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.
In Q1, we built out our Mexico team, did four new investments and our portfolio companies continued to be successful. Q2 2019 buildings on Q1, with 4 new investments, two in Colombia and two Mexico, headlined by Dataplor and Vozy. We spent time in Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, US and Argentina during Q2.
We also had our first exit out of our second fund, with Kushki
Pagos’ acquisition of Chile’s QVO to expand into the Chilean market. Magma portfolio companies have received $65M in follow on funding from funds like Accel, Kaszek, YC, Techstars and more, and sell $35M+ each year.
Kushki Pagos acquired QVO, Magma’s first exit out of Fund II
Magma invested in QVO, a Stripe clone for Chile, in late 2018. We met Kushki Pagos, a Stripe clone for Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico around the same time and help make this deal possible, investing in Kushki in conjunction with the acquisition.
2. Sophia wrote What the VC Landscape is Really Like for Women Entrepreneurs in Latin America
Sophia’s article covered the day to day of being a female founder in the region and the experience of Juliana Villalba, Marta Forero, Maite Muñiz, Maria Paz Gillet and many more entrepreneurs in her Crunchbase article.Continue Reading
“I went to China and I saw the future.” That’s what David Velez, cofounder of Nubank Latin America’s largest neobank, valued at $10B, said at TechCrunch disrupt in 2019 after traveling to China early in his startup’s journey.
Francisco and I had a similar experience when we traveled to China in 2017 and 2018 and spent time with Fintech, eCommerce, social media, blockchain and other startups in China’s dynamic market.
We believe that China and Southeast Asia are more similar to Latin America than the US. They suffer the same problems: Mega-cities with poor infrastructure, lack of good education, many unbanked and underbanked citizens, and much more.
Traveling to China allows us an unfair advantage to see into the future, as China solved many of the problems that Latin America deals with today between 5-10 years ago.
Jie Hao, our Beijing-based partner who many of you met at the 2019 Magma Summit, and Magma Principal JT LI will host us in Shanghai and Hangzhou where we’ll meet startups, VCs and big companies creating the future of FinTech and Retail in the world’s most advanced technology market.
Spend a week with Magma LPs, top founders and team members to really understand where the world is going. And in tpyical Magma fashion, we’ll take time to get to know China outside of the tech space, visiting some of China’s most interesting cultural centers.
Space is limited and reserved for Magma LPs and Founders first. Please book your reservation to save your place! If you have any questions, please let us know! If you’re interested in spending a week with us in China and are not part of the Magma ecosystem, please reach out and tell us a bit about yourself.
Sunday March 29th to Saturday April 4th, starting and ending in Shanghai
Sunday Arrival Shanghai, Welcome Dinner
Monday to Wednesday Shanghai, Future of Fintech and Tourism opportunities
Wednesday April 1, evening, Bullet train to Hangzhou, dinner
Thursday/Friday – Future of retail and eCommerce, closing dinner, tour of Westlake
Saturday morning, bullet train to Shanghai
Included: 3 meals per day, 4 and 5 star hotel accommodations, tours of cultural sites, transport inside China.
Not Included: Flights to and from Shanghai are at own expense
Reserve your trip: https://payform.me/QwlKHY4
When we invest in a startup, we’re in it for the long haul. It’s seven years on average, but we’re hoping to create lifelong relationships with the people we support, even if the startup that we’re supporting you on does not work out.
One of the biggest predictors of success that we’ve seen so far is working with founders that share our values. When evaluating an investment, we spend time sharing our values and listening to the values that the founders and their team bring to the table.
We’ve decided to share our core values, along with some of the mental models that we and the best entrepreneurs in our portfolio have used to be successful. We didn’t come up with most of these, but these are the ones that have worked for us.Continue Reading
Talent is evenly distributed, but opportunity isn’t. It’s a powerful idea that most Latin Americans innately know to be true.
From Patagonia to Mexico, Colombia to Brazil, we see talented, hardworking, people who haven’t been able to make the most of their talents because of poorly run education systems, under investment and low social mobility.
We can blame governments, corruption, elites, colonization, foreign interference. All deserve some blame.
But smartphones and access to the internet changed everything.
Today, almost everyone can access all the world’s knowledge right from their pocket. We can learn whatever we want without asking gatekeepers for permission. We can change the course of our lives.
That’s not to say it’s easy. There are still massive structural problems that deny millions access to opportunity, but technology – and those who build it – are helping millions more access opportunities to better their lives. And that of their children.
Technology’s created Latin American inflection point. As we’re more connected than ever, Latin Americans is taking a huge step forward and start to make up for lost time.
That huge step starts with you. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, working at a startup or using the internet to make you and your community better, we’re excited to join you in helping make Latin America a better place.
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!