De Virgen a Ángel

Mi primera vez invirtiendo: 3 Cosas Que Aprendí al Invertir en una Startup

Hace unos meses, tras terminar una videollamada con la fundadora de una startup, salí con la sensación de:

“!Esta tiene que ser mi 1ra inversión!”.

Después de algunas reuniones, decidí invertir. Con orgullo, se lo conté a mis amigos (la mayoría, financieros), quienes me preguntaron:

 — “¿En qué consisten las inversiones ángeles?”

 —  “¿No son muy riesgosas?”

A partir de mi experiencia, decidí hacer un recuento de 3 cosas que aprendí.

1. Perfil de Inversión

Como cualquier activo, el equity de una startup tiene una combinación riesgo-retorno particular. Por ello, ten en cuenta:

  1. Plazo de inversión: El tiempo de maduración de una startup hasta un potencial exit es mayor (y menos probable) respecto de otras inversiones. ¿Estás dispuesto a esperar por lo menos 5 años?
  2. Tolerancia al riesgo: Una startup ofrece un alto potencial de retorno, pero a costa de un riesgo igual de alto. ¿Te sientes cómodo con ello?
  3. Diversificación: Sin importar el monto total que planees invertir, procura diversificar en el mayor número de startups posible. La mayoría fracasará, pero 1 o 2 exitosas podrían generar un retorno tan alto que tu resultado neto sea positivo.

Si consideras estas recomendaciones, tu ruta como inversionista será fluida y sin falsas expectativas.

2. Due Diligence

La estructura 1) Problema, 2) Solución, 3) Equipo, 4) Mercado, 5) Modelo de Negocio, 6) Tracción para evaluar una startup se ha convertido en estándar de la industria. 

Sin embargo, no necesariamente es la más óptima para una compañía en etapa muy temprana porque:

  1. No es eficiente. Un inversionista ángel con un trabajo fulltime no puede dedicar mucho tiempo en estudiar criterios con tan poca información disponible.
  2. El cambio es la regla en una startup. Ten por seguro que en el futuro la solución, el mercado o el modelo de negocio verán múltiples pivoteadas.

Por ello, Venture Capitalists de etapa temprana como Scott Kupor de a16z resumen su decisión de invertir en:

Si el mercado es grande: 80% Equipo, 20% Producto

Un gran producto en un mercado billonario nunca podrá compensar por un equipo inadecuado. Por eso, los serial entrepreneurs tienen facilidad para levantar sus primeras rondas. Exitosos o no, qué mejor evidencia de que el fundador sabe lanzar una startup que haberlo hecho antes. 

Entonces, ¿qué buscar en el equipo?

  • Builders: ¿Qué han construido hasta ahora? ¿Son capaces de construir un MVP con poca o nula inversión?
  • Único: ¿Por qué es el equipo indicado para hacer realidad esta visión?
  • Convencimiento: ¿Pueden comunicar efectivamente su visión? ¿Son capaces de convencer a gente sobresaliente de unirse a ellos?

Ser un fundador es sexy pero una carrera muy, muy difícil; por eso, es clave distinguir entre “turistas” y verdaderos emprendedores. Tómate tu tiempo como inversionista, conoce la compañía y construye una relación con el fundador meses antes de tomar una decisión.

“I don’t need to know if your idea is going to succeed, I just need to know if you are going to succeed.” 

Jason Calacanis, inversionista ángel en compañías como Uber y Robinhood.

3. Become Smart Money

Si genuinamente quieres obtener un retorno por tu tiempo y dinero invertido como ángel, ¡participa proactivamente en el ecosistema startup! Conoce startups, pídeles que te incluya en sus monthly updates, introdúcelas a contactos relevantes, y ofrece tu consejería ad honorem. Esto te permitirá construir:

  1. Red de contactos: Conocer emprendedores e inversionistas trabajando en proyectos innovadores.
  2. Conocimiento: Discutir estrategias de negocio y ayudar a resolver problemas te dará un aprendizaje valioso y te mantendrá actualizado.
  3. Credibilidad: Las startups más hot pueden darse el “lujo” de hacer due diligence de sus potenciales inversionistas y elegir a los mejores. ¿Qué valor agregado pones sobre la mesa que no tenga otro inversionista?

Tanto las startups de tu portafolio y del ecosistema, como tu carrera profesional, serán enriquecidas por tu experiencia como un inversionista ángel que ofrece más valor que solo capital.

person holding compass facing towards green pine trees

Propósito Ángel

Me gusta creer que ser inversionista ángel es un sidejob lleno de oportunidades, pero sobretodo de propósito. 

Por un lado, incluso perdiendo la mitad de tus inversiones, el valor de lo aprendido superará las pérdidas. Por otro, tu impacto irá más allá del dinero, los problemas fundamentales que enfrenta nuestra región requieren que respaldemos a emprendedores de alto impacto.

Apostemos por el largo plazo. Apoyemos startups atrevidas. América Latina espera un cambio transformador.

What is startup success?

For a startup coming out of Peru, 1 million paid users seems like a good measurement.

Joinnus, an event platform, recently announced that 1 million people have used its technology to attend events in Peru. The startup builds community by providing a way for people to find their way to book fairs, concerts, sporting events, and workshops. Their long tail strategy  connects people from all walks of life and interests.

Hard-working founders, scrappy, and soft-spoken founders, Carolina Botto and Domingo Seminario, have gone up against big incumbents with great founder-startup fit and a genuine mission to join people together. The startup has been a beneficiary of a strong ecosystem in Peru, accelerated by Wayra and UTEC Ventures. Javier Salinas of EmprendeUP played a key role in securing their recent financing round.

