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!
Q3 was headlined by 7 investments, including 2 follow ons into existing portfolio companies. We did our first investment in Brazil, deepened investments in Mexico and other regions in Latin America.
Latin American tech is on fire in 2019, headlined by Softbank’s continued disruption of the market, having invested in 16 deals in the past 16 weeks. This is pushing big funds like Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, Riverwood, Temasek, a16z, Sequoia and more to invest more quickly in order to get into deals. You can read more about these headline deals in our new monthly series in TechCrunch, written by Magma’s Sophia Wood.
InEvent – Brazil/USA. CRM for Corporate Events. Our first investment in Brazil and is a SaaS with a Brazilian tech team targeting the US market.
MiPos – Ecuador/Mexico. Point of Sale system for restaurants in Latin America. With the proliferation of Rappi, Uber Eats, Domicilios, and other online ordering systems, restaurants have a tablet for each service. MiPos integrates it all.
Treble.ai – Colombia/USA. Mobile first customer service for ecommerce.
Marqii – US/Chile. SaaS for US-based restaurants to automatically update their menus and pricing on all online ordering websites.
Magma Events 2019
Lendit – Dec 4-5, Miami. The premier fintech conference in the US gets a Latin American edition.
WeXchange – Nov 14-16, Asunción. The IDB is leading a conference for women entrepreneurs.
Pedro Pablo travels to Israel to meet entrepreneurs and investors
Our Partner, Pedro Pablo, recently traveled to Tel Aviv to meet local stakeholders and get to know the thriving local ecosystem.
Nathan Lustig attends YCombinator Demo Day
Our Managing Partner, Nate, traveled to San Francisco last month to participate in YCombinator’s Summer 2019 Demo Day, where he met Latin American companies. Every year more Latin American startups participate in this prestigious program (16 this batch!). We have previously invested 10 YC companies, including in Ubits and BrainHi who also participated in previous batches.
JT and Sophia were mentors at Village Capital’s Finance Forward program in Santiago
Our Principals, JT and Sophia, were invited to act as mentors for fintech startups from across Latin America in a workshop on Investment Readiness for Village Capital’s first Finance Forward program. The program offers workshops in four Latin American cities, as well as opportunities for financing at the end of the program for the top startups. Sophia and JT met with several startups from Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and Colombia during the event to help them prepare to meet with investors.
OmniBnk opens office in Mexico
OmniBnk continues to be one of our top-performing companies, expanding into the Mexican market with our Venture Partner, Eugenio Perea, as Country Manager. They announced their expansion into the Colombian market in May 2019 and continued to grow in Q3 this year.
Magma Google Case Study + Ciara Middleton’s Lessons Learned
We published our case study on how we use Google Cloud to facilitate remote work at Magma Partners and how we collaborate with our startups across borders. We depend on GSuite for everything from investment documents to pitch decks and we cover all this work in the case study.
We also published an article written by our intern, Ciara Middleton, who joined us in June/July 2019 to help out the content team. She listened to over 20 podcast episodes and turned the lessons she learned into a blog post to help entrepreneurs learn from the experiences of others. Read more about Ciara’s tips here.
Crossing Borders Podcast Highlights
We had a very busy few months on the podcast – thanks to Angel and Josefina for working so hard on making this program possible. Here were a few of the guests we had this quarter:
New Articles on Nathan Lustig’s Blog
We published a few more deep dives on Latin American industries and trends this quarter.
If you want to get in touch with Magma Partners, you can reach us here. Thanks for reading!
As we have grown, our team has become larger and more distributed. For monthly all-hands meetings, our nine-person team comes online from the US, Mexico, Colombia, and Chile, and we depend on Google Cloud for these collaborations.
We were pleased to be featured in a recent Google Cloud case study about how we use the entire G Suite to meet with hundreds of entrepreneurs and investors across Latin America and Asia every year. These tools allow us to centralize information for our distributed team, coordinate meetings, collate critical data, and help startups make the connections they need to grow.
“The vast majority of startups in Latam do not fail for lack of money but lack of contacts and experienced people who constantly provide feedback, which has been fostered by G Suite,” said Managing Partner, Nathan Lustig.
