Brazil’s economy experienced ups and downs over the past decade. Almost immediately after Forbes published an article raving about Brazil’s entrepreneurial potential in 2012, Brazil entered one of the most disastrous economic crises in the region. Just this year, stories of political corruption, monetary deflation, and falling commodity prices have plagued Latin America’s largest country.
Brazil is a country of contradictions. In the first three months of 2018, Brazil produced three new startup unicorns. The first was 99, acquired by Didi Chuxing for a rumored US$1B. Then in quick succession, PagSeguro reached US$2.7B in its January 2018 IPO (the 5th highest IPO ever), and Nubank became the third unicorn of 2018 with a US$150M Series E round in March 2018.
As the largest market in Latin America, with a population of over 210 million people, Brazil is still the most attractive country for investment and growth in the region for many investors. Despite the economic downturn, international investors often look to Brazil first when they want to enter the Latin American market. Many tech giants, such as Google, Uber, Airbnb, and Amazon, have built offices in São Paulo before moving into other Latin American markets. Many entrepreneurs look to invest in Brazil for their long-term growth strategies, as well.
Only 11% of Latin Americans have access to credit from formal institutions. In fact, in Chile, 37% of adults have no accounts with a formal financial provider, even though Chile has one of the highest levels of financial inclusion in the region.
In comparison, under 40% of adults in Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have formal bank accounts. However, in one of the most chronically underbanked parts of the world, improvements in financial technology have opened the doors for widespread financial inclusion throughout the Latin America.
More and more people are accessing mobile payments, credit systems, and P2P lending opportunities through recent advances in local fintech, and investors are catching wind of the enormous opportunity.
While there have been considerable advances in financial technology in Latin America in the past five years, many tools are still only available in the countries where they were founded. A report by Oliver Wyman, released in September 2016, provides a snapshot of local fintech players in Chile, Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia.
Brazil is already a global player in the e-commerce industry. It is the only Latin American country to crack the top ten retail e-commerce markets in the world. Despite Brazil’s recent economic slowdown, e-commerce grew by 11.5% in 2017 and is predicted to chart 10% growth in 2018. While these statistics show a significant drop from the 28% growth Brazil’s e-commerce market experienced in 2013, it is safe to say that Latin America’s e-commerce powerhouse will continue to dominate the region for the foreseeable future.
Brazil’s size has been a double-edged sword for its e-commerce industry. On the one hand, with approximately 140 million Internet users in a country of 211 million people, Brazil presents an enormous market for e-commerce. On the other hand, much like Argentina, Brazil struggles with complex land shipping logistics and high sales taxes, which slows down the growth of this industry.
Nonetheless, the mood was optimistic at the 6th annual “E-Commerce Brazil” conference in 2017, with retailers viewing Brazil as an opportunity rather than a challenge. Up to 52% of Brazilian shoppers already research products online before purchasing, and that number is growing.(more…)
Ever since I started blogging, I’ve done a year end post summarizing what I’ve done in the past year. These posts are mostly for me, so that I can look back and remember what I did, what I was thinking and what was important to me each year. Previous versions (2000s, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013). Here’s what I did in 2014.
Like 2013, I rang in the new year on a friends balcony overlooking Santiago surrounded by friends, including my friend Polsky who was visiting from the US. Polsky and I took off for southern Chile, visiting Pucón, Frutillar and Puerto Varas during the first week of 2014. I was back in the south six weeks later when my parents and brother came to visit, adding Chiloé to the list. Every time I go to the South, I don’t understand why I don’t go more. It’s relaxing, stunningly beautiful, has incredible food and, in summer, has amazing weather.
I always come back from the south with new ideas, rejuvenated to get back to work and this time was no different. While 2013 was a year of starting many new projects, 2014 was the year that I focused.
In January, I partnered with Francisco Sáenz and Diego Philippito launch Magma Partners, a private seed stage investment fund and accelerator based in Santiago, Chile. Our goal was to bring US style investment and know how to Chile and pair it with Chilean connections and mentorship to help entrepreneurs create successful businesses.
A year in, I’m extremely proud to say that we’re already starting to see results. Over the course of 2014, we reviewed over 350 startups, met hundreds of entrepreneurs and finally invested in 13 startups. Running a fund has been much more work than I thought it would be. But it’s been worth it.
We’re already starting to see promising results from multiple companies, but 2015 will bring the hard part: helping our 13 portfolio companies make their way from nascent startups to real, scaling companies. I have high hopes and 2015 will be an extremely important year for Magma and our portfolio companies.
