Geoff Michener, dataPlor: Closing the Latin American Data Gap with Human Verified SME Data, Ep 105

Growing up in Denver, Colorado, Geoff Michener was interested in international trade and economics. During his undergrad, he got the opportunity to study abroad in Nicaragua and learn about foreign investment. There, he quickly fell in love with Latin America and promised himself that he would come back and do business in the future.

Geoff kept his promise and is now CEO and founder of dataPlor, a Magma portfolio company that provides quality data on small businesses in Latin America. He noticed that there was a huge information gap in the region where up to 75% of SMEs have no online presence. DataPlor’s team of “explorers” captures and validates data to build a database that provides enterprises with accurate information on small businesses.

In this episode, I sit down with Geoff to talk about the value dataPlor brings to large enterprises as well as the challenges of collecting data in Latin America compared to the US. We also discuss some of the lessons he’s learned from shutting down his first startup, and also some of his reflections on the future of data.

Escaping academia and becoming an entrepreneur

Following his passion, Geoff studied international trade and economics. During his years at university, he landed top-notch internships at the White House, the Pentagon, and a think tank. However, he eventually became frustrated with the sea of red tape he experienced in the field and questioned whether it was the right path for him. At that moment, a friend offered him the chance to work at a startup, and his curiosity got the better of him.

Listen to this episode of Crossing Borders, to hear about Geoff’s experience working at what is today known as Living Social.

Shutting down a startup

Geoff’s first startup went through what many business owners have unfortunately had to do: dissolve a company. However, he looks back on this moment as a huge learning opportunity. The relationships he built throughout the startup’s lifecycle ended up giving him the direction he needed. When a previous customer suggested he look into Latin America’s data for small businesses, he jumped at the opportunity and began investigating Mexico. 

Learn more about the lessons Geoff learned from shutting down his company on this episode of Crossing Borders.

“In Mexico, less than 5% of small businesses have a website”

Access to online data is a lot more widespread in the US, where about 90% of businesses have some digital footprint. However, in Latin America, a lot of small businesses are offline and therefore have no digital footprint. That can be a problem and a deterrent for big enterprises in the US looking to study the Latin American market for growth opportunities.

Check out this episode of Crossing Borders to find out how dataPlor is solving Latin America’s data problem.

Geoff Michener is helping reduce misinformation on SMEs in Latin America by capturing highly accurate data that will help bring new opportunities to the region.

Outline of this episode:

  • [1:09] – About dataPlor
  • [3:17] – A typical dataPlor client
  • [4:30] – About Geoff
  • [5:41] – Becoming an entrepreneur
  • [7:23] – Deciding on dataPlor
  • [11:53] – On winding up a company
  • [15:22] – Lessons from the old business model 
  • [17:34] – Challenges of gathering data in Latam
  • [21:24] – The future of data
  • [24:17] – Recommendations on books, blogs, or podcasts
  • [26:39] – On dataPlor’s newsletter
  • [28:47] – Advice to Geoff’s younger self

Resources & people mentioned: