Gonzalo Ucar, Hogaru: Empowering Colombia’s Cleaners to Earn Stable Wages, Ep 103

As an engineer, Gonzalo Ucar wanted to solve real-world problems. Originally from Spain, he decided to move to Latin America to become an entrepreneur and tap into the region’s opportunities. Today, he lives in Bogota and is co-founder of Hogaru, an on-demand cleaning company in Colombia.

Gonzalo and his partner recognized a huge pain point in Colombia’s cleaning industry: a deeply-rooted informal economy. Most cleaners in Colombia do not have a steady income or a social security number, which restricts their ability to realize their full economic potential. That’s why Hogaru’s cleaning service functions on a direct employment basis and avoids encouraging a gig economy. 

In this episode, I sit down with Gonzalo to talk about how a Spaniard ended up in Colombia, Hogaru’s unique business model, and the lessons he’s learned as an engineer that he applies as an entrepreneur. We also discuss his major takeaways from participating in YCombinator and working with Endeavor.

The YCombinator experience

For the first couple of years, Gonzalo bootstrapped Hogaru. After receiving funds from the accelerator Wayra, he applied to YCombinator, and, after a few tries, Gonzalo and his partner finally made it through. At YC, Gonzalo received advice from some of the best entrepreneurs and advisors in the US. Although the experience opened up a lot of doors for them, fundraising for Hogaru was tough. Gonzalo explains that running a business on limited funds taught him and his team great lessons.

Learn more about Hogaru’s YCombinator journey on this episode of Crossing Borders

“The business was at risk of disappearing”

Hogaru’s business model seeks to transform the foundation of an entire industry. By choosing to employ its workers, if the company fails almost 1000 people will lose their jobs. Therefore, there was an urgent need for funds to be able to guarantee job security to their staff and cleaners. Faced with the risk of disappearing as a company, Gonzalo and his partner decided to focus on creating a profitable business.

Listen to this episode of Crossing Borders to learn more about why Hogaru chose to prioritize profitability.

Path to profitability

Profitability and growth are both important for a company’s existence. However, sometimes one weighs heavier than the other, depending on the business model and stage of a company. Gonzalo explains that it is important to study both strategies to see which makes sense for your startup. 

In this episode of Crossing Borders, Gonzalo gives advice to entrepreneurs who are looking to build a profitable business in Latin America. 

Gonzalo Ucar moved to Latin America to create an impact and solve real-world problems. Through Hogaru, he is helping formalize the cleaning industry in Colombia to produce high-quality professionals.

Outline of this episode:

  • [1:20] – About Hogaru and Gonzalo
  • [4:10] – A Spaniard in Colombia
  • [4:50] – Becoming an entrepreneur
  • [5:30] – Latin America’s informal economy
  • [6:40] – Lessons learned as an engineer and consultant
  • [7:46] – Bootstrapping the first few years
  • [8:40] – On fundraising for the cleaning sector
  • [9:57] – Applying for YCombinator
  • [10:58] – Advice on applying to YC
  • [13:15] – Current status of Hogaru
  • [13:55] – Choosing profitability
  • [15:13] – What is Endeavor?
  • [16:43] – Biggest issues Hogaru has solved
  • [18:22] – Advice to entrepreneurs on building a profitable business
  • [19:42] – Advice to Gonzalo’s younger self
  • [20:41] – Gonzalo’s recommendations for books, blogs, & podcasts
  • [21:54] – What’s next for Gonzalo and Hogaru?

Resources & People Mentioned: