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Claire Díaz-Ortiz joins Magma Partners as Head of Brava

We are beyond excited to welcome Claire Díaz-Ortiz to the Magma Partners team as Partner!

Claire’s career has followed an impressive trajectory starting as an early employee at Twitter, where she was first hired to lead corporate social innovation and famously “got the Pope on Twitter”. Then she used the social media platform to build awareness for AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, leading to the founding of Hope Runs, a nonprofit organization in Kenya.

She is also an advisor for January Ventures, a US and UK based early-stage venture capital fund that invests in high-growth female-led startups, as well as an investor at Portfolia, an investing community for female investors in the US.

Claire explains that investments in female-founded or co-founded teams increase when more women sit across the table as investors, which seems like an enormous missed opportunity, especially in Latin America where only 8% of VC investing partners are women. 

That’s why Claire joins Magma Partners to lead Brava, an initiative that seeks to invest in more female founders in Latin America. Brava, along with other partner funds, is committed to investing in at least 20 female-founded Latin American startups over the next three years. 

Brava has already made its first four investments: Jefa, a digital bank for women, The Intern Group, the leading provider of international internship programs across the globe, Prometeo, an open banking platform, and FlickPlay, a multimedia tech company using AR to engage its community.  

According to Claire, multiple studies have shown that female-founded companies outperform their all-male counterparts. 

“Boston Consulting Group reports that for every dollar a female founder or co-founder raises, she generates 2.5X more revenue than a male founder. First Round Capital’s research held that the female-founded companies it backed performed 63% better than all-male founding teams. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s report showed that return on investment from women-led teams is 35% higher than their all-male counterparts,” Claire stated.

AllRaise, a nonprofit promoting women in VC, also discovered that companies with female co-founders exit at least one year faster than the rest of the market.

The evidence is clear that – as Jane VC’s Managing Partner Jennifer Neundorfer puts it– investing in female founders is to invest in an “overlooked asset class that is overperforming”.

Welcome to the team, Claire!

Adelyn Gunawan: Lessons Learned from my Remote Summer Internship at Magma Partners

My Background 

My family is ethnically Chinese from Indonesia but I was born in Singapore and spent most of my life in the UK. In the fall, I will be attending the University of Chicago and hoping to major in Economics and Political Science. 

Why Magma? 

I chose to do an internship with Magma Partners because of my passion for entrepreneurship and keen interest in learning more about Latin America. I was attracted to Chile because I wanted to immerse myself in the renowned food culture, explore the diverse nature, and  improve my Spanish. However, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, I was unable to fly to Santiago. I still wanted to intern at Magma Partners and saw the opportunity to work remotely with a 12-hour time difference as I was based in Singapore. Instead of hopping on a plane to Chile, I hopped onto a Zoom call to meet my colleagues in Chile. 

The Internship

Working remotely has exposed me to the future of work and taught me to become more organized and adaptable. It has highlighted the importance of communication within a team for projects as well as social cohesion. I found the time difference not to be too much of an obstacle as I am generally a night owl thus able to join morning meetings with the rest of the team. Unfortunately, it did mean that I was unable to participate in afternoon calls. 

Lessons Learned

Female entrepreneurship 

As an avid fan of podcasts, I was immediately taken by Crossing Borders with Nathan Lustig. I found the insights and advice decidedly profound. I have included a few of my favorite quotes and anecdotes to illustrate the lessons I have learned. 

In the episode with Rocio Fonseca she imparts a deeply resonating quote, “You can change an entire country’s economy empowering women”

Women entrepreneurs, especially in Latin America, face relentless obstacles. Emilia Diaz shared anecdotes where she experienced a lot of sexism as a female founder. At a coworking space she worked at, a few founders were planning an event. Instead of inviting her to join as a fellow entrepreneur, they said, “We have this event coming, maybe you can help us out […] we have some people coming, can you cook for us?” 

In another episode, Gricha’s Alba Rodriguez mentioned that she faces a lot of sexism as a female entrepreneur in Latin America as many investors believe that because you are a woman you will quit once you are married or become a mother. 

Maricel Saenz from Nextbiotics talked about her experiences meeting with investors. She has been asked if she was dating her co-founder– a question that a male entrepreneur wouldn’t be asked. 

These women’s experiences are merely a fraction of the sexism that female founders face. I admire their grit and tenacity that has pushed them to succeed. I hope to emulate their resilience and determination in everything that I do. 

Furthermore, the articles about “The Rise of Femtech” and “The Secret Ingredient to Latin America’s Outsized Venture Capital Returns? Women” on Claire Diaz Ortiz’s blog have really inspired me for the future of female entrepreneurship and given me hope that the startup environment is evolving.