Success is for startup founders is often hard to define and fleeting. Startups need to grow fast and every milestone reached brings a new challenge. We often celebrate fundraising rounds, when we should be celebrating exits. The reality is that there are many steps along the startup journey, all are worth celebrating, every metric reached, every new team member.

Joinnus’s 1,000,000 users it is big deal – for the startup and Peru. It may not fit into a sustainable development goal, but in an increasingly divisive, sometimes lonely world, using technology to get people together to experience sports, art, culture and music is an impact we can all celebrate.

Join me in celebrating the success of Joinnus!

Teasers: the CVs of Startups

A teaser, or one-pager, is a great way to share a startup’s story and value proposition. The purpose of a teaser is to spark interest and lead to a meeting.

A good teaser, like a good CV, includes relevant information in a standard structure, and has just enough creativity to not get lost in the pile.

SmartBeauty, a startup that is part of LIQUID Venture Studio, has a great teaser. Here is a link to the full teaser.

Kamelia Rodriguez, founder of SmartBeauty, follows some best practices that can be helpful for founders seeking to improve their teaser.

How to make a teaser:

1. Use a standard structure. SmartBeauty’s teaser has done a great job covering the following key points:

  • Problem
  • Solution
  • Market
  • Business model
  • Competitive dynamics
  • Competitive advantage
  • Team

2. Add uniqueness. Use images of the product, diagrams of the business model, and logos of investors or clients. This will implant a picture of your startup in the reader’s mind.

3. Include some numbers. The teaser is supposed to be shared widely so it is mostly public information. Smart Beauty includes enough numbers (# clients, LTV/CAC ratio) to show the team is measuring the correct metrics for their B2B business model.

4. Analyze market dynamics. The founder’s job is to show market expertise. This can be accomplished by providing market size, growth, and key players. Add the startup’s competitive advantage in order to answer the question – how will you win?

How to use a teaser:

1. Get warm intros. When you ask for intros, the teaser will make it easy for others to share information in your own words.

2. Ask for a call or meeting. Send directly to potential investors to signal you are looking for a round of capital. Nicolas di Pace of Culqi, mentioned the one-pager as a necessary document for raising an investment round.

3. Fill out applications. Many programs have similar questionnaires and forms. When you have a standard teaser, it is a great starting point to fill out those applications quickly and with more clarity.

¡Esto es INNOVACIÓN!

Cuando estamos pensando en nuevos productos, usamos design thinking.
Para la ejecución utilizamos lean startup, siendo agile.
Por supuesto usamos Scrum y tenemos daily standups.
Y para saber que siempre nos estamos retando, OKRs.
Tenemos squads que ejecutan los customer insights que encontramos.
Acá no le tenemos miedo al fracaso, es un aprendizaje.

Obvio que trabajamos en un open space.
¿Te obligan a ir en camisa? Nosotros usamos short así haga frío.
En la sala común tenemos chela ilimitada.
Y obvio, ¡un montón de post its!
Es que acá…¡innovamos!

En Latinoamérica, cada día estamos copiando más esos malos hábitos, en especial los laboratorios de innovación.  Expectoremos esa imitación equivocada de lo que es Silicon Valley, ahí no está el valor. El enfoque en la parte superficial de la innovación es lo más dañino posible. Hay partes de Silicon Valley que están rotas, el abuso de buzzwords, metodologías y oficinas cools son algunas de ellas. 

Esta es la foto de AmigoCloud, startup peruana que acaba de ser adquirida, en sus oficinas de San Francisco. 

Esta es la verdadera foto de sus oficinas en San Francisco. La anterior fue la que su VC le pidió que se tome. Esa mentira es la que estamos consumiendo.

No tengo la llave mágica para innovar y nadie la tiene. Cada empresa tiene que encontrar su sistema y continuamente cuestionarlo para mejorarlo. 

Pero si tengo una sugerencia: empiecen probando servicios de empresas de tecnología. Y no, no solo Google, Microsoft e IBM. Si, si, algunas de esas que llaman startups. Ahh y pueden ser de Perú. Y no les paguen a 90 días.

¡Gracias!

El Padrino

His Linkedin bio says “Economista”. That is a major understatement and seems much too theoretical for Gonzalo Villarán Córdova.

Over ten years ago, before most of us knew what a startup was or that they could one day exist in Peru, Gonzalo got to work. He became startup evangelist, or padrino, for the local ecosystem. Since then, he has methodically helped build an ecosystem, piece by piece, with leadership roles in both the private and public sectors.

Gonzalo started Peru Capital Network, the first angel investor network in Peru.  He was then Gerente de Negocios at Wayra Peru for two years where he invested in many great startups including, Culqi, Joinnus, and Crehana.

Gonzalo was the first Director of UTEC Ventures during its launch phase and hired Andres Benavides, who led the Peru Ventures Capital Conference and manages Ruta Startup. Gonzalo is also a Director of the investor group The Board.

Most recently, Gonzalo worked at Ministerio de la Producción, first as Director General de Innovación, Tecnologia, Digitalización y Formalización and then as Executive Director of Instituto Tecnólogico de la Producción. In these roles, he worked with the StartUp Peru program, which has provided a foundational support for the entire ecosystem. During that time he was also team champion for MIT REAP https://reap.mit.edu, a global consulting program.

The list of the people that have worked for Gonzalo, or the founders he has supported, encompasses almost the entire startup community. Maybe the title “economista” is apt after all, given that backing high tech entrepreneurs is a proven way to achieve economic growth.

The 100/10/1 funnel

A standard rule of thumb for startup selection processes in Latin America is 100/10/1. Out of every 100 startups reviewed, 10 are selected for further evaluation and 1 receives financing.  These ratios can be observed across the capital stack – from accelerator programs to later stage venture capital funds. 

