Horacio Melo and I have been trying to organize a time to do this podcast for a few years and I’m excited to finally be able to share it. Once the Executive Director of Start-Up Chile, Horacio went on to build his own startup – just two months after becoming a Dad for the first time. Horacio knows what it takes to build a great company; after all, he watched and mentored over 1000 startups as they passed through Start-Up Chile. His solar energy company, Solarity, has raised three rounds of investment, starting with US$650K in their seed round, then adding a US$18M in follow on funding.
Horacio can speak to the difficulty of selling an innovative business idea to conservative corporates in Chile and Latin America, despite Chile being one of the best places in the world for solar energy. He also discusses his transition from corporate jobs to entrepreneurship, the importance of culture in building a sustainable startup, and what he learned as Executive Director of Start-Up Chile.
Walmart’s acquisition of Cornershop for $225M set off a firestorm in Chile. Everyone from politicians to investors, columnists to entrepreneurs has thrown in their two cents.
Why didn’t any Chilean VCs invest, when 2 of the founders were Chilean? The debate got hotter when Oskar and Dani, two of Cornershop’s founders, shared their perspectives on Twitter and in interviews, and a prominent reporter used the acquisition to bash wealthy Chileans.
Some have turned Cornershop into a referendum on wealthy Chilean businesspeople. I’ve written about the Chilean extraction vs. value creation mentality. That’s a part of it. Others have seized on Chile’s conservatism. That’s also a part of it. Others have blamed CORFO, the Chilean government agency that supports new businesses and venture capital. Others blamed Chilean VCs for missing the boat. They also deserve some blame, although a Chilean fund did invest $500k into the Cornershop founders’ previous startup Seahorse, and multiple Chilean angel investors invested in Cornershop.
I got multiple requests for my perspective from entrepreneurs, investors and family offices from around the region. What happened? They also asked why have Magma Partners been the only VC fund in Chile that hasn’t taken CORFO money? And why we haven’t taken any government money from anywhere, whether its the US, China or Latin America.
I love CORFO. CORFO created and supported Start-Up Chile, the world-changing program that brought me to Chile back in 2010. It indirectly showed me the opportunity to create Magma Partners in Latin America.
I also love CORFO because it’s made up of well-meaning, smart, dedicated people who are doing their best to change Chile for the better. Thanks to everyone involved. You’ve truly changed my life.
I also love CORFO because CORFO backed funds are blocked from investing in many of the best deals in Latin America. Since 2014, Magma Partners has invested in 42 startups across Latin America. And we found that CORFO blocks much of Magma’s Chilean from at least 40 of our best investments.
This podcast with Emilia Diaz, a Chilean entrepreneur who dropped out of university at age 22 to run the biotech startup Kaitek Labs, is one of my favorite podcasts so far. And it’s one of the most necessary.
In the US, we celebrate entrepreneurs who learn lessons from failure. I always knew that I’d be able to get a job if my startups didn’t work. I still know it today.
But in Latin America, people shun failure. And a large company might not see a failed startup on a resume as a plus. Not to mention the social costs of a failed startup in a region where personal pride influences many day to day decisions.
So when Emilia Diaz’s startup, Kaitek Labs, a one time high flying Chilean biotech startup failed, she was not only facing having to grieve for herself, her team and her investors, but also publicly.
She could have stayed out of the spotlight, but she made the courageous decision that pushes ecosystems forward: writing a post-mortem on her personal blog. It’s an inside look on what went wrong. what she learned and what she would have done differently. I think Emilia is too hard on herself, but listen to our conversation and you be the judge.
Emilia continues to play an active role in Chile’s startup ecosystem, consulting and mentoring the newest generation of entrepreneurs. In this episode of Crossing Borders, we discuss Emilia’s decision to start a business, how she won a CORFO grant to grow Kaitek, some of her mistakes, and the famous post-mortem for her startup.
We also discuss what it is like to be a female founder in Latin America vs. other parts of the world and why Emilia thinks every entrepreneur should write post-mortems for their failed startups. Check out this episode of Crossing Borders to hear the rest of Emilia’s story.
Pedro Pablo del Campo is a Chilean entrepreneur, and the newest addition to our Magma Partners team. Born in Punta Arenas, one of the most Southerly cities in the world, Pedro Pablo traveled the world in his youth since his father was in the Air Force and then a commercial pilot. From a young age, Pedro Pablo was eager to be involved in early-stage enterprises and has gone on to founding or joining early teams of several startups and nonprofits bridging the US and Latin America. In 2016, he joined the Techstars team in Austin as the Business Development Director for Latin America, a position they created just for him.
Pedro Pablo has now brought his passion for supporting Latin American entrepreneurship to Magma, where he will be helping manage our portfolio and evaluating future investments for the fund. In this episode, we discuss Pedro’s non traditional career path, his start in the nonprofit world, how a cold email got him connected to the Techstars network, and what he thinks of the maturing Latin American entrepreneurial ecosystem.