Many entrepreneurs start out with a higher mission for impact. This mission goes beyond making a lot of money by building huge, profitable businesses. For them, the purpose reaches beyond the business objective of empowering clients. It is easy to tell this type of startup founder due to their genuine interest in improving peoples’ lives and using startups as a tool for good. One of these founders in Laure Schlesinger, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Prestamype, an emerging neobank in Peru. Prestamype provides asset-backed loans and other financial products focused to underserved micro, small and medium enterprises.
Laure had formative experiences after college, both at FUNDES, an international organization that supports the development of Small and Medium Companies (SMEs) which are part of corporations value chains, and Libelula, a leading climate change consulting organization in Peru. In both of these experiences she gained insights about ways to achieve impact. She built off her experience working with SMEs at FUNDES and building a regional digital platform at Libélula to define the value proposition for Prestaympe. Laure notes that when she met with a small business owner she learned that informal lenders “would charge her interests up to 100% annually, which to me, a French person living in Peru, seemed unreal.“ This initial impetus built on an observed social wrong can come from the perspective of working in a different market than one is from and the conviction that it doesn’t have to be that way. She teamed up with Carlos Ferreyros, who brought valuable startup and technology experience at Cinepapaya, to lauch Prestamype. By the time we met them they had bootstrapped their way to a solid business and market position and were a leading fintech in Peru. They had diligently put together a complementary team that could build relevant products, efficiently reach potential clients, and achieve product-market-fit, prior to raising outside capital. This methodical approach, along with the large market opportunity, convinced us that Prestamype would be a disruptive force for positive change in the Andean region.
Nicolas Di Pace, co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Culqi, embodies another core characteristic of impact-oriented startup founders: a passion for technology and the ability of technology to scale up and reach a large number of people. Culqi offers digital payment solutions for small and medium businesses in Peru. Prior to Culqi, Nicolas worked for USAID providing workshops to rural communities in Peru and then the Social innovation arm promoting microfinance initiatives at Belcorp, a large direct selling business. My personal purpose is aligned with building the future of payments and empowering small businesses with technology. Launching Culqi was a natural evolution from what I was doing previously. With Culqi, I felt I could generate a larger impact on the finances of small businesses by using payments technology. – Nicolas Di Pace So he teamed up with Amparo Nalvarte, a classmate from university, to launch Culqi, a payment processor for small and medium-sized businesses. Nicolas quickly found a passion for building an easy-to-implement product. This contributed to a key insight that the was building a tool, not necessarily for business owners, but that developers would implement the solution. They in turn, become evangelists for Culqi. This led Culqi to grow to hundreds of clients, many of whom were selling online for the first time. Culqi provides access to new revenue streams for small businesses. When we met Nicolas and his co-founder, they had quickly reached product-market fit had on-boarded hundreds of clients who were selling online for the first time. We were convinced by their complementary skill sets as founders and the potential to impact millions of small business owners by unlocking a digital sales channel. One additional thing that helped Laure and Nicolas on their startup founder journeys was academic preparation in business administration. They both earned undergraduate business degrees, which gave them the necessary tools to design business models that would serve their impact mission, and at the same time have a high-potential for growth and profitability. Although not the CEOs at their companies, Laure and Nicolas developed most of the materials for investor relations and fundraising. These pre-due diligence materials were put together proactively and showed financial knowledge, business acumen and organization.
Technology is a tool for startups to create value where existing solutions aren’t addressing and do it in a faster, cheaper and more agile way.
Nicolas Di Pace
Laure and Nicolas’s genuine interest for positive change combined with academic business training, were a powerful combination when we were presented with the opportunity to invest in their startups. As Nicolas states, technology provides a means for achieving broad impact. Technology is a tool for startups to create value where existing solutions aren’t addressing and do it in a faster, cheaper and more agile way. Especially in Latin America where there are many gaps to fill, the opportunity is enormous and startups are a fundamental channel for allowing impact to reach everyone. Being a startup founder allows me to lead an incredible team and be part of this change. – Nicolas Di Pace This vision for impact extends beyond their startups toward the great startups community in Peru. Laure and Nicolas also have a genuine interest in teaching others. Laure is a professor of Design Thinking, Innovation, Startups at Universidad del Pacífico, the top undergraduate business school in Peru. Nicolas is a highly-sought after startup advisor, currently at Agente BTC. Following the successful exit of Culqi, we also were keen to bring him on board as an advisor of our fund, where he helps other startups in our portfolio with issue relation building products and highly effective teams.