JT Li’s Journey From China to Chile and Lessons Learned From Crossing Borders

JT Li joined the Magma Partners team in our Santiago, Chile office earlier this year. As part of her training, she listened to much of the Crossing Borders podcast and wrote up some of the most interesting things she learned from the entrepreneurs and investors I talked with. Here’s JT’s story about how she went from  the south of China to Santiago, Chile.
Three month ago, on my 25th birthday, I took a flight from my hometown of Jieyang, China and arrived in Santiago, Chile two days later, after 32 hours in the air, and joined the Magma Partners team.
I never imagined that one day I would be working in South America, let alone Chile. But now when I look back, everything makes sense. During the first 18 years of my life, I followed a very traditional path. I lived with my family in Jieyang, a small (by Chinese standards!) city of 6M in Canton where I was born. I studied hard and got good grades. Next up university. After the extremely competitive entrance exam, I was accepted into Beijing Foreign Studies University and hopped on a plane to study economics.
It was my first time away from home, 1100+ miles away from my home town. I had a great year meeting my fellow students from different backgrounds and experiencing huge differences between southern and northern China in terms of languages, food and lifestyles. After meeting new people from different places, I was hooked. I wanted to see more. After my first year, I started traveling and haven’t stopped since.

My first stop was Bulgaria, a small country in eastern Europe, where I for an cultural exchange program for 6 weeks. Next, I flew south to Queensland, Australia for a semester abroad, where I studied management and learned a bit of Aussie English. After I finished my undergraduate in Beijing, I went back to Australia, settling in Sydney for a Masters Degree in Management.

I knew I wanted to go abroad again. One day, I was handed a list of 28 universities to pick from for my exchange semester. Chile immediately stuck out because of their natural beauty and because nobody I knew had been there. Chile and Brazil were the only two South American countries on the list. I remember thinking, “hmm Chile is definitely far enough away, and it seems safer than Brazil,” so I applied!

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How MercadoLibre Dominates Latin America’s E-commerce Industry

Over the past five years, Amazon has slowly expanded into Latin America, testing the waters in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Mexico.

Despite the Seattle-based giant’s explosive success in the United States, Amazon has not yet made inroads as quickly in most of Latin America.

Part of the challenge is that Latin America already has its own e-commerce giant: MercadoLibre.

Founded in 1999 by Hernan Kazah and Marcos Galperin in Buenos Aires, Argentina, MercadoLibre is now the e-commerce site of choice in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, Panama, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

In Latin America, 47% of online shoppers buy on MercadoLibre while only 17% use Amazon. In Mexico, where Amazon offers similar services to the US, 38% of online shoppers still use MercadoLibre while just 21% use Amazon.

Source

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Ep 50 Miguel Torres: Modernizing Last Mile Shipping in Latin America with Shippify

Miguel Torres is an Ecuadorian entrepreneur who knew he wanted to start businesses when he saw needs that were unmet. After starting his entrepreneurial career in the food and drink industry and building the business to a successful exit, Miguel built out a daily deal site in Ecuador and other countries in Latin America.

The daily deals business morphed into Escapes With You, a travel and experience daily deals business, where he ended up in the Start-Up Chile program. After building the business, he realized that he was shipping items to guests from the travel experience business and decided to build a new business to solve the last mile problem he was experiencing himself.

Shippify is a shipping and logistics API that allows easy integration of delivery services into any E-commerce store and mobile app by adding a few lines of code.

Miguel hopped on a plane to Brazil without knowing any Portuguese and built the business ever since, expanding across the region and raising money from investors in Latin America, the US and the Middle East.

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Latin American Shipping: Opportunities for Startups

In 2014, the US government launched an initiative called “Look South” to show companies in the United States the benefits of shipping to the Latin American market. Despite numerous trade agreements between Latin America and the US, 58% of US companies at the time were exporting to only one other country: Canada or Mexico.

Latin America is a close US trading partner, yet the complicated shipping logistics in most Latin American countries – whether by air, water, or overland – are hurting the region’s supply chain.

The challenge of automating and streamlining shipping logistics in Latin America is becoming more pressing as e-commerce and other B2C delivery businesses take hold. Not only are large corporations dealing with sending and receiving bulk cargo across the region, but individual consumers want more on-demand services that require better organization and logisitics.

Latin America still lags behind in the development of its shipping industry. The World Bank reported that in 2014, no Latin American country was in the top 25% of the Logistic Performance Index global rankings. In 2016, this figure hardly changed; Panama is the top-ranked Latin American country for logistics and shipping, yet it comes in 40th on the LPI global rankings. Chile is next at 46th, with Mexico and Brazil ranking 54th and 55th, respectively.

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