198 episodes

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.

Crossing Borders with Nathan Lustig Nathan Lustig

    • Business
    • 5.0 • 27 Ratings

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.

    Greatest Hits Episode: Dan Green, Gunderson Dettmer: Legal Structures for Startups in Latin America, Ep 198

    Greatest Hits Episode: Dan Green, Gunderson Dettmer: Legal Structures for Startups in Latin America, Ep 198

    For this week on the Crossing Borders podcast, we’re revisiting one of our greatest hits episodes featuring Dan Green, Partner at Gunderson Dettmer.

    An avid traveler from a young age, Dan Green’s relationship with Latin America stretches all the way back to his childhood trips to Mexico and Ecuador and visits from an aunt who dazzled him with stories about doing business in Chile. Driven by his passion for the region, Dan was set on becoming a link between the US and Latin American markets.

    In 2004, Dan started practicing law in Silicon Valley, immersing himself in the venture capital and startup world. Today, Dan is a corporate partner at Gunderson Dettmer, a law firm that focuses on global venture capital and emerging technology and has been practicing in and around Latin America for over 15 years.

    I sat down with Dan to talk about how his trip to Latin America during his 20s inspired him to focus on building a bridge between Silicon Valley and the region, supporting top-level entrepreneurs like the current founders of Cornershop. We also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different corporate structures for entrepreneurs starting their own business.

    The mirror image of California through an atlas

    Growing up in California, Dan’s aunt had told him stories about Chile from her ventures selling sonar fishing equipment to fishermen around the world. His aunt’s stories had intrigued him enough to choose Chile in his third year of undergrad at Stanford to complete a study abroad program. There, he fell in love with his future wife as well as with the country, the culture, and the people of Latin America.
    Listen to this episode of Crossing Borders to learn more about how this chapter in his life inspired him to follow a career that would allow him to continue connecting with Latin America.

    ‘The Valley’ awakening to Latin America

    Over the years, Dan has witnessed how the Latin American tech landscape has transformed. From broadband connection to access to mobile phones and a rising trust in eCommerce. The first investments, which are always the hardest when breaking into a market, took place in Brazil. According to Dan, these investments in Brazil unlocked the rest of the region for foreign investment.

    Check out this episode of Crossing Borders to learn about the first investments that paved the way for other investors in the Valley.

    An emerging standard in legal structures for business in Latam

    One of the most important steps in starting a business is deciding on a legal structure. According to Dan, if done correctly this decision can save millions of dollars in terms of taxes and costs down the road. However, the answer is not always clear. This is especially true in the initial stages of a business when there is still so much uncertainty revolving around questions like how much you are going to raise or what your operating or exit path is. Dan explains that the more clarity you have about these questions, the more guidance you will be able to receive.

    Learn about the advantages and disadvantages of different legal structures in this episode of Crossing Borders.

    Dan Green is helping high impact businesses grow in Latin America and the US, leveraging his legal expertise and connections in Silicon Valley to become a bridge builder for the best entrepreneurs and investors in both regions.

    Outline of this episode:
    [1:32] - About Gunderson Dettmer[2:16] - From Silicon Valley to Latam[6:59] - Changes in the ecosystem[11:08] - What corporate structure should you have?[19:19] - What you need to know about Delaware...

    • 26 min
    Greatest Hits Episode: Doménica Obando, Talently: Empowering Latin American tech talent, Ep 197

    Greatest Hits Episode: Doménica Obando, Talently: Empowering Latin American tech talent, Ep 197

    For this week on the Crossing Borders podcast, we’re revisiting one of our greatest hits episodes featuring Doménica Obando, CEO, and co-founder of Talently

    Doménica Obando, CEO and co-founder of Talently, is helping build Latin America into the next tech talent hub while offering better jobs to skilled developers and data scientists.

    Originally from Peru, Domenica worked in an NGO and the public sector before becoming a full-time entrepreneur. First, she founded Andi, a learning platform, which afterward she decided to pivot into Talently.

    Talently is a talent accelerator for tech professionals in Latin America. Software developers and data scientists who feel stuck in their careers apply to Talently to upgrade their skills and land better jobs in return.

