Note: Portal Finance recently closed a $200M deal with one of Latin America’s largest investment banks, BTG Pactual, to provide financing to small and medium businesses across Latin America. They were also winners of Magma Partners’ Latin America wide Fintech competition in 2016.
After growing up in the Bay Area, Diego Caicedo left Popayán, a small town in Colombia, at age fifteen to go to university in Bogota, then dropped out two semesters before finishing his degree in engineering. Why? He had a plan to build a massive, vertically-integrated coffee company that bridged the US and his native Colombia. Three years later, a strong La Niña year wiped out the coffee industry and he was back at square one.
Diego has never been one to give up after his first failure, though. In this episode, we talk about how he rebounded after closing his first business, how Diego became an entrepreneur in Chile’s mining industry, then how he realized the opportunities in Latin American fintech and started Portal Finance to help small businesses get liquidity when they need it. Diego is a lifelong entrepreneur with a lot of lessons to share with people just getting started, so check out this episode of Crossing Borders to learn more about how Diego does business across Colombia, Chile, and the United States.
Jack Fischl and Kyle Wiggins studied across the Charles River from each other in Boston, but they didn’t meet until they both became Peace Corps volunteers in Panama. Even then, they were placed in two communities that were a 14-hour bus ride apart. So how did they build a successful Latin American travel marketplace together? It started with a simple WordPress site they created over several visits to their local internet cafes.
After realizing their communities had no way of marketing the unique tours they were offering, and that local tour guides were being ripped off by large corporations, Jack and Kyle came up with Keteka. In this episode, Jack and Kyle explain what they learned from going through Start-Up Chile and the Booking.com Accelerator program, raising a funding round through Latin American angel investors on FounderList, and receiving investment from more traditional VCs like my firm Magma Partners. But it all started with the lessons they learned in the Peace Corps.
One of my most popular blog posts is my ecommerce case study from when some friends and I started an ecommerce business in 2012. It gets hundreds of people viewing it each month and leads to lots of questions on twitter, linkedin and my blog.
I covered how we decided to launch an ecommerce, how we picked a product and how we validated the idea without spending lots money out of pocket. My goal was to share how we see the market and how you can validate any business idea without spending months and thousands of dollars to do it.
So what did we sell and what was the store called? We sold condoms on La Condonería.
In this episode, we cover the original case study, along with changes since I wrote the original post in 2015 and Magma Partners view on ecommerce in the region.
I hope you enjoy this style of episode of Crossing Borders. Please give me feedback in the comments or on social media on whether you did. If enough people like it, I can go through other industries that are popular in Latin America.
Note: It might seem funny, but I’ve never written a standalone post about doing business in Chile. If you’re interested in going deeper, please check out the Chile category on the blog, as there’s 8 years of content about what it’s like, delving deep on banking, real estate, startups, investing and more.
Chile is a long, thin country at the tip of Latin America that is widely considered one of the best countries in the region to do business. Across several indicators in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, Chile beats out the regional competition. In 2018, Chile ranked 55th in the world on the World Bank’s Doing Business report, coming in just after Mexico, which ranked 49th. However, in recent years, Chile’s business-friendly reputation has slid from 34th to 55th which has been subject to some controversy.
Still, Chile is undoubtedly one of the most influential economies in the region, despite its small size. Chile’s population reaches just 17 million people, but the country is extremely centralized. The capital, Santiago, is home to 7 million people, or one-third of the total population. By comparison, São Paulo, the biggest city in Brazil, has over 21 million inhabitants – more than the entire country of Chile.
Chile’s overall GDP was US$247B in 2016, 28% of which is made up of exports. Chile is the world’s largest exporter of copper, and it also exports lithium, fish, and wine. While Chile’s overall GDP appears small beside giants like Brazil (US$1.8T) and Mexico (US$1.1T), its population is more than ten times smaller. When measured per capita, Chile’s GDP is the second-highest in the region after Uruguay.