Immigrants make up 15% of the US workforce, but they also make up one-quarter of the country’s entrepreneurs. Currently, up to 40% of new companies in the US have at least one immigrant founder. Immigrant-founded companies receive higher percentages of VC funding, according to this HBR report.
While similar statistics are not widely available for Latin America, there are some interesting numbers that stand out. For instance, there are close to one million US citizens residing in Mexico. The success of programs like Start-Up Chile and Parallel 18 speak to the positive impact that immigration can bring to a startup ecosystem. Living in a new country exposes potential entrepreneurs to new problems that they might have never faced back home, sparking ideas for new businesses. Immigrants may also bring unique skill sets and perspectives that allow them to create more innovative solutions to local issues.
I’ve also noticed that living or studying abroad for a period can produce a similar effect. Many of the top entrepreneurs I’ve seen in Latin America left home to study in the US or UK, only to return to their home country, or another part of LatAm, with an entirely new perspective on their local problems.
Ariel Arrieta knew he wanted to work in tech from the moment he got his first computer, an Atari 800XL, when he was 12 years old– a gift that changed his life. Today, he is cofounder and Managing Partner at NXTP Labs, an Argentine venture capital firm and accelerator that invests in early-stage tech startups.
During the first Internet gold rush in the late 90s, Ariel was just starting his entrepreneurial career. He saw some of his businesses fail and others do really well. After he returned $2M to a friend who had invested $10K in his startup, he knew he wanted to be in startups for life. From there, he cofounded NXTP, which become one of the most active early-stage firms in Latin America, producing success stories like Auth0, their first portfolio unicorn.
In this episode, I sit down with Ariel to talk about the evolution of Latin America’s tech ecosystem, advice for founders, and lessons learned from being an entrepreneur and investor.
After a trip to Latin America with three other friends from college, Julian Deutschle and his future co-founders wanted to solve a problem that was already solved in their native Germany: booking bus tickets online.
Friends and family back home were in disbelief when they heard they had to physically go to bus terminals to check out bus routes, and in some cases like in Bolivia, tickets were sold with pen and paper. This untapped opportunity was enough of a reason for Julian and his friends to move to Latin America and found Recorrido, an online platform that allows its users to search for and book bus tickets online.
On this episode, I sit down with Julian to talk about his decision to move to Latin America to start a tech startup, why they picked Chile despite being rejected from Start-Up Chile, and the challenges faced in starting a business as a foreigner. We also cover why Latin America is a great place to start a business and his vision on what the future holds for the region.
Susana García Robles has been working to help create the venture capital industry in Latin America since the 90s, when she launched an ambitious flagship program in Brazil to jumpstart the Latin American ecosystem. Since then, she has been an LP to dozens of funds across the region in her role as Chief Investment Officer for IDB Lab at the Interamerican Development Bank, a Washington DC based multilateral development bank focused on Latin America and the Carribbean.
In addition, Susana founded WeXchange, a platform run to empower Latin American and Caribbean female entrepreneurs and connect them to mentors and investors around the world.
In this episode, I sat down with Susana to talk about her first experience with venture capital in the region, from working in Brazil to replicating similar programs across Latin America. She offers advice to potential LPs on what to look for in successful fund managers and founders. We also cover why and how she founded WeXchange and the importance of women entrepreneurs for Latin America’s growth. Check out this episode of Crossing Borders to hear more of Susana’s extensive experience investing in the region.