    Talently diagnoses the skills tech professionals need to improve their careers and also provides courses to develop soft skills such as employability, interview prep, and more. The company has a heavy focus on improving their English fluency, which is a limiting factor that prevents their career growth.

    So far, Talently has helped 800 engineers land better jobs at companies such as Paypal, Nubank, and Mercado Libre. And this year, the startup is set to help 4,000-5,000 professionals. According to Doménica, Talently is looking forward to becoming Latin America’s largest talent marketplace.

    In this episode, I sat down with Doménica to talk about the experiences that helped her become the entrepreneur she is today. She shares how families in Latin America can improve their economy with education, and her experience pivoting her startup.

    Doménica’s path across private, nonprofit, and public sectors

    Doménica fell in love with startups while in university but took a different path. She worked at the Ministry of Education and then joined a friend to start an educational-focused NGO. She spent three years leading a team of 50 volunteers, as they taught digital skills to school teachers. Doménica decided to move on after realizing that working in the public sector and in an NGO didn’t fit her fast-paced personality and hunger for impact.
    Learn more about why Doménica chose to become an entrepreneur in the Edtech industry in this Crossing Borders episode.


    A startup as a vehicle to deliver outsized impact

    Andi, an English learning platform, was Doménica’s first startup. However, when she found that most of Andi’s customers were trying to improve their English in order to get international positions and that half of them were software developers, she decided Andi would pivot into Talently, a platform that could take advantage of the tech boom in Latin America. In just 8 hours after launch, Talently received 100 applications.

    Listen to this Crossing Borders episode to understand how Doménica’s primary goal was to build a product that created the most impact.

    Developing skills in tech professionals to upgrade their reality

    Talently’s participants finish the program earning 2X more on average than before. In many cases, they end up multiplying their earnings up to 10x. This increase in their income causes a huge impact on families and communities of Talently’s graduates. Sometimes, they earn more money than all of their family combined. Before, Doménica felt that her lack of English proficiency prevented her from achieving professional success. Once she mastered the English language, she found the drive to advance her career as she had always wanted.

    Check out this episode of Crossing Borders and learn why Doménica thinks it is essential to build tools for tech professionals to become confident about their careers, so they can change their lives.
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    Outline of this episode:
    [01:30] - About Talently .
    [01:54] - Talently’s value proposition.
    [03:27] - Improving the income of tech...

    • 29 min
    Greatest Hits Episode- Pedro Moura, Flourish Fi- Building the tech infrastructure to help people make better financial decisions, Ep 196

    Greatest Hits Episode- Pedro Moura, Flourish Fi- Building the tech infrastructure to help people make better financial decisions, Ep 196

    For this week on the Crossing Borders podcast, we’re revisiting one of our greatest hits episodes featuring Pedro Moura, Co-Founder, and CEO of Flourish Fi. We hope you enjoy this conversation as much as we did

    Pedro Moura moved from Natal, Brazil to the US at a young age, overcoming many challenges while always trying to build a better future for himself, his family and his region. His perseverance and grit guided him to create a company that he is truly passionate about. In this episode of Crossing Borders, Pedro tells the story of his career path and how taking a risk on what he really believed in led him to found Flourish, a B2B SaaS company that empowers people to establish positive money habits.

    In this episode, I sat down with Pedro to discuss how he landed on the idea for Flourish, what companies can do to attract foreign talent, and how to think of a business from a global perspective.

    Finding a fit in financial inclusion

    Pedro’s story is truly inspirational. He moved to Northern California from Brazil when he was young, and his mother worked tirelessly for the family. Pedro attended UC Davis, studying Economics and International Relations, then venturing into Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley. However, he soon realized the position was not the best fit for him. After joining Opportun, a startup dedicated to making financial services more accessible, Pedro realized his passion for financial inclusion and decided to start Flourish.
    Listen to this episode of Crossing Borders to learn more about Pedro’s career path and what led him to Flourish.

    Attracting talent overseas

    A key part of Pedro’s story was his decision to ‘cross a border’ to build something great. With talent today more mobile than ever before, some countries are still more hesitant than others to recruit from out-of-country. Despite political immigration boundaries, the culture of international collaboration is healthy and thriving.
    Find out more about the opportunities that lie in hiring across borders in this episode of Crossing Borders.

