Well, it’s finally happened. I’ve caught Covid-19, so what better excuse for us to talk about Latin American health tech?
One of the most striking facts is how much the sector grew even before the pandemic reared its ugly head. Between 2014 and 2019, the number of health tech startups in Brazil more than doubled from 160 to 389 companies.
Since the pandemic, these startups have been going from strength to strength. But perhaps the most interesting trend has been how health-care-adjacent companies have shifted toward the health sector. Brazil’s gym subscription unicorn, Gympass, was battered in the first few months of Covid-19 but swiftly pivoted to include remote nutrition and mental health services.
Remoteness is also a boon in non-pandemic-related contexts. Mexican mental health startup Yana benefited from allowing people to get consultations online. It provided a more private way of addressing users’ mental health, compared to having to turn up in person in a country where “people may think that, if you go to a therapist, you’re crazy,” said Yana’s founder Andrea Campos.
There is also other value added to contextualized health care. Beyond access to services and medical attention in Spanish or Portuguese, even the platforms being deployed by local startups are deliberately aimed at Latin Americans in ways that other geographies might not require. That’s why many regional health techs operate on Facebook Messenger: a platform Latin Americans are well acquainted with and that they often get for free in their data packages.
So, what’s next for the health-tech boom in Latin America? Consolidation. Many of these companies are now raising large enough investment rounds to start buying out the competition. Brazil’s Alice acquired Cuidas recently. Meanwhile, a Chilean holding company specializing in health tech, Grupo Inexoos, plans to expand across Latin America specifically through the acquisition of other companies.
I’m certain that before I slip out of my next omicron-induced fever dream, there’ll be yet another health tech M&A to report.