Hello and welcome to Crossing Borders with Nathan Lustig, where I interview entrepreneurs doing startups across borders and the investors who support them, with a focus on companies that have some relationship to Latin America.
Hello and welcome to Crossing Borders with Nathan Lustig, where I interview entrepreneurs doing startups across borders and the investors who support them, with a focus on companies that have some relationship to Latin America.
Simon Chamorro, Valiu: Revolutionizing the Venezuelan Remittance Economy, Ep 98
80% of Venezuelans today depend on remittances to survive. Almost seven million people have left the country since the protests against the Maduro government started, creating a massive diaspora, almost all of whom send money home to family members trapped in the country.
Simon Chamorro was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, so he has seen this problem firsthand. He co-founded Valiu to make it easier to transfer money from Colombia to Venezuela by streamlining remittances using cryptocurrency.
In this episode of Crossing Borders, Simon explains how Valiu is using cryptocurrency to solve real-life problems, and how it has the potential to combat inflation in economies across Latin America. Now living in Colombia, Simon also discusses the important lessons he has learned working with four startups in the Colombian ecosystem, his own experience in starting a company, and where Valiu is headed next.
Check out this episode of Crossing Borders to learn more about the current situation in Venezuela and how Valiu is helping streamline the remittance economy from across the Colombian border.
Venezuela: the “biggest hyperinflation crisis in economic history” Simon Chamorro first encountered cryptocurrency when working at Rokk3r Labs, a crypto-security company in California, with co-founder David ?. While living in Colombia and sending money back home to his family in Venezuela, he recognized a real need for a safe platform for transferring money across borders.
Simon describes Valiu as being “the right company at the right time,” providing a solution to the issue of remittance cash flow in creating a closed economy through which to transfer money within Latin America, specifically from Colombia to Venezuela. The Valiu app manages these transactions to guarantee that payments arrive within an hour.
Listen to the full episode to find out more about how cryptocurrencies are helping to the current economic crisis in Venezuela.
How cryptocurrencies are helping create a safer Venezuelan economy Valiu is using cryptocurrency to solve the current crisis of the Venezuelan economy by allowing people to keep their savings on US dollars, the ultimate store of value in the global economy. Dollar accounts are the most stable option for Venezuelans in light of the country’s extortionate inflation rates.
Simon explains how Valiu’s technology has the potential to not only help stabilize Venezuela’s economy but also others to help Latin American economies that frequently deal with high inflation rates, like Argentina.
Check out the rest of the episode for how Valiu is using the Venezuelan diaspora to connect Latin America to international economies by securing money on the dollar.
Simon’s lessons learned from four Colombian startups I asked Simon what he considered the most important lessons he learned from working in four different startups and then building his own company in Colombia. He said that it was always to know the end goal; without a vision for the company, it is hard to find the path to success.
Simon also mentions that finding a good mentor helped him to navigate the startup network and find his footing in the industry. Through his mentor, he not only learned essential business skills that helped grow the company but also gained access to a wider market of investors in Colombia.
Check out the rest of the podcast for more lessons that Simon has learned from Colombia startups to running Valiu.
Today, Valiu is looking to expand beyond Venezuela and use cryptocurrency to change the face of Latin America’s economies, creating a more structured and stable financial system. The startup is providing economic security to families in an unstable country, creating a solution to a current and urgent problem. Check out the rest of the episode for how the full story on how Simon is building Valui into a c
Michael Sidgmore, Broadhaven Ventures: Investing in LatAm’s Fintech Ecosystem, Ep 95
When Michael Sidgmore thinks about investing, he thinks about making the biggest impact possible in people’s lives. His passion for economic development and financial inclusion has led him to build a career as a fintech investor and entrepreneur focused on financial infrastructure, wealth management, and financial inclusion. Today, he is a Partner and cofounder of Broadhaven Ventures, a Silicon Valley based fintech venture capital firm that has invested in 5 startups in Latin America.