G Suite provides us with the infrastructure we need to support over 53 startups in nine countries across the region. To learn more about our Google Cloud case study, click here.
I am a first-generation US citizen, born to parents raised in Ireland. My two brothers and I have lived in Pennsylvania, on the East Coast of the US, our whole lives. As I enter my final year at Susquehanna University, I am studying International Business and Marketing.
Through a unique funding opportunity with our business school, I was selected alongside six of my classmates to spend my summer gaining cross-cultural work experience abroad leading into the final year of university. As I set off to choose a country, and a job, I knew I wanted to travel to a Latin American country and my passion for entrepreneurship along with my love of the outdoors pushed Chile to the top of my list.
Nathan Lustig’s Crossing Borders podcast served as the perfect tool to teach me about the startup industry in Latin America. I listened to the thirty most recent episodes and looked for overarching themes that stuck out to me. By listening to so many different thought leaders in LatAm tech and entrepreneurship, I have begun to understand the Do’s and Don’ts of Latin America’s startup ecosystem:
You are not supposed to! It is better to admit that you do not have the answer than to fake it and risk being caught in a lie or a moment of over-confidence.
In Episode 64, when Komal Dadlani interviews Nathan on how to raise venture capital with Magma Partners, Nathan brings up this point while discussing “the best types of entrepreneurs.” Nathan mentions a personal experience where he was asked by a board member if he was aware of a particular company, supposedly in his industry. Nathan admitted he had never heard of this mysterious competitor. This company turned out to be completely made up and the question was a mere test of honesty. Admitting when you don’t know something is the right thing to do.
Many of Nathan’s guests spoke about the importance of failing and all that it taught them. In Episode 67, Brian York of Liftit admitted that one of his biggest faults when starting his first company was that he “tried to get too involved in things that [he’s] just not good at.” When he began to allow his team to take over where he was weakest, the company started growing.
Similarly, Maricel Saenz, CEO of NextBiotics advised in Episode 76, “the worst attempt is the one that you never do”. It’s very easy to see where there is opportunity and reach out to people that can help you seize it.
Cory Siskind, founder of Base Operations, emphasized this point, saying: “People, especially women, need to be less risk-averse and just go-for-it. There is a 90-something percent change that it won’t work but you never know what can happen, don’t overthink it. You won’t regret trying.”
Maricel Saenz of NextBiotics noted that she and her co-founder are opposites: man/woman, introvert/extrovert, scientist/businesswoman, but these differences are what makes them work together so well. Where one member of a team falls short, others can pick up the pieces. Teams should be dynamic and efficient, which all begins with knowing your strengths and weaknesses and recognizing that flaws are not only acceptable, but inevitable.
In Episode 61, Carlos Moyses, the CEO of iFood, stated simply: “You don’t do anything by yourself. You really need to build a team, a strong team.” This team needs to be committed to the mutually-understood goals and purpose of the business.
While business teams should have a common goal, they also need diversity. Jackie Hyland, of A55, made a poignant statement in Episode 69: “Diversity in general is just so good for business. And it’s great for the long term health of a project or business.”
Similarly, in Episode 70, Eugenio Perea reflects on a moment of realization when he was in a board meeting: “I looked down the table and I realized over 50% of our employees were left handed. And I’m left handed. And I hired all of them”. This moment was when he decided to hire someone to take charge of Human Resources; Perea knew diversity in thought on a team is an integral part of success.
Connections are everything, and you should make a conscious effort to make friends everywhere and enemies nowhere. It is impossible to predict who will help you and when.
Nathan notes in Episode 64: you always need to “close the circle.” If Magma Partners, or anyone, rejects you, always respond to that rejection email. One day you could have another business idea or even just need some advice and if you burn that bridge, there’s no turning back to ask for help on the other side.
If you make an effort to treat every interaction like a ‘good first impression’ you will never need to worry about a bad one. Push yourself to attend everything you can and take every opportunity to expand your network. Marta Forero, Co-Founder of UBits, travelled to Silicon Valley to participate in Y Combinator and notes that the people she met were the most important part of the whole journey.
