Federico Casas: Helping Build Mexico’s Startup Ecosystem, Ep 66

Some entrepreneurs are born, others are made. Federico Casas identifies as the former. A lifelong entrepreneur, Federico started his first business at age eight, and hasn’t stopped since. As one of the first movers in Mexico City’s budding startup ecosystem in the early 2000s, Federico has watched Mexico and Latin America undergo a tech revolution and has been evolving his work alongside it every step of the way. After starting and selling multiple businesses, Federico dabbled in venture capital and now works on both sides of the table as an angel investor.

I sat down with Federico to discuss startup successes and failures, the evolution of the Mexican ecosystem, advice on raising capital in the Latin American market, and how to empower more people from non-traditional backgrounds to become entrepreneurs or investors. Check out this episode to learn how Federico exited two businesses before the age of 30 and went on to impact the ecosystem as an angel investor as well as entrepreneur.

“I have no fear of letting go of my businesses”

Federico Casas has built multiple businesses, and is able to move on quickly when an idea is no longer worth pursuing. That’s not to say he doesn’t know when to put his head down and work hard, but Federico is not an entrepreneur that falls in love with his business and doesn’t know when to stop. He sold his first and third companies (one of which was ridesharing company Aventones, acquired by BlaBlaCar) and continued to search for new ways to support the ecosystem using the knowledge he had acquired.

Federico isn’t afraid of building and testing models quickly, even if they fail. This mindset is still relatively uncommon in the Latin American ecosystem, so tune into the podcast to hear Federico discuss his startup successes and failures, and how they taught him to focus on his strengths.

0BS: Founder Friendly Angel Investing

On the investor side, Federico tested almost as many models. He’s been an angel investor to company builder, to founding partner of a VC firm and he loves helping helping startups as he had in building his own. However, it took another acquisition to teach Federico where he really wanted to be in the entrepreneurial ecosystem: on the startup side. He currently is working on multiple projects and is part of 0BS, a group of successful entrepreneurs who are investing in early stage companies together.

Check out the rest of the podcast to hear what Federico learned from working in venture capital and how it inspired him to experiment with the model.

In Latin America, be willing to bootstrap first.

In Silicon Valley, it might be possible to raise a round from a PowerPoint, but not in Latin America. Federico’s advice both to entrepreneurs and investors: hungry founders who bootstrap and test their models first are a better investment. However, undoing the classism that still plagues Mexico’s (and much of Latin America’s) ecosystem requires a change from the top. Technology may be a democratizing force, but venture capital is still a long way from catching up.

Listen to this episode of Crossing Borders to hear Federico Casas’ advice on how VCs can provide opportunities to less-privileged people in the Mexican startup ecosystem and why this change can build better businesses.

Federico Casas is a prolific entrepreneur and investor in the Mexican ecosystem who has helped tech in Latin American evolve since the start. Check out the rest of the podcast to learn more about his first acquisitions, his advice for founders in Latin America, and why he says entrepreneurs should read novels and not business books.

Show Notes:

  • [1:24] – Nathan introduces Federico
  • [2:00] – What kinds of projects have you been working on?
  • [2:48] – Did you always know you would be an entrepreneur?
  • [6:44] – What did you study?
  • [8:23] – What made you decide to sell the business?
  • [9:54] – Federico’s thoughts on selling his company
  • [10:27] – What did you do next?
  • [11:44] – Running out of money
  • [13:55] – The Mexican ecosystem in 2009
  • [15:50] – Did you consciously set up a background business?
  • [16:29] – What brought you to found Aventones?
  • [19:20] – Federico’s advice on founder dynamics
  • [21:40] – When did you know Aventones would work?
  • [23:04] – Investment in Mexico in 2012
  • [25:03] – The acquisition experience
  • [26:33] – Side projects during Aventones
  • [28:28] – What made you decide to invest as an angel?
  • [29:56] – From angel investor to company builder
  • [32:21] – What kinds of companies did you build?
  • [34:20] – Post-company builder, become a VC
  • [36:25] – Top lessons learned from VC
  • [38:27] – What did you do after VC?
  • [41:33] – How do you differentiate your startup from early-stage VC?
  • [44:47] – Why does 0BS use unanimous votes to invest?
  • [49:25] – Advice to LatAm founders looking to raise money
  • [50:45] – Are things getting less classist?
  • [51:37] – How to give more opportunity to more people in the ecosystem
  • [54:14] – Federico’s advice to his younger self

Resources Mentioned:

Books by Hermann Hesse