During my internship, I got the chance to attend the WiSE 24 2020 summit. It was inspiring. Chris Yeh’s presentation particularly resonated with me. During the Q&A session at the end of the talk, one of the attendees asked, 

“Given the concentration of white male VCs and their lack of personal connection / understanding to many things female, how do you advise female founders to pitch to VCs who are white males?” 

He replied, “Present them with traction. People will pretty much overlook everything for good traction. Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

Importance of networking

I believe the most invaluable advice I’ve heard repeatedly from books, blogs, podcasts, and articles is: Reach out. Don’t be afraid to ask others. 

The Magma team was very supportive and eager to impart advice when I reached out. Nate encouraged me to “make the most of the internship and ask to do more tasks” in order to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible. Francisco emphasized utilizing “your expertise to gain a unique insight into a problem or market” to gain a competitive edge in solving your problem.

Listening is a vital skill emphasized by Pedro Pablo del Campo, “Be a more proactive listener, learn how to listen, surround yourself with monitors, you can never stop learning from others around you”.

It is further emphasized by Emilia Diaz who insisted that you must keep learning from those around you and “surround yourself with people who are smarter than you”. I believe that only by learning from others’ triumphs and failures will you be able to succeed. Everybody knows something that you don’t so you can always learn something from someone.

In addition, the importance of networking and building relationships became increasingly clear to me. You are able to gain unique insights into a problem by discussing it with others. Through connecting and tapping into your network, you can find partners and a team with the same mission as well as advisors, mentors, and investors for guidance. As Komal Dadlani stressed, “I want their network, not their net worth”. You should look to build a relationship with your investors and look for what you can learn and gain from them besides simply financing. 

Resilience 

I found this quote from The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz incredibly poignant:

“Life is struggle.” I believe that within that quote lies the most important lesson in entrepreneurship: Embrace the struggle. It underlines the key lesson about perseverance and grit necessary to succeed as an entrepreneur. 

In a Crossing Borders podcast episode, Maricel Saenz said,“The worst attempt is the one you never do”.

This particularly resonated with me because, like many others, I feared failure. Thus, it prevented me from attempting something new as I feared that I would not succeed. I learned during my experience at Magma from listening to entrepreneurs’ journeys that failure is not a defining, unchangeable state. It is part of life. The only time when an experience is truly a failure is when you do not learn from it. 

Believe in yourself. As Maricel Saenz said, “Sometimes you underestimate what you are capable of. We are the biggest enemies of our own potential by putting ourselves in boxes”. If you do not believe in yourself then why should your team, investors, and clients trust you? Self-belief is a key trait of successful founders. You should not limit your growth by restricting yourself. In doing so, you prevent yourself from achieving greatness.

Reflections

My experience at Magma Partners has taught me to refine the organization skills essential for remote working– the future of work –as well as igniting a deeper curiosity to explore new fields and to expose myself to new ideas. It has ingrained in me the courage to never fear asking questions and failing. 

I’ve had an immensely educational and eye-opening experience. Three months ago, I had little knowledge of the entrepreneurship and startup world, and an even lesser grasp of Latin America. One of my strongest beliefs is to “never stop learning” and at Magma I believe that I have pushed myself to take advantage of every opportunity to learn more. As Sean Park advised his younger self, “learn how to learn.”

A lesson I strive to incorporate in my life is what Guimar Vaca Sittic advised which is to “maximize the pace at which you learn and look for environments you can learn the fastest.” 

Here are a few of my favorite articles from Nate’s blog: Fixing Latin America’s Broken Lending Industry, An Overview of the Insurtech Industry in Latin America, An Overview of the Cannabis Tech Investment Scene in Latin America, and How Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Helping Change the Way LatAm Does Business

Completing The Stanford Startup School, Venture Deals Course, and Y Combinator Startup School has also taught me the intricacies of being a founder and an investor which gave me a better understanding of what makes a startup succeed. I would highly recommend them.

And finally, one of the most memorable quotes from Crossing Borders, “Trust yourself. Don’t be afraid to f*ck up” said by Mayer Mizrachi.


Crossing Borders episodes mentioned:


Adelyn Gunawan was a summer 2020 intern at Magma Partners. In the fall, she will be attending the University of Chicago, hoping to double major in Economics and Political Science. She is passionate about entrepreneurship and is very keen to learn more about fintech and the startup ecosystem. 

Omni Acquired by Greensill Capital

We’re excited to announce that our portfolio company OmniLatam, cofounded by Diego Caicedo and Andres Abumohor, was acquired by Greensill Capital, a London-based fintech startup backed by General Atlantic and Softbank.