Real life examples: 

  • Seedstars Lima Regional Summit reviewed 95 startups and out of 30 startups that made the first cut, 8 were selected as finalists. Only one startup, ManzanaVerde, was selected as best startup.
  • MassChallenge Mexico selected 35 out of 745 startups across the region. Out of these startups, only one will receive equity free funding. 
  •  500 Startups LatAm batch ten recently invested in 11 startups out of over 1,000 applications

From a founder’s perspective, this means you will hear “no” a lot, as Andres Benavides wrote. But, having these ratios in mind can help you strategize.

Know where you are in the funnel and act accordingly. Work to get to from 100 to 10, and then from 10 to 1.

First, get from 100 to 10:

  • Take a long term strategy. Applying this year can increase your chance of acceptance in future years
  • Apply to programs whose purpose and selection criteria match well with your startup
  • Use current relationships and investors to provide warm intros
  • Ask where you are in each stage of the process and next steps to gauge probabilities

Next, get from 10 to 1:

  • Get into selection round/due diligence with a few potential programs and investors in parallel
  • Refine you pitch and get ready to present to an investment committee or panel of judges
  • Be responsive to requests for further information
  • Have a reference list ready for current investors or clients
  • Reach out to current portfolio companies to inquire about the program or fund
  • Be proactive in showing interest and sharing how you will get the most out of the program or what you hope to add to the accelerator batch or fund portfolio

If it doesn’t work out, apply again next cycle. Your startup will be in a much different (and better!) place than 12 months ago. If you can show progress between cycles it will do wonders to getting from 100 to 1!

New entrant of the year

Seedstars has entered Lima with a bang! Lima is now one of 13 cities in the world that Seedstars has indetified as a global hub. 

The startup accelerator is not a new actor in the Lima ecosystem. Last year, the program ran a great speed dating session in Lima, and previously, startups TuRuta and Rebajatuscuentas.com have been selected from Lima to represent Peru in international competitions. 

Now, Seedstars has entered alongside Seedspace to provide comprehensive support for startup founders. Seedstars’s global network and best practices complements Seedspace’s physical space for founders to learn and grow. Check out the facebook page and stop by the new location.

June 27th is the selection panel for the first group of companies. Congrats to Check, Kambista, Yegoh, Sportafolio, Manzana Verde, WAWA Laptop, Xubium, Rextie for being selected as finalists for the pitch competition.

This is one more validation of the quality of startup founders in the city. Adding a new permanent accelerator program in Lima is one more step to building critical mass in our ecosystem and helps founders seek international opportunities.

Get out of the country

My first lesson in startup idea generation came from Ricardo Espinoza during the Lean Startup Machine workshop: get out of the building. In order to create products people want to buy, founders need to leave the office, get in front of a lot of potential customers, and get instant feedback.

Once the launch phase is complete and you are ready to scale, it is time to get out of the country. Taking short trips to scout out neighboring markets can be an enriching part of the startup journey.

Why go:

  • Meet other founders solving similar problems in their home markets who can provide valuable contacts in the local startup ecosystem
  • Spend some money now ($1,000-$1,500 on a 2-3 day trip) to help you inform big strategic decisions before deploying even more capital blindly
  • Build relationships with investors to put yourself in a position to raise a successful round

How to set up a trip:

  • Apply to regional accelerator programs (Rockstart has applications up until July 7th)
  • Ask your current investors and program managers to make warm intros. This will allow you to set up a few days of meetings.
  • Plan your trip around a startup or venture capital conference to ensure you meet people from across the region.
Startup founders from Colombia, Chile, México and Peru at the InversionistasAP Roadshow in Mexico City (Photo from Chile Global Ventures)

Here are some founders who are getting out of the country in June. Last week, Peruvian founders Jaime Chiarella of Riqra and Roberto Vargas of Betriax participated in the South Summit in Bogota. This week, Ivonne Quiñones of Urbaner, Jose Delmar of Anda, and Fernando D’Alessio of Juntoz, represented Peru for the InversionistasAP Demo Day on Monday June 24th in Mexico City. They all took advantage of these trips to stay extra days to meet potential investors and clients and understand how the startup community work in Mexico.

Follow the example of these founders and get out of the country!

Meeting basic needs

Focusing on everyday issues that effect a large quantity of people who live in close proximity is a proven recipe for startup success. It’s good news for startup founders that most people in Latin America live in cities!

Startups across Latin America use technology to help urban populations meet basic needs of living, moving, and eating. Latin America is not a easy place to live, but these startups are helping people live better lives -allowing them to save time and money.

Levels of Urbanization in Latin American countries:

Peru’s urban population increased from 63% in 1978 to 78% in 2017, according to the World Bank.

Due to limited affordable housing options, people live far from their place of work, often criss-crossing the city to get from home to work to school and back.

In a large city like Lima, you can’t go a day with out someone commenting on the debilitating traffic congestion – or great food options, for that matter.

Startups are taking on these issues head on and proving real, scalable solutions.

Three key trends:

Living (proptech and fintech) – Startups help people find housing and access financial products that make purchasing a home more accessible.

Moving (mobility) – Urban areas with insufficient public transportation and unsafe taxis have benefited from the entrance of mobility and micro-mobility startups. New solutions are improving mass transportation as well.

Eating (Food and foodtech) – Getting food from farm to plate is hard. Food startups are the addressing important points of the entire value chain of producing food products and providing them to individuals in an efficient manner.

Here are some examples in Peru:

These startups in Peru help people in Lima meet basic needs. Lima’s population of almost 10 million people will provide ample opportunity for them to achieve significant scale.

