Latin America is full of people who go out on their own to start businesses. Many times they are successful and they find technology as a means to do entrepreneurship better so they can reach the scale and impact they seek. While there may not be many startup founders with previous experience leading technology startups, there is a plethora of startup founders who are serial entrepreneurs. We have invested in a few founders that have successfully applied previous entrepreneurial experience to launch their technology-based startups. Andrea Baba, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Fitco, Juliana Villalba, Co-founder of Rebus Technology, and Tatiana Guichard, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Somos Moto, are three examples of this profile of founder from our portfolio.
Passion for serving clients
Prior to Fitco, Andrea successfully launched a Zumba business, inspiring and supporting the health of the people in her exercise classes. This passion was at times frustrated by the necessities of managing a business, which came in the form of spreadsheets to manage hours and appointments of her hundreds of clients. She needed to find a better solution for herself and entrepreneurs like her are dedicated to improving their clients physical and mental health. She redirected her contagious optimism from giving classes to supporting fellow wellness entrepreneur, so she created Fitco, a software tool for wellness professionals. Andrea effectively communicates this in one of the most memorable pitch deck slides we have seen: a screenshot of the excel she used to manage her clients. We were excited about her ability to attract and retain clients by creating a community for her clients, many of whom are starting business for the first time and lack a group to connect and share ideas. This was a true founder-startup fit: a founder that had all the motivation and domain knowledge to build a startup with a real value proposition. Part of what convinced us to back Andrea and her co-founder Alex, was their entrepreneurial drive to do anything, go anywhere to make things happen. When we invest part of the uses of capital to grow the client base in Mexico. But even before we invested, Andrea and Alex had already moved to Mexico. They had an entrepreneurial drive to succeed and get one or two steps ahead.
Experience building teams
Juliana also started a business prior to launching Rebus Technology, a software for the sports and entertainment industry. She had co-founded CreativeLab, a strategic design and innovation consultancy firm. This experience offered her many lessons that served her in the startup world. First, it gave her experience to find a co-founder that could complement her skills. She found this in person of Jose Berrio, a tech enthusiast who had also previously started and run a successful business. Second, it served her as her capacity to sell her solution to clients. Her natural positive attitude and “we can do that” response allowed her to be flexible when finding product-market-fit. With these strengths in action, by the time we met Juliana in order to evaluate an investment, she had already made significant progress on her own with very little funding. I am a serial entrepreneur and love to start and invent things. Since I had done this before, I didn’t start out with a mentality that I needed capital in order to execute. My previous entrepreneurial experience allowed me to more easily identify the type of people I need to get on board, and minimize costly mistakes early on. – Juliana Villalba
Sharing the vision
Tatiana’s entrepreneurial journey sparked after spending six years in Repsol, a multinational energy company. Tatiana was weighed down by her corporate job and recognized the entrepreneurial fire within her. She launched Lukana, her first startup, an e-commerce marketplace that provided users the opportunity to purchase items via auctions. This previous e-commerce experience gave her great perspective for building and analyzing the performance of Somos Moto, an e-commerce retailer for motorcycles. My previous startup experience served me at Somos Moto by helping me focus on building a solid client acquisition strategy that allowed us to generate revenue while maintaining low customer acquisition costs. I spent a lot of attention on the initial phase of the startup, pivoting and doing what is necessary to find product-market fit. – Tatiana Guichard Tatiana gives her Somos Moto pitch with the same passion and urgency every time. She transmits her conviction that she is working on a huge opportunity and is anxious to tackle the next issue to keep growing. She also speaks twice as fast as the normal population, another of one of her many superpowers. Articulating her solution is important because, like all startup founders, she has to do it over and over again, not just to potential investors, but more importantly to the tech developers and sales personnel she hires and empowers.
Ready for anything
After we invested, these founders continued to thrive on the entrepreneurial spirit they started with. At Fitco, Andrea and Alex sought constant learning from other founders and maintained a desire to search out and dive-ontio into communities of fellow founders. This led them to become the first Latin American startup to enter the prestigious Techstars Boulder accelerator program. They have also been a part of the Parallel 18 program in Puerto Rico. At Rebus, Juliana, displayed a go anywhere do anything mentality that is natural to her. After we invested, she was accepted to the Techstars Sports Accelerator program. She and Jose moved from Bogota Colombia to Indianapolis, Indiana, and jumped right in. Andrea, Juliana and Tatiana, operated in sectors that were severely affected by the pandemic, but their entrepreneurial background helps them execute a pivot and launch new products. Businesses like Fitco and Rebus had business models based on in-person experiences. This was forced to change abruptly. Juliana mentions, “We love to find problems and solve them. Our ability to adapt and adjust to whatever context, was especially helpful following the Covid-19 outbreak” Despite the challenges, Tatiana’s Somos Moto has grown significantly since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Like many of the founders we invest in, she is frequently one or two steps ahead of us in execution. She tenaciously goes right after problems and overcomes obstacles. In March 2020, Tatiana re-orientated her business from a marketplace toward a direct sales channel and focused on optimizing her sales process. She now sells 7x the quantity of motorcycles she sold before the Covid-19 pandemic. I consider myself a serial entrepreneur, because I don’t do things for hobby or sport, I do them for the conviction I have in the problem and solution I am building. I live continuously detecting problems and looking for new opportunities to optimize the process or improve on existing solutions. I put my whole life into my startups. – Tatiana Guichard Startups rarely end up where they are expected to. Founders who have launched business previously have innate ability to find problems, adjust to challenges, and go where the opportunity directs them, all while maintaining a positive attitude toward the future.