Ecuador can be a great place to run a business. The country is fairly unregulated, and there are loads of untapped opportunities.
We caution you however, that larger businesses can be difficult. Ecuador still has a problem with corruption, and government processes are inefficient and time-consuming. Smaller businesses (mom-and-pop operations with few or no local employees) tend to be much easier to operate, since they tend to have less government or municipal interface.
There were three business ideas that immediately jumped out to us when considering Ecuador:
English-speaking Realtor. Many expats report not being able to find English-speaking realtors. Others claim many of the Spanish-speaking realtors can be slackers. The first people to tackle this will have the market to themselves. If you go in with an Ecuadorian partner, you could probably make strong inroads into the local market as well, by setting a high standard of operation.
Spanish language School. Loja, for example, is one of the best places in the world to learn Spanish, so the first person to open and market a small school will, again, have the market to themselves.
Short-term Rentals. Short-term rentals are hard to find. And by that we mean quality, modern, tastefully furnished rentals outfitted to North American standards. This is a perfect solution for the part-year resident who wants to rent their property out when not in town.
There are probably dozens more good ideas. All you need is an entrepreneurial spirit and a bit of time and you’ll be on your way.