Global and local investors are taking notice and driving capital toward startups in these three areas. In fact, a recently launched venture capital fund called Arpegio has a investment thesis to “look for companies that are using technology to solve problems anywhere along (and around) the global food supply chain.” Arpegio was lauched by Gonzalo Perez, a Peruvian founder who most recently led startup logistics Bend.

In July, Lima will host a ProPtech Latam Workday  to highlight innovations in the real estate sector and how startups are contributing to positive change.

31 Abrazos

Last week Pedro Neira posted an article announcing the close of operations for MiMediaManzana, the startup he led for six years. The article is a fresh example of transparency and leadership from a leading founder in Peru.

Peru’s startup community stepped up by adding comments to the post congratulating Pedro and thanking him for writing the article. Fellow founders, investors, and ecosystem actors – even from outside Peru – contributed support. As of today, there are 31 comments on the public post and 36 additional comments on a separate post on Pedro’s LinkedIn page.

This type of affirmation and support will make it easier for other founders to stake out on their own, dream big, stick it out through tough times, and make a lasting impact.

The Peru startup community has grown stronger under the leadership of Pedro and founders like him. MiMediaManzana may not exist after June 20th, but if this type praise is any indication, we have not seen the last of Pedro Neira.

Organigramas for startups

Creating org charts, or organigramas (sounds much better in Spanish!), presents challenges for startup founders. In initial startup stages, team members take on multiple roles. Later on, the team grows quickly, but somehow has to increase output per person.

Making an organigrama will help to clarify responsibilities and match goals with roles. It will also help you set up a replicable model (perhaps by country), as you scale and enter new markets.

Org chart example with roles instead of names and space for future hires

Tips for startup organigramas:

Start with roles, then add names. This allows you to think together with co-founders or key team members to find an optimal structure. Then you can add names and put some people in multiple boxes.

Be flexible, then update. Startups move fast. Don’t be afraid to try one structure one month and shift the next. If you are using scrum as a framework for process management, your team will be accustomed to moving around.

First today’s, then tomorrow’s. Make an org chart for how your team is organized today, then another for how it should be organized in the future. This will help identify key hires and signal to your board or potential investors how you plan to grown.


If you are interested in reading more about Org charts, check out this article: 10 Org Chart Styles We Admire (And the One We Use at Buffer)

3 more years!

If over the last four years in Peru you have seen:

  • an improvement in startup pitches,
  • more female founders,
  • better media exposure for the startup ecosystem,
  • more prepared program directors, and
  • more startup experts sharing stories in Peru . . .

. . . there is a common force behind these trends: the Swiss Entrepreneurship Program (Swiss EP).

The program recently culminated its first four-year period and wasted no time launching the second, three-year, phase.  Last week, Charlotte Ducrot, Program Manager of Swiss EP in Peru, gave an update on the Peru startup community’s progress. Many, if not all, of the programs have been directly supported by Swiss EP:

Slide from Swiss EP Presentation: Panorama general del ecosistema emprendedor peruano

The breadth of the support, both geographic (diaspora to provinces) and startup lifecycle (incubators to angel investing to PECAP) has been unmatched and reverberated through the startup community:

  1. Support of many incubators and accelerators across all of Peru, primarily in areas of investor readiness including a workshop at latest years PVCC
  2. Entrepreneur-in-residence (EIR) program, including 12 EIRs in 12 incubators, accelerators or angel networks
  3. Organized Peer Exchange Meetup, a workshop for Peruvian incubators and accelerators in Switzerland. One of the follow-up actions included 13 speed mentoring sessions to promote a mentorship culture
  4. Launch and institutionalization of PECAP and promotion of initiatives like the quarterly report and legal documents for seed rounds
  5. Promoting gender diversity by supporting female founders through experiences like Women Entrepreneurship Week.
  6. Bringing Peruvians living abroad back to Peru to speak with local ecosystem actors
  7. Workshop for members of the media to understand key concepts

The truth is, in almost every major ecosystem event or project over the last four years, SwissEP, has been involved in coordinating, bringing international experts for strategic advice, promoting collaboration among organisations, and community building.

Slide from Swiss EP Presentation: Panorama general del ecosistema emprendedor peruano

You rarely see them, because they play a background role, but they are behind the progress of our startup community. Here they are:

Swiss EP Team

We are lucky to have them as a backbone to the ecosystem for 3 more years!

You can learn more about the work of Swiss EP and connect with the Peru startup community by signing up for their excellent monthly newsletter here.


Swiss EP is supported by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and operated by Swisscontact and JE Austin in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia, Peru, and Vietnam.

Finance For Fundraising 101

Fast Guide for first-Time Entrepreneurs Looking to Raise Their 1st Round of Investment

A few weeks ago a I received a call from a friend. He had seen I was working at a seed-stage investment fund and wanted some advice on fundraising. He told me:

  • “Enzo, I have this great idea I’ve been working on with some friends and need to raise some funds to launch our company. I’d like your help modeling our free cash flows.”

I said: “Hold on” and asked:

  • “Do you have customers?” — No.
  • “Do you have an MVP?” — No.
  • “Then why are we having this conversation?” — We need the funds; and isn’t a financial model what investors ask for?

They were even willing to pay for it!So I decided to write down the little piece of advice I gave to my cousin as a first-time founder. The question has 2 sections:

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

1. When should I raise funds?

This is all about timing and needs. Identifying when is the appropriate time to raise the funds your startup needs to get to the next stage is key.

In my cousin’s case, his startup idea was still being incubated. It probably wasn’t the best time since he had almost no traction. An investor would’ve suggested more bootstrapping and applying for grants from public or private institutions.

Bad timing could mean running out of cash (if it’s too late) or having trouble raising funds (if it’s too early) in the form of a low valuation or many no’s from investors requiring further traction. 