Broadhaven Ventures invests globally in early-stage fintech startups but largely focuses on Latin America and the US. The fund was built out of a market leading fintech investment bank called Broadhaven Capital Partners to start to invest directly into some of the best companies they were seeing on the investment banking side of the business.
In this episode, I sit down with Michael in Mexico City to talk about his background in soccer, then in tech banking, and how an NGO inspired him to kickstart his investing career. We discuss what led him to do venture capital in Latin America, and also cover some of the biggest trends in Latin American fintechs and how these compare to Asia and the US.
“It was fascinating to see a non profit be run like a business” While Michael studied International Relations at the LSE, he worked at Room to Read, a non-profit that focuses on improving literacy and gender equality in education in the developing world. He was not only amazed at how they built economic development in different countries, but also by the business side of the organization.
Listen to this episode of Crossing Borders to learn more about how Michael realized he could build companies with positive financial return that could also create a huge social impact in people’s lives.
Thinking about Investing in a cash-based economy Michael stresses the importance of spending time in an ecosystem in order to fully understand it. When he started investing in Latin America, he would come down once a quarter for meetings and immerse himself in the environment. There are a number of cultural differences in the way that people think about their financial lives in Latin America that need to be understood before investing, such as the heavy dependance on cash or the lack of trust in banks.
Learn more about the different ways in which people think about money in LatAm in this episode of Crossing Borders.
The Rise of the Stealth Fintechs According to Michael, an interesting theme in LatAm and Asia is that non fintechs are becoming fintechs. Several high frequency usage models like Rappi, Grow, and Kovi are getting into financial services by releasing their own payments platforms like Rappipay or Grin wallet. Michael considers these new players will be a defining feature in LatAm’s future fintech ecosystem.
Listen to this episode to find out what are the current trends in LatAm’s fintech ecosystem.
Michael Sidgmore is passionate about combining business with social impact. Through his work at Broadhaven Ventures he is driving financial inclusion and economic development in Latin America and the US.
[1:04] - About Broadhaven Ventures [2:11] - From Middlebury to London [2:49] - Working on both sides of the table [4:25] - Lessons learned from the entrepreneur side [5:47] - Why is FinTech part of the investment thesis [7:30] - A subconscious interest in LatAm [10:08] - Biggest surprises that you ran into looking at the fintech ecosystem? [11:37] - Doing business in Brazil [14:16] - Comparing LatAm to Southeast Asia and the US [23:25] - What’s next for Michael and Broadhaven Ventures? [27:10] - Books, blogs, or podcasts Michael recommends [29:20] - Advice for founder’s in LatAm pitching a VC [34:20] - Advice for Michael’s younger self Resources mentioned:
Room to Read Mosaic iCapital Credijusto Kovi Grow Pipefy Ps
YCombinator in Latin America: Advice from 8 LatAm Founders on how to prepare for YC, Ep 96
YCombinator is one of the leading early-stage US investors in Latin America, and has served as a signal for other US investors to start making their first investments in the region. Since accepting its first Latin American founder in 2013, the region’s presence in the accelerator program has significantly increased. The most recent batch had over 15 companies from Latin America.
In this episode, we’ve gathered advice from 8 founders, some we’ve interviewed previously, and some new ones, that have participated in YCombinator. They talk about their experience going through the program and give tips to founders in the interview process, which can also be useful for other accelerators.
We start off with Christian Van der Henst from Platzi who describes YCombinator as the handbook of doing business in Silicon Valley, followed by Deepak Chhugani from Nuvocargo who explains how he thinks entrepreneurs can maximize resources and mentorship from the program.
Next is Emmanuel Oquendo from BrainHi who talks about being the first Puerto Rican startup to get into YCombinator and gives advice for the interview process. He’s followed by João de Paula from Glio who talks about the importance of finding a work-life balance in YCombinator’s fast-paced environment.
