5 reasons why Buenos Aires is the place to establish your startup

When I tell people that I live in Buenos Aires, their first reaction is to begin discussing soccer, steak and tango. After all, Argentina’s capital is internationally known for its mastery in these fields. I’ve gotten used to going along with the banter, even making a soccer (perdón, futbol) reference or two — because after living in Argentina for 5 years, you realize learning about their national past time is an important element of fitting in.

But what truly impassions me about Buenos Aires is not soccer, tango, or even their fantastic meat.

Despite, or because of a complicated macroeconomic and political history, more and more Porteños (BA’s inhabitants) have chosen to turn to entrepreneurship as their career path. Frustrated by Argentina’s job market limitations and lack of stability, they’ve decided to create their own ventures. Entrepreneurship has since grown every year more as a desirable career choice for many Argentines.

Mercado Libre, OLX, Despegar are a few examples of successful Argentinian startups growing in Latin America. In fact, most of the unicorns within Latin America hail from Argentina.

1. Location

Buenos Aires’ location makes it a great city for establishing a business not only in South America, but on the whole Western hemisphere.

Buenos Aires is at the heart of Latin America — which means that by being established there, you’ll have access to the large Argentinian market but also to the whole Latin American market.

Being established in Buenos Aires provides a regional and an international edge to conquer all South American markets.

Second, Buenos Aires is fairly close to North America. While almost 9,000kms separate Buenos Aires from NYC, there is only one hour of time difference between the two cities. This is a fantastic opportunity to do business or distribute your team between both sides of the Americas.

Speaking of time zones, it’s also only 4 hours ahead of the West coast, and 4 hours behind London. This global position allows Buenos Aires to be desirable place to do business from North America all the way to Western Europe.

Map of the Americas

2. Cost of living & work

I used to live in the U.S and spent about $2,000USD/mo in rent.

In fact, the cost of living in New York City was one of the reasons I chose to leave and search for a new place to call home.

It’s not only rent — living and working in Buenos Aires is cheaper than in many global metropolises. San Francisco, New York or London are fantastic cities to live, but for a fraction of your spendings there, you can experience an upgraded quality of life in Buenos Aires. This doesn’t just apply to rent, it also includes travel, health expenses and access to plenty of services that were less affordable in other global cities.

On a professional level, it’s also possible to save money by setting up your business in Buenos Aires.

The cost of skilled labor is significantly cheaper in Argentina than it is in the U.S.

If you’re looking for a developer for instance (who isn’t?), you’ll find one for about ⅓ of the salary you would pay in the U.S. In fact, SUBA’s business model focuses on tech offshoring services and augmented staff solutions.

Not only are developers cheaper to contract, but they are also highly skilled and incredibly talented. Argentina has the highest language of English proficiency in Latin America, as well as the largest amount tertiary educated citizens.

Picture of a screen with coding language on it

3. Community

The entrepreneurial community in Buenos Aires is stronger than it’s ever been. Being the founder of Startup Buenos Aires, I know I’m not exactly impartial, however you can’t distrust the facts:

  • There are about 100 co-working spaces in the country most of them located in Buenos Aires. I personally work from AreaTres. They recently partnered with Google and organize frequent events focused on entrepreneurship, which helps strengthen the community. Other well known co-working spaces in the city include La Maquinita, Urban Station, HIT Co-Working, and WeWork.
  • Startup Activity is booming — We curate at least one event related to entrepreneurship every day of every month where people go to learn, connect and network.
  • Incubator programs & investments are on the rise — the famous NXTP Labs, Wayra, Kaszek ventures are funding startups looking to scale.
  • Other startup groups such as ASEA, Endeavor, and Emprear help make the city one of the strongest entrepreneurial ecosystems in the world.
Picture of AreaTres workplace

4. Government support

After the 90s’ dotcom bubble, years of governmental restriction over businesses have made Argentina a difficult place to expand and grow a business. However, the new government led by President Mauricio Macri is transforming the country more favorably to businesses and entrepreneurship in general.

One recent example is the “Ley de emprendedor” allowing every citizen to establish a company in less than 24h — knowing it used to take months to do so, is quite a radical change.

The General Directorate of Entrepreneurs also promotes entrepreneurship at a local and national level with competitions and entire days dedicated to the topic — Buenos Aires has an official “Entrepreneurs’ day”, with over 5,000 participants annually.

The government also offers free entrepreneurial education to everyone through Academy BA.

And, last but not least, the Buenos Aires city government has recently announced their new program: IncuBAte. Similar to Startup Chile, they will select local and international startups to invest up to $30K USD equity free, provide one year of office space, mentorship, access to investors, government resources, etc.

This program will truly open Buenos Aires up to the rest of the world, so people can explore the incredible opportunities this startup city has to offer.

“Buenos Aires has become one of the top Latin American cities: vibrant and enjoyable for its own citizens as well as for foreigners. The city is full of opportunities for disruptive entrepreneurship, and the birthplace of amazing talent throughout many sectors.” - Santiago Sena, Director General of Entrepreneurship, City Government of Buenos Aires

Screenshot of the Incubate website

5. Startup Buenos Aires

I wouldn’t be able to speak about the Buenos Aires startup scene without making a reference to Startup Buenos Aires. I created SUBA when I arrived to Buenos Aires, in 2012. Despite the increase of entrepreneurship, I recognized that entrepreneurs lacked resources, the city was fragmented and there was simply no community.

Frustrated by the lack of support and collaboration, I decided to create a community that connects members locally and globally, while providing resources to grow a strong and sustainable startup ecosystem in Buenos Aires and throughout Latin America.

Today, SUBA’s actions revolve around these 3 main pillars:

  • Community: We curate and host events for members of the community. We bring international organizations and initiatives to Latin America.
  • Education: We offer classes and workshops led by industry leaders to improve the knowledge and education of local entrepreneurs.
  • Resources: We provide a resource hub and homebase for all things startup related. We aim at becoming an outsourcing and talent database for local and global members.

Our organization has over 8,000 members globally, we’ve brought over $2M USD into the city via jobs, projects, and competitions, and have helped transform Buenos Aires into the global startup hub I always knew it had potential to become.

I have never regretted settling in Buenos Aires. Living here has been an intense and enriching experience on both a professional and a personal level.

Oh, and did I mention how great the steaks are?

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Lisa Besserman

Founder of Startup Buenos Aires Accelerator (acquired), Business Insider’s “Top 100 Most Influential Women in Tech”. Head of Program, Indeed Global Incubator.