On September 20th, 2017, Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, leaving a permanent mark on the Caribbean island and its people. Most budding startups shut down operations for up to a few months as the nation recuperated. One company, BrainHi, doubled down after the hurricane, helping doctors and dentists treat more patients by automating the process of taking appointments through their AI technology.
I sat down with BrainHi co-founder and CEO, Emmanuel Oquendo to share his story of how BrainHi survived the hurricane to become the first Puerto Rican startup to get into YCombinator. I’m lucky to be able to work with Emmanuel and cofounder Israel Figueroa as we invested while they were in Parallel 18, Puerto Rico’s equity free accelerator. We discuss Emmanuel’s childhood in Puerto Rico, his desire to solve big problems from the island, and how to leverage his experience in Puerto Rico while pitching in Silicon Valley. Check out the rest of the episode for Emmanuel’s advice for startups who want to reach YC from Latin America and how he has grown BrainHi from Puerto Rico to the world.
Today we announced Magma Media, our next step forward to continue to support Magma portfolio companies and hopefully the ecosystem at large.
We were inspired by the Andreessen Horowitz model of providing top class services to portfolio companies. We’re starting with media because these strategies do work and are low risk/high reward for startups. Even an extremely lean, revenue focused business will benefit from basic content marketing and a social media strategy. Rightly or wrongly, first impressions make a difference.
We currently offer:
- Growth strategies: landing pages, analytics, ads
- Content marketing in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese
- PR in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese
- Podcast production
- Video production
- Social Media management
I’ve been in Latin America for a little over eight years, first going to Chile in 2010. I spent the first five in Santiago, Chile, first going through Start-Up Chile, starting Andes Property and then cofounding Magma Partners. Since 2015, I’ve split my time between Colombia, Mexico, Chile and the US, and have been able to spend time in Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia and more, as we expanded Magma Partners across the region. I’ve truly been a nomad. I haven’t spent more than 6 weeks in a row in any location since I started this odyssey.
During my 8 years in Latin America, I’ve learned about culture, doing business and the opportunities available to both local and foreign investors. I’ve been writing about Latin America since 2010 and having conversations with top entrepreneurs and investors on the Crossing Borders Podcast since 2017.
Crossing Borders: A Venture Capitalist’s Guide to Doing Business in Latin America is a way to share what I’ve learned, along with these amazing entrepreneurs’ stories. My goal is to help foreigners and locals interested in pursuing business in Latin America get a jump start on their research. I also want help the Latin American entrepreneurs covered in this book share their stories more broadly.
Brian York left Colombia when he was two weeks old, adopted by a US family and didn’t come back until 2009. Although he grew up south of Boston, Brian never forgot his Colombian heritage and always planned to travel back to try to meet his biological family. Most people would probably go on vacation to Colombia to accomplish that mission, but not Brian. Instead, he started several businesses in his birth country (including current venture, Liftit), raised millions of dollars, and began supporting and angel investing in Colombian startups. Brian is now tackling one of Latin America’s most pressing challenges, logistics, and is already operating in almost every major city in the region.
Brian has watched the Colombian ecosystem evolve over the past decade and is long on the future of the region. In this episode of Crossing Borders (recorded in Liftit’s Bogota offices), I sat down with Brian to discuss learning from failure, transitioning from the corporate world to startups, starting a business in Latin America, and the Mexican and Colombian investment ecosystems. Check out the rest of this episode to hear from an entrepreneur who exemplifies doing business across borders.