In the US, most people would be surprised to find that WhatsApp is the main platform for Latin Americans to communicate between friends and family, and even more surprised that its one of the main channels for businesses and their clients to communicate. Migue Morkin, an Argentine entrepreneur and founder of Sirena, explains that in Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil 70% of the population actively uses WhatsApp on a daily basis.
However, Migue noticed that companies that used WhatsApp didn’t have a proper tool to interact quickly and easily with their customers. Sirena seeks to solve that problem by helping businesses centralize, distribute, and communicate better and faster with every client.
In this episode, I sit down with Migue to talk about his journey from working for a machine learning startup that was acquired by a global business, to starting a market place in Brazil, and the decision to pivot that led to successfully building Sirena to what it is today. We also cover how Migue thinks about raising money, advice on being a Spanish-speaking entrepreneur in Brazil, and how Latin Americans can start their own global businesses within the region.
Choosing an AI startup over a large enterprise
As a child Migue would show his parents drawings of inventions he wanted to make– early inklings of an entrepreneurial mindset. After university, that innate curiosity for innovation led him to work at Continente Siete -an AI startup that was recently acquired by Accenture- instead of choosing the more traditional route at a large enterprise. For two years, Migue worked for the small consultancy agency that used machine learning to forecast for larger companies like Unilever. His early experience in a startup gave him insight on what it’s like to start a business.
Listen to this episode of Crossing Borders to find out what Migue learned from working at a startup that eventually got acquired by Accenture.
Rodati: the marketplace that led to Sirena
Sirena was born from a project within a project. Migue’s first endeavor as an entrepreneur was Rodati, an auto marketplace in Brazil that unfortunately had to be closed. Rodati was successful in creating traffic for car dealerships, but the problem lay in the delayed responses between businesses and clients that resulted in lost opportunities. Migue solved this problem by developing a tool to improve communication with customers. This tool became Sirena.
Learn more about Migue’s decision to pivot Rodati and pursue what would become Sirena on this episode of Crossing Borders.
The language of SaaS
Migue recalls one of his favorite pieces of advice from Nicholas Taleb: the best way to learn a language is by going to prison in that country. Migue took an alternate route to incarceration, and immersed himself in the Portugese language by moving to Brazil when he wanted to tackle Latin America’s largest market. When he started Sirena, he knew from early on that restricting himself to Argentina’s castellano would be limiting to a SaaS startup. Creating a product that would adapt to different cultures with ease was key to Sirena’s expansion throughout the region.
Find out why Migue stresses on the importance of learning about different cultures when engaging with a foreign market in this episode.
Migue Morkin is helping simplify the communication of thousands of businesses. The Sirena team recognized a communicational problem in Latin American businesses that was costing them customers, and designed a solution that has a global scale.
- [1:19] – About Sirena
- [4:17] – The pervasiveness of WhatsApp in LatAm
- [6:36] – Choosing the entrepreneurial path
- [8:31] – Foreign companies with LatAm tech teams
- [10:14] – From a consulting to a SaaS business model
- [12:38] – An Argentine launching a business in Brazil
- [14:29] – Tips for succeeding in Brazil as Spanish-speaking entrepreneur
- [16:25] – Deciding to pivot and letting shareholders know
- [18:50] – First steps after pivoting
- [19:56] – Operating in three countries
- [22:04] – Pivoting with success
- [22:39] – Process of raising money from Mexican and Argentine funds
- [24:31] – About weird term sheets
- [25:57] – Advice to other LatAm founder on fundraising
- [27:12] – Advice to Migue’s younger self
- [28:36] – Books, blogs, and podcasts Migue recommends for SaaS entrepreneurs
- [30:04] – What’s next for Migue and Sirena?
- Migue Morkin
- Migue’s Instagram: @migue
- Nassim Nicholas Taleb
- NXTP Labs
- Dalus Capital
- Mercado Libre
- Tomasz Tunguz’ blog
- Lost and Founder – Rand Fishkin
- Bajo del Marketing, Sirena’s podcast
- Sirena complies with WhatsApp processes and policies, and only integrates businesses through official regional BSPs.