As a general rule of thumb, raise funds when you have an MVP, some early traction (users or buyers) and a robust diagnosis of what are your startup’s scalability challenges. Then, raise funds and use them wisely to address those challenges.

For example, Geoff Ralston, Y Combinator’s new president, says “you should raise your 1st round when you can make a persuasive case that your startup will become a billion dollar company”. Startup investors would not bet on you unless they see a possible outsized return. Building that case requires having strong arguments like an innovative MVP and traction.

If your well thought answer to 1) was “Now”, then proceed:

Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash

2. Do potential investors really ask for a financial model?

This is all about the investor’s profile. As a seed-stage startup you could approach your Friends and Family, an Angel Investor or an Accelerator. Each of them has a different background, education and experience investing in startups. Thus they will probably ask for different things.

Professional investors

Angels and Accelerators usually understand that the decision process behind investing in a startup is quite different from the one for a mature company. The last one usually has enough historical data to back a fundamental analysis (aka Financial Model), in comparison to the first one. Venture Capital funds also understand this.  Thus they might not ask for a financial model, but will definitely ask for: 

  • Revenue in the last 3, 6 or 12 months (rapid growth month over month is persuasive)
  • Unit Economics like CAC and CLTV (you can Google both terms, but here’s a fast guide)
  • Use of Funds and Milestones, where you show how money will be spend monthly vs the key tasks you expect to achieve

Since startups have little traction, the assessment of qualitative aspects like the team, the problem and the solution tend to weigh more in the decision.

Casual investors

Unless you’re lucky enough to have angels or venture capitalists among your Friends and Family  —  in which case you wouldn’t be reading this  — , the loved-ones who would bet money on you will probably have little experience investing in startups. If any. 

In this case, a financial model could have 2 effects:

  1. Illustrate your growth plans and use of funds: If the target investor has some degree of expertise in traditional finance.
  2. Show you thought well about your business idea: If the target investor has little business background.

Bear in mind that since these investors tend to be less used to risky investments, confidence and belief in you rather than in your idea is key to a successful fundraising. So even if you were 1st place in college and had a great job, some crystal clear financial projections will make you sound more credible.

Take Away: Focus + Simplicity

As a first-time entrepreneur on the first 6 to 12 months, you should focus on figuring out what’s most important for a strong startup thesis: an MVP, some recurrent customers, and how to scale. (I love this article on founders’ focus)

Don’t spend your precious time and money worrying about fundraising requirements like a financial model for a first round. You don’t need to hire a financial advisor nor a CFO. Be simple. 

A one-page spreadsheet with simple and well formatted monthly projections like revenue, cost of sales, selling and administrative expenses is more than enough. If your solution, business model and market are good enough, then the spreadsheet will reflect just that and the investor will believe the numbers. No financial engineering required.


Enzo Cavalie is an investment professional at Winnipeg Capital Startup Fund. He’s passionate about solving fundamental problems in Latin America. An insider’s view, stories and advice are his tools.

The initial ride is not the struggle


When you imagine yourself building a tech company from the ground up, you might think of it as an exciting experience working inside an incredible environment, with an awesome team and a beautiful product that your customers love. Seems pretty straightforward. Well, it is not.


To clarify my point, it is relevant to share my +1 year experience as the Peru Country Manager of Tandem (www.gotandem.co),  a Mexican tech company with a B2B solution for office spaces; looking to accelerate order placing, while increasing control, visibility and compliance company wide. In our first year, we’ve become the go-to platform for office and coworking spaces, with a steady 30% MoM growth. From all prime coworking SQMs in Lima, +85% run in Tandem.

While launching and building the operation in Lima, I experienced two important processes: the initial ride and the struggle.

Initial Ride:

It looks like a very traditional process, but when you try to get a lot of things done  fast, you might lose track of what really matters.

  1. Assessing the opportunity to join the company, I felt really driven and pushed myself to the limit to deliver during the entire selection process. A few weeks before starting, there was a lot of anxiety and uncertainty: after three years at Endeavor I was jumping to the other side of the table to join an early-stage startup from Mexico – with just one laptop in Peru. The three main variables that convinced me to join were: a) the experienced team behind (who started as Aliada in Mexico and later pivoted into Tandem), b) the regional opportunity and growth potential, and c) the upside the first two could provide.
  2. Setting-up as a tech company is tricky. To do it correctly and start acquiring customers/revenue, you must work with a legal office that understand your size and needs. Specially if your plan is to hit the ground running.
  3. Hiring is definitely the hardest. When you are looking for your first key hire, take your time to find someone that truly inspires you. Finding this position only by sharing a job description across hiring platforms is not going to do the job. You need to actively prospect, and find the person that will fill that box.
  4. Selling might seem really hard, but at the begging it is not. You have a solution, know your market, and use your connections to get things off the ground.
  5. Building proper processes is really (really!) hard. In my case, technology was not on our plate since the tech team is in CDMX; building and gathering insights as we scale. By processes I mean an efficient way to have everyone in sync, and everything available at all times (and in order!). With such a small team and limited resources, you don’t want to spend time searching for information.
  6. Measuring everything is impossible, focus on a few things that are really important to keep an eye on. Plus, you might want to be generally ok than perfectly wrong… so don’t spend ridiculous time on things like budgeting or projecting.
  7. Managing a small team is hard, specially when things never go as planned. You are trying to be the best possible leader while making a lot of mistakes in the way – and changing your mind very often. You need to be transparent about it and trust your team to find the right answers.
  8. Communicating when you have little time is hard (and holding everyone accountable on what they said is impossible!), so we tried to find a place where things can be communicated properly and focus our time on things with an important/urgent tag on it.
  9. Reporting to our HQs in Mexico and to investors depends entirely on how good is your team when paying attention to detail, and how you as a manager provided the information platform needed to get every input  together— on time and accurately (this is where we most suffer!).