Truora’s David Bilbao then explains how Latin Americans should leave storytelling for last and be more concise in their responses during the interview process. Next is Freddy Vega from Platzi who talks about the importance of understanding your metrics, and Marta Forero from Ubits gives tips on how to prepare 15-second responses for the interview.
And finally, Pedro Goes from InEvent gives advice on how to think about what you want to share with the partners at YCombinator.
[0:00] - Introduction [1:45] Christian Van der Henst - Applying for YC [3:43] Christian Van der Henst - The value of being with other entrepreneurs [4:38] Deepak Chhugani - Explaining your business in one minute or less [6:30] Emmanuel Oquendo - First Puerto Rican startup to get into YC [7:46] Emmanuel Oquendo - Advice for the interview and the program [9:30] João de Paula - Knowing your competitors for the interview [12:33] João de Paula - How to position yourself once inside the program [14:32] Daniel Bilbao - No BS: answer directly, and then give your story [16:58] Freddy Vega - Understand your metrics [18:53] Marta Forero - Learning US terms [21:04] Marta Forero - Training for 15-second responses [23:59] Pedro Goes - Three key points of your company Links to founders’ full-length episodes:
Christian Van der Henst: Helping Latin America Learn with Platzi, Ep 52 Emmanuel Oquendo: How Brainhi Rebounded from Hurricane Maria to Become Puerto Rico’s First YCombinator Company, Ep 68 João de Paula, Glio: YCombinator’s First Latin American Startup, Ep 85 Daniel Bilbao, Truora: Fighting Fraud in Latin America, Ep 80 Marta Forero, UBits: Driving Economic Growth in Latin America via Corporate Education, Ep 74 Resources Mentioned:
YCombinator Platzi - Christian Van der Henst & Freddy Vega Nuvocargo - Deepak Chhugani BrainHi - Emmanuel Oquendo Glio - João de Paula Truora - Daniel Bilbao Ubits - Marta Forero InEvent - Pedro Goes
What it's Really Like to be a Female Founder and Investor in Latin America, Ep 95
In honor of the seventh edition of the IDB’s WeXchange annual event taking place in Asunción, Paraguay next week, this episode highlights the stories of seven women from both sides of the investment table featured in past Crossing Borders episodes. These high performers share their experiences of what it’s like being a woman in technology in Latin America.
This episode starts off with a55’s Jackie Hyland talking about how gender balanced teams improve the long-term health of a business, and Lab4U’s Komal Dadlani talking about her experience as a female founder in science.
Next is Alejandria Tenorio, cofounder of La Manicurista, who talks about her transition from the oil and gas industry into tech, and Cory Siskind, founder of Base Operations, talks about the institutionalized challenges women face in entrepreneurship.
Elevar Equity’s Managing Director Johanna Posada also shares her opinion on investing in Latin America and upping women representation, and Maricel Saenz from Nextbiotic shares her experience as a young female cofounder in biotech. Lastly, Marta Forero from Ubits explains what it was like to be the only Latin American woman in her YCombinator cohort and how the ecosystem can be more gender inclusive.
The WeXchange annual forum was founded in 2013 by the IDB Lab and Susana Garcia-Robles to support and connect women STEMpreneurs in Latin America and the Caribbean. If you want to learn more about WeXchange and its backstory, check out Susana Garcia Robles podcast with me Supporting Venture Capital and Women Entrepreneurs in Latin America, Ep 86, or the WeXchange podcast where Susana and her team interview top female founders and those that support them in Latin America and the Carribbean.
