The other day, I had a great conversation with Hernan Aracena, co-founder of a startup called Piola offering an web conferencing solution for meetups and events such as virtual barcamps. Lately, he hasn’t spent more than two months at a time in anyone country. He’s been to Madrid, Miami and San Francisco (where he’s living now) going to hackathons and entrepreneurial events.
Piola has gotten quite a bit of use in Latin America from radio stations such as RCN in Colombia as well as organizations that promote startups in the region. The other day, Tim Draper from DFJ, spoke (using Piola) at a Brazil Tech Valley event. Hernan and the Piola team know they were onto something when, in 2009, their first event generated over 5k realtime viewers without much marketing.
After testing his product in Latin America, Hernan is ready to promote it to a more global audience and take his company to the next level. Although he’s lived in Venezuela and Chile, he moved out to the valley because that’s where he feels he has to be to achieve his objectives. He’s already been working with a medical organization and a part of the UN as potential customers.
After hearing Hernan’s story, there are some characteristics that, in my mind, make him a talented entrepreneur:
1. Outlook and energy. From the outset, it’s obvious that Hernan is an extremely positive person as is evidenced by his demeanor (see interview below) and comments.
2. Talent. Hernan likes building and working within a team. He refers to his co-founding team members as “artists” and measures their talent, but also their commitment to the project before bringing them on.
3. Product Development. From the get-go, Piola has iterated its product numerous times working out the kinks and developing an API that helps customers and partners deploy the solution.
4. Customer Development. As the below photos show, Hernan took a road trip throughout Latin America meeting with all kinds of users of the Piola platform. The photos below give a sense of Hernan enjoys his work (check out the last one with Hernan and Tim O’Reilly).
5. Willingness to learn and seek guidance. At a suggestion from his friend, Andres Barreto, he moved over the San Francisco to connect with everything that’s happening in the Valley. The company has been focused on product and customer development, but are now trying to get some help in deciding on a business model that makes sense.
Talking with Hernan, I was kind of reminded of the talk that the CEO of Airbnb gave at Y-Combinator a few months back about their search for a business model and a product/market fit that could take his company to the next level (he’ll also be checking out a session of the local chapter of the Founder Institute this week). If that’s a valid comparison, then I think Hernan and his team have what it takes and believe that we should be hearing interesting news about Piola and Hernan in the near future.