6 Things to Consider Before Moving a Startup to Medellín

RutaN (photo: David Lee)

The city of Medellín has grown tremendously in terms of technology in the last decade. That being said, its progress is still lacking in comparison to any major tech hub in the U.S. or Europe.

If you expect any major technology firms to be in the city, you would be disappointed. While HP moved in and even has an office here, they have plans to leave the city no later than 2017.

Despite, the lack of major IT corporations operating from the city, the city is booming with technology, and your startup might be an excellent addition.

So what are some things to consider before packing your bags and coming over?

1. Learn Spanish

Well, this might seem like a stereotypical start to almost any blog post, for any activity here in Medellín, but it is the truth.

If you are deciding to set up a startup here, Spanish is a must-have and with that I am not referring to the basic Spanish required to get yourself a drink in a bar, but the Spanish required to give instructions to a team, hire an attorney, etc.

While paisas are extremely patient, they don’t tend to understand words outside of the Colombian Spanish. So be prepared!

2. There are no guidebooks

I think this is where it goes wrong with most people when starting any business in Medellín.

Do expect to do a lot of things that may be outside your comfort zone. Like renting an office, getting internet (be ready this is not a one-day venture), hiring staff, getting the office furnished, etc.

You might find a peer that has gone through the same, but likely you are not in the same spot. Be prepared to re-invent the wheel for your industry here.

3. Government might help you out

The government is actively supporting entrepreneurship in Medellín and does this through Ruta-N and various partnerships with private entities, including Atom Ventures (Atom House).

The government might invest in your company anywhere between $25,000 to $40,000 and might require some equity.

Ruta-N could give you an office for 400,000 pesos ($120) per month, and this includes the internet (optic fibre). So there are some good deals in town.

4. Things are cheap in Medellín

This would for many be the main reason to come to Medellín. The prices are reasonable given the current rate of the Colombian Peso and the pricing in general.

Be aware that prices vary heavily throughout the city, with El Poblado being the most “gringo friendly,” but also the most expensive region.

If you are looking to bootstrap your company, you may want to consider living outside of El Poblado. Many barrios described in previous articles on this site are perfectly safe to live in, and many are close to the metro.

5. Hardware isn’t as easy to get as in the US or Europe, but there is a Free Trade Agreement

This might be a setback, but before you start thinking about coming over here, realize that the local market probably does not have all the hardware you might wish for. While Medellin has an authorized Mac store, its offerings are limited. 

Don’t forget that all laptops will have a Spanish-oriented keyboard, which makes it harder to code.

So, you will need to bring or import most of your hardware. Not a big issue, but something to keep in mind.

The basics are available, but anything specific, you will need to import from the U.S.

6. The Internet Works

One of the great things about living in Colombia is that the internet works! In comparison to many other countries, the internet is working great.

Most households have a 10 MBIT or faster internet connection, and some locations like the Ruta-N building will have very fast internet.

Stable internet is a must for every starting entrepreneur in the tech realm. Medellín makes a great city in this regard.

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  1. I would like to agree with your post and I do for the most part but there are some areas that I would like to add my two cents to. I have been living in Medellin for more than 9 years now and although there aren’t many big multinational technology firms in the city, there are huge national companies which satisfy the needs of customers in those niches throughout the country and around the world. You can probably do a search and find many such as this one http://desarrollodesoftware.enmedellincolombia.com/software-development-in-colombia/ that work for English speaking customers as well. So before you decide to pack your bags and come to Medellin to try to start up a technology company, do your research first. The advice given in this post it’s right on as far as learning the language and all the rest, but it is very important to do your research as far as what your marketing strategy is going to be and the legal aspects of it. I recommend everyone who is thinking of coming to Medellin to do any type of business or to settle down here to first consult with an attorney who speaks your language and can guide you in the right direction. Consultations with English speaking attorneys in Medellin is quite affordable, so it is worth the investment, compared to the consequences of not doing so.

  2. I’m going to be in the city for a few weeks, and am looking for the best coworking spaces near Laureles. Any recommendations for the fly-thru start up?

  3. Thanks Niels, great tips here. Another is really having local staff to help. There are definitely culture differences with negotiating and getting things done here, knowing Spanish is great, but relationships and cultural nuances here are key to getting anything done.

  4. I was in el poblado looking to get an idea of the different areas where it is safe for Americans to live. not far from el poblado I was taken on the side of a mountain with condos with great views. The driver told me the name of the section was Las Palmas. It looked like a great place. There was a Caruyo supermarket Like a whole foods in the U.S.., as well as an exito market. Is there anyway of getting a street map of that area in relationship to el poblano ?

    If you know the area and send any information about Las Palmas please send it to my E-Mail. thanks, Frank