Colombia contributes 31 companies to the list — as many as the rest of Latin America put together - with fintech well represented as a leading vertical
The highest-ranked Colombian company on the FT list is Zinobe, a fintech that enjoyed a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 100 per cent. Set up in 2012 by Tarek El Sherif, a banker who moved to Colombia from London, it offers credit to people who until then had been shut out of the financial system. By “competing with the banks by taking risks they were not comfortable taking”, Zinobe has boomed, offering more than 1.3m loans in a country of 50m people. It recently teamed up with Banco de Bogotá to offer loans to those without bank accounts and has moved into insurance in collaboration with Colombia’s biggest provider, Grupo Sura. This year, Zinobe is embarking on its first joint venture outside Colombia, in Mexico. Things in Colombia started to change under the first government of President Juan Manuel Santos between 2010 and 2014. Connect Bogotá was set up in 2011 and the government created iNNpulsa, a state innovation unit, in 2012. Half of the Colombian companies on the FT list were set up during this period. In a bid to cut red tape, the government has set up a platform called “Simple State, Agile Colombia”. Members of the public are invited to share their bugbears about unnecessary paperwork and overcomplicated procedures. The government has subsequently made more than 2,000 tweaks to the way Colombia works — many of which are designed to make life easier for entrepreneurs.