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.
Mariana Costa, founder of Laboratoria, a programming bootcamp for Latin American women, found a way to mix two worlds she was passionate about: technology and helping women. Originally from Peru, Mariana combines technology with social impact by running programming bootcamps for women from underserved backgrounds. The program seeks to prepare these women for a career in tech by placing them in jobs with a success rate of over 85%. Laboratoria started operating in Lima, but has since expanded to Santiago, Chile, Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Sao Paulo.
Laboratoria tackles both sides of the equation by propelling a digital and cultural transformation within the tech companies so that they will continue growing their teams, but with a lens of diversity and inclusion.
In this episode, I sit down with Mariana and a third special guest, her two week old baby, to talk about how she got into tech with her background in social impact, and what it was like to be on a panel in Silicon Valley with Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg. We also cover her advice on building a non profit in Latin America, how companies can hire more women in tech, and Laboratoria’s plans for expansion across Latin America.
Legal cannabis cultivation can bolster Latin America’s economic development. Imagine how that would have sounded even five years ago. With the rise of medical and legal recreational cannabis use worldwide, Latin America and the Caribbean have become targets for international investors looking to develop plantations for export and manufacturing.
For a significant portion of the 80s-2000s, illegal drug trade caused instability, violence, and uncertainty in several countries, including Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Mexico. Even though much has changed in places like Colombia, shows like Narcos exacerbate stereotypes about drug violence in the region, souring Latin America’s reputation in the eyes of investors worldwide.
Since 2013, however, the attitude toward drugs across the region has evolved. Uruguay led a movement that resulted in widespread decriminalization of cannabis, and in some places, the legalization of the drug for medical or recreational use. Colombia, arguably one of the countries that has suffered the most at the hands of drug-related violence, began to regulate legalized cannabis for export in 2017, becoming one of the region’s leaders in legal production.
Over the past few years, I’ve interviewed nearly 100 entrepreneurs on my podcast Crossing Borders about their experiences doing business in and across Latin America.
I always ask them to offer their advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, and one topic that comes up often is how they create a team that drives their companies to succeed. It takes time and effort to find the right people who fit your company culture and can meet a startup’s needs.
So I decided to round up the best advice on finding, building, and maintaining a successful startup team from these entrepreneurs. Check out their advice below.
1. Hire people who fit your company culture
Komal Dadlani, the founder of Chilean science education startup Lab4U, says that when they were starting out they made the mistake of hiring “senior executives” that were not ready to sell a scrappy startup product. As a result, she found herself handling most of the sales, and paying a high price for experienced workers who weren’t meeting the company’s needs and weren’t a great fit for the company culture.
Instead, she advises not to be dazzled by years of experience. In an early-stage startup with a small team, every person needs to pull their weight. It’s important to look for people who are a good cultural fit, and who are willing to do any task – big or small – to get the job done.