Brasilicon Beach: Rio positions itself as the tech-hub of Latin America

By: Kingsley Egbuonu and Sandeep Ahluwalia

As the host for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, Brazil is expected to attract the kind of trade and foreign direct investments that have become associated with these two global sporting events. However, this doesn't just happen automatically.  To realise any returns on its investments, there would be further expenditure and effort on the part of the Brazilian government to convince investors. Such efforts have already started with Rio Negocios - the international promotion agency for the city of Rio de Janeiro. This agency hosted conferences at Somerset House, also known as Casa Brazil, where British and Brazilian business leaders converged for investment discussions.

Rio has now been widely recognised and positioned (see here, here and here) as the technology hub of Brazil and the gateway to Latin America. This is in addition to its popularity as a tourist destination. When tourism is combined with business, who wouldn’t want to set up near the white sandy beaches of the Copacabana?

Apart from the sandy beaches, Brazilian representatives were keen to point out, at the discussions, that Rio as a city, has much more to offer. There is a growing talent pool, as it produces more engineers and IT professionals than any other city in Brazil; and the students are increasingly entrepreneurial - 65% of them have plan to run their own businesses. The city also has an established accelerator and incubator scene to support growing businesses.

As a market, Brazil has a growing middle class amongst a population of approximately 195 million people. It has the largest online population in South America with 85 million internet users spending upwards of $2.5 billion via e-commerce in 2011 (see here and here). BRASSCOM, an association which represents ICT businesses, has also played its part in leveraging the interests of its members and generally, that of Brazil as place where technology can flourish.

Brazil is certainly on a promising path - despite challenges such as currency risks and a nascent venture capital industry. Nevertheless, these challenges do not adversely affect Rio's current position as the tech-hub of Latin America.