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When it comes to centres of innovation, where creative minds are collaborating on ideas to help change the world, it’s time to start looking beyond Silicon Valley.

Talented startups leaders, accelerators, government leaders and investors from across Latin America, including Uruguay, Brazil, Peru and Colombia, met with their Canadian counterparts in Toronto recently for the fourth annual LatAm Startups Conference.

Taking advantage of events like this is incredibly valuable for startups and for those looking to scale up, says Thayde Olarte, Vice President of Fintech Partnership at Scotiabank, which sponsored the conference.

Olarte’s advice for startups is that they need to focus on their ability to collaborate, particularly in their early days, “Startups need to partner with a company that is able to help them target critical mass. The second piece is that they have to be open to receive mentorship and help from experts, particularly in key areas like marketing, operational efficiency and recruiting talent.”

With over 1,000 fintechs in Latin America and Canada, Olarte says there are great opportunities for growing companies to learn from each other and from established financial institutions, creating partnerships that will ultimately benefit their customers.

“I think banks are natural partners for startups. We have the customer base, experience in the financial sector and talented employees that are open to exchanging ideas,” says Olarte. “We work with the startups we partner with to align needs, cultures, languages. It can be daunting to a startup to work with a big company because they are worried they will get lost within the organization. We make sure to connect them with the right person, whether it is at our Digital Factory in Toronto or in our offices around the world.”

In addition to the Toronto location, Scotiabank has created a network of Digital Factories, innovation hubs, in each of the Pacific Alliance countries of Mexico, Peru, Chile and Colombia.

Olarte says the Bank is constantly looking to partner with people with creative, interesting ideas, beyond fintech companies.

“We definitely work with fintechs, but there are many other kinds of startups that might be doing work related to us,” says Olarte. “We talk about technology as an enabler. So if we are reviewing companies like one doing an online marketplace for restaurants, why could I not use that type of app to help our credit card holders?”

You can watch Thayde Olarte’s presentation at the conference here.