Our Magma Summit last week was a success! Mexico City welcomed everyone with open arms, lots of rain, and a festive spirit just in time for Dia de Los Muertos.
As we’ve expanded from only investing in Chile in 2014 to supporting a regional portfolio of 65 startups based in 12 countries, we wanted to recreate the support network startups, LPs and team members that spent time in our Chile office have. We’re building a distributed community across Latin America, the US, and Asia, which means in-person time is even more important.
We kicked off the Summit with tacos and drinks at the Timberland Terrace, overlooking Mexico City’s Plaza de la Republica. Although the rain threatened to keep us off the beautiful rooftop, we were able to bond over dozens of tacos al pastor and a bit of mezcal before the business started on Tuesday morning.
Our first presenter was a Magma Partners investor and executive coach, who explained lessons learned from his experience working with large banks and technology companies to make sure founders don’t turn their potential unicorn into a donkey. Key takeaways:
To round out the morning, Nathan Lustig interviewed two of our LPs about what made them so interested in investing in Latin America, besides the upside. Both investors made heavy emphasis on the potential to solve real problems in the region, such as banking, payments, and insurance, as well as the strength of tech teams that are being overlooked by competition in Silicon Valley.
After a hearty lunch, we enjoyed an afternoon of small group discussions about what we’ve learned over the past year, especially focusing on how we face failure. These conversations, moderated by Nathan and Pedro, allowed us to connect more deeply and open communications about topics that are often challenging and very personal for entrepreneurs.
We ended the first night at Petanca, where we played a tournament of the local Mexican sport while enjoying local tortas and beers, sponsored by AWS. As almost everyone in the room was an entrepreneur, the game got a bit competitive, but it was all in good fun!
Our second morning started with a lively discussion between Nathan and Sebastian Castro, co-founder of Kushki Pagos, an end-to-end payment system that is helping Latin America process payments online. While Latin America is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world for e-commerce, online payments are still clunky, slow, and inaccurate, which is bad for business. Sebastian explained how Kushki quickly integrates with companies and banks to allow them to accept online payments and boost their business.
In the second panel of the day, TechCrunch’s Anna Escher moderated a conversation between Diego Caicedo, CEO of OmniBnk, Alejandro Guizar, CEO of Billpocket, and Lina Peña, investor at Elevar Equity about How to Raise a Series A in Latin America. Many companies in Latin America are struggling to bridge the gap between early-stage investment and growth-stage deals. Diego and Alejandro have recently raised Series A funding from investors in the US and Latin America and explained what it takes to scale, and to explain to investors how they will scale in Latin America. Lina provided the investor’s perspective, highlighting benchmarks that she looks for in Latin American startups, as well as companies in India, where Elevar invests in fintech.
Next, we heard from Rebus’ Juliana Villalba, Inevent’s Pedro Goes, UBits’ Julian Melo, and MiPos’ Orlando Espinoza about their experience in accelerator programs in the US including Quake in New York and Y Combinator in San Francisco. This light-hearted panel discussed misunderstandings between Latin American entrepreneurs and their US investors and clients. Takeaways:
Our final discussion of the morning revolved around China’s influence in Latin America as explained by Magma’s Jiating “JT” Li and Jie Hao. JT moved to Chile two years ago to work for Magma and still cannot open a bank account, an experience that felt the polar opposite of her cashless life in China. Takeaways: Latin American banks are bureaucratic and charge people to keep, transfer, or spend their money. This business model is ripe for disruption.
Meanwhile, Jie explained how China developed from a poor country into one of the wealthiest and most technologically advanced in fifty years, with lessons for Latin America to draw from along the way. Our takeaway: educating and attracting talent is key to innovation.
After lunch, we enjoyed a speed dating session where our investors and entrepreneurs could interact in small groups and connect personally. These sessions allowed us all to meet 5-6 new people in a more personal and natural setting to generate discussion and networking opportunities.
We closed our final night with dinner and drinks. The atmosphere was bubbly and excited about new opportunities that our discussions had brought to light!
Over the next few days, we spent time with entrepreneurs and investors working and seeing the sights in and around Mexico City. Magma Summit was the first time our entire team was all together in the same room at the same time, and it was the first time that many entrepreneurs had met each other, even if they were from the same city. We’re excited about what we’re building together with the entrepreneurs we support, our LPs, and the people who are supporting Latin American entrepreneurs!