Komal Dadlani noted of choosing investors: “I want his network, not his net worth.” Investors should provide much more than just money. When making decisions about investors looking to come on-board she asks herself: “Do I want them to call me on the good days and the bad days? Am I willing to have breakfast and dinner with this person constantly? Will I have the guts and courage to tell them when I have a problem/be transparent with them?” Dadlani continued to add, “My Silicon Valley investor, I met in 2014, and he didn’t invest until 2016. It took 2 years of relationship building.”
Nathan noted in his conversation with Maricel Saenz: “be willing to get over some of the shame of being told no and the possibility of your attempt going cold” when trying to reach out to someone new. The simple act of asking someone to grab a coffee with you and start a conversation could make all the difference.
The very nature of having an entrepreneurial mindset means you are willing to explore uncertain grounds. This thought process is both admirable and imperative for the future of any startup. As Peter Thiel states as the opening line of Zero to One: “Every moment in business happens only once.” Seize opportunities when they show up and never be afraid to be the first to reach out.
What I have concluded from listening to Crossing Borders is that there will always be people willing to help. Accept the fact that you do not know everything, make a conscious, daily effort to build a respectable network, and surround your startup with the right people to facilitate its growth.
Ciara Middleton is an intern at Magma Partners and a senior at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania.
Latin America is a hotbed for identity fraud with around one-quarter of all digital accounts rejected due to fraudulent identities. Daniel Bilbao created Truora to combat this problem by providing businesses with immediate background check software; traditional background checks in Latin America take up to three weeks. While this status quo is suitable for large businesses, startups and SMEs are suffering a bottleneck in hiring due to fear of fraud when it comes to recruiting.
Truora is working to solve the real problems faced by small businesses and startups of fraud and identity authentication in Latin America. Daniel explains what he has learned from starting and growing a company in the Latin American ecosystem and tips that have helped Truora to become the company it is today.
What is Truora?
Truora is an instant background check company that helps businesses with their recruitment and compliance processes. In less than 20 seconds, the Truora platform can access the criminal, legal, and vehicular records, as well as national and international governmental lists of any ID number.
Truora is the answer to the long and complicated background check process that is currently the norm in Latin America, which does not adequately serve the needs of small businesses and startups. Truora is modeled on the US startup, Checkr, as Daniel saw an opportunity in the Latin American market for a similar system that could reinvent the way businesses currently conduct requisite background checks.
How did Truora become the company it is now?
One of the most important aspects of building Truora was the ability to scale and grow rapidly. Daniel approached a few potential customers, such as Uber and Rappi, with the idea for Truora before even building the technology. He wanted to test if this technology could be the answer to a clear problem for these businesses. In this way, Truora was able to secure customers early, which gave them the resources necessary to start to build the product.
The Truora team steadily developed its background check API into an efficient platform that they then offered to businesses in Latin America. From Colombia, Truora has expanded operations into Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, and Puerto Rico. Truora has four co-founders: Daniel Bilbao, Cesar Pino, Maite Muniz Telleria, and Bruno Cecatto.
What has been your experience working with Magma Partners?
The Truora team has worked closely with Magma Partners on various aspects of the company’s development. Daniel explains that the Magma team helped them with their content strategy and supported them as they worked around early issues with their technology and the Truora platform. He also mentions that the relationship with Magma Partners helped Truora to build connections in the Latin American startup ecosystem and has brought press opportunities for the company.
For Daniel, the personal relationship with Nathan Lustig has been particularly gratifying as both share a desire to see the Latin American ecosystem grow and thrive. They look beyond their individual businesses to the bigger picture of Latin America, always considering how to strengthen and build the ecosystem through their work.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to start a company in Latin America?
Daniel comments that it is hard to build a unicorn startup out of Colombia alone. Whether or not the company is aiming to grow to this size, Latin American entrepreneurs should always look to the whole region for scaling to bring in more investment and build a stronger company.
He also notes his impression that young entrepreneurs are increasingly unwilling to ask for help. Daniel has a personal network of successful founders and entrepreneurs who have acted as an important support system as he has learned to navigate the startup ecosystem. This network is an invaluable resource as the group has been able to mutually feed off one other in learning from their successes and failures in the market. His advice to other entrepreneurs is to surround themselves with other smarter and potentially more successful entrepreneurs from whom to learn and take encouragement.
