28 Jan A consulate with a tech twist
Uruguay’s software industry has grown exponentially over the course of the past decade, boosted by increasing worldwide demand for custom software development services, as well as by favorable regulations on a local level. However, there’s still plenty of room for the industry to grow, and in line with this objective, we observed two big initiatives in 2019: CUTI Business Forum, which we discussed in a previous post, and the re-opening of the consulate of Uruguay in San Francisco.
At a glance, this might not come across as a very innovative strategy to generate more business, especially considering most such offices deal mainly with issues related to the citizens of the countries they represent. However, and even though they will deal with the everyday tasks of a diplomatic office as well, the main objective of this consulate is to position the country as a top provider of software development services for the American market.
In line with this new strategy, we sat down for a chat with Ignacio Gonzalez – recently appointed as head of Uruguay’s consulate in San Francisco – to learn more about their mission to take the country’s software industry to the next level.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and your role in this new consulate.
A: I’m a 36-year-old lawyer by trade, and for the past 11 years I’ve been working as a diplomat, having been posted for the previous 5 years to the Embassy of Uruguay in Belgium. I was appointed as head of the consulate to San Francisco in 2019, with the mission to re-open our office in this city.
Q: What are the main goals that have been outlined for the consulate in San Francisco?
A: Our main goals are related to the Uruguayan software industry and the strengthening of its relation with Silicon Valley, as well as the US in general. It’s a very “wide” goal, so to speak, but this is because it includes the basic things a consulate generally does (such as the promotion of the country itself) to the real specific matters that we wish to address in this case ( the promotion of the software industry and providing support to Uruguayan entrepreneurs).
Q: As for Uruguayan companies looking to insert themselves in the American market, has the consulate defined any specific strategies to help them?
This is, in a way, related to the aforementioned strategy, since our idea is to work on every possible level, going from introducing the country to potential enterprise clients but also to startups. Our goal is to make sure Uruguayan companies are the first ones to come to mind for decision-makers in the industry, and in order to achieve this – given the limited financial & human resources we can count on – we must go and find these potential clients, or come up with creative ways to attract them.
Q: How well-positioned do you see the Uruguayan software industry within the American market?
A: Very well, actually! But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing more do to from our side (in terms of promoting the country) and from the software companies’ side (opportunity search). I think a common goal for everyone, both private and public sector, is to build a “tech country” image for Uruguay. For instance, no one in America will identify Uruguay because of the popularity of our soccer team, so we must really work on how we can be best perceived as a country with potential in the tech field. The fact that we’re a small country can help us generate that vision as there are other examples of “iconic” tech countries, such as Estonia and Israel, that have similar dimensions to ours.
Q: Which strengths do you see in the local software industry that could become an advantage in terms of positioning in the American market, when compared to the industries of other countries?
A: We have several advantages that other countries from the region have as well, especially when we think of the nearshore scheme and cultural similarities, but I think nowadays our biggest strength is stability, as it’s something intangible but with an enormous value when it comes to choosing where to do business. I’d also point out the fact that our software industry is very solid and mature, as it has grown enormously in the past few years and that growth is largely owed to the great work its people do.
Q: What do you think could be improved within the industry?
A: Each company has its own challenges, and they vary depending on the company’s size and type. However, having visited over 30 different companies before starting this new journey in San Francisco, I’ve come to notice many of them have a great potential to develop even more products, and for different reasons, they choose not to. In an ideal setting, I think this is something companies could work on in order to reach their full potential: for instance, creating different spin-offs for product development, or bringing along entrepreneurs to build their products within the company.
This might mean they will lose time from valuable resources that will be assigned to a project with uncertain results, but it is nonetheless an interesting alternative.