Female founders’ full-length episodes:
Jackie Hyland: How Debt Tools Can Help Latin American Entrepreneurs, Ep 69 Komal Dadlani, Lab4U: Turning Smartphones in Science Labs, Ep 63 Alejandra Tenorio, La Manicurista: Using Tech to Improve Latin America’s Beauty Industry, Ep 72 Cory Siskind, Base Operations: Using Technology to Secure Global Workforces, Ep 81 Johanna Posada, Elevar Equity: Driving Impact in Latin America via Venture Capital, Ep 79 Maricel Saenz, NextBiotics: Defeating the Next Superbug, Ep 76 Marta Forero, UBits: Driving Economic Growth in Latin America via Corporate Education, Ep 74 Show Notes:
[2:35] Jackie Hyland - The importance of including women in business and politics [3:52] Komal Dadlani - What’s it like being a female founder in LatAm versus the US? [5:00] Komal Dadlani - Raising money as a female entrepreneur [7:57] Alejandra Tenorio - Being a woman in the oil and gas industries [10:02] Cory Siskind - Experience as a woman in entrepreneurship [11:50] Cory Siskind - Advice for other women getting into entrepreneurship [13:03] Johanna Posada - What’s your take on genderless investing? [16:20] Maricel Saenz - Hurdles for women in tech [20:35] Marta Forero - What’s it like being a female founder in LatAm? [21:50] Marta Forero - How can the ecosystem help women? Resources Mentioned:
WeXchange 2019 Susana Garcia-Robles IDB Lab a55 - Jackie Hyland Lab4U - Komal Dadlani La Manicurista - Alejandra Tenorio Base Operations - Cory Siskind Elevar Equity - Johanna Posada NextBiotics - Maricel Saenz Ubits - Marta Forero
Andres Gutierrez, Tpaga: How Tappsi's acquisition led to Trying to Help Latin America's 400M Unbanked
Andres Gutierrez was working for a can manufacturing company in Philadelphia when he realized that web and mobile apps were disrupting the US market. When he asked friends and family in Colombia if there were any equivalents to these companies back home, he discovered an underserved market.
While most tech companies were launching in Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina, startups were overlooking 50M consumers, with a GDP of $360B. Andres decided to go back to Colombia to found Tappsi, a ride-hailing app that after operating for only 8 months got a $1M buyout offer which, to his parents’ dismay, he turned down.
In this episode, I sit down with Andres to discuss his most recent venture Tpaga, a mobile wallet that aims to give financial services to the 400M unbanked people in Latin America. We also talk about his story growing Tappsi to an exit, advice he has for Latin American entrepreneurs, and lessons learned from Tappsi that he used to start Tpaga. We also cover what it’s like to raise money and advice for going through YCombinator.
From hailing taxis to banking the unbanked / Banking the 400M unbanked in Latin America According to Andres, when he started Tappsi, hailing a taxi in Latin America wasn’t about convenience, it was about safety. With over 150 cases of people getting mugged while hailing a taxi in Bogota in 2012, Andres and his partner decided to solve this problem by creating a ride-hailing app called Tappsi. With one problem solved, another popped up: Tappsi taxi drivers couldn’t receive e-payments because they were unbanked. Andres soon realized that it wasn’t just the drivers. About 60% of the population in Colombia that works in the informal economy doesn’t have access to a bank account or any of the financial services that people in the developed world take for granted.
Learn more about Andres’ decision to build Tpaga, a mobile wallet that could affect the lives of millions of consumers, in this episode of Crossing Borders.
Tappsi’s capital efficient customer acquisition strategies Back in 2012, Colombians would send a picture of their taxi’s license plate to their friends and family as a safety precaution. Andres decided to incorporate a similar service to Tappsi in which his users would report their ride with the app on their social networks for safety purposes. By taking into account the local culture, Andres found Tappsi’s customer acquisition strategy.
Learn more about how Tappsi grew from their initial 100 drivers to 10K drivers in their first year using unconventional growth hacks.
Raising money from strategic investors Andres knew that approaching venture capital firms in Silicon Valley as a startup from Colombia, a country with a complicated history, was going to be a difficult task. He decided to apply to YCombinator and was accepted. The YCombinator stamp of approval made raising money for Tpaga much easier than the experience they had raising for Tappsi.
Find out how Andres and his partners strategically chose their investors to scale Tpaga across Latin America in this episode of Crossing Borders.
