Are there tech startups in Haiti?

The good news is that technology companies large and small have come to the assistance of Haitians in the days following the massive earthquake.  FortiusOne, based in the U.S., collects satellite imagery and distributes it to NGOs who use this data to plan their efforts on the ground.

But are there actually tech startups in Haiti?  The short answer is that I’ve found very little evidence of technology ventures in Haiti.  Why is this? Is it because Haiti is too poor to support entrepreneurs?  Perhaps part of the reason Haiti is poor is that it lacks entrepreneurship.

One of the main reasons that Haiti has few if any homegrown technology startups is that it is EXTREMELY difficult to start a business there.  In fact, the World Bank’s 2010 Doing Business report ranks Haiti 180 out of 183 economies in terms of how easy the government makes it for citizens to start a business!  Here are a few of the criteria taken into account:

  • 227%: The cost of starting a business as a percentage of income per capita.  This means the average Haitian would have to put aside over two years of salary just to cover the government imposed costs of starting a business. This is totally separate from any other investment that would be needed to get the business off the ground.
  • 195: Days it takes for a Haitian to register their business.  15x the OECD average of 13 days.
  • 13: The number of procedures Haitians must accomplish for the government to approve their business.  More than twice the OECD average of 5.7 procedures.

It is great that companies and nonprofits from outside Haiti are applying technology to solve problems related to the recent earthquake.  In the long-run though, Haiti will be well-served if it’s government can remove the absolutely outrageous roadblocks that Haitians must surmount to start businesses.

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