In addition to Magma, I started the year with four active projects Andes Property, La Condoneria, Startup Chile consulting and teaching entrepreneurship at multiple universities. By mid year, my head was ready to explode from so many different projects taking up brain space and I started to focus.
First, I realized that I was using the same part of my brain to mentor Magma companies as I had previously used to teach entrepreneurship at universities. I knew I had to stop teaching because I was getting mentorship overload, so I found other entrepreneurs to take over my classes. Next, I stopped doing Startup Chile consulting, as it was taking up too much brain space and tried to figure out how I could get La Condoneria and Andes Property to run more autonomously.
After a long search, I hired employees to help run La Condoneria and Andes Property, both of which continue to grow quickly month over month. At the start of the year, I was personally picking, packing and taking packages of condoms to chilexpress (chilean fedex) five times per week and was personally showing apartments to foreigners for Andes Property. I still work on both businesses, but Andres, Gonzalo and Bernadette have really stepped up to the challenge to take responsibilities away from me.
2014 was the year that I finally started to get better at spanish again after feeling like I’d plateaued in 2013. I still speak with a strong accent, but I can say 95% of what I want to say and am now happy making a joke per day, up from one per week last year. Baby steps.
2014 was the first time I wrote an entire post on my blog in Spanish and the first time one of my spanish blog posts went semi-viral in Chile. It was the first year I presented to large audiences in Spanish without notes, just like I do in English. I also did multiple radio interviews in Spanish for the first time. I’m still not as good as I’d like to be and I hate to see eyes glaze over because I’m not as engaging in Spanish and I am in English.
2014 was a great year for travel, as I explored Chile’s south on two separate trips to kick off the year. In February I took an incredible ten day trip to Uyuni, Potosi and Sucre in Bolivia. I’d previously been to Uyuni in 2011, but never to Potosi and Sucre, both of which were amazingly different from anything else I’d ever seen. I took a mile long tour of the Potosi mine, where miners as young as 10 years old use pick axes, dynamite, coca leaves, pure alcohol and their brute strength to try to scratch out a living. Sucre was an amazingly beautiful window into the Spanish Colonial past.
I took an express trip to Lima for the first time when my Aunt Nancy and Uncle Paul decided to come go to Machu Picchu. It was fun exploring old Lima with them and I ate the best meal of my life at Maido, a japanese/peruvian fusion restaurant. I can’t wait to go back to Peru to continue exploring the rest of the country.
I took three quick trips back to the US, one in late May to visit family, another for a friends’ wedding and the third for my group of college friends’ 10th annual Friendsgiving and the holidays with my family. I think I stayed better connected to family and friends by visiting more, but for shorter amounts of time each visit, a plan I’d like to keep up in 2015, rather than one 5-6 week long trip as I’ve done in previous years. It still isn’t fun to miss weddings, bachelor parties, thanksgiving, the Forward Festival and birthdays, but life is all about tradeoffs.
I made it back to Madison on all three trips, including an extended stay where my friends and I reunited for a weekend of Badger football and memories. I honestly can’t believe it’s been ten years since I started college. Time really flies. Madison is noticeably more dynamic each time I visit. The tech scene is on the leading edge of this new dynamism and I’m thankful and proud of Madison’s entrepreneurs for paving the way. Capital Entrepreneurs (made one meeting this year) and Forward Fest (sad I missed it this year) continue to be pillars of he newly emergent startup scene, with other entities and institutions arriving to continue to progress.
2014 saw me focus on two key businesses, continue to explore South America, attend a world cup and still stay connected with my friends and family in the US. I’ve been very lucky that the years keep getting better and better and I hope 2015 is no exception.
Favorite Posts of 2014
2014 was my lowest blog output in the six plus year history of my blog. And even worse, I didn’t make up for the lack of quantity with better quality. I’m not sure if its because I’m writing less or because my brain is getting mixed up because I’m speaking more spanish, but my writing is noticeably worse than in previous years. Last year 10 posts made my list. This year only four made the cut. I need to get back to writing more.
1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created – I learned more from this book and its companion book 1491 than I’ve learned in a really long time. 1493 talks about how things changed after Columbus arrived in the Americas. It busts myths, adds new facts and really made me think.
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus – This book completely changed my understanding of what the Americas were like before Columbus and opened my eyes to some of the amazing things that native cultures in our hemisphere had done. Really worth reading and makes me want to explore Peru and Mexico.
Five Days at Memorial – An investigative journalist looks at what happened at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans before, during and after Hurricane Katrina where doctors potentially euthanized patients.