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Mixing Impact and Science-based Tech to Support Rural Women in Peru

Peruvian Science-based tech startup Simbiosis continues its impact-driven mission of supporting women in rural Andean communities through applied science.

An inspiring story about a group of founders determined to support communities like their hometowns through science, technology and entrepreneurship.

The same might be true for your country: In Peru, inequality of opportunity between rural and urban areas is substantial and noticeable. This affects the startup industry, too. However, occasionally we are fortunate enough to stumble upon the outliers, the exceptions, the startup founders that challenge and change this reality.

Cesar, Jefferson, and Margaret were born and grew up in the beautiful mountainous region of Peru, in a town called Incahuasi, at least 130 KM away from any city. While many young adults opted to join traditional sectors in the area such as commerce, and finance, Cesar, Jefferson, and Margaret took a slightly different route: becoming scientists and then tech entrepreneurs.

Alongside Walter, who was there from the beginning, the team of 3 chemical engineers and an agricultural technician set out to create a technology that fused their passion for science with their love for their communities.

In 2012 the team began their journey to create an optimized system for mushroom production. After 7 years of research and work with international allies, they built a patent-pending system that optimizes drying times for mushrooms, condensing a 4-day process down to 8 hours.

Transferring the technology into a viable business model was one of the hardest challenges, exacerbated by their desire to adopt a model with social impact at the forefront. Despite many pivots with technology, this desire remained.

Finally, Simbiosis was born; a company dedicated to the sustainable use of forest resources in the high Andean areas of Peru, focusing on revaluing the female labor force in these areas, where access to work is very difficult due to geographical and cultural conditions. As allies of Simbiosis, the harvesters achieve an independent income that is over 4x what they used to make, driving economic independence.

Cesar Huamán de la Cruz, CEO of Simbiosis comments:

"We are passionate about the biodiversity of our country, the ingenuity, and the determination of its people. Simbiosis reflects the joint work between the community and the forest. It is an amazing example of how applied science can lift up a very underserved segment in Peru”.

In Q3 of 2021, the startup obtained an angel investment to support business growth. Cayetano Heredia University’s business incubator, Bioincuba, made the connection.

Olga Timoteo, CEO of Bioincuba adds:

"It was important to support Simbiosis in this milestone. The science-based startup ecosystem has longer timelines and higher stakes due to the capital required in a product’s validation stage. Bioincuba gives all its efforts to help entrepreneurs obtain what they need. In this ecosystem, the team is also incredibly important, and the Simbiosis team is prepared and motivated to create success. They’ve also achieved government funding through CONCYTEC, further proving the caliber of the team, mission, and product”.

Since it was the first experience closing an angel investment deal for both, Simbiosis and Bioincuba obtained the support of a Swiss EP expert. Together, they navigated and closed the agreement, marking an important milestone for the science-based entrepreneurship ecosystem in Peru.

Simbiosis plans to generate new mushroom types through continued R&D, allowing them to multiply their impact by reaching Andean communities, outside of Peru.