Last night, we had a great dinner with some of the startups from the TropicalGringo Portfolio (others were traveling). In the photo above, from left to right are Juan Salcedo (co-founder of Tappsi and TPaga), Arnulfo Ospina and Roxana Vergara (co-founders of Vendty), Javier Cardona and Nicolas Duran (co-founders of 1Doc3) and Andres Gutierrez (co-founder of Tappsi and TPaga). Missing were Felipe Chavez and Sergio Pachon (co-founders of Kiwi Campus) and Carlos Santana (founder of Acsendo). Needless to say, it was a night to remember!
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A year ago, I joined the New Digital Business group within BBVA, a large global bank actively transforming its business. Several weeks ago, we publicly announced the acquisition of digital payments startup Openpay, the culmination of a project that myself and a great boss within said business unit worked on during the last year. I’m looking forward to the huge impact that Openpay (see filtered photo of HQ above) and its impressive founders, Roberto Bargagli, Eric Núñez and Heber Lazcano will have on BBVA’s digital business.
I’m actually writing this post from Queretaro, where this company is headquartered and I have the good fortune to work with them as part of BBVA. Finding and acquiring a high-quality startup such as Openpay speaks to the opportunities (particularly, in terms of acquisitions – only one tool) available for digital transformation in Latin America. I’d like to use this post to share some general opinions about digital innovation and the ensuing business transformations that corporations are going through as well as some insights about the Latin American startup scene.
I just got back from speaking at an excellent Bitcoin/Blockchain event in Cartagena, Colombia called Blockchain Latam. I spoke about Bitcoin within the context of industry disruption. I enjoyed interacting with the audience immensely. My thesis is that the pace of industry disruption that we’ve seen up till now (Uber in Transporation, AirBnB in hospitality, etc.) will not only continue, but will accelerate in the coming years. Bitcoin as a virtual currency and Blockchain or Distributed Ledger Technology is a potent tool, along with Artificial Intelligence, Bots, Data Analytics, and others at the service of new industry disrupters.
It was an honor to be on stage (presenting and as a panelist) along with experts in this technology, which included some awesome global experts from Argentina such as Diego Gutierrez, CEO of RSK, and Gonzalo Blousson, CEO of Signatura. Taylor Gerring, Ethereum Director of Technology, also gave an insightful presentation on the present and future of these technologies. Tony Gallippi, co-founder of BitPay, and Peter Bidewell, of Applied Blockchain, were able to promote their services to attendees interested in launching Bitcoin or Blockchain initiatives.
I can’t believe we’ve reached the end of the year already. It’s either that I’ve had too much fun this year or that I’m getting older; I’ll choose to kid myself and think that it’s the former. My work within BBVA’s New Digital Business unit has been incredibly rewarding this year. Besides working on an important deal with some incredible startup founders, I’ve met startups in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Chile.
Fortunately, during some moments of downtime (e.g., at night, etc.), I reap tremendous satisfaction from being an Advisor and shareholder of four awesome startups that each have exciting news (e.g., one closed a Series A round of funding and all are growing internationally with one of these launching in UC Berkeley): 1Doc3, Vendty, Acsendo and Kiwi Campus (I maintain close contact with a fifth one, Tappsi, that already had an exit). As readers of this blog know, I presumptuously call this group of startups the TropicalGringo Portfolio.