At AVP Ventures we understand the importance of trust. Investing in startups is hard, so in order to be successful, we need to establish an environment of trust among our investors and the founders we back. Trusting founders is essential because it gives them space to experiment, think big, and make a huge impact. That is, after all, why we invest behind them. We also know trust is a huge issue in Latin America. Unfortunately, Peru has one of the lowest levels of trust in the region. Multiple studies have shown that compared to the rest of the world, people in Peru have a harder time returning lost wallets, trusting neighbors, and feeling safe making online purchases. Trust, it turns out, is a scarce commodity in Latin America and the Caribbean. According to a poll by Latinobarometro, 43 percent of Mexicans say they have low trust in people of their own communities. That number is 54 percent for Peruvians. – Latin America’s Trust Crisis, Inter-American Development Bank Given this context, when we met Gabriel Puliatti and Oriana Fuentes of Emptor, we quickly grasped the pressing need for the startup’s value proposition.
Solving for Trust
Emptor helps solve Latin America’s trust problem by providing automated identity validation and digital background check services to clients across the region. Many of the startup’s clients operate in the growing on-demand economy in Latin America. Background checks are a core part of on-demand companies’ processes because they need to ensure users are safe. By filtering out certain applicants and only accepting those that are deemed fit, Emptor helps them reduce incidents. As a result, customers gain trust in a safe and reliable service. Emptor can validate backgrounds in just a few clicks via an easy-to-use dashboard or through integration with its API. Clients can create personalized filters for the data they need and obtain quick responses. As an example, in Mexico, Emptor can validate identities by cross-checking sources with a person’s national identification number, Tax identification number and social security number. It also can run criminal background checks in state court and federal courts. Speed and automation is important since tech companies often seek to rapidly hire workers in order to grow in new markets. At the time we invested, identity verification solutions available in Latin America were mostly manual and didn’t have effective ways of reliably reducing document fraud. We believed tech firms in the share-economy represented a great entry market for Emptor to gain traction with large, sophisticated clients. From there, the market opportunity would grow since the need for reliable identity and personal information verification in the hiring process is crucial across sectors, especially where workers interact with end users.
By the time we met them, Gabriel and Oriana had, without raising outside capital, built the technology, and secured Uber as a client. Having this type of large, sophisticated, disruptive client was something we had not seen before in B2B startups. It showed us they were doing something special. Emptor had not spent on marketing. Instead, clients were secured from direct contacts and recommendations. Emptor expanded to new countries only after signing contracts with local operations of companies. Contracts with Uber and other clients were signed for a minimum of six months of service. This strategy permitted Emptor to achieve rapid expansion to Mexico and Brazil without high capital and operating expenses. The execution was impressive, and it was in large part to their dedication to building a team and establishing a culture consistent with their mission.
In addition to building trust we set out to create an amazing place to work. Attracting and retaining incredible global talent has been the secret to a resilient, innovative team that feels safe to be creative and take ownership of work.
Complementary, remote, team
Gabriel and Oriana are some of the most exceptional and unique startup founders we have met. Gabriel studied social anthropology and philosophy before gaining tech experience at Scrapinghub. That is where he got the idea and know-how to build Emptor’s technology infrastructure. Oriana, spent six years working at J.P. Morgan in New York after earning a master’s degree in computer science. Emptor has always had a deliberate approach to team and culture. The team has been remote, since the beginning, meaning that Emptor can hire the best talent and making it essential to have best practices for hiring, on-boarding and evaluating employees. Emptor built its own intranet where employees share company news and new product ideas. Every so often, the team comes together in person, often in Peru, for team building activities and strategy sessions.
We were keen to become Emptor’s first investors. The fact that Gabriel and Oriana had successfully bootstrapped a regional business while building a fully-remote team, convinced us they were onto something. After meeting Gabriel and Oriana in Lima, then again in Mexico, we proposed investment terms and made an investment. Subsequently, DILA Capital entered as the company’s second investor. Now, Emptor has reached over 500 sources of information across 8 countries, completing over 13 million background checks, further solidifying their robust process. Gabriel and Oriana continue to deliver on their mission to foster trust among people in Latin America.