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.
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.
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.
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 America, detailing 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.
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.
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.
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.
Connect With Nathan
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.
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:
To hear all of Nathan’s advice for startups and VCs, check out the video above for the full episode!
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.
The relationship between Latin America and China intensified over the past three months. Tencent invested US$180M in Nubank, Ant Financial invested millions in Stone Co’s IPO, and Beijing agreed to swap over US$18B in yuan for Argentine pesos.
China’s relationship with Chile has grown, as well, as the Magma Partners China office has spoken at monthly events about investment in Latin America. During the past three months, Magma China co-hosted a seminar during a visit from Roberto Ampuero, Chile’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and presented at two significant events to increase people’s awareness of Latin America as an investment destination.
Here’s how Magma has promoted Sino-Latin American investment in three events over the past three months.
Roberto Ampuero, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Chile, visited China after being invited by China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yi Wang. During his three day trip, Mr. Ampuero presented during a seminar entitled “Chile, the Latin-American Center of Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital” at Kr Space’s Zhongguancun Community at Beijing. Magma Partners collaborated with ProChile and Kr Space to co-host the event and generate more awareness of Chile in China. The event also included a presentation from Chris Martin, Vice President of Mobike’s International Expansion Department, who explained why Mobike is interested in LatAm and why they picked Santiago as Mobike’s first Latin American destination. Mobike has just landed at Chile this year and is planning to expand to other countries in the region over the next couple of years.
Chile’s stable economy and business-friendly government make it an interesting destination for Chinese investors. As Ampuero stated at the event, “Chinese enterprises are welcome to come to Latin America. Chile can offer varied talents. We encourage people to invest in Chile, to start a business here, and to talk to our younger generations to get to know the country better. Thus we build a bridge between Chile and China.”
On Oct.30, The China-Latin America and Caribbean Investment Exchange (CLACIE), hosted their annual conference in Beijing, China, sponsored by IDB. This invite-only event gathered 125 people who are involved in the China-LatAm investment relationship who would discuss Chinese-Latin American cooperation across several industries..
Jie Hao, Magma’s Chinese partner, presented at the tech forum as a panel speaker and shared his insights on the emerging LatAm tech ecosystem as a Chinese investor. “Early-stage startups from Latin America are unlikely to find funding in China, even if they visit many times, if all they do is do roadshows, so far Chinese funds have invested into companies in their B, or C round, with early stage being out of scope”
Two days later, on November 1st, the 4th Chile Week officially kicked off in Beijing. InvestChile organizes this event once yearly to promote understanding of Chile in China. The event unites big names from Chile to present before a Chinese audience; Former President Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle spoke alongside Chilean Ambassador to China, Luis Schmidt, Chinese Ambassador to Chile, Bu Xu, and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Roberto Ampuero. Jie once again spoke on a panel about the tech and financial connections between China and Chile.
During Chile Week, Chile officially signed and joined the Belt & Road initiative, China’s development strategy meant to boost multilateral connections, trade, and investments. According to InvestChile, this strategic connection positions Chile as the main hub for Chinese companies operating in LatAm and offers financial backup services to companies of both countries that assists with creating stronger tech innovation.
Recently, the ties between China and LatAm have been growing stronger. Unlike in the past, not just the construction industry is receiving backing from the Chinese government. China’s private investors and companies have begun backing Latin American startups. China’s startups see Latin America as a potential market for their fintech solutions. The two regions grow closer with each coming month.
Our partner, Jie Hao believes there is a significant opportunity for Latin American entrepreneurs to visit China to learn about the Chinese startup ecosystem and see if they can apply the Chinese innovation experience to Latin America. “Chinese startups are already far advanced and under extreme competition. Latin America entrepreneurs will learn the best business models, the best technology, how their peers can survive in China, how to raise funds etc.”
Early this year, Magma Partners partnered with 36Kr and launched the first ever Sino-LatAm accelerator worldwide. So far we have hosted a series of events at embassies of latam countries in Beijing and Kr Spaces as part of our efforts to promote awareness of LatAm in China. We are watching China’s growing interest in Latin America and believe that China will have a strong influence in the region’s startup ecosystem over the next few years..