Brian York left Colombia when he was two weeks old, adopted by a US family and didn’t come back until 2009. Although he grew up south of Boston, Brian never forgot his Colombian heritage and always planned to travel back to try to meet his biological family. Most people would probably go on vacation to Colombia to accomplish that mission, but not Brian. Instead, he started several businesses in his birth country (including current venture, Liftit), raised millions of dollars, and began supporting and angel investing in Colombian startups. Brian is now tackling one of Latin America’s most pressing challenges, logistics, and is already operating in almost every major city in the region.
Brian has watched the Colombian ecosystem evolve over the past decade and is long on the future of the region. In this episode of Crossing Borders (recorded in Liftit’s Bogota offices), I sat down with Brian to discuss learning from failure, transitioning from the corporate world to startups, starting a business in Latin America, and the Mexican and Colombian investment ecosystems. Check out the rest of this episode to hear from an entrepreneur who exemplifies doing business across borders.
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.
According to Antonio Nunes, Latin American families spend up to four hours per week in the supermarket. When combined with crippling traffic and safety concerns in many Latin American cities, it becomes clear why delivering groceries in Latin America could be a highly lucrative business. Antonio Nunes noticed that opportunity while living in Bogota and sold everything to go on a mission to deliver Latin America’s groceries in under an hour.
In this episode, I sat down with Portuguese entrepreneur, Antonio Nunes, to talk about why Latin America is growing so quickly, why last mile delivery is a better business in LatAm than in the US or Europe, and what he has learned in his journey doing business across borders.
Colombia is one of Latin America’s biggest economies, yet traditional e-commerce has struggled to take a hold due to complex logistics challenges such as Colombia’s mountainous geography and lack of integration with international markets. Furthermore, many consumers in Colombia are still wary of online retail platforms and until recently, payments systems did not offer any options for the unbanked.
All that began to change when Rappi entered the market. Founded in 2015 as a grocery delivery service, Rappi has gone on to raise millions of dollars from US investors such as Y Combinator and Andreessen Horowitz for its intuitive app that allows users to order just about anything to their doorstep.
Rappi gained millions of users in Colombia and Mexico, as its founders quickly tackled issues like delivery logistics and offline payment systems that had long stumped e-commerce companies in Latin America. Rappi deliveries offer an immediacy that has helped skeptical consumers place their trust in online commerce. Furthermore, their cash-on-delivery payments system democratized mobile and electronic purchasing in Colombia and Mexico, where credit and debit cards remain relatively rare. (more…)