Susana García Robles, IDB Lab: Supporting Venture Capital and Women Entrepreneurs in Latin America, Ep 86

Susana García Robles has been working to help create the venture capital industry in Latin America since the 90s, when she launched an ambitious flagship program in Brazil to jumpstart the Latin American ecosystem. Since then, she has been an LP to dozens of funds across the region in her role as Chief Investment Officer for IDB Lab at the Interamerican Development Bank, a Washington DC based multilateral development bank focused on Latin America and the Carribbean.

In addition, Susana founded WeXchange, a platform run to empower Latin American and Caribbean female entrepreneurs and connect them to mentors and investors around the world. 

In this episode, I sat down with Susana to talk about her first experience with venture capital in the region, from working in Brazil to replicating similar programs across Latin America. She offers advice to potential LPs on what to look for in successful fund managers and founders. We also cover why and how she founded WeXchange and the importance of women entrepreneurs for Latin America’s growth. Check out this episode of Crossing Borders to hear more of Susana’s extensive experience investing in the region.

Choosing a Fund Manager: Long Term Thinking

When choosing a fund manager team, Susana looks for candidates who are not only in it for the money, that aren’t looking for a job, but are looking to give something to their country through innovation; they are in it for life. According to Susana, if you choose to invest in an emerging region, you will have to stick through the good and the bad times in order to get a better return. After several years of evaluating different teams, Susana is one of the most experienced investors in VC in Latin America and her experience is invaluable for those picking funds.

Listen to this episode to learn about the patterns Susana found in successful Latin America fund manager teams.

Latin America’s own brand

Jumpstarting Latin America’s ecosystem also means finding Latin America’s brand. What works for Silicon Valley won’t necessarily work for Brazil, Chile, Argentina, or Mexico; people in each country live different day to day realities. Susana explains that a Latin American entrepreneur walks the streets of his or her city and can see poverty, a lack of recycling and clean water, inaccessible loans, holes in education in rural communities as well as in their healthcare systems, along with innovative solutions to healthcare, public transport and more. Latin Americans are solving Latin American problems with Latin American solutions.

On this episode of Crossing Borders, learn more about how Latin America is creating its own brand in the ecosystem, addressing problems with the right tools. 

“When I die, I want WeXchange to be on my tombstone”

WeXchange is a platform that focuses on Latin American and Caribbean women entrepreneurs venturing in STEM industries and connects them with mentors and investors. After taking a step back to look at IDB’s investments and operations through a gender lens, Susana wanted to help more women start companies and be successful. She set the gears in motion, commissioning a study to list all of the issues women entrepreneurs face in the region, and started WeXchange to start to solve them.

Hear more about WeXchange’s origin story and its accomplishments on this episode of Crossing Borders. 

Susana García Robles is an expert on development finance innovation and has been cultivating the startup and innovation ecosystem in Latin America and the Caribbean since the 90s. She is a firm believer that entrepreneurship benefits greatly from women empowerment and is proud, among many other achievements, to be a cofounder at WeXchange. Listen to this episode to learn more.

Show Notes:

  • [1:39] – Current IDB projects
  • [3:01] – About IDB Lab
  • [4:27] –  Stats on jump starting an ecosystem
  • [10:36] – How to pick a VC fund in LatAm
  • [17.25] – Advice for LatAm family offices thinking about investing into VCs
  • [19:52] – Supporting tech or VCs in LatAm
  • [23:44] – Lessons from successful and unsuccessful companies
  • [28:45] – About WeXchange
  • [33:30] – Advice to Susana’s younger self
  • [36:22] – Books, blogs, and podcasts Susana recommends
  • [39:22] – What’s next for Susana and IDB Lab?

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