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Magma Values and Mental Models: How We Think About Successful Startups

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.

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Magma Manifesto: Latin America’s Inflection Point

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.

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Nathan Lustig’s overview of the Latin American ecosystem on Parallel18’s ‘Mentored’ Series

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:

  • Hype in LatIn America: Why many venture capital firms are investing in the region
  • An overview of some of the biggest deals in Latin America (Rappi, Nubank, Cornershop, Softbank)
  • How Latin American entrepreneurs have improved
  • China and US investors: Approaching deals in Latin America
  • An overview of Nathan’s podcast, Crossing Borders
  • Advice for entrepreneurs thinking about what business they want to start
  • Books and thought leaders Nathan recommends

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!  

Magma Partners’ Q1 2019 Update

The Magma Team together in the office in February 2018.

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.

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Magma Partners’ Term Sheet Review (free for all startups)

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.

 

Magma Media: Content Marketing, PR, Growth for Startups

Most startups, even the ones in our portfolio, don’t do a great job on social media, PR, communications, or digital marketing. They might have a fantastic product and great clients, but many are dropping the ball on communications. They may not have social media profiles, or have placeholders that make their startups look smaller than they really are. Others don’t do any PR or content marketing. Others are throwing money at ads without creating tracking, landing pages and streamlined targeting.

Many of the entrepreneurs we support forget about their online brand. First-time founders, or even battle-scarred entrepreneurs, get caught up working on their product or business development. Or they think content marketing and PR won’t move the needle on their business. Or that they can’t afford agency services. We want the entrepreneurs we support to be focused on the most important things: sales and product, but we got tired of watching portfolio companies neglect the basics.

After working with 50+ startups at Magma, we can tell you: these strategies do work. Even an extremely lean business can benefit from basic content marketing and a social media strategy. It’s the first thing that clients, investors and journalists will see when they check out your business. Rightly or wrongly, first impressions make a difference.

We’ve taken the best practices from our top portfolio companies, combined with our own experience building the Magma Partners platform, and launched Magma Media to bring these services to our own portfolio companies. We’re inspired by Andreessen Horowitz’s in-house agency model. We believe that in Latin America, it’s even more important to add value to our portfolio companies. And we know great communications can help a startup succeed. They’re table stakes for every startup today.

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Crossing Borders: A Venture Capitalists Guide to Doing Business in Latin America

If you love our Managing Partner Nathan Lustig’s blog, you’re in luck. Nathan has just released his latest book, Crossing Borders: A Venture Capitalist’s Guide to Doing Business in Latin Americadetailing his experience living and working in Latin America for the past eight years. This book is the third in a series of books that Nathan has written to help entrepreneurs, investors, and foreigners figure out how to live – or start a business – in Chile.

Crossing Borders, which gets its name from Nathan’s podcast, expands on our experience in Chile to provide a wider look at entrepreneurship across Latin America. It also includes stories from 33+ entrepreneurs and investors from around the region. This book is not the end-all-be-all for working in Latin America, but it is a great jumping off point for anyone working in the region or considering a job in Latin America.

What can you expect from Crossing Borders?

Nathan’s new book starts with an overview of Latin America with sections of key industries like venture capital, blockchain, and fintech, as well as trends that have appeared over the past few years in the region. Expect to find chapters about finding a job and living in major tech hubs in Latin America and an overview of top startups in the region.

Nathan’s new book features detailed chapters on each of Latin America’s most prominent tech hubs, including Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, and of course, Chile. He also dives into less developed ecosystems like Uruguay, Puerto Rico, Paraguay, Panama, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia, as well as emerging regions like Central America and the Caribbean.

Each chapter features interviews with local entrepreneurs, investors, and government actors who have appeared on Nathan’s podcast. These chapters are peppered with commentary from Nathan’s personal experience living in and traveling to the countries in the book.

Expect to dive deeper into each of Latin America’s top tech hubs and to find out Nathan’s analysis and predictions for the Latin American startup ecosystem as a whole. Our goal is to help you get a feel for each country and give you an idea of who you might want to contact if you’re thinking of living, working and doing business in each country.

Who is this book for?

Crossing Borders is for anyone who is interested in living and/or working in Latin America, or even for those who have lived just in one country and want to learn more about the rest of the region. There is something in the book for every reader, from foreign entrepreneurs to investors, to university students and government officials who want to learn more about innovation in Latin America.

Why the Crossing Borders book?

Many people in the US have a biased image of Latin America. Reports of violence, political instability, and corruption generally penetrate much deeper than the stories about innovation and economic growth. Latin America is not a monolithic region, nor is it a poor one. Despite entrenched inequality, Latin America is producing startups with global impact. However, since most of their stories get shared only in the Spanish or Portuguese speaking press, US investors and entrepreneurs are unaware of the potential of these growing markets.