The Struggle:

The initial ride is over now, so you join a new one that is even harder and could be a tipping point for your company.

There is a part of the journey when you lose something really important; a team member left, a product release went wrong, or a loyal customer churned. Welcome to “The Struggle”. This part of the startup process is constantly challenging you as a leader, and it requires a new set of skills that I somehow identify and learned to incorporate into my team and myself.

I will quote a chapter from Ben Horowitz book (which I strongly recommend!), “The Hard Thing About Hard Things”, and from where I got the name for this section.

The Struggle is when you wonder why you started the company in the first place.

The Struggle is when your employees think you are lying and you think they may be right.

The Struggle is when food loses its taste.

The Struggle is when you don’t believe you should be CEO of your company.

The Struggle is when you are having a conversation with someone and you can’t hear a word that they are saying because all you can hear is the Struggle.

The Struggle is when you go on vacation to feel better and you feel worse.

The Struggle is not failure, but it causes failure. Especially if you are weak. Always if you are weak.

Most people are not strong enough.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz

It might be early for me to reflect on this subject as our struggle just began (that is also why I quoted it!). But this means you need to start evolving as a leader and feel comfortable when facing new difficult times. Trust your team and remember all what you’ve been through to be in this position; it is not a matter of who is tougher… it is about not taking it personal and fighting back when it is most needed.

2 cosas que no te dicen sobre tu “línea de carrera”

Era común pensar en las compañías grandes y establecidas como la mejor opción para desarrollarse profesionalmente (línea de carrera). Sin embargo, va quedando cada vez más claro que las startups y organizaciones relacionadas pueden generar mejores oportunidades de desarrollo.

No obstante, no se trata de unirte a cualquier startup o entidad relacionada. Para acelerar tu curva de aprendizaje y desarrollo profesional, es clave unirte a una empresa que cuente con al menos uno de los siguientes aspectos (no son mutuamente excluyentes):

Crecimiento

Una compañía en crecimiento te permite recibir una cantidad desproporcionada de oportunidades de desarrollo, mientras que una empresa que se estanca no extenderá tus habilidades lo suficientemente rápido. Por otro lado, el crecimiento de la compañía genera espacios para incrementar tu capacidad de acción (toma de decisiones), lo cual es más difícil de obtener dentro de la burocracia corporativa.

Por ejemplo, Diego Villarán empezó en AmigoCloud manejando todo el proceso de generación de leads (como practicante). Después, pasó a liderar la creación de la nueva página web y luego el onboarding del producto principal. Actualmente, lidera Business Development para contratos de más de S/ 1 MM. Todo esto dentro de su primer año en la compañía, que corresponde al período en el que AmigoCloud se expandió a 3 países y creció 400%.

Visibilidad

Que tu trabajo sea visible (exposición) te permitirá dar el siguiente salto, tanto a nivel interno como fuera de la compañía. Hay sitios donde, por su dinámica de funcionamiento, está claro que no se puede avanzar más allá de la posición actual; sin embargo, si uno puede probarse como doer y generar valor de manera visible no dejarán de llegar nuevas oportunidades.

Alvaro Ludowieg decidió trabajar con Andrés Benavides y conmigo en Startup Perú a pesar de saber que (por normas del gobierno) el intership no podía durar más de 12 meses. A pesar de ello, el impacto de su trabajo era tan notorio que no paraban de llegarle oportunidades de trabajo. Finalmente decidió probar consultoría y ahora es parte de una de las mejores en el ámbito, McKinsey.

No te sientas displicente y hazte la pregunta seguido: ¿cuán rápido estoy aprendiendo y creciendo profesionalmente? Pero no sacrifiques el largo plazo por el corto plazo. Acostúmbrate a manejar la incertidumbre y acepta retos que todavía no sabes como resolver, de todos modos, “a little bit of slope makes up for a lot of y-intercept”.

Next level

Getting to the next level requires next level talent.

Two startup transactions were front and center at PECAP’s May meetup. During the meeting, Ragi Burhum announced the sale of AmigoCloud, and Alain Elias, president of PECAP, shared the Q1 report, highlighting Krealo’s investment in Culqi.

A common thread in both startups is the founders’ superpower of hiring and retaining talent. Ragi, at AmigoCloud, and Amparo Nalvarte and Nicolas di Pace, of Culqi, achieved success by building a supporting cast of key contributors.

Faces behind the founders:

Diego, Pierina, Rodrigo, and William

Diego Bartra, Head of Professional Services, AmigoCloud: Began his career at Tekton Labs then led programs at Startup Peru. Graduate of Universidad de Pacifico.

Pierina Salinas, Head of Operations, AmigoCloud: Previously part of the founding team at UTEC Ventures. Graduate of Universidad de Lima.

Rodrigo Neira, CFO, Culqi: Previously held impactful positions at Belcorp and Chemonics International. Graduate of Universidad de Piura.

William Muro, CTO, Culqi: Five years building product at Culqi following graduation from Universidad Tecnológica del Perú.

The founders of these startups will be the first to give credit to these and other team members that played a key role in getting to the finish line. While founders dedicate time almost exclusively to the transaction, the rest of the team helps out and at the same time ensures the startup continues to deliver results.

AmigoCloud and Culqi are still growing and writing their stories. The next level of talent, below the founders, will become an increasingly important part of future success.


Check out the Q1 2019 PECAP Report here.

