Ep 51 Kyle Wiggins & Jack Fischl: Taking Tourists off the Beaten Path with Keteka

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.

Tapping into Panama’s tourism dollars: a “dignified economic opportunity”

If Jack and Kyle’s communities from the Peace Corps had anything in common, it was that both looked to tourism as a potential economic opportunity for their area. However, traditional tourism would not come easily in a place with no electricity or running water, let alone WiFi and payments systems.

Kyle and Jack realized there was a need to bridge the gap between these rural communities, their skilled local tour guides, and a tourism market that operates through online transactions. From this epiphany came Keteka, originally a WordPress website built in an internet cafe in Panama. Learn how the Peace Corps network helped grow Keteka quickly in this conversation with Kyle and Jack.

Start-Up Chile: Too good to be true?

When a friend emailed Jack the link to apply for Start-Up Chile, he almost didn’t believe the opportunity existed. Keteka seemed almost too perfect of a fit for the program, even before they had made their first sale.

The number one lesson Keteka’s founders learned from the accelerator? Focus on the business first. Fancy tech can always wait until you have validated with real customers.

How to fundraise from Latin America

Split between Chicago and Santiago, Keteka is already an unconventional company. Their funding rounds, which have included several equity-free grants, as well as syndicate angel investment, are off-the-beaten-path, as well. Kyle explains why in this episode of Crossing Borders: beyond helping tour guides in developing countries, Keteka’s founders are passionate about supporting the local tech and innovation ecosystem.

Find out more about how Keteka raised the first syndicate-style angel investment round in Latin America using FounderList (FounderList is a Magma Partners portfolio company) and why they continue to operate a Latin American office in this conversation with Jack and Kyle.

Keteka is redefining the way we travel by making exciting, local tours available to an international audience, and making sure guides are properly compensated. Keteka’s founders have used a network built during their time in the Peace Corps to develop a company that offers tours across 13 countries in Latin America, and which has raised funding rounds in Latin America and Europe. Find out how Keteka grew from Panama across Latin America while maintaining its local flavor in this two-for-one episode of Crossing Borders. Don’t miss Jack and Kyle’s top recommended tours at the end of the episode!

Show Notes

[2:15] – What is like to have an office in the US and an office in Chile?
[3:42] – Did you always know that you wanted to be and entrepreneur?

[6:57] –  (To Jack) What it was like growing up as the son of a diplomat and lessons learned from time abroad

[10:50] – Kyle’s path from Dallas to the Peace Corps

[12:57] – Why the Peace Corps?

[17:56] – How did you end up in Panama?

[20:29] –  Day-to-day life in Kyle and Jack’s Peace Corps communities

[27:34] – Biggest lessons learned from time in the Peace Corps?

[34:44] –  How did you start Keteka?

[43:13] – Bridging the gap between rural communities and online tour agency bookings: Keteka

[46:55] – How much does the guide generally get if someone books with Keteka?

[50:01]-  Making it to Start-Up Chile

[56:28] – About inflection points: what happened that made Keteka actually start to take off?

[59:00] – How many tours do you guys have today? Top booked tours?

[1:00:55] – Fundraising from VCs, Startup Chile and FounderList

[1:04:08] – Whats next for Keteka for the next 6 to 12 months?

[1:05:38] – Recommended books, podcasts, etc.

[1:10:08] – Kyle and Jack’s advice to their younger selves

[1:13:06] – Can you recommend one tour from the Keteka inventory?


Resources Mentioned:

Start-Up Chile

Booking.com Booster

The Hard Thing About Hard Things (BOOK) – Ben Horowitz

Zero to One (BOOK) – Peter Thiel

A16z (podcast)

Peace Corps