An interview with Isabella Muñoz, Executive Director of Invest in Bogota
Invest in Bogota is the investment promotion agency for the Bogota Region. It is a catalyst for investments and entrepreneurship, creating an ecosystem rich in science, technology and innovation. The organisation is a public-private initiative between the Bogota Chamber of Commerce and the Bogota City Government, and continually drives fresh initiatives to maintain and promote this exceptional business hub.
In 2021, Invest in Bogota integrated the Bogota Convention Bureau as a business unit in order to attract hight impact events to the city. This initiative facilitates international investment as well as attracting world-class meetings and events, contributing to the socioeconomic development and competitiveness of the Bogota Region.
The European caught up with Executive Director Isabella Muñoz to learn about the many initiatives that Invest in Bogota has implemented to position the Colombian capital as the perfect Latin American business destination.
What are some of the key attributes that makes Bogota such an attractive city for investment?
Isabella Muñoz: There are many attributes that Bogota so appealing, but let me point out three primary drivers:
- Colombia, and therefore Bogota, has stable and outstanding economic growth. According to World Bank projections, Colombia will grow in 2023 at a rate of 1.3%, above countries such as Chile, Mexico and Brazil. In 2022, Bogota achieved economic growth of 9.9% compared to 2021, higher than the country’s economic growth (7.5%) and three times higher than Latin America (2.7%) in the same period. In addition, Bogota Region has an attractive market of approximately 11 million inhabitants.
- The city is located at the heart of Latin America, equidistant from the main cities of the American continent. There is 5 or 6 hours of flight time on average between one city and another in the Americas, and a 10-hour flight to Madrid, the nearest European capital. El Dorado is the number one cargo airport in Latin America, as well as the leading airport for passenger movement in South America. It has more than 90 direct connections operating to 49 international destinations, which is a huge advantage for businesses and executives that come to Bogota, as the city is an operational hub for the wider the region.
- Colombia boasts 18 free trade agreements, granting access to 67 countries and a combined population of nearly 1.5 billion people. Additionally, Colombia has entered into 18 international investment agreements and 15 double taxation agreements, providing potential investors with favourable treatment akin to that of local businesses.
- Bogota Region offers a qualified and diverse labour force of more than six million people. Colombia’s capital is home to two of the 10 best universities in Latin America. This creates a concentration of 35% of the country’s technologists and technicians, and 39% of the country’s PhDs. In Bogota, foreign investors will also find incentives designed by the local government for companies that hire young people, as well as people from the LGBTIQ+ community, and other vulnerable populations or minorities.
In addition to each of these factors, Bogota should be at the top of your list when planning world-class meetings and events. The city has outstanding modern facilities and infrastructure, including a district of venues for fairs, conventions and events. There is a range of superb conventional and non-conventional venues, alongside hotels that boast extensive meeting facilities.
Bogota excels in the service sectors – please elaborate on the importance of this.
IM: From 2018 to 2022, 46% of the investment projects we received came from service sectors – IT, software, health, corporate, communications, creative industries, and financial services – and this figure has increased up to 62.2% in the last year. Bogota is an expert in the services, and the city has become an export platform for nearshoring. Software and IT are the leading sectors attracting foreign investment to the Bogota Region. In the last five years, this industry has represented 17.3% of all these investment projects, obviously, very much in line with technology, which is now the most relevant sector in our global economic transformation.
Please provide further details about some of the major sectors that you have been working with.
IM: All the investment that we seek to attract must meet our sustainability agenda in line with UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, also it must be based on science, technology and innovation, as well as high-impact entrepreneurship. We have been working across three major axis that concentrates the industries and sectors where Bogota has great opportunities:
- Knowledge-intensive services – this is the largest recipient of foreign investment. Here we focus on health services such as clinical trials, telemedicine, and diagnostic laboratories. It also focuses on IT and corporate services including software development, BPOs, KPOs, as well as on everything related to creative industries (audio-visual content and video games etc).
- Added value manufacturing – this is where we attract investment in food and beverages industries, agricultural and agribusinesses technology, circular economy and medical devices and pharmaceutical.
- Intelligent infrastructure – this focus is related to logistics and smart mobility; data centres and telecommunications. It also encompasses renewable energy and the promotion of city infrastructure main projects such as the metro line, light rails, cable cars; hospitals; water treatment plants, among others.
Bogota has the second largest fleet of electric buses in Latin American. Counting 1,485 vehicles, this is among the biggest worldwide, beyond China. It is also the first city in South America with a pilot project of hydrogen buses, making the city a global leader for zero-emissions transport.
One of the main bets is to turn Bogota into a capital for science, technology and innovation, aligning ourselves with the construction of the city’s Science, Technology and Innovation District. To this end, we will continue to attract investment in technology, data centres, BPO, ITO and technology-based entrepreneurship. Invest in Bogota recently launched its SCALEUPBOG platform – a matchmaking tool to network the local entrepreneurial ecosystem, with the aim of connecting more than 9,000 potential investors from around the world.
In November 2021, the Bogota Convention Bureau became the business unit of Invest in Bogota, contributing to the promotion of the Bogota Region to international markets as a world-class MICE destination. Meetings, incentive trips, conferences, conventions and exhibitions are big part of what we can offer. Bringing together the Bogota Convention Bureau with an investment promotion agency offers exceptional benefits, and no other destination in Latin America has implemented this operating model. It demonstrates that through networks and collaboration, outstanding results can be achieved.
Tell us a little more about Bogota’s expansive entrepreneurship ecosystem.
IM: According to the “Bogota Region Entrepreneurships Capital Raising Report (2022)”, issued by Invest in Bogota in 2022, 76% of the entrepreneurs that raised capital corresponded to startups from the Bogota Region. These figures position the city’s entrepreneurship ecosystem as the most important in the country with 144 investment rounds ($1.7bn), representing an increase of 24.1% compared to 2021, as well as 91% of the total capital raised by Colombian startups.
The fintech sector was the most representative in raising capital in 2022, with 52 investment rounds ($761m). This sector has the most startups raising capital, with 42 companies, representing 34.4% of the Bogota’s startups capital raised, followed by the e-commerce, DeepTech, Retail Tech and PropTech sectors. Actually, the PropTech sector had a particularly good performance in 2022, on average raising the largest amount of capital per investment round ($27m). Startups such as Habi, La Haus and Acasa stood out, especially Habi, which in the second quarter of 2022 raised $270m in two rounds.
What does the next 12-18 months hold for Invest in Bogota?
IM: We are being quite conservative in our investment projections for this year. To June 2023, we have mapped and identified close to 119 investment opportunities with a high probability of coming to the city – this should equate to $500m and 13,800 new jobs. We will work hand-in-hand with existing investors to navigate the reforms of Colombia’s new government, and we will continue to bet on high-impact entrepreneurship and strengthening strategic alliances to foster an attractive environment for investment.
We are convinced that the services sector will continue to drive investment – again very much focused on knowledge-intensive services. We are hopeful that the health sector will also evolve in an exciting way, especially with the new BogotaBio Project, an alliance created by the district and Sinovac, which aims to position Bogota as the vaccine manufacturing hub for Latin America. Finally, we will focus our efforts on completing the large infrastructure megaprojects laid out by the district administration. This includes a second subway line, the Canoas wastewater treatment plant, and an additional public hospital.
The Bogota Convention Bureau has the responsibility of promoting meetings and events for this year, aiming to be the number-one partner for event organisers and meeting planners. This will require intensifying efforts to generate new business opportunities aligned with the destination’s productive and service-oriented vocation through the technological advancement of its commercial intelligence, customer service, and the development of attractive proposals tailored to the client’s needs.