When 10 is < 1%

This week the 500 Startups Latam batch 10 was announced. Eleven startups were selected out out of 1,420 applicants – an acceptance rate of 0.8%!

Patrick Wakeham, CEO of Apurata, presenting at the 500 Startups Investor Night in Lima, Peru.

It is a good reminder that:

  1. The number of startups across Latin America is growing. The growth of applicants compared to batch 9 in 2018 was over 50%.
  2. Startup investors are very selective. Being chosen for any program, including StartupPeru, UTEC Ventures, or LIQUID Ventures Studio, is a big deal. Founders and investors in these programs can be proud of what they have accomplished and know they are in special company.
  3. Founding teams from Peru belong to the exclusive 500 Latam community. Apurata, Decompris, Rebajatuscuentas.com, and Fitco are all part of the #500STRONG family. None of the startups from batch 10 are from Peru, but not being selected isn’t a reason to give up, it’s a reason to keep trying.

Last night, 500 Startups held its first Investor Night of 2019 at Comunal Coworking in Lima. The event was a sponsored by Porto Legal. A great collaboration of leading startup community players in Peru and Latin America.

Guardians of the startup ecosystem

Startups aren’t exactly the best clients. Neither are early stage investors for that matter. The lawyers that take them on are an essential part of our ecosystem.

Working with small startups doesn’t make legal work less complicated. Cap tables have lists of 30 or more investors, new rounds are raised every 6 or 12 months, and everybody wants an options pool. None of it is easy, but somehow needs to be done in order for interests to be aligned and exit paths to remain feasible. Lawyers often spend the time picking up the pieces after decisions are made, all the while knowing that getting paid probably depends on a successful future fundraising round.

Fortunately, a new crop of lawyers is shaping around the startup ecosystem in Peru. They are taking their own professional risks by jumping in and are entrusted with making sure that the ecosystem is built on a solid legal ground.

Here is a summary of some of the startup ecosystem lawyers I have come across in Peru. I have divided them in two main groups:

Alexandra Orbezo, who I put in the Transformer group, and Jose Miguel Porto, a Pioneer, were first movers in the startup ecosystem in Peru. Alexandra leads the venture capital practice at Rebaza, which has a long history of working with venture clients, including Naspers, Cinepapaya and Delivery Hero. Jose Miguel, of Porto Legal, and a UTEC Ventures mentor, worked on the recent Xertica round as well as led to process of creating seed round legal documents with PECAP.

Other transformers include Janett Burga at Rebaza, and Itala Bertolotti, who leads the charge to support startups at Muñiz. Diego Carrión of Hernandez & Co. and Augusto Caceres of Rodrigo round out the group.

The Pioneer group includes the Sumara Hub Legal team of Alvaro Castro, Juan Jose Hopkins, Angie Umezawa, who are experts in fintech, the largest startup segment in Latin America, as well as venture capital fund formation and structuring. Sofia Yague, who started Next Legal, is a essential link for startups that are interested in setting up international holding company structures and preparing for Series A financing rounds. Alberto Arrieta, of Legal Ventures, has been a key advisor to startup founders for raising seed rounds and corporate governance, among other things. Francisco Davalos is a valued advisor to many startups that have passed through 500 Startups Latam. Finally, Oscar Montezuma is building a unique cutting edge, legal practice at Niubox Legal. He is a key industry leader, in both words and example, for the legal profession in Peru.

These Transformers and Pioneers are the keepers and protectors of our startup ecosystem. We depend on them and they are looking out for us.

Salario Fundador: Aprende a Calcularlo

1ra Ronda de Inversión: ¿Qué Variables Considerar al Momento de Calcular tu Salario como Fundador?

Gracias a Doménica Obando por la pregunta que inspiro este artículo. Dome y @Andi acaban de entrar a UTEC Ventures. ¡Éxitos en lo que viene!

Imaginemos la siguiente situación:

Llevas 12 meses trabajando part-time en tu startup, tienes un MVP* y unos cuantos usuarios pagando. Quieres levantar tu primera ronda de inversión por $100 mil que te permita: 1) dedicarte full-time, 2) invertir en marketing digital, y 3) desarrollar más tu producto. 

Propones un uso de fondos, donde tu salario es de $2 mil por mes (casi un 25% de los fondos en 1 año). Sin embargo, no estás seguro sobre el número y te preguntas…

¿Cuál es el monto razonable de los fondos que debería destinarse a mi salario?

No es una pregunta fácil de responder porque no hay una respuesta exacta, sin embargo un potencial inversionista podría usarla para medir tu motivación y compromiso como fundador.

Usualmente un Inversionista Ángel, una Aceleradora o un Fondo Semilla no le dedicara mucho tiempo a esta pregunta. Sin embargo, he visto casos en que un startup buscaba levantar demasiado dinero y, al revisar el uso de fondos presupuestado, encontré gastos innecesariamente grandes como el salario de los fundadores.

Por eso, propongo una guía con 3 variables a tomar en cuenta al momento de calcular el salario “razonable”: 1) Costo de vida, 2) Convicción y 3) Disciplina Financiera.

Por un lado, al inversionista no le interesa…

Un salario muy bajo, porque

1.Costo de vida: el salario “razonable” debe satisfacer tus necesidades básicas, de modo que puedas liderar tu compañía con suficiente energía física y mental, sobre todo en los momentos más difíciles. 

Entonces, el monto es relativo a tu costo de vida dependiendo de si tienes hijos, estás soltero o vives con tus padres.

Por otro lado, al inversionista no le interesa…

Un salario muy alto, porque

2. Convicción: si bien $2 mil puede ser un número mesurado para alguien con tu experiencia (incluso, puede haber sido tu último salario**), debes entender que el gran potencial de ganancia en un startup viene de un exit (venta de tu compañía) y no del salario. Entonces, el inversionista se preguntará: 

¿Cuál es su verdadero costo de oportunidad (el riesgo que me asegura que hará todo lo posible por sacar adelante su empresa) si es que ganará lo mismo que en su último trabajo?