Andres Gutierrez is providing solutions for one of Latin America’s most ambitious goals: helping the 400M unbanked access credit. Through his resourcefulness and understanding of the local market, he is helping thousands of people and businesses gain access to financial services that are taken for granted in the developing world.
[1:23] - About Tpaga [2:24] - A day in the life of the unbanked [5:08] - Choosing financial inclusion [8:08] - Selling avocados door-to-door [10:11] - Family’s thoughts on starting a tech company [12:06] - First eight months of Tappsi [16:53] - How is that something that came natural to you? [19:23] - From the first offer to the end exit [22:25] - About the transition from Tappsi to Tpaga [25:45] - Tips for other LatAm founders
Pedro Sorrentino, ONEVC: Investing in Inevitable People , Ep 93
Pedro Sorrentino and his team were successful angel investors with multiple exits and technology executives and entrepreneurs when Pedro and his team decided to co-found ONEVC, a cross-border seed-stage firm based in San Francisco and São Paulo. He went from being a tech executive to starting his own company and then transitioned into angel investing and parlayed this successful track record into a $38M venture capital fund.
ONEVC’s cross-border vision means that they invest in Latin America and the US with very specific theses for both regions. The fund focuses on investing early into category-defining startups that operate in Latin America or startups outside of Silicon Valley, whether that be in Latin America, US or in Europe, that have the potential to go global.
In this episode, we cover the ONEVC investment thesis, and why they decided to invest against this thesis. We also discuss how Pedro thinks about helping companies he partners with and his advice to startup founders going into the Brazilian market. Lastly, we talk about how Latin America’s ecosystem is changing, advice to founders seeking funding from VCs, and advice Pedro would give to his younger self when he was first starting ONEVC.
“We are in the business of partnering with inevitability” Pedro says that with seed and pre-seed investments it’s only clear that it’s going to work after the fact. Some startups look really promising at the moment of investment, but may lose momentum for different reasons after receiving the funds. Others are an unstoppable brute force of nature; these are what Pedro calls ‘the inevitables’. Gaining access to a fund’s capital and time will only speed up the current trajectory of these types of founders.
Find out how Pedro thinks about ONEVC’s framework for finding investments that will create returns in this episode of Crossing Borders.
How ONEVC helps its portfolio companies Pedro and ONEVC try to support companies as much as they can, trying to get heavily involved with their portfolio companies. Investing means helping their portfolio companies in three key areas: raising capital, providing access to top candidates when recruiting, and assisting in sales. Pedro explains that at ONEVC they believe they need to earn their place in cap tables by helping in these three areas.
Learn more about ONEVC’s investment strategies in this episode of Crossing Borders.
Advice to Spanish-speaking founders in the Brazilian Market Pedro admits that despite Brazil’s friendly reputation, it can be a very hostile environment for doing business. He advises foreign founders to find a local partner to help introduce them to the best lawyers, accountants, and service providers when opening the Brazilian market. Pedro also suggests that building a corporate culture that can permeate both national and language barriers is key to developing a scalable business in a systematic way, as well as to attract Brazil’s top talent.
Tune in to this episode of Crossing Borders to hear more advice on pursuing the Brazilian market as a Spanish-speaking founder.
From starting companies to eventually investing in them, Pedro Sorrentino has had a long trajectory in the US and Latin American startup ecosystems. Today, as founder of ONEVC, he invests in companies like Rappi, Pipefy, and Loggi and helps them unleash their full potential in their respective markets.
[01:45] - About ONEVC, past and present [05:10] - ONEVC’s investment parametres: check sizes and stages [08:01] - Getting involved in VC [16:14] - Unicorns in LatAm: Brazil versus Mexico [18:36] - Advice for Spanish-speaking LatAm founders in the Brazilian market [20:52] - Deciding on ONEVC’s investment thesis [23:55] - Advice to Pedro’s younger self [25:10] - Books and podcasts Pedro recommends [29:11] - What’s next for Pedro and ONEVc? Res