Ep 46 Pedro Neira: Innovating for the Latin American Dating Industry

When Latin America shifted abruptly to mobile in the early 2010s, the online dating industry had to change with it. Luckily, Pedro Neira, the founder of Mi Media Manzana, now Latin America’s most-downloaded dating app, had enough experience from his three previous startups to know when to make changes. Mi Media Manzana now has over one million downloads and recently received an undisclosed investment from Axon Capital Partners.

I sat down with Pedro Neira in this episode of Crossing Borders to hear about his journey founding four startups, what it’s like doing business in Peru, advice for raising capital in Latin America and Silicon Valley, and the future of Mi Media Manzana.

Pedro didn’t realize he was an entrepreneur until his third startup

A few of my previous guests on the show called themselves “accidental entrepreneurs” because they never realized their careers would lead them to innovate. Not so with Pedro. Instead of following his MBA classmates down the consulting track, he worked on a startup in Barcelona right before the financial crisis. Only after starting a few Internet businesses when he returned to Peru did Pedro realize his career path was unique. Check out this episode of Crossing Borders to learn about Pedro’s three startups, and how they prepared him to found Mi Media Manzana.

Leading the acquisition of AdondeVivir.com

After his second startup failed, Pedro and his co-founders found themselves in an unusual situation; they had the team, but not the idea. Eventually, Pedro and his team created Peru’s largest real estate portal, AdondeVivir.com, and was a driving force in its acquisition by Navent, a Argentine classifieds site. Pedro started looking for his next project right after the acquisition, and eventually landed on the dating industry. Find out Pedro’s advice for entrepreneurs heading into a challenging negotiation in this episode.

How Mi Media Manzana targets Latin America

Mi Media Manzana wanted to be the eHarmony of Latin America, but that model does not transition well to mobile. In Latin America, where most people are accessing the Internet through smartphones, online dating had to be mobile-friendly. That’s why Mi Media Manzana resembles a social network, where singles looking for relationships can mingle freely online. Pedro was so confident in the Latin American dating industry that he invested much of his own money into the app before looking for investment. Listen to this episode to hear how Pedro pioneered the online dating industry in LatAm.

Pedro’s advice to LatAm founders raising capital abroad

Pedro has raised four rounds for Mi Media Manzana, from investors in Peru, South Korea, and the US. His advice to founders is to raise capital at home first, before looking abroad. US investors will pay attention to Latin American startups if the team, the traction, and the idea are there. However, he claims that raising capital in Latin America is the opposite of the US; check out the rest of the episode to find out why.

Pedro was active in Peru’s startup ecosystem before it even formally existed. Now he is building Mi Media Manzana into a regional business, targeting the largely untapped Latin American dating market and gaining the attention of international investors. Pedro is the first Peruvian entrepreneur to appear on Crossing Borders, so if you are interested in Peru’s startup ecosystem, you should definitely check out this episode.

Show Notes

[1:24] – Nathan introduces Pedro

[3:27] – How Mi Media Manzana works in Latin America

[7:50] – Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?

[10:15] – What did family and friends have to say?

[11:42] – The journey back to Peru

[13:47] – Building an Alibaba for Latin America and failing

[16:49] – Scouting ideas for the next startup

[20:07] – Raising VC funding from Latin America

[25:05] – Lessons learned from exponential growth

[27:53] – Making the decision to move on to Mi Media Manzana

[29:54] – Dating is an untouched market in Latin America

[30:30] – Raising funds for Mi Media Manzana

[32:05] – Raising money in Lima vs. Silicon Valley

[33:24] – Advice to LatAm entrepreneurs who are raising money

[35:00] – Why should US investors look at LatAm

[39:23] – How to pick the right accelerator program

[43:15] – What’s next for Mi Media Manzana?

[44:47] – Peru’s entrepreneurial ecosystem

[47:02] – What is missing from the ecosystem

[47:57] – Pedro’s advice to his younger self

[50:51] – Final advice to LatAm entrepreneurs