Por ejemplo, Nathan Lustig, fundador de Magma Partners (Fondo de VC en Chile), no invierte en startups donde los fundadores tienen salarios igual o por encima de lo que ganarían en un empleo corporativo. 

3. Disciplina Financiera: el inversionista necesita saber que serás responsable y eficiente en el manejo del capital. A final de cuentas, los fondos invertidos son tanto tuyos, de él, como de toda la compañía. 

¿Es posible que tu presupuesto de levantamiento de fondos sea excesivo para una primera ronda de inversión? ¿Podrías lograr los mismos objetivos proyectados por US$ 10 o 20 mil menos?

¿Una respuesta más rápida? 

Pregúntale a otros fundadores de tu ecosistema startup local, que hayan levantado una ronda de inversión, cuánto están ganando aproximadamente. Por ejemplo, con base en mi experiencia en Perú, el salario de un fundador en su primera ronda de inversión está en entre US$ 500 a 1,000**.

Ese debería ser tu benchmark; tu salario no puede estar muy por encima o por debajo. Luego, considerando las diferencias entre tú y esos fundadores, calcula el monto razonable. Lo último que queremos es a un potencial inversionista pensando en tu salario, en lugar de cuán buena oportunidad es invertir en tu startup.

*Producto Mínimo Viable, por sus siglas en inglés.

**Estos números aplican para Perú, Colombia, Ecuador, y países de América Latina con costos de vida similares.

Healthy Pressure

En el 2017 perdí el sueño por dos razones: nació mi primer hijo, y me enteré que el competidor global más grande de Comunal estaba por llegar a Perú.

Teníamos claro que necesitábamos enfocarnos en esas pocas grandes cosas que marcarían la diferencia y le darían a Comunal un lugar en la cabeza y corazón de nuestros clientes. De lo contrario, teníamos los días contados.

Así que voy a arrancar por el final de la historia, que es donde estamos hoy después de un 1 año de su llegada:

  • Triplicamos nuestra cantidad de locales, pasando de 4 a 12.
  • Multiplicamos x5 nuestra base de comuneros, conformada por Startups, PYMEs y ahora Corporaciones.
  • Evolucionamos lanzando una nueva unidad de negocio donde ofrecemos Comunal como una plataforma: Diseñamos, implementamos y gestionamos las oficinas de las grandes empresas (KPMG, Alicorp y El Comercio ya son nuestros clientes).
  • Estamos a pocos días de anunciar el lanzamiento del 1er Comunal fuera de Perú, y con esto se inicia nuestra expansión en Latinoamérica.

Claramente fue un crecimiento muy acelerado, y en gran parte, se logró por los beneficios que generó esta presión sana de tener un competidor grande al lado:

  • La comparación es mucho más directa, así que el factor producto cobra mucha más relevancia y por ende nos empuja a que cada nuevo local sea mejor que el anterior.
  • La categoría crece significativamente ya que somos 2 invirtiendo en evangelizar a los clientes.
  • Y en nuestro caso en particular, al ser un negocio B2B y no ser una compra por impulso, las empresas quieren tener más de una propuesta en la mesa para tomar una decisión.

Estos buenos resultados no hubieran sido posible sin estas 4 piezas claves:

1.  Socios: Que trabajen a tu lado todos los días y que realmente “se compren el pleito” contigo, porque ir solo a una competencia vs. un jugador global es casi imposible. Y el apoyo va en todos los ámbitos, desde lo estratégico hasta lo ejecucional. Desde rebotar ideas sobre dónde abrir nuevos locales, o definir nuestra propuesta de valor, hasta el hecho de poder tener reuniones constantes con nuestros clientes para escuchar su feedback.

2. Inversionista: En nuestra categoría no puedes competir contra una billetera de $12 billones de dólares sin tener capital inteligente. Por eso sumamos a un socio con experiencia, como lo es el Grupo Wiese, que nos dio guía y la tranquilidad financiera necesaria para que el equipo se enfoque en ejecutar.

3. Equipo: Ya con socios activos y el inversionista correcto para esta nueva etapa, apostamos por seguir construyendo un equipo sólido que soporte un crecimiento acelerado sin perder la esencia de Comunal. Fortaleciendo áreas directamente relacionadas a nuestra propuesta de valor (Operaciones, Diseño & Arquitectura, y Tecnología). Hoy ya somos +80 personas dando todo para construir una historia de éxito.

4. Ecosistema: Usando la analogía de la ruta startup, tuve la suerte de encontrar la carretera del emprendimiento con agentes que me siguen ayudando muchísimo. Endeavor es claramente uno de ellos, en nuestro caso, ha significado acceso a mentores (2 de ellos ya son parte de nuestro Directorio), acceso a servicios de primera (EY, MIT y Harvard) e inclusive acceso a nuevos mercados.

Image: Comunal Coworking

No tomen esto como una celebración, no hemos logrado el éxito… todavía. Esto es solo parar unos minutos para reconocer el cómo hemos llegado hasta aquí, y sobre todo revisitar el a dónde vamos. Hoy nuestro compromiso va más allá de ofrecer el mejor producto de la categoría con Comunal. Hoy estamos obsesionados por crear una historia de éxito, una startup peruana con impacto regional.

Este 2019 pierdo el sueño nuevamente: pronto me convertiré en papá por segunda vez y Comunal inaugurará su primer local fuera de Perú…

¿Coincidencias? Yo prefiero llamarlo destino.