This acquisition will further Omni’s mission of helping solve working capital needs of the region’s SMEs. From the Bloomberg article:

“We realized Latin America requires very special skills, and yet at the same time the region has a very significant working-capital gap that we estimate to be on the order of $750 billion,” Greensill founder and Chief Executive Officer Lex Greensill said in an interview. “So we found a company, a team, a technology that is a perfect fit considering the values and the approach of the Greensill organization.”

Omni, founded in 2018 in Bogota, has provided about $300 million in digital working-capital products to small and midsize businesses that supply large companies in Chile and Colombia. The firm collects data such as invoices and tax forms to help make credit decisions based on the prospective borrower’s clients, sales and employees.

“We don’t ask for the company’s financial statements, which will only tell you about the past,” Omni CEO Diego Caicedo said. “We’re seeing the movie in real time here,” he said, adding that “small companies’ situations change very fast, and in a world in a pandemic crisis like today, it changes even faster.”


Magma has been an investor since late 2016 when it was called Portal Finance, which won our Latin America-wide fintech competition and received a pre-seed investment, and we continued to follow on in every round until the acquisition. We’re excited to see how Diego and Andres continue on their mission to help SMEs in Latin America continue to grow, while helping SME owners build wealth and create jobs in Latin America, with their new partner Greensill Capital.

“Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere”

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s powerful quote has been on our minds this week.

#BlackLivesMatter.

When we started Magma, our goal was to empower entrepreneurs who were getting overlooked in Latin America. We’ve made anti-racism, anti-classism and anti-gender bias a core part of our investment thesis. We still have much to learn.

That’s why we’re committed to listening to and supporting the work of those who are fighting to make our world a better place. 

From protests in Chile and throughout Latin America, to an unprecedented global pandemic wreaking devastation throughout the world, 2020 has seen so much already. George Floyd’s murder is a tipping point.

Throughout it all, we ask: What can we do? 

We can keep learning and educating ourselves on the issues affecting our community, our friends, families, investors, and the founders we support. Listen, ask questions and think about we you can be the change we want to see in the world.

Outside of education, one can also hire and wire if one is in a position of power. Make the hire, make the investment. We’ll continue to invest in and be allies to underrepresented founders across Latin America.

We’re been inspired by writer and poet Scott Woods, who writes that racism is much bigger than “conscious hate,” it’s also about privilege and understanding that you have it.

As he says, “Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.”

Here are some other resources we are turning to in this time: 

George Floyd Protests: A Timeline

BLCK VCs Emergency Relief Fund Resource List for Founders of Color

COVID-19: Investing in Black Lives and Black Livelihoods 

75 THINGS that White people Can Do for Racial Justice

How to Be An Anti-Racist

Another way to help is to give to those organizations who are making deep change. Here are some of the organizations we have made donations to. We encourage you to do the same:

#BlacklivesMatter. There is a better way. And we all have a shared responsibility to help find it.

Magma Partners Invests in Chilean PropTech Houm

Houm is a platform for property owners to advertise their properties through an online marketplace. Potential tenants can book a virtual tour of a property through the platform, and after deciding on a place, can sign a lease without the need of a co-signer. The proptech also uses AI algorithms to recommend an optimal rent value to owners for their properties. 

Houm was founded by Benjamin Labra and Nicolas Knockaert in September 2018 in Chile. Magma Partners recently participated in a round with Fen Ventures and Fondo Alerce where Houm raised $1.3M.

The startup plans to expand further into the Chilean market, hire additional staff, and improve the platform’s technology with the most recent round of funding.

Magma Partners Invests in Insurtech Seguros Arca

Seguros Arca is a leading insurtech platform from Mexico City that allows users to find, compare, purchase, and manage insurance policies online. Magma Partners recently invested along with Leap Global Partners and Grupo Peña Verde.

Arca users only need their vehicle brand name, model, and their postal code to get a quote in less than 30 seconds. Consumers can compare quotes from different insurance companies without registering and without having to call a live agent.

The company was founded in 2013 by Juan Gironella and his two sons Juanma and Javier Gironella

“We’re excited to support Seguros Arca on their mission to help the uninsured with their digital solutions. We believe the founders, who have extensive experience in the industry, will transform the insurance market in Mexico, and eventually, in Latin America in general,” said Nathan Lustig, Managing Partner at Magma Partners.

Seguros Arca is bringing the digital revolution to the insurance sector with its solutions that use technology to help streamline access to insurance.

Magma Partners Invests in Insurtech Sekure for Fund II

Sekure is a Colombian insurtech platform that helps people choose an insurance plan that best suits their needs. Sekure collects clients’ data, then consults with the top insurance companies in the market, and offers clients the best insurance options that match their lifestyles.

