Andres Gutierrez, Tpaga: How Tappsi’s acquisition led to Trying to Help Latin America’s 400M Unbanked, Ep 94

Andres Gutierrez was working for a can manufacturing company in Philadelphia when he realized that web and mobile apps were disrupting the US market. When he asked friends and family in Colombia if there were any equivalents to these companies back home, he discovered an underserved market. 

While most tech companies were launching in Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina, startups were overlooking 50M consumers, with a GDP of $360B. Andres decided to go back to Colombia to found Tappsi, a ride-hailing app that after operating for only 8 months got a $1M buyout offer which, to his parents’ dismay, he turned down. 

In this episode, I sit down with Andres to discuss his most recent venture Tpaga, a mobile wallet that aims to give financial services to the 400M unbanked people in Latin America. We also talk about his story growing Tappsi to an exit, advice he has for Latin American entrepreneurs, and lessons learned from Tappsi that he used to start Tpaga. We also cover what it’s like to raise money and advice for going through YCombinator.

From hailing taxis to banking the unbanked / Banking the 400M unbanked in Latin America

According to Andres, when he started Tappsi, hailing a taxi in Latin America wasn’t about convenience, it was about safety. With over 150 cases of people getting mugged while hailing a taxi in Bogota in 2012, Andres and his partner decided to solve this problem by creating a ride-hailing app called Tappsi. With one problem solved, another popped up: Tappsi taxi drivers couldn’t receive e-payments because they were unbanked. Andres soon realized that it wasn’t just the drivers. About 60% of the population in Colombia that works in the informal economy doesn’t have access to a bank account or any of the financial services that people in the developed world take for granted.

Learn more about Andres’ decision to build Tpaga, a mobile wallet that could affect the lives of millions of consumers, in this episode of Crossing Borders.

Tappsi’s capital efficient customer acquisition strategies

Back in 2012, Colombians would send a picture of their taxi’s license plate to their friends and family as a safety precaution. Andres decided to incorporate a similar service to Tappsi in which his users would report their ride with the app on their social networks for safety purposes. By taking into account the local culture, Andres found Tappsi’s customer acquisition strategy.

Learn more about how Tappsi grew from their initial 100 drivers to 10K drivers in their first year using unconventional growth hacks.

Raising money from strategic investors

Andres knew that approaching venture capital firms in Silicon Valley as a startup from Colombia, a country with a complicated history, was going to be a difficult task. He decided to apply to YCombinator and was accepted. The YCombinator stamp of approval made raising money for Tpaga much easier than the experience they had raising for Tappsi.

Find out how Andres and his partners strategically chose their investors to scale Tpaga across Latin America in this episode of Crossing Borders.

Andres Gutierrez is providing solutions for one of Latin America’s most ambitious goals: helping the 400M unbanked access credit. Through his resourcefulness and understanding of the local market, he is helping thousands of people and businesses gain access to financial services that are taken for granted in the developing world.

Show Notes:

  • [1:23] – About Tpaga
  • [2:24] – A day in the life of the unbanked
  • [5:08] – Choosing financial inclusion
  • [8:08] – Selling avocados door-to-door
  • [10:11] – Family’s thoughts on starting a tech company
  • [12:06] – First eight months of Tappsi
  • [16:53] –  How is that something that came natural to you? 
  • [19:23] – From the first offer to the end exit
  • [22:25] – About the transition from Tappsi to Tpaga
  • [25:45] – Tips for other LatAm founders
  • [29:32] – Advice to Andres’ younger self
  • [31:17] – Books, blogs, podcasts Andres recommends
  • [33:34] – What’s next for Andres and Tpaga?

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