Five centuries after Christopher Colombus, Seedstars set up foot on Santo Domingo for the very first time, adding the Caribbean to its map of emerging tech hubs. Great news!
Traveling to a paradisiac island to look for promising startups across beaches, coconut and colorful fishes sounded like a dream.
And while we were very excited to go to the Dominican Republic for its incredible bio-ecosystem and fairytale landscapes, we never expected to find an El Dorado of opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship as well.
Understandably, the Dominican startup ecosystem is still at an early stage. For example, you will not yet find many investors willing to bet on the island’s talent pool, nor established public and private support structures for entrepreneurs.
But things are starting to move, and besides those shortcomings, the Dominican Republic is definitely a place to consider for doing business.
Here is why:
1. Talent pool is on the rise
Unlike in many others Latin American countries, education is affordable. While in the rural areas, the access to quality education is still lacking, the island nevertheless shelters very talented people, such as excellent programmers, webmasters and designers from well known tech institutions (INTEC and ITLA).
At the same time, students are often encouraged and supported to study abroad. As matter of fact, our Dominican winner, Luis Sena, created Edupass, a platform to help student navigate the complex process of studying abroad, after he had himself studied in London and …Switzerland.
By the way, did you know that the first university on the entire continent was set up in Dominican Republic? It was the St. Thomas Aquinas University, founded in 1538 in Santo Domingo.
2. Favourable business environment
The county is ranked 109 out of 190 for ease of doing business. Nevertheless, there are still some advantages of Dominican Republic that we should not overlook.
The overall tax rate is about 42.4%, slightly lower than the continent’s average (46.3%). At the same time, while it generally takes about 30 days to open a business in Latin America, in Dominican Republic you can set up a company in about 14.5 days. The country also benefits from free trade zone with North & Central America and Europe, and has strong appetite for imported goods & technology.
Last but not least, the Dominican Republic has the largest economy in the Caribbeans and Central America, with the GDP close to 70 billions USD.
3. Geopolitical advantage
Directly related to business opportunities, the island is geographically gifted.
Its location between the United States, Central and South America and Europe, make it a strategic hub for trade. It can be easily accessed by air or by sea. Indeed, the coastline is covered by busy seaports, used especially for commercial shipping and touristic cruises.
Situated just 2 hours by flight from Miami, average 4 hours from Latin American countries and about 8 hours from Europe, it is sprinkled with more than 30 airports, 8 of which are international.
4. Connectivity at its best
The country benefits from an excellent telecommunication infrastructure, known for being one of the best in LATAM. Internet is widely available, even in the guaguas (pronounced wawa), the local mini vans used for public transportation – a must try for everybody who wants to enjoy a very local experience.
And all of this while in Switzerland we are still waiting for free wifi in the train.
5. Up and coming startup ecosystem
The startup ecosystem – almost non-existent until now – is moving ahead. A couple of serial entrepreneurs and angel investors have just launched programs to support entrepreneurs, such as Coworking.do, a coworking & business services platform in the heart of Santo Domingo, or Labocaproject in Cabarete, a co-working & incubator for sustainable and tech companies.
The public sector is also waking up. The Ministry of Industry and Commerce created an official network of mentors for entrepreneurs and only last year, the government launched a dedicated program to create a strong digital ecosystem, called Digital Republic.
Thanks to its geographical position, its business opportunities and the talented and hard working people building the future of the island, the Dominican Republic is definitely a place to watch out for in the coming years.
And this is not the only country of the Caribbean that is growing in term of tech entrepreneurship:
Cuba with its recent opening and its highly educated population is the next destination Seedstars wishes to add on its map,
together with Jamaica, with its great entrepreneurial mindset fostered by the accelerator program of the creator of Virgin, Richard Branson.
Finally, Haiti will host its first Tech Summit at the beginning of June 2017 and we hope to be on board to support this remarkable initiative!
Growing our impact in the Caribbeans is one of our ambitions for 2017. Are you as hungry about the startup ecosystem there as we are?
We are looking for strategic partners to support the Seedstars Caribbean initiative! If you are interested to work with us, jump on board and contact email@example.com for more info, or join us at the Seedstars Summit to meet with some of the key ecosystem players first hand!