Crossing Borders: A Venture Capitalist’s Guide to Doing Business in Latin America is a way for us to share these stories and Nathan’s personal experience to help foreigners and locals interested in pursuing business in Latin America. Check out interviews with Cornershop CEO Daniel Undurraga, Jooycar founder Maria Paz Gillet, Uala CEO Pierpaolo Barbieri, Movile CEO Fabricio Bloisi, Start-Up Chile’s previous Executive Director Rocio Fonseca, Parallel 18 Directo Sebastian Vidal, GroupRaise’s Devin Baptiste, Kevin Valdez and Sean Park, Magma China’s Jie Hao, Gricha CEO Alba Rodriguez, Omnibnk CEO Diego Caicedo, Abartys Health’s Lauren Cascio, David Lloyd from Intern Group, David Assael and David Basulto from Archdaily, CargoX’s Federico Vega, Psafe’s Marco DeMello, Brian Requarth, Santiago Zavala from 500 Startups, Antonio Nunes from Mercadoni, Patricio Williams Becu, Alejandro Freund from YaEsta, Jose Caya Cayasso, Carlos Jordan, and many more.

Purchase Crossing Borders the book on Amazon!

Connect With Nathan

Crossing Borders Podcast: Nathan’s Blog, iTunes, YouTube

Magma Partners: Our 2018

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.

Angel Andraca, Sophia Wood, Pedro Pablo del Campo, Alejandra Dugarte, JT Li, Magma Team, Santiago, Chile

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Nathan Lustig’s advice for startups on Parallel18’s “Mentored” Series

Our Managing Partner, Nathan Lustig, recently appeared on Parallel 18’s “Mentored” Series to provide tips and advice to startups and VCs operating in the Latin American ecosystem. Here’s what to expect from the episode:

  • What VCs look for when they are analyzing Latin American startups
  • How startups and VCs in Latin America can align incentives for better outcomes
  • How US and Chinese investors analyze companies in LatAm
  • Tips for Latin American startups looking to raise capital outside the region
  • Why Puerto Rico is a great place to start a startup

To hear all of Nathan’s advice for startups and VCs, check out the video above for the full episode!  

What can startups and traditional businesses learn from each other?

What do startups and corporations need to know about each other? Our Managing Partner, Nathan Lustig, was recently in Mexico City for the 29th Annual Consejo Empresarial de America Latina (CEAL) to talk about just that issue. The event united business people, investors, entrepreneurs, and politicians to talk about how to support tech, innovation, and business across Latin America, from Mexico to Chile.

Distinguished guests included Mexico’s President-Elect, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, exiled Venezuelan politician, Antonio Ledezma, and Ex-President of Colombia, Oscar Naranjo. These presenters spoke of regional alliances and improved international ties, including with China, to help support Latin America’s budding ecosystem. There is a clear, and well-recognized need, for governments and corporations to lend their support to the private investors and actors in the tech ecosystem.

“Big corporations in Latin America are beginning to feel the threat from startups and are looking to partner, support, and innovate alongside smaller tech companies. For example, in retail, we have seen a spate of acquisitions – such as Walmart and Cornershop, and Falabella and Linio – that point to the fact that corporations are seeing startups as potential collaborators and competitors,” said our Managing Partner, Nathan Lustig. “This change is an opportunity for startups and corporations alike to learn from each other and improve services for their customers.”

Several Magma portfolio companies had the opportunity to present at the event, including Omnibank (previously Portal Finance), Workep, BrainHi, and Albo. These startups were among 25 companies chosen from across Latin America to present for the politicians, executives, and angel investors who attended the event.

Diego Caicedo, CEO of Omnibank, said of the event:

“We work with a lot of traditional businesses, like investment banks, who are just beginning to see opportunities in working with startups. This event was an opportunity for us to meet some of the most important actors in Latin America’s private sector and understand how we could work together.”

Nathan was invited to speak on the Venture Capital panel at the event alongside other regional VCs like Federico Antoni of ALL VP, Sebastian Vidal of Parallel18, and Hector Sepulveda of Mountain Nazca. The panel was moderated by Nicolas Kogan, Puerto Rico’s CEAL president.

“Startups can learn a lot from traditional business-people – and vice versa. This event allows startups and founders to interact with major players in their industry and learn from their experience, and for traditional business owners to explore potential partnerships with people who are innovating in their industry. It is a great place for fostering collaboration,” said Nicolas Kogan about the CEAL event.

We were thrilled and honored to be invited to present at the event, and to be able to support our companies that were able to join, as well. CEAL was an incredible way to bring together all the biggest actors in Latin American business, from politicians to first-time founders, and discuss the future of the region.

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