If you don’t believe entrepreneurship is a grueling job, just ask Ignacio Guglielmetti. Ignacio says he has never worked harder than he does for his startup Cuida Mi Mascota, and he used to be a management consultant – one of the most demanding jobs out there. His path from consulting to building a pet-sitting startup was far from clear; it took him to the Netherlands, USA, Mexico, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and Brazil. One might say that Ignacio knows a thing or two about doing business across borders.
In this episode of Crossing Borders, I invited Ignacio to discuss his two startups, how he studied in Buenos Aires and Rotterdam, what it was like to merge with a competitor in Latin America, having a startup acquired, the difference between all the accelerators Ignacio has participated in (three, in three different countries!), and how Ignacio became an angel investor. Check out this episode to learn about doing business across Latin America’s biggest economies, including how to do business in Brazil as a Spanish-speaking entrepreneur.
Over the past five years, Amazon has slowly expanded into Latin America, testing the waters in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Mexico.
Despite the Seattle-based giant’s explosive success in the United States, Amazon has not yet made inroads as quickly in most of Latin America.
Part of the challenge is that Latin America already has its own e-commerce giant: MercadoLibre.
Founded in 1999 by Hernan Kazah and Marcos Galperin in Buenos Aires, Argentina, MercadoLibre is now the e-commerce site of choice in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, Panama, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
In Latin America, 47% of online shoppers buy on MercadoLibre while only 17% use Amazon. In Mexico, where Amazon offers similar services to the US, 38% of online shoppers still use MercadoLibre while just 21% use Amazon.
In the early-2000s, the Argentine economy went through a severe crisis, causing Argentina to default on its foreign debt and place strict controls on currency. While Argentina’s economy quickly recovered over the next few years, the Argentine Peso remains famously unstable, passing through periods of rapid inflation and deflation.
Why Are Argentines Bitcoin Early Adopters?
As a result of the instability, Argentines became some of the earliest adopters of cryptocurrency in Latin America – and the world – in an effort to protect their savings against inflation. With an inflation rate of 32% per year (or higher) and a restrictive foreign exchange policy, Argentina was a prime location for cryptocurrency adoption.
Buenos Aires currently beats out most global cities for businesses that accept Bitcoin, with 6.1 businesses that accept Bitcoin per one million people, while New York has just 4.7 Bitcoin-accepting businesses per one million people. However, the Argentine government does not necessarily sanction investment in cryptocurrencies. The Argentine Parliament does recognize cryptocurrency, but they see it as property rather than currency. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are currently legal in Argentina, and the country reportedly installed as many as 200 Bitcoin ATMs last year.
Lisa Besserman escaped the New York winter in 2012 to work remotely from Buenos Aires, and never came back. She fell in love with the city’s entrepreneurial culture and began to build Startup Buenos Aires (SUBA), an organization that helps represent the startup, tech, and entrepreneurial community in Buenos Aires. With SUBA reaching its five-year anniversary this year, I sat down with Lisa Besserman to learn how Argentina’s startup ecosystem has grown and changed since she moved to Buenos Aires.
In this episode, we talk about what it’s like doing business in Argentina, new opportunities for venture capital investment, the changes she’s seen in the ecosystem over the past five years, and where Argentina’s ecosystem is headed next.