As an VC investing in both the US and Latin America, I get to see how investors look at the world differently around the world. I gathered the top advice from Latin American venture capitalists on starting a company, fundraising, and how to keep moving forward that can be applied anywhere in the world.
Move faster and believe in yourself
“Move forward and do it faster than others.” – Rocio Fonseca, Executive Director, Start-Up Chile, Chile
Fonseca started and sold a microbiology company in Chile before running Start-Up Chile, the Chilean Government back incubator. Fonseca stresses that women especially need to trust in themselves when moving forward with their businesses. She thinks that if women are given access to education, coaching, and other female role models, countries can change their viewpoint on women’s empowerment.
Focus is Crucial
“It’s impossible to do everything at one time.“ – Sebastian Vidal, Executive Director, Parallel 18, Puerto Rico
Vidal has met many founders who lack focus. They’re all over the place, trying to launch in different markets, at the same time perform R&D. They don’t realize how fast money goes unless they focus on one specific thing. If a founder is distracted from the company’s primary mission, they lose traction, and waste money, leading to failure.
Be Frank about What You Don’t Know
“It’s really about listening and observing. “ – Amanda Jacobson, Sub Director, Fiinlab, Mexico
Everyone starts out somewhere, Jacobson observes. She started out asking a lot of questions, observing, listening, and asking questions to fully herself immerse in her position at Village Capital. People love to talk about what they know, she realized, which allowed her to build great connections that served her long-term.
Don’t Be Afraid to Disagree with VCs
“Pay more attention to entrepreneurs and give them their rightful place at the table.” – Cristobal Perdomo, Co-Founder & General Partner, Jaguar Ventures, Argentina
Perdomo notes that startups should not assume a VC has all of the right answers. Just because they have the money doesn’t mean they are on the ground listening to the customer, so it’s OK to disagree with their opinion. As an entrepreneur, you are developing your product, testing, and watching where it could be implemented, so you deserve a seat at the table as well.
Challenge Yourself with High-Reaching Goals
“Think Big” – Fabricio Bloisi, Investor, Founder & CEO of Movile, Brazil
Bloisi’s company hit over US$2B in transactions, which no one thought was possible and has morphed into one of the most active investors in Latin America. His advice for startups is to make high goals and don’t be shy about wanting to reach them. With an amazing team and challenging goals, Bloisi believes there can be more unicorn companies coming out of Latin America.
Stay in Contact with Potential Investors
“Keep everyone posted” – Santiago Zavala, Venture Partner, 500 Startups, Mexico
Zavala’s advice for startups is to keep a continually updated CRM of potential investors. Every quarter or every month, update those investors on KPIs, numbers, the amount you wish to raise and when, etc. Keep that relationship updated so that when it’s time to take on investment, you have people in the pipeline ready to go. Plus, those investors know you are talking to other investors, which might push them to act quickly.
You Need to Love what You’re Creating
“Keep pushing, keep trying to make it happen.“ – Güimar Vaca Sittic, Partner, FJ Labs, Argentina & USA
It doesn’t matter the size of a company, building one is difficult. From branding to fundraising, each aspect is tough, and it even might be harder to fundraise if you’re only building a small company. But, if you are passionate about what you’re doing, then at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. Sittic would not dissuade anyone from building a company that they’re really passionate about.
The Competition will Always be There
“Anyone can compete in the US.” – Andres Barreto, General Partner, FirstRock Capital, Colombia
Barreto works with many companies who fear moving into the US market, but he has seen successful cases of Latin American companies doing this. Barreto makes the point that the competition will always be there and that even the founder in New York will have to compete again Google, Uber, and Amazon. No one is immune to competition, but Latin American companies have an advantage in that they can pay for top talent in the region and create outstanding products.