The platform allows users to search and compare insurance quotes for vehicles, pets, and homes in one place. Once users purchase their insurance, they can manage their products with Sekure’s mobile app.

The insurtech startup was founded in June 2018 by Rodrigo Alfonso and currently operates in Colombia. Sekure recently raised capital from Magma Partners, forming part of its Fund II portfolio companies.

Magma Partners doubles down on Mexican startups with Rampa Ventures acquisition

After many years of working with their team, we are excited to announce that we are joining forces with the Guadalajara-based accelerator Rampa!

We hope that through this acquisition we will establish Guadalajara as a beachhead to both invest in Mexican startups, as well as to help other startups from the region and the US open operations in Mexico, making Latin America’s second-largest market a key part of our investment thesis.

Over the years, Guadalajara has become an important hub for tech companies, churning out some of the most talented engineers in the region. Its proximity to Silicon Valley and high concentration of engineering talent makes it an ideal base for deepening our roots in Mexico, where we’ve invested in 12 Mexican startups including Albo and Moons

By combining operations, Mak Gutierrez, Rampa’s founder, will join our team as CEO of Magma Infrastructure. He will run our a16z-inspired internal agency designed to support our portfolio of over 75 Latin American startups to generate sales, create partnerships, and scale more quickly.

“I’m excited to double down on both Guadalajara and our Infrastructure team,” said Nathan Lustig, Managing Partner at Magma Partners. He added, “Under Mak’s leadership, I’m confident our Infrastructure team will be able to help make our portfolio companies more successful.”

Guadalajara team at an after office with our Managing Partner Nathan Lustig

Rampa’s Alexa Clark Ibarra, will also join our GP team as an analyst, leveraging her experience recruiting startups to Rampa’s accelerator programs.

“I love supporting early-stage startups. It’s been my passion for 15 years. By joining Magma Infrastructure, I get to lead a team that’s supporting startups and building the ecosystem not just in Guadalajara, but across the region,” said Gutierrez.

As a result of the acquisition, our team has grown and its 15 members are now distributed across Guadalajara, Mexico City, Bogota, Santiago, Buenos Aires, and the US.

We look forward to working with our Guadalajara office to help startups from both South America and the US accelerate their expansion into the Mexican market!

Magma Partners Invests in Treble.ai

Treble.ai is a customer support platform that lets companies get feedback from users through SMS and WhatsApp using automated conversations that are redirected to a customer support agent when needed.

Treble.ai was built for mobile-first, chat-based communication. The platform was founded in Colombia in January 2019 by Sebastian Valencia and Felipe Otalora

Magma Partners recently invested in Treble.ai after the startup participated in the Summer 2019 cohort at Y Combinator.

Treble.ai currently operates in Colombia and has logistics unicorn Rappi as one of their largest customers.

Magma Summit 2019: Mexico City

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.

Nathan Lustig kicks off the event by announcing Magma Fund III.

Day 1 – Kick-off at Terraza Timberland

The Magma Team at Terraza Timberland before the guests arrived.

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. 

Day 2 – How to Get Acquired, Get in the News, and Attract Investors

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: 

  1. Ensure that back-end software can integrate with potential acquirers
  2. Don’t assume that customer acquisition costs will stay the same as you scale
  3. Make sure your books are clean
Anna Escher and Sophia Wood discuss getting covered in the press.

On the next panel, TechCrunch’s Anna Escher and LatAm List & Magma team member Sophia Wood discussed how to get covered in the press in the US and Latin America. Our main takeaways: 

  1. Journalists are people too.
  2. Try to make the connection as organically as possible, whether via your investor or through a warm intro.
  3. Almost everyone wants an exclusive take on the story.

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. 

Francisco Saenz shows his skills in Petanca.

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! 

Day 3 – How Magma Companies Are Solving Latin American Finance and Raising Capital in the US & LatAm + China’s Influence in the Region

Sebastian Castro explains what’s wrong with payments in LatAm.

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. 

From left to right: Anna Escher, Lina Peña, Alejandro Guizar, and Diego Caicedo discuss what it takes to raise a Series A in Latin America.

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.

Sophia Wood asks Juliana Villalba and Pedro Goes about their experience in the US.

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:

  • LatAm founders need to learn to be more succinct in their pitching.
  • Talk to other Latin American entrepreneurs who have already participated in the program – use your network!
  • Learn what makes US investors tick, and focus on that part of your business during meetings.
Nathan Lustig discusses Latin American banking with JT Li.
Jie Hao explains how China became a global tech leader.

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.

Our beautiful event space for the two-day summit.

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!

The Magma team and supporters enjoy the Teotihuacan pyramids after the event.

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