Top-10 Artificial Intelligence Startups in South America
South America is not only home to sanguine women, boisterous men, salsa, and cocaine, it is also an agricultural powerhouse, exporting produce and natural resources to the world market. Because of the strong growth potential in the region and the wealth of natural resources, South America’s 12 countries have attracted significant US and European investments over the past decades. Brazil was hailed as one of the up-and-coming emerging economies of the world, a member of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China, a country basket for emerging economies with high potential) right until its worst recession in history which hit the country in 2015-2016.
While much development is still required in traditional sectors like infrastructure and services, South America has been attracting a growing number of investments in the tech space over the past years with tech investments hitting an all-time high in 2017 representing $1.35 billion – mainly invested in Brazil – from international venture capital funds like Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia Capital. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no exception, and AI companies are seeing growing adoption of the technology (albeit from a low base), increasing revenues, and more venture capital. The main challenges slowing down the adoption of AI are lack of talent and training data, a problem faced by most countries scrambling to compete in the global AI race. In order to understand the space a bit better, we did some querying on Crunchbase and came up with a list of the top-10 most funded AI companies in South America.
|Zenvia||Chatbots||Porto Alegre, Brazil||28.7|
|S4||Agtech||Buenos Aires, Argentina||3.4|
|The Not Company||Food||Santiago, Chile||3.0|
|Aivo||Customer service||Córdoba, Argentina||1.9|
|hubally||Marketing||Buenos Aires, Argentina||1.8|
|Shelfpix||Retail||São Paulo, Brazil||1.5|
|Flowics||Marketing||Buenos Aires, Argentina||1.0|
|Arara||Big data||Santiago, Chile||0.5|
|Nativoo||Travel||Rio De Janeiro, Brazil||0.5|
Founded in 2002, Porto Alegre, Brazil startup Zenvia has raised $28.7 million to develop versatile chatbots for virtually any kind of business. Chatbots are very much en vogue these days and Zenvia aims to cater to businesses of all sizes and types, covering industries like retail, finance, education, and healthcare. The platform allows clients to customize their own chatbots using specific templates like customer service, sales, and promotions, and integrate them into common messaging platforms or websites. The company claims 90% of standard processes can be solved using a chatbot, and that chatbots generate 10 times more engagement and campaign interactions from consumers. Zenvia also offers a text messaging platform as a complimentary channel. The service is used by more than 5,000 companies that have a presence in Brazil including Amazon, Hyundai, and Danone.
Founded in 2011, Buenos Aires, Argentina startup S4 has raised $3.4 million in funding to develop an agtech platform that manages the risks of agricultural production. The company’s AI algorithms sift through huge amounts of satellite data to recommend what to grow and where, monitor current crops, and estimate yields. Prognoses provided by the cloud platform mitigate risks for farmers, traders, and financial agents – basically everyone who takes part in the agricultural value chain. S4 also calculates weather indices that are the basis of over-the-counter (OTC) climate derivatives available through Argentina Clearing. These are financial products that can help hedge weather risks including droughts and floods for the producers and traders. S4 is present in Argentina, Brazil, and the U.S.
The Not Company
Founded in 2015, Santiago, Chile startup The Not Company, or NotCo in short, has raised $3 million to develop healthy and sustainable food alternatives using machine learning algorithms. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock provides about 40% of the global value of agricultural output and supports almost 1.3 billion people, even though it has a huge impact on the environment and industry-produced meat consumption comes with certain health risks as well.
NotCo has developed algorithms that analyze the genetic properties of different vegetables and come up with new foodstuffs that emulate the ones produced by animals. Joining the five synthetic biology startups we covered earlier, NotCo started with a new recipe for mayonnaise and is working on sustainable alternatives to milk, yogurt, and cheese as well. The verdict is out on whether or not any of this stuff tastes good enough to eat.
Update 09/09/2020: NotCo has raised $85 million in Series C funding for U.S. expansion bringing the company’s total funding to $115 million to date.
Founded in 2012, Córdoba, Argentina startup Aivo has raised $1.9 million to develop AI-based customer service solutions. We first talked about Aivo’s suite of products, back in 2017, a list that includes chatbots, voice bots, and a smart knowledge base and search engine. The company’s AgentBot platform is providing customer support cost savings of around 68% by re-routing most of the traditional contact channels to automated ones.
Used by major global names like Sony, Visa, and General Motors, AgentBot starts at $240 per month and the price scales based on the number of contact sessions with customers. Since our earlier coverage, Aivo has built native integrations into Salesforce and Zendesk, the largest CRM systems in the market, and now has offices outside of South America in the US and Spain.
Founded in 2016, Buenos Aires, Argentina startup Hubally has raised $1.8 million in funding to develop an automated real-time bidding platform for mobile advertising. Simply put, they are the ones responsible for the ads following you around the internet, and your eventual purchase of something you don’t need – like a dog food bowl that helps your pet develop a better memory. Hubally’s algorithms optimize the context and format of the ads and continuously audit the target audience and number of views for maximum effect. The company also offers managed services for clients willing to outsource the whole ad management process. Hubally’s specialty lies in processing mobile-specific data based on real-time consumer behavior so ad campaigns remain relevant and targeted to the audience. The mobile advertising market was responsible for 75% of all digital ads spend in the US in 2018.
Founded in 2010, Piracicaba, Brazil startup Smartbreeder has raised $1.5 million to develop an agronomic intelligence platform for crop management and protection. The platform uses AI algorithms to manage crop sampling, risk mapping for pests and diseases, and performance measurement and monitoring.
The company is a market leader when it comes to providing precision agriculture solutions to the sugar cane market and has contributed to a production increase of five million tons of cane according to client testimonials. Smartbreeder’s big data platform not only analyzes data but predicts potential harm to crops, and has also helped clients avoid $135 million in losses according to the company. The platform is used by major sugar and soy producers, and global agricultural businesses.
Founded in 2014, São Paulo, Brazil startup Shelfpix has raised $1.5 million to automate point of sale (POS) monitoring using artificial intelligence. The service is targeted towards Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies whose sales numbers are directly dependent on proper in-store placement and sales execution. In order to make sure FMCG products are displayed in the right place and in the right amount, manufacturers depend on expensive in-person manual checks. Shelfpix aims to change that by automating image sharing, image analysis, and benchmark reports compared to company display standards.
Key indicators include share of shelf, shelf space, assortment, and prices. The company estimates their market is worth about $115 billion a year due to the cost of manual checks and the transportation of products in bulk across countries, and Shelfpix can cut this cost by 30%. The platform’s analytics are able to prioritize inspections and deliveries to regions with the most sales potential, optimizing logistics as well.
Founded in 2007, Buenos Aires, Argentina company Flowics (formerly known as Zauber) has raised $1 million to develop an AI-powered digital media marketing platform using interactive engagement mechanisms. Flowics targets media outlets, sports broadcasters and brands with social engagement campaigns, polls, sweepstakes, event-related interactive content, and shoppable galleries.
All these tools aim to provide a personalized connection to the consumer that results in activation and engagement, and consequently boosts revenues. Configuring the campaigns is an easy drag-and-drop process that can be refined by a manual visual editor before launch. Content is curated and users are moderated automatically over all major outlets, and engagement analytics are available throughout the campaign. Flowics is used by Sony Pictures, ESPN, and Fox Sports.
Founded in 2012, Santiago, Chile startup Arara has raised $500,000 in funding to build AI solutions for different, diverse business cases. The company offers fully custom AI projects and AI-as-a-service for quicker and more economic plug-and-play implementation. Their AI-as-a-service is available for different industries like energy, retail, and finance, and is tailored to make the most of available big data in a given sector. The retail offering promises to increase sales by more than 30% by predicting purchase intentions. The solution for the financial sector aims to reduce churn rate by 20% using machine learning-based customer classification models. The team is offering AI strategy training and consultancy as a complimentary service, involving clients’ management in the AI implementation process.
Founded in 2012, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil startup Nativoo has raised $500,000 to develop a travel recommendation app powered by AI. The app learns user preferences and compiles full travel schedules accordingly, using external content sources. It is integrated with Booking.com and allows direct booking through the platform as well. Nativoo itineraries are downloadable and can be used in offline mode saving backpackers hefty data roaming charges. The app has up-to-date opening times, ticket availability, and booking information, so travelers don’t need to spend hours on organizing details of a trip.
For a region with 12 countries, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot going on in the South American AI startup world. Now, before you go emailing us to say we “missed” your amazing AI startup, we didn’t miss a thing. We simply queried Crunchbase for this list. If you didn’t keep Crunchbase up to date because you were too busy enjoying sanguine women, boisterous men, salsa, and cocaine, you better reconsider your priorities. If you have a promising AI startup somewhere in South America and don’t want to disclose the boatloads of cash you took in, drop us a note, and we’ll consider you for future articles. Just so you feel at home, we’re also open to accepting bribes.
The three countries that made this list were Brazil (4 startups), Argentina (4 startups), and Chile (2 startups). Applications are dominated by marketing and customer service, two areas where AI can help serve the 422.5 million people who live in South America. In regards to countries that didn’t make the list – and should have – we’re looking at you Peru and Colombia:
If any of you Peruvian or Colombian MBAs can get a promising AI startup off the ground (none of those first-world-problem business models please) with at least a million dollars in VC funding (none of that ICO rubbish), we’ll send one of our MBAs down there to meet with you and profile your company in a feature article. Get busy amigos and amigas. The global AI race is on, and you haven’t even left the starting line.
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