    Chasing your passion

    While Pedro was still working at the bank, he saw a TV program that inspired him to learn more about companies that were driven by social issues: specifically, the disparity between the Latin American community and the world of financial services spoke to him. This experience sparked Pedro’s curiosity and led him to Opportun and then to founding Flourish.
    Learn more about how Pedro discovered his passion in this episode of Crossing Borders.
    Pedro Moura’s story is inspiring in more ways than one. Adapting to a new environment at a young age and thriving required perseverance and hard work. By following his passion, he took several career risks to serve the Latin American community. Join us to learn his story and what he is building at Flourish.

    Outline of this episode:
    [1:90] – About Flourish
    [3:35] – Pedro’s move to the US
    [7:00] – Adapting to a new culture at a young age
    [8:30] – Advice on attracting talent
    [12:30] – From wealth management to Oportun
    [16:30] – Why starting a company was the natural next step
    [18:30] – How geography plays a part in the business
    [22:10] – What is Flourish’s next step
    [23:20] – What advice would you offer your younger self?
    [25:30] – Where do you see Flourish 2 years from now?

    Resources & people mentioned:
    Pedro Moura
    Flourish
    Book: The Brain That Changes Itself

    • 27 min
    MaricelGreatest Hits Episode: Maricel Saenz, Compound Foods: Coffee without Coffee Beans, Ep 195

    MaricelGreatest Hits Episode: Maricel Saenz, Compound Foods: Coffee without Coffee Beans, Ep 195

    For this week on the Crossing Borders podcast, we’re revisiting one of our greatest hits episodes featuring Maricel Saenz, Founder, and CEO of Compound Foods.

    People continue to experience how global warming can have devastating effects on the world. Crop yields have already started to decline from rising temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns and extreme weather events. Climate change is threatening the future of many foods, and that includes coffee. This threat and her love for coffee inspired Maricel Saenz to launch Compound Foods, a food science company to reinvent coffee.
    Originally from Costa Rica, where coffee is ingrained in the national identity, Maricel wanted to dedicate her time and energy to creating solutions fighting climate change. Maricel left her first startup to create a product that could recreate coffee in a sustainable way. Coffee is one of the most consumed products in the world and it comes with a large water footprint. Maricel’s idea for Compound Foods is to replicate the coffee experience with less environmental impact.
    In this episode, I sat down with Maricel to talk about Compound Food’s mission in tackling climate change, her career in science without being a scientist, her journey of building a company at the start of the pandemic and the future of the coffee industry.
    I hope you enjoy this conversation with Maricel Saenz.

    From fighting bacterias to fighting climate change
    Maricel shares why she left her first startup to start Compound Foods to fight climate change. Maricel’s experience in biotechnology and her longing to impact the world positively were the catalyst to launch Compound Foods and ultimately, what happens on a coffee farm in the lab.
    Find out why Maricel decided to follow her passion to tackle climate change in this episode of Crossing Borders. If you want to learn more about Maricel’s backstory, I talked to her in Episode 76 about the battle against drug resistant bacteria and the challenges of raising capital in Silicon Valley as a Latina entrepreneur.

    Drawing inspiration from nature
    Research shows that 50% of the land we grow coffee on today may not be suitable for growing coffee in the future. A big chunk of coffee production could go away over the next few years due to environmental changes, for which Marciel believes we must take action and start producing coffee in an environmentally friendly way. Compound Food’s draws inspiration from nature and relies heavily on the fermentation process to create a product that has the same chemical composition of coffee beans. The microbes play a key role in creating flavors and aromas, and are grown efficiently and in a scalable way.
    Check out this episode to learn more about why Maricel wants to make coffee without coffee beans!

    Changing the mindset around climate change
    Maricel conveys an empowering message to go from climate anxiety to taking action. We can still do something significant about climate change and the environment. Technologies and companies are being built around climate change and people have the power to make big changes through simple choices, like buying a product that has less of an environmental impact.
    Listen to the rest of this episode to hear Maricel on changing the mindset and the advice she would give to her younger self.



    Coffee is one of the most consumed products on the planet and the way we produce it today has a high environmental impact. Solving this global problem is not easy and needs all hands on the (coffee) table. If this resonates with you, Compound Foods is on the lookout for more passionate team members to join the team.
    Check out this episode of Crossing Borders to hear Maricel tell her story in her own words and her enthusiasm about creating a climate-resilient future, starting with your morning coffee.

    Outline of this episode:

    [01:06] - The...

    • 28 min
    Greatest Hits Episode: Javier García, Femsa: Collaborating with the most disruptive startups in Latin America, Ep 194

    Greatest Hits Episode: Javier García, Femsa: Collaborating with the most disruptive startups in Latin America, Ep 194

    For this week on the Crossing Borders podcast, we’re revisiting one of our greatest hits episodes featuring Javier García, Director of FEMSA Ventures.

    Javier García knew that there were at least 50 ways of doing corporate venture capital the wrong way, which is why he took a couple of years to figure out how to do it right with FEMSA. Today, Javier is the Director of Corporate Venturing and Growth Capital at FEMSA’s corporate venture capital fund. FEMSA is a publicly-traded conglomerate company that started out as a brewery and has produced popular brands like Dos Equis and Tecate.

    Founded in 1890, FEMSA has since branched out into other business verticals such as drugstores, gas stations, and restaurants, including OXXO, the largest chain of small-format stores in Mexico.

    I sat down with Javier to talk about his transition from consulting to working at FEMSA and getting involved with Latin America’s venture capital ecosystem. We discuss innovation in corporations and Javier shares tips on how to collaborate with startups and large corporations.

    Getting a slice of the innovation pie

    According to Javier, FEMSA’s venture capital arm started as a mission to collaborate with the most disruptive external sources of innovation. He started to learn about the different ways to approach this collaboration by investigating and conducting over 30 interviews with people involved in the corporate venture capital world. Choosing the right way was another challenge.

    Learn more about how Javier built an operational design for FEMSA to collaborate with the best startups on their business platform in this episode of Crossing Borders.

    Engaging with the ecosystem from a perspective of learning

    After studying mechanical engineering at university, Javier considered working in the aerospace industry as one of his potential paths. However, his first experience working for a consulting firm made him realize he liked problem-solving and that he wanted to be in a space where he would be closer to the execution of solutions and be continuously faced with learning opportunities. He explains that he found the ideal formula working with FEMSA and learning about Latam’s venture capital ecosystem.

    Listen to this episode of Crossing Borders to learn more about how Javier got involved in Latam’s venture capital ecosystem.

    A misalignment of incentives

    Collaborating with a corporate venture capital fund can be very different from working with a traditional VC. Javier explains that there tends to be a misalignment of expectations between big corporations and entrepreneurs with regard to what actually happens at the startup. He sees this confusion during startup pitches where the entrepreneur prioritizes an investment over the actual collaboration.

    Find out more about Javier’s recommendations for working with big corporations in this episode of the Crossing Borders podcast.

    Javier García is making amazing collaborations happen between startups and corporations through FEMSA’s venture capital arm. His thirst for knowledge and his passion for problem-solving and execution are key to positioning corporate venture capital funds as attractive business partners.

    Outline of this episode:
    [1:41] - About FEMSA
    [7:30] - Mechanical engineering in Monterrey
    [11:55] - FEMSA’s investment strategy
    [23:52] - Recommendations for working with big companies
    [29:38] - Lessons learned from collaborating with startups
    [36:24] - Advice to Javier’s younger self
    [38:16] - Books, blogs, & podcast recommendations
    [42:11] - What’s next for Javier and FEMSA ventures?

    Resources & people mentioned:
    FEMSA
    Javier García
    OXXO
    Dos Equis
    Tecate
    Bain & Company
    Books: Masters of Corporate Venture Capital, Corporate Venturing, The Three-Body Problem, Atomic...

    • 44 min
    Greatest Hits Episode: Mariana Costa, Laboratoria: Transforming Latin America’s Tech Sector with Female Talent, Ep 193

    Greatest Hits Episode: Mariana Costa, Laboratoria: Transforming Latin America’s Tech Sector with Female Talent, Ep 193

    For this week on the Crossing Borders podcast, we’re revisiting one of our greatest hits episodes featuring Mariana Costa, CEO, and Co-founder of Laboratoria.

    Mariana Costa, founder of Laboratoria, a programming bootcamp for Latin American women, found a way to mix two worlds she was passionate about: technology and helping women. Originally from Peru, Mariana combines technology with social impact by running programming bootcamps for women from underserved backgrounds. The program seeks to prepare these women for a career in tech by placing them in jobs with a success rate of over 85%. Laboratoria started operating in Lima, but has since expanded to Santiago, Chile, Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Sao Paulo.

    Laboratoria tackles both sides of the equation by propelling a digital and cultural transformation within the tech companies so that they will continue growing their teams, but with a lens of diversity and inclusion.

    In this episode, I sit down with Mariana and a third special guest, her two week old baby, to talk about how she got into tech with her background in social impact, and what it was like to be on a panel in Silicon Valley with Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg. We also cover her advice on building a non profit in Latin America, how companies can hire more women in tech, and Laboratoria’s plans for expansion across Latin America.

    Becoming an Entrepreneur

    While getting her Master’s degree in Public Administration and Development at Columbia University, Mariana and her husband, who is a programmer, decided to move back to Peru. Rodolfo, a friend from her Master’s program, had also moved back to Peru at the time, and together they started brainstorming on what could be done in their home country. It was clear from the team composition that it would be something on the social impact route combined with technology.

    Before Laboratoria, Mariana and her team went through many ideas that didn’t get off the ground, and in that process stumbled upon a problem in the tech industry: the lack of female software developers. Learn more about how Laboratoria challenged the status quo on this episode of Crossing Borders.

    “We were really lean”

    Mariana recalls Laboratoria’s beginnings: running a pilot with 15 students, and being amazed by the interest that several companies expressed in hiring female developers. Although it was a very low cost pilot due to their limited budget, it was the validation they needed to realize that their program had growth potential. A better understanding of the market also taught them when to be aggressive, and when to be more cautious in Laboratoria’s growth. Learn more about Laboratoria’s impact on the tech industry on this episode of Crossing Borders.

    Advice for hiring women in tech

    Part of what Laboratoria does is work with companies to diversify their pipeline, a process which requires open minds and policies. Mariana explains that companies need to change their prerequisites and make an additional effort to recruit outside of the traditional universities in places like Laboratoria to include more women in their pool of candidates.

    Find out what companies can do to have more diversity and inclusion in their hiring processes on this episode.

    Mariana Costa is creating digital and cultural transformation in Latin America’s tech industry through her work with Laboratoria. She is helping women from low-income backgrounds unleash their full potential and overcome structural and societal barriers. Teams that are built with a lens of diversity and inclusion can make Latin America’s digital economy grow more quickly.

    Outline of this episode:
    [1:35] - About Laboratoria
    [3:45] - Becoming entrepreneurs in Latin America
    [7:01] - A picture Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg
    [9:28] - Laboratoria’s success rate
    [11:59] - Choosing the...

    • 35 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
27 Ratings

27 Ratings

TheReal_Joe_ ,

Very detailed!

Love the podcast and amount of info we can get in such a short time. Great for anyone who is curious about LATAM culture or eco-system. I have been following for over a year now. Keep up the great work.

The Collins Family ,

BC

Nathan engages with some great guests and guides the conversation to uncover fantastic insights. Highly recommended for those of you interested in entrepreneurial ventures and/or Latin America.

Wjb108 ,

Thank you!

Stunned how under the radar this podcast is. Interesting interviews with entrepreneurs, VCs, lawyers with some connection to Latin America through the lens of US born and raised entrepreneur living abroad. I have listened to over 40 of the podcasts and recommend it to a bunch of people. The links at the bottom of blog posts are really helpful.
Feedback: Really enjoyed the granularity of JP’s legal talk, more of these in the weeds type podcasts would be great. Recently discovered Rebank podcasts. Nathan/listeners might enjoy this one: Latam, SMB Platforms and the Gig Economy with Broadhaven

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