Eugenio Perea: Building Mexico’s Startup Ecosystem, Ep 70

Eugenio Perea is a Mexican entrepreneur, investor, and company builder, and Magma Partners’ newest Venture Partner.  Based in Mexico City, his career path has crisscrossed the Mexican ecosystem, consistently returning to the idea that businesses can improve society by creating excellent products that directly solve their customers’ problems. This thesis led Eugenio from his first corporate jobs to his first companies, and finally as entrepreneur in residence at VC firm ALLVP, where he learned the ins and outs of startups. Despite initially planning to become a “soldier in the corporate world,” Eugenio has been a key actor in building out Mexico’s ecosystem over the past decade.

I sat down with Eugenio on this episode of Crossing Borders to discuss what he learned while starting his own companies, how entrepreneurship is changing Mexico, and how the local ecosystem has changed over the past decade. We also talk about why international VCs should look at the Mexican market and Eugenio’s hopes for Mexico’s future. Check out the rest of this podcast to hear Eugenio’s story from studying chemical engineering to being a key figure in the Mexican startup ecosystem and joining us as our Magma Partners team member in Mexico.

A rising star and a loose cannon

Eugenio never planned on being an entrepreneur, but his brief stint in the corporate world pushed him toward starting his own business. He didn’t fit in well at university, either, which appears to be a common theme among entrepreneurs (myself included). Corporates and universities didn’t appreciate being questioned by a rebellious new recruit.

It didn’t take long for Eugenio to realize corporate Mexico was not for him. Listen to this episode of Crossing Bordersto hear how Eugenio got recruited to join his first tech startup, accidentally created a monopoly, and learned what it meant to “move fast and break things.”

On growing a company from 2 to 50 people in a year.

After pivoting from his second startup, Eugenio landed on an idea that took off. Hiring couldn’t keep up. Looking back on the experience, Eugenio had just one regret: not hiring deliberately enough. Culture fell apart as the company grew and the founders lost control of the team. He also fell into a common trap for early founders: hiring in his own image.

How did Eugenio find out he was hiring wrong? He noticed he shared a rare trait with over 50% of his employees, when only around 6% of the world had the same quirk. Check out the rest of the episode to hear about Eugenio’s inflection point, when he learned he knew nothing about building startups – despite being a three-time entrepreneur.

“Entrepreneurship will save Mexico.”

While Mexico comes in 15th in the world for overall GDP, it ranks 69th for GDP per capita. Eugenio claims that regular industrialization will not close that gap; the answer is mass entrepreneurship. He is confident Mexico is on the right path. The government and wealthy families are talking about investment and startups are no longer a joke. There is still a long way to go in educating stakeholders in the market, but Eugenio is long Mexico and Latin America. He encourages foreign investors to get involved now while the risk is low and rewards are high.

Mexico is consistently Latin America’s second largest market for startups. Listen to this episode of Crossing Borders to hear Eugenio explain why entrepreneurs and investors need to stop “looking North” because Mexico and LatAm are massive markets for innovation.

Eugenio’s curiosity and creativity have led him through dozens of industries and businesses – from mystery shopping to fintech – but with a common thread. He has been deeply involved in Mexico’s entrepreneurial revolution since the start. He is a passionate advocate for the ecosystem and I couldn’t be happier to welcome him to the Magma Partners team. Check out this episode to hear how Magma’s newest team member is supporting entrepreneurs in his home country.

Show Notes:

  • [1:41] – Nathan introduces Eugenio
  • [2:20] – What are you working on these days?
  • [3:05] – Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
  • [3:53] – 20 years ago in Eugenio’s life
  • [7:54] – Eugenio and university did not get along
  • [12:10] – Becoming a mystery shopper
  • [14:13] – Pivoting to the process redesign market
  • [14:50] – Growing from 2 to 50 people in one year
  • [18:45] – How can startups build culture and focus?
  • [20:15] – How did you decide what to do next?
  • [22:02] – Learning startups from scratch
  • [24:40] – Your market is the only opinion that matters
  • [25:50] – How to handle a board meeting
  • [28:40] – Being an investor
  • [32:05] – Growth in the Mexican ecosystem
  • [36:15] – How has the ecosystem improved?
  • [39:00] – Startup culture taking over in Mexico
  • [40:00] – Why should international investors look at Mexico?
  • [42:16] – Eugenio’s recommended blogs
  • [43:49] – Why minimalism?

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