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How Colombia went from murder capital to tech powerhouse

When Mark Zuckerberg hosted Facebook’s first overseas town hall meeting, he didn’t go to Beijing, London or Dubai.
Instead, Zuckerberg went to Bogota, a city once known for drug kingpins and murder. Now, Colombia may be Latin America’s best comeback story.

“It’s great to be here in Bogota,” Zuckerberg told a packed room in January.

Zuck’s big day in Bogota is evidence that the country is making a successful push to become the Silicon Valley of South America. Zuckerberg came to Bogota to announce his plan to bring free internet to Colombia.

Google (GOOG), Facebook (FB) and Microsoft (MSFT) have opened offices in Bogota in recent years. Between 2007 and 2012, Colombia’s tech industry grew 177% to $6.8 billion, according to the government. Along with those big-name arrivals, Colombians are also leading their country’s tech surge.

Rene Rojas remembers the drug trafficking days of Pablo Escobar, the druglord who Colombian police gunned down in 1993. But Bogota is a much different city today, he says. Rojas is helping to lead Bogota’s burgeoning tech scene with HubBOG, a 5-year-old campus for tech entrepreneurs to test their ideas.

The past two years, 46 entrepreneurs graduated from HubBOG’s program. This year they plan to graduate 105 start ups.

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