US Startup Valuations and Their Effect on Latin American Startups

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A version of this article originally appeared in El Mercurio, one of Chile’s largest newspapers with the title Valorizaciones de startups en EE.UU. y su efecto en Chile. I write a monthly columns with the goal of helping Chileans understand what’s going on in the US startup market.

Many people have been talking about the “third tech bubble” in the US, including many investors like Mark Suster, Bill Gurley and Fred Wilson. At least up until now, the bubble’s been deflating, and hasn’t crashed. “Unicorns” have been the most strongly affected, but all startups are are affected when the most successful VC backed and public companies lose value.

VCs make the vast majority of their money by investing so that they can either sell their shares in the company in an acquisition, or currently less commonly, when the company goes public. If valuations for the “best” startups go down, the upper limit for startups that haven’t gotten to “the pay window” yet go down, at least in the short term. These startups then have to adjust their valuations lower at each step down the chain, as VCs are not as likely to pay high valuations of their ultimate upside looks to be lower, at least in the short to medium term.

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Colombia’s Incredible Transformation and the Medellin Miracle

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photo credit: Jorge Gobi https://www.flickr.com/photos/morrissey/10968365104/in/photolist-hHeJPb-4yeqQ9-8bVKUA-a1HDJT-ehuJeZ-66zArf-a1LvLm-8bVEgA-ytWVz-9ZRehn-6S8xRN-ehuPpB-ehAhYE-57gue6-6rcwi8-8bVLQN-6S8yC1-4yaduD-25wa7Z-ehuCAx-RW5C3-6S5bfn-ehAp7C-9qSHhA-4gqh84-6S8vX9-7iBEYU-ehAzmA-ehAtBf-6S8x5J-4yerNY-6S8yeC-ehAsVL-6S8u7N-ehAipd-ehAzty-6S5dyF-CYwLcd-zGSyW-2EGodH-8bVF3y-ehAoZ9-ehuCZ8-ehuBKk-ehAnLG-4yeqj7-9zUGSD-6S8yo9-4yadKr-a3oeXa

I’m just back from my third trip to Colombia since 2012. Before my first trip, I didn’t know what to expect and wrote a blog post about the experience. I came back in 2015 and 2016 and saw huge positive changes in Cartagena. I also went to Medellin, a beautiful city nesteled in a mountain valley for the first time. This post compares my experience from 2012 with 2016 and talks about why Medellin is a hidden gem that’s just starting to get its due both for tourism, but also as a potential tech hub in South America.

In 2012, a group of Chilean friends and I planned to go to Colombia’s north coast for two weeks and hang out on its beautiful tropical beaches.

I had studied a bit of Colombia in high school Spanish class, as my teacher was Colombian and wanted to share Colombia’s natural beauty with us. Being high schoolers, most of us only wanted to learn about Pablo Escobar, the drug gangs, movies, the violence, the civil war, how someone could murder a soccer star after scoring an own goal (watch the documentary, its really good)…pretty much the only news about Colombia we ever heard in the US. Continue reading…

Doing Business in Latam: Advice for Foreign Entrepreneurs

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This post is a modified version of a talk I gave to Startup Chile entrepreneurs called “Doing Business in Latin America: Advice to Foreign Entrepreneurs.” 

When Startup Chile invited me to share my advice for new foreign entrepreneurs doing business in Latin America, it gave me an opportunity to synthesize the things I’ve learned over the past five years living and working in Latam. After coming to Startup Chile with a startup that did business in the US, teaching entrepreneurship at Chilean universities, starting a Latin American property business, starting my own ecommerce startups and meeting hundreds of entrepreneurs looking for investment via Magma Partners, I’d gotten a pretty good feel for the cultural differences between Latam and the US.

When I first got to Chile in 2010, I knew there were cultural differences, but I just worked under the impression that if I worked hard in the same way I did in the US, I’d be successful, like I had been in the US. Working hard helped, but there were many cultural misunderstandings that hampered my progress.

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From the Muscle Based Economy to the Brain Based Economy

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nathan lustig el mercurio muscles to mind

Note: A version of this post originally appeared in spanish in the Chilean daily El Mercurio with the title De la economía de los músculos a la economía de la mente.

Michael Bloomberg used his commencement address at the University of Michigan’s to tell graduates a stark truth: “For the first time in human history, the majority of people in the developed world are being asked to make a living with their minds, rather than their muscles.”

He continued:

For 3,000 years, humankind had an economy based on farming: Till the soil, plant the seed, harvest the crop. It was hard to do, but fairly easy to learn. Then, for 300 years, we had an economy based on industry: Mold the parts, turn the crank, assemble the product. This was hard to do, but also fairly easy to learn.

Now, we have an economy based on information: Acquire the knowledge, apply the analytics and use your creativity. This is hard to do and hard to learn, and even once you’ve mastered it, you have to start learning all over again, pretty much every day.

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