I’m Joining Welcu and Moving Back to Chile

In mid January, I knew that Entrustet was going to be acquired and I started to look around for new things to do.  I knew I didn’t want to rush into starting something right away: I’d been running startups non-stop since I was 19, with only a 6 week break between when the ink dried on the ExchangeHut acquisition and when I started Entrustet. I needed a break from the day to day pressure of running a startup.  I needed to recharge so that when I found something I really wanted to work on, I’d be ready.

I knew I wanted to move out of Wisconsin, at least for awhile. I’d lived there my entire life.  I went out to San Francisco and met with some friends and talked to my network in NYC.  Nothing really piqued my interest.  I decided to return to Santiago, where I’d spent six months as part of Startup Chile, to see what I could find.  I was looking for a specific opportunity that met four specific criteria and if I couldn’t, I’d return to the US.  I wanted to join a startup that:

  • Had traction and was generating significant revenue
  • Was expanding across Latin America so I could learn about the markets and expand my network
  • Forced me to work in Spanish all day so that I could finally get fully fluent
  • With a team of founders I could learn from

I talked to all of my contacts in Chile and looked at a bunch of different companies, but one kept hitting all of the metrics: Welcu.

I’d met Nico Orellana and Seba Gamboa in my first few weeks in Chile in 2010 at an asado (bbq).  The two Chilean entrepreneurs were on their way to Palo Alto to try to raise money for their event management company.  We ran into each other in person and on Twitter over the next year and a half and I always admired their progress.  They arrived in Silicon Valley with a simple product and returned to Chile as 500 Startups alums, bosting funding from Eric Schmidt’s (ex-CEO Google) Tomorrow Ventures, the founders of Groupon LatAM and other Groupon execs in South America.

When I got back to Chile, I met with Nico over a michelada and he told me about Welcu’s agressive expansion plans to Colombia, Argentina and Brazil.  In addition to Welcu, Nico and team organize Webprendedor, Latin America’s most important technology and entrepreneurship conference.  Nico told me they needed help with marketing, pr, blogging social media and expansion strategy and offered me a sort of Entrepreneur in Residence position and head of marketing for Latin America.

It met all of my goals:  Welcu is generating significant revenue and expanding quickly.  I’d work in spanish all day, be learning about the Chilean, Argentine, Colombian and Brazilian markets and be learning from two great cofounders, along with an awesome team.

I joined Welcu two months ago as employee number 7.  Now we’re 35 and have offices in Chile, Argentina, Colombia and are opening Brazil as we speak.  We’re hiring as fast as we can.  I work in spanish all day and provide lots of entertainment for my coworkers.  My spanish is already so much better and I’m learning how business gets done in the rest of South America.  Our tech team is incredible and Nico is a great entrepreneur who has many of the traits of my business partners from previous successful startups.  We have a great team and it’s going to be fun as we continue to expand across South America.  For me, this is the perfect opportunity.  The only downside: my first winter in two years.