Those that seek the finest in alternative lifestyles oftentimes look no further than Medellin. Whether we’re talking about the perfect climate, the quality of the coffee, or quality of the local culture, this city offers first-rate living. No surprise that it would attract the most cutting edge people in the world: entrepreneurs.
What is it that makes Medellin such a haven for the expatriate business startup and the tech-savvy business people, from around the world? We’ll even dive in and ask a few of these “digital nomads” why they chose one of WSJ’s most innovative cities as home.
Places like San Diego, CA and Denver, CO get a lot of attention for their great weather. Dry and warm, places that are physically inviting tend to attract the laterally-mobile entrepreneur. Medellin is “The City of Eternal Spring.” This means that the average temperature is exactly 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
With a perfect temperature every day, how could you say no? Especially when we consider that the city sits at 5,000 ft in the Andes and the tree lined streets create an atmosphere of tranquility. Many of the hillside high-rise apartments have been staked out by entrepreneurs intent upon enjoying stellar views, lots of sunshine, and a fresh breeze.
Given Colombia’s reliance upon the oil and gas sector, the Colombian peso is very down on the dollar. At the time this is written, the dollar goes three times farther here than in the states. That’s a lot of extra capital to throw around – for fun or profit.
The leanest of lean startups can begin here on shoestring budgets. Or those seeking an immediate boost in the quality of lifestyle can treat themselves to much nicer working environment.
And not only is it cheap, it’s convenient. Tommy Joiner, while setting up his website for Freelance Hustler years ago was immigrating to Medellin:
“With a surplus of furnished apartments are available throughout the city, making starting up a quick turnaround. It would have taken weeks to do stateside what I did in days here in Medellin.”
Even for those that find themselves in the ritzier, gringo-heavy section of town, Poblado, prices are way down. That low-end $4 Starbucks drinks gets swapped out for an excellent Colombian cappuccino – for $1.20.
Well Trained Students
Many of the universities in Medellin, and there are very good ones here, offer computer science, programming, and systems engineering degrees. Likewise, marketing and business development are very popular courses of study for young Colombians.
The desire to strive for a better life puts them in direct association with entrepreneur types looking for well-educated, driven employees (most of whom have learned excellent English during their studies) that don’t demand a premium. And who are nearby for training and team-building opportunities.
Moreover, these are young people fascinated with technology. Smartphones are abundant and social media is prevalent.
Entrepreneur Organizations and Collaborative Workspaces
Medellin has really opened its doors (and its pockets) to innovation in recent years. The government has leant a very heavy hand to see that entrepreneurs, startups, and extant businesses alike are well funded and well facilitated.
Collaborative workspaces are really catching on as a sociable means to combine work, friends with multiplicative applications.
Ruta N: This is a very recent, very influential organization furthering entrepreneurship in the city. It pairs startups and existing businesses together to create “sum is the greater than its parts” synergies. With a new venture capital firm, hosting large international events, and more – this is part think tank, part trust, part workspace for entrepreneurial businesses and innovative ideas.
ESPACIO: ESPACIO is a community-centered coworking space located in Parque Lleras, Poblado. Beyond simple desk space, classes, demos, as well as PR and marketing consultation are available. Weekly entrepreneurial events are also available.
Regus: As an internationally establish workplace brand, Regus offers large, well-lit offices and a refined experience at low cost. While it may not have the hipster vibe that many other workspaces do, it’s a place to link up, collaborate and get things done.
AtomHouse: Advertised as a 24/7 location promoting all elements of entrepreneurship and startup needs, AtomHouse has multiple locations around Colombia as well. With sofa beds, a lounge area, hot showers and more – this space is on another level for those looking for a full-on business incubator experience.
Obviously, Medellin’s going to have lots of good Colombian coffee. There’s a great deal of well-appointed cafes that provide a great working atmosphere as well a networking opportunity between laptop sessions.
Tyler Gillespie, who moved here in 2013 to further grow his goals with Gingerbread Marketing relates, “There’s 20 – 30 more cafes these days, it’s really blown up here in the recent years. It’s great. You can live, work and explore the city through the lense of your business.”
Here’s a few of the favorites:
The Hotel Charlee Bar: This might seem like an odd choice but it offers a few choice advantages. First, it’s open before many of the other cafes. For those early birds out to catch the worm at 6 AM, this is the spot for you. Plus, the Charlee is a swanky boutique hotel, centrally located right of Parque Lleras. Added bonus: there’s an awesome gym called Ultra – 12 stories up – to breakup the work cycles.
Pergamino: A few blocks away, amidst a selection of other work cafes, is Pergamino. With a great outdoor patio, lots of indoor seating, and great WiFi, this is a go-to spot for awesome drinks and pastries from 8:30 AM – 8 PM at night. The owners of Pergamino grow the coffee themselves and ever give classes about coffee production and coffee making techniques on-site.
9 ¾ @ Plaza Pakita: A change of location is a great way to refresh the work cycle. Parque Paita is a recently newly-made collaborative retail space in RioNegro, quick ride up the hill overlooking Medellin. Walking into this rustic, open-air Whole Foods-esque warehouse and you;ll find food from Middle Eastern, Mexican, gourmet burgers, cold-pressed juices as well as artisan vendors. With lots of seating and goods to enjoy, make a day of it and bring some friends.
Currently, a tourist visa only allows an entrepreneur to stay in Colombia for 180 consecutive days. They must take 90 days out of country before re-entry.
But, tourist visas can be extended through the Migracion Colombia website. This will buy you another 90 days. If you’re caught overstaying, you will be charged a fee ($133) before you can board a plane and leave the country. Or it will be waiting for you when you next arrive.
Living and working from Medellin provides many entrepreneurs with a superior lifestyle and business experience. Not only is the city much cheaper in every way, but rental possibilities are available across many price ranges. With great weather, access to resources, colleagues and well-trained employees, the city looks only to gain traction in years to come.