What is the most important lesson you have learned through your experience with Truora?
As a company with four co-founders, Daniel explains that the team had to learn how to work around conflicts with the other founders when it came to decision-making. Even in a smaller team of two founders, there are likely to be differences in opinion on sensitive aspects of the business, such as choosing investors, hiring employees, and equity splits. Daniel believes that in taking the time to establish strong working relationships Troura is able to manage these disagreements in a professional and healthy way. By purposefully building good relationships based on trust and respect, Truora has created a strong executive team.
Truora was born as a solution to an urgent issue causing bottlenecks in hiring in Latin American businesses. Daniel states that as a developing market, Latin America has not yet developed smart solutions for the new problems posed by the increasing use of technology in the region. For this reason, the Latin American market has many great opportunities for startups that are looking to solve these problems. He has learned that focusing on local issues is a sure way to find a business idea that could be truly successful.
What is next for Truora?
In the coming year, Truora is looking to continue to develop and consolidate the platform’s technology and product quality. They also have plans to launch a new product as they expand Truora throughout Latin America.
Parallel18 is a government-backed accelerator program founded by Sebastian Vidal to help promote entrepreneurship in Puerto Rico. The program seeks to turn the island into an international hub for tech innovation, and has received applications from startups from more than 48 different countries.
‘Mentored’ is an educational program for Latin American entrepreneurs, where Parallel18 visiting mentors share their knowledge, experiences, and advice.
Our Managing Partner, Nathan Lustig, recently presented on Parallel18’s ‘Mentored’ series to talk about Latin America’s ecosystem. Here’s what to expect from this episode:
Check out the video above for the full episode to hear Nathan’s take on why Latin America’s ecosystem is at an inflection point!
Described as the ‘Netflix for corporate training’, the e-learning platform UBits has enabled more than 80,000 individuals at 70 companies across the region to develop their business skills through online courses in management, marketing, customer services, and much more.
Marta Forero, the co-founder of UBits, was the only Latina woman in her YCombinator cohort. Her success in the Latin American startup ecosystem and the YCombinator accelerator program shows how she continues to break barriers for women in the Latin American tech industry. She explains some of the lessons she has learned from her experience starting a company and what it is like being a female founder in Latin America.
What is UBits?
Ubits is a Colombian corporate learning platform that provides online business courses, called ‘Bits’, for large corporations in Latin America, including classes on marketing strategies, sales, and customer service. UBits currently has over 10,000 enrolled students and more than 200 e-courses available online.
The courses are taught in Spanish across Colombia, Peru, and Mexico, and UBits is now the largest online business learning platform in Latin America.
How did UBits become the company it is now?
Marta and her co-founder Julián Melo share a passion for education and have experience in business management and corporate strategy. They saw an opportunity in the market for a corporate training platform which would help large companies to train their employees in basic aspects of business.
The company was founded in 2013 when the founders started building the platform and attracting businesses. They worked closely with a corporate bank to assess how to best develop the platform in regards to employee training needs. In 2018, UBits was accepted in YCombinator and the platform has since grown significantly as more businesses adopt the e-courses.
What has been your experience working with Magma Partners?
Magma Partners invested in UBits in 2019 following a $2M Seed round led by Spectrum 28 and GE32 Capital. Together with this investment, the Magma funding helped UBits to further develop its technology and broaden the range of e-learning courses available.
Marta states that the quality of the UBits courses is one of the most important aspects of the company, and the Magma investment enabled Marta and Julián to build a highly-skilled tech team to help them achieve this goal. This team has improved and developed the technology to ensure the highest quality of e-learning for their customer businesses.
Marta also mentions that Nathan Lustig, Managing Partner at Magma, helped them with advice and mentoring in certain aspects of early development. She says that he was always ready to help them out with any doubts or questions to ensure that they built the best version of UBits possible.
What is the most important lesson you have learned through your experience with UBits and as a female entrepreneur in Latin America?
Although perhaps a cliché, Marta expresses the need for women in business to believe in themselves and to break free of the barriers set before them in the startup ecosystem. She says that if you believe in yourself, you will be surprised by what you can achieve.
Marta also expresses the importance of creating a community of like-minded people who will support and build each other up. She mentions how her own connections in the business world, especially the relationships with other female founders, have helped her overcome problems and have made her more successful through mutual learning and support.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to start their own company?
For Marta, the most important piece of advice is to work hard and believe in the process. Although it may take time, with hard work and dedication the results will soon start to show. She also says that one does not have to have a lot of experience to become a successful entrepreneur, merely a willingness to work for a dream and a belief in oneself. If there is drive and passion, Marta believes that anyone can create a successful business.
What is next for UBits?
UBits is constantly seeking to expand its reach across Latin America to more countries and businesses. As they consolidate their presence in Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, UBits is now looking for a way into the Chilean market. Ubits is also looking to raise another funding round towards the end of the year.
After an active 2018, we’ve continued to push forward in 2019. Since our last update, we’ve invested in 4 new companies from four different countries, including Base Operations. We’ve also continued to expand our team and the services that we’re helping to provide in the Latin American ecosystem.
We now support 51 companies in our portfolio, which now sell $29M+ each year, have raised $46M in follow-on funding, and employ more than 600 people worldwide. Our growing team provides diverse experiences and networks to our portfolio, including support in marketing, PR, DevOps, sales, and international expansion strategies and covers geographies like Chile, USA, Mexico, Colombia and China. We’re excited to further support the startups in our portfolio as they continue grow!
Check out the following overview of news from our fund and our portfolio for Q1 2019.Continue Reading
In eight years of working in the Latin American startup ecosystem, we’ve seen a lot of term sheets. A term sheet is the document that defines the relationship between a startup and its investors, including potentially-confusing legal clauses surrounding valuation, preferred stock, vesting, and investment instruments. Despite the best of intentions, VCs often provide startups with term sheets that do not properly align incentives for a successful investment relationship.
In the worst of cases, we’ve seen term sheets that are abusive or exploitative to the entrepreneur, or deals that look more like private equity than venture capital. These issues generally arise from lack of experience, rather than bad will, but they can kill a startup before the deal is even signed.
Financing can be a sensitive topic, but transparency is always the best policy. Entrepreneurs shouldn’t feel they have to analyze their term sheets in a vacuum. Magma Partners is dedicated to developing a healthy startup ecosystem in Latin America. We will review any term sheet you have, at any stage, and give you feedback for free.
What is a term sheet?
A term sheet is a blueprint for your future relationship with your investor. If you think of your relationship with VC as a marriage, a term sheet is your premarital agreement.
What does a term sheet include?
As Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson said in their book Venture Deals (our top recommended VC book), every term sheet consists of two kinds of terms: economic terms that decide the return investors will get in a liquidity event, and control terms that allow investors to exercise control over a business or veto certain decisions the company can make.
What can potentially go wrong?
Couples can split up. So do VC and founders. And getting the term sheet wrong may lead you to lose control over your own startup if things go sour with your VC. Yet many entrepreneurs don’t focus on the term sheet because they lack fundraising experience, guidance from seasoned mentors, or a reliable lawyer who understands the needs of a startup.
Leveraging our experience to support entrepreneurs
Magma Partners has seen hundreds of term sheets from Latin America, the US and China since we got started in 2014. We have often reviewed term sheets for entrepreneurs outside of our portfolio to support the ecosystem. We can recognize a term sheet that exploits entrepreneurs and establish unfair terms for the VC. We’ve seen entrepreneurs make mistakes that are totally avoidable. We have decided to offer our experience to help entrepreneurs build better companies and better relationships with venture capitalists.
Why are we doing this?
Our mission is to help startups grow to their full potential, but we can’t possibly invest in every single startup. Instead, we are giving back by trying to build a transparent startup ecosystem. We cannot achieve this goal without advocating for healthy relationships between investors and startups. Our term sheet review will help startups avoid investment traps so investors’ and startups’ interests are aligned from the start. We believe in paying it forward and this is one way we do it.
Questions about your term sheet?
Please send us a message through this form with any questions you have about your term sheets. We will happy to provide you feedback that we think best represents your interest.