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.
Moons is a Mexican startup that specializes in affordable orthodontics. It aims to be the Invisalign of Latin America with invisible aligners that straighten and whiten patients’ teeth in an average of 6 months. Patients can go to a Moons Studio to see a licensed orthodontist, and Moons sends custom clear aligners to their homes at an accessible price.
Magma Partners made a Pre-Seed investment in Moons before the startup joined Y Combinator’s latest cohort. Moons chose to apply to the prestigious accelerator to raise capital and open doors in the US for future expansions.
Moons plans to go into other healthcare verticals besides the dental market, and currently offers its services in Mexico, Colombia, and soon, throughout Latin America.
Ubits is a Colombian corporate learning platform that provides online courses for large corporations in Latin America. UBits currently has over 10,000 enrolled students and more than 200 e-courses available online.
More than 80,000 professionals at 70 companies across Latin America have been able to develop their skills through the platform, which offers a reduced training cost of 40% for enrolled companies.
The online platform offers e-learning courses called ‘Bits’, specifically designed for rapid learning. Courses include marketing strategies, sales, and customer services, such as client communication and improving the user experience.
Leading UBits, Marta Forero was the only Latina woman in her Y Combinator cohort, and still one of very few to have participated. She continues to break barriers for women in the LatAm tech industry through the success of UBits, both in Y Combinator and in the company’s rapid expansion through Peru, Chile, and Mexico.
Vozy is a voice communication platform that helps businesses provide more efficient customer service through their AI voice services. Vozy’s virtual assistant, Lili, is capable of understanding and communicating in 8 different regional accents.
The Colombian startup is on a mission to give businesses the ability to automate communication by creating personalized customer experiences at scale with a human touch. Businesses can communicate with their customers the way they want, when they want, and on any device.
Vozy was founded in 2016 in Medellín, Colombia by Humberto Pertuz, and currently has its headquarters in Miami. It operates in more than 15 countries, including Mexico, Chile, Peru, Panama, Argentina, Colombia, and the US.
Vozy is the first company to bring neuronal text-to-speech services in Spanish to Latin America. It has over 200 customers including companies like MAPFRE, Adecco, and Scotiabank.
Dataplor is a small business intelligence platform providing valuable information on SMEs in emerging markets that are often not yet listed online. Through hand-collected and verified data the company aims to combat the issue of untapped business data in emerging markets through the use of hyperlocal information that can benefit global companies.
Dataplor now has over 100,000 ‘feet-on-the-street explorers’ tasked with collecting key information from small businesses such as exact location, opening hours, owner’s names and contact info, and payment methods, which is then connected to larger companies such as American Express, iZettle, PayPal and Google in Mexico. Prior to Dataplor, more than 80% of these SMEs had no digital footprint at all, making them untraceable for both customers and global partners.
Dataplor was founded in 2016 by Geoffrey Michener and is based in Los Angeles, CA and Mexico City. They are currently active across Latin America, collecting data in some of the major emerging markets in the region, including Mexico, Brazil and Colombia.
In Mexico, where 80% of businesses don’t have any digital footprint and less than 5% have a website, Dataplor is filling in the gaps left by Google and other major databases that have not yet reached these markets. With Dataplor, the gap between global companies and Latin American SMEs is closing, bringing new digital distribution and investment opportunities for both sides.
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
Keynua is a platform for digital signatures that works to improve online identity verification through e-signatures and video identification technology.
The startup aims to establish a region-wide platform for identifying individuals and validating their transactions without the need for a notary, which will aid businesses in Latin America to streamline internal processes.
With Keynua, individuals record a three-second video where they verbally agree and ‘sign’ a document as well as providing proof of their visual identity as an alternative way of signing official documents.
Keynua was founded by Alfredo Granda, Inma Cañadas, Luis Alban, and Manuel Olguin in early 2019. The company is based in Lima, Peru and aims to expand into the rest of the country before scaling in the region.
Keynua is led by the same Peruvian team that created Cinepapaya, the largest movie ticketing service in the region until it was acquired by Fandango in 2016.
Base Operations is a security and risk management platform that helps people navigate emerging market cities with high crime rates and limited access to security data.
Through intuitive heat maps, safe routing, check-ins, and geofenced alerts that mitigate risk, Base Operations helps keep global workforces safe and connected as businesses become more globalized. Founded in 2018 by Cory Siskind and Nick Gomez, Base Operations has its headquarters in Washington DC.
Magma Partners invested in the risk management startup to help the company’s sales and marketing efforts and continue its R&D.
The travel risk management market has a value of $11B and is growing 10% annually as companies expand operations internationally.
The startup operates in 12 Latin American cities including Mexico City and expects to expand into Africa, Asian, US, and European cities by early 2020. Base Operations is currently also participating in a paid pilot program with Enel in Rio de Janeiro.
2018 was an expansion year for Magma Partners. We started on a high note, closing our Fund II with backing from LPs in Chile, Colombia, Argentina, China and the US in January. We’re part of the movement that made 2018 the year people started to take Latin American tech seriously.
We added amazing people to our team across Latin America, China and the US, bringing us to seven full time and 10 part time team members. We have people on the ground in San Francisco, NYC, Austin, Beijing, Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Peru. Francisco supports Magma teams with Latin American connections, providing a link to top Latin American businesses that can make companies.
JT, Pedro, Sophia, Alejandra, Angel have been amazing additions to the full time team and are helping us build the support system for the entrepreneurs we’ve been lucky enough to be able to support. Pedro, Paolo, Eugenio, Codie, Neil and Pierre make up the amazing support team that allows us to have the reach we need. Our LPs in Latin America, China and the US are also a crucial support system, both in connections and advice, but also in follow on funding. Our LPs have invested and additional $5.5M into Magma portfolio companies this year, giving us the ability to help companies as they scale.
Truora is a Colombian startup that aims to combat fraud in Latin America by providing instant background checks and identity theft detection services for businesses.
Truora was founded in 2018 in Bogota, Colombia by Cesar Pino, Daniel Bilbao, and Maite Muniz who shared a vision of helping the Latin American economy develop by increasing trust during hiring or transactions.
In just over a year of operations, Truora has already expanded into Colombia, Peru, Chile, and Mexico, and soon expects to be in Brazil. Magma Partners recently invested an undisclosed amount which will help Truora with its expansion throughout Latin America.
“We’re really excited to support the founders on their mission to eliminate fraud in Latin America. The Truora service is really valuable for many of our portfolio companies going forward,” said Nathan Lustig, Managing Partner at Magma Partners.
Truora has also received investments from Kaszek Ventures and Accel Partners. Among the 100 companies that Truora has helped process background checks are Rappi, Uber, and Davivienda.
“I decided to launch Truora because I wanted to give back to the region where I was born by solving a big problem. I’m happy to partner with Magma Partners to make this a reality,” said Daniel Bilbao, CEO and cofounder of Truora.
Although Truora is based in San Francisco, California, the bulk of its operations are in Cali, Colombia, and Mexico City.
Fraud detection and background checks are an essential piece of the Latin American infrastructure that Truora will solve as Checkr has in the US market.