colombia), which designs low-cost homes for rural areas that come with eco-friendly water treatment systems utilizing earthworms. Award of $5,000 given by PepsiCo.

3M Play to Win: Plataforma Saude; Livox; and Ignacio Oliveri of Vipermed (Uruguay), an online education platform that allows patients and care-givers to receive therapeutic advice and information from the world’s top medical institutions. Award includes a trip to 3M headquarters in St. Paul, MN for “Deep Dive & Mentoring Sessions” on new product introduction methodology, networking and technological platforms.

The 16 entrepreneurs were chosen from 230 innovators throughout Latin America and the Caribbean who applied to participate in Demand Solutions. 

About the IDB

The Inter-American Development Bank is the most important source of development finance and technical assistance for Latin America and the Caribbean. The Bank aims to improve the lives of people in the Region by partnering with its member countries to contribute to the implementation of innovative solutions to development challenges.

About the Blum Center for Developing Economies

The Blum Center for Developing Economies was established in 2006 to serve as UC Berkeley’s interdisciplinary hub for students, researchers and scholars focusing on global poverty and inequality.