BBVA Spark Colombia marks one year anniversary

In the region of Latin America, Colombia stands out as one of the most innovative and entrepreneurial ecosystems. Recognizing this immense potential, BBVA Spark arrived in the country a year ago to contribute to boosting local technological companies.

Colombia has emerged as one of the most prominent innovative ecosystems in Latin America. In 2023, the country ranked third in the region for venture capital investment, trailing only behind Brazil and Mexico, according to LAVCA (the Latin American Private Equity and Venture Capital Association). Among Spanish-speaking countries, only Mexico — with which it shares significant synergies — surpassed Colombia in terms of investment in innovation and ecosystem size.

In March 2023, BBVA Spark arrived in Colombia with the aim of promoting the consolidation of Colombian technological companies, an objective in which it has made significant progress through financing agreements with various startups like fintech companies Cobre or Supra, collaborations with strategic partners like Endeavor Colombia, and participation in some of the region’s most prominent events such as Startco and Colombia VC Week.

Primer aniversario de BBVA Spark Colombia / First anniversary of BBVA Spark Colombia

Hand in hand with the BBVA Spark team in Colombia and its partners, we review how this first year has been, the potential of the vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem of the Andean country, and the role of actors like BBVA Spark in contributing to its strengthening.

A year of milestones

Colombia is one of the four geographies where BBVA Spark currently operates, alongside Spain, Mexico, and Argentina. The entity already has over 1,000 clients and has committed financing totaling over $300 million to date.

“2023 was a year of starting operations, introducing BBVA Spark to the Colombian market, and convincing our first clients,” explains Eduardo González, head of BBVA Spark in Colombia and Argentina. “We managed to meet and exceed all the goals we set for ourselves. It was a spectacular year for us,” he says. “Looking to the future, we see 2024 as a year of consolidation and continued rapid growth in Colombia.”

“We see 2024 as a year of consolidation and continued rapid growth in Colombia”

The success of Colombian entrepreneurship

The country currently boasts more than 1,300 startups, two unicorns and a capacity to attract venture capital that in 2023 translated into $373 million raised by local startups. Among the most prominent sectors are fintech, proptech, and logistics innovation. Giants like the delivery company Rappi, valued in 2019 at $5.25 billion — and which led a historic $1 billion investment round by SoftBank the same year — drive the ecosystem. The company has even lent its name to the so-called “Rappi effect”: the creation of nearly a hundred startups by former employees of this unicorn.

“Undoubtedly, they are now the most important founders’ incubator here in Colombia,” explains Juan Gabriel Arboleda, CEO of the live startup auction event Startco. “Startups generate a work model based on being agile, providing quick responses in decision-making. That has created an effect that comes from larger companies, like Rappi, Habi, Frubana, or La Haus, which leads those former employees to found new companies. Furthermore, they have had significant capital raises that have put us on the map when we weren’t before.”


Dynamizing the ecosystem

Colombia hosts a large number of events aimed at entrepreneurs and investors, which help to create networks of contacts and collaboration throughout the country and abroad. Prominent gatherings like Startco contribute to fostering the exchange of ideas and capital: the 2024 edition — featuring high-level speakers, 300 selected startups, and the presence of BBVA Spark — gathered around 14,200 attendees. “We try to bring many large companies from the ecosystem, including BBVA Spark, so that they can get to know all these startups and create synergies,” explains Juan Gabriel Arboleda.

Supporting companies to access capital is another of their major goals: in addition to having venture capitalists, “we show startups that there is also debt capital, which is often cheaper and easier to manage,” Arboleda adds. “We invite large banking entities and fintechs so that startups understand that they have other financing alternatives and products such as factoring, confirming, or credit cards, among others.”

In this regard, the role of entities like BBVA Spark, which contributes to addressing the needs of local startups, is a significant driver of the ecosystem. “It’s fundamental for banks like BBVA, which understand how to assess risk or grant credits to a startup, are able to attend the event and show all entrepreneurs the products they have, as they always need these kinds of alternatives,” Arboleda details.

Strategic synergies

“One of the major challenges that all entrepreneurs face is access to capital,” recalls Camila Salamanca, managing director of Endeavor Colombia. “It’s difficult for traditional banks to understand their problems, their business models, and the schemes in which they operate. The arrival of an actor like BBVA Spark is crucial for these types of ventures because it offers a different perspective, understanding the business models, the entrepreneur, and their needs, and can create solutions and have people dedicated to understanding these accounts from another perspective.”

"The arrival of an actor like BBVA Spark is crucial for these types of ventures because it offers a different perspective"

Endeavor Colombia, part of the global network of the Endeavor entrepreneur community, is another of the partners that have accompanied BBVA Spark Colombia since its arrival in the country. The organization, explains Camila Salamanca, serves as a “communicating vessel” between the government and entrepreneurs and helps to make these entrepreneurs visible by “telling their stories and, in turn, allowing them to express their interests and concerns.”

In her view, BBVA Spark “knew the importance of getting to know, in the different ecosystems in which it operates, these entrepreneurs who can benefit from its services,” while “from Endeavor, we saw the relevance [for startups] of having financing options from a bank that understood them.”


A differential value proposition

Choosing the right partners, actively participating in the most important events in the ecosystem… These are several keys to the success of BBVA Spark Colombia in its first year of existence, but above all, its value lies in the contribution it makes to local entrepreneurs. “BBVA Spark offers its clients a comprehensive range of financial services ranging from accounts, national and international collections and payments, online banking, or insurance, to structured financing solutions that adapt to the needs of companies depending on the stage they are in,” emphasizes Eduardo González of BBVA Spark Colombia.

The entity, he adds, looks to the future with optimism: “Now that we have our operations up and running, we will seek to refine our value proposition and consolidate BBVA Spark in the Colombian market as the best bank for startups and high-growth Colombian companies.

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