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.
Since we closed our second fund in January to invest in fintech/insurancetech companies in Latin America and US companies with Latin American tech and sales teams, the entrepreneurs we support have been busy. And so have we. Here’s a roundup of some of the most interesting things that have happened in the first half of 2018.
We’ve invested in 8 companies out of Magma II since January. Here are three that are public. We’ll be announcing more of our investments in the next month.
CryptoMarket – CryptoMarket is a Chilean fintech company that operates cryptocurrency exchanges in Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Europe, with plans to open Mexico and Colombia this year. Magma coinvested with Consensys, the fund created by the cofounder of Ethereum in a $600k round.
BrainHi – Puerto Rico based Brainhi helps doctors and dentists book more appointments using chat bots. They’re the first Puerto Rican company to be accepted into YCombinator. I met them during a visit to Parallel18 in Q1.
Workep – Medellin and San Francisco based Workep is a project management tool built onto of G-Suite. I’ve know Carlos Eduardo Alvarez since meeting him at a BBQ in 2015 in Medellin and have been following since then. We reconnected at Parallel18 this year and invested recently.
The US healthcare market loses up to US$750B in fraud and inefficiencies every year. The insurance industry is famously bureaucratic and relies on antiquated technology to communicate with healthcare providers and patients. My guest today is Lauren Cascio, co-founder and COO of Abartys Health, a health insurance tech company that created a system that allows seamless data flow and communication between insurers, doctors and patients in Latin America and the United States.
Lauren was selected by Walmart as one of Puerto Rico’s most promising business leaders, made the Caribbean’s 40 under 40 list, and was a finalist for the Forbes 30 under 30. Lauren is also proud to have delivered the winning pitch at SXSW’s ReleaseIT competition in 2017 and Parallel 18 Accelerator’s Investor Choice at the 2017 Demo Day.
While Lauren didn’t originally set out to become an entrepreneur, she has always loved taking risks and learning from her mistakes. We talk about her decision to teach herself how to code and what she’s learned from starting and scaling a business in Puerto Rico. We also discuss the Puerto Rican startup ecosystem and why it can be an advantage to growing startups.