In the startup world, success always attracts copycats and competitors. As a result of past successes, Latin America’s food delivery industry is one of the most competitive in the world. Brazil’s iFood, a subsidiary of tech giant Movile, became one of the biggest players in the Latin American startup ecosystem, raising US$500M from Naspers and other international investors, in what many consider to be the largest round in Latin American startup history. iFood is growing incredibly quickly, registering 390,000 daily deliveries, a 109% increase from 2017. iFood’s CEO, Carlos Moyses, recently appeared on my Crossing Borders podcast to talk about the growth of Brazil’s biggest delivery company.
Rewinding back to the early 2010s, food delivery in Latin America had its first peak long before the region truly went digital. Latin America’s food delivery hit the news because Delivery Hero, a German food delivery conglomerate, secured international reach through a spate of acquisitions in the region.
In many ways, these deals spurred the next generation of entrepreneurs in the food delivery space and created many of the most popular apps Latin Americans use today.
Food delivery fits into a trend that is shifting Latin American shopping patterns online. When PedidosYa was founded in 2009 in Uruguay by Alvaro Garcia, Ariel Burschtin, and Ruben Sosenke, just 27% of Latin America’s population had Internet access.
Today, 66% of Latin Americans have Internet access, and in Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Uruguay, more than 70% of people are Internet users.
Daniel Undurraga never thought he would sell even one Latin American company to a company in the US market, but with the recent US$225M acquisition of Cornershop, a grocery-delivery app he has officially sold two startups to US companies. His first startup, Needish, was the basis for Clan Descuento, a Chilean Groupon clone that was acquired by Groupon in 2010. Clandescuento’s acquistion was before most people in Chile had heard of startups!
Daniel is a lifelong entrepreneur with his share of failed projects, but ever since he and his business partner Oskar Hjertonsson found their niche in Latin American e-commerce, they’ve become an example for the whole ecosystem.
I sat down with Daniel on this episode of Crossing Borders to talk about the Latin American startup ecosystem, living and working across borders, and advice for founders who are launching and scaling in Latin America. We also discuss the backstory behind Cornershop’s decision to not raise capital in Chile and their experience raising money from funds across in Latin America.
Walmart’s acