• Time for a more holistic view on building startups in Latin America


    Through the years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet hundreds of startup founders in Latin America and have advised a growing portfolio of these.  During this time, I’ve been able to collaborate with amazingly talented founders in their building some great new companies. This achievement, by itself, is incredibly difficult in any region in the world and particularly so in Latin America.  Nonetheless, growing beyond this initial discovery and validation phase and into a large business (and organization) requires a great deal more in terms of leadership skills and seems to be less common in Latin America than in other regions.  A key reason for this, in my estimation, is the lack of awareness and understanding of the power of creating a strong company culture.

    There are a number of factors that contribute to the dearth of startups in Latin America that have grown into big businesses such a scarcity of experienced Venture Capital firms in the region, friction-filled (e.g., regulation, taxes, etc.) markets, unique customer monetization challenges (e.g., low credit card penetration, etc.) and a dearth of experienced talent, among others.  These challenges also present great opportunities that some startups in the region have used to their advantage.  These include MercadoLibre, PayU Latam, and Despegar, among others.  Local entrepreneurs as well as  investors in the region are very good at focusing efforts upon external (or market) factors such as sales and marketing.  These are important. Nonetheless, in my opinion, there is far too little focus on a key area that has the potential to multiply the number of startups that grow to become big companies in the region if more attention is paid to it: building a solid and coherent company culture.

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  • Kiwi sells it’s Lulo product to focus on the future

    Kiwi and Tropicalgringo

    As has been reported this week, one of the companies from my portfolio, Kiwi, sold one of their digital products called Lulo to Merqueo, whose founders are also the founders of Domicilios, acquired over a year ago by Delivery Hero. The funds generated from the sale will allow the company to focus on one product, a chat application for ordering all types of products and services.

    I first met the original co-founders, Felipe Chavez and Javier Santiago Lozano, more than two years ago and was impressed from the start. Santiago has always been passionate about building great products. He is amazingly talented in a number of areas including, but not limited to, developing and designing great software products. Felipe complements Santiago through his determination and drive to build an organization. They believe in hiring the most talented people that are equally inspired by what the company is trying to accomplish.

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  • Platzi closes $2.1M seed round

    Platzi seed roundI’m happy to report (as did the Wall Street Journal) that Platzi has closed a $2.1M seed round.  It’s CEO and co-founder, Freddy Vega, is pictured above during my recent interview with him in Colombia.  Freddy is Colombian and his talented co-founder, Christian Van Der Henst, hails from Guatemala. Nonetheless, both are true blue global startup guys (citizens of the world).

    I’ve always felt that these guys are valuable role models particularly for entrepreneurs in the region because of their having been able to bootstrap their business through sheer talent, desire and hard work.  I see this as extremely valuable in terms of a model that a large portion of Latin American entrepreneurs (that don’t have access to initial capital or highly placed business connections) can emulate.

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  • TropicalGringo Portfolio: Tappsi exit good news for ecosystem

    Tappsi ExitAs some of you know, one of the startups that I advise is Tappsi, the leading taxi-hailing company in Colombia. Recently, the company announced their merger with Easy Taxi.  Not only is this a good outcome for the company’s talented founders and the Colombian startup ecosystem (particularly, for investors and potential investors), but it is a logical next step in the company’s evolution and allows it to play the long (regional) game as part of bigger company.

    Though this outcome may have been a surprise to some, it was a scenario that the founders (and myself) always saw as one of several probabilities down the road. This space was quite obviously destined for consolidation (especially, from a regional perspective).  In such a market, as many know, you can be the consolidator of several markets (countries) or, if you can build dominance in one lucrative market (country), you can, later, join forces with that same consolidator through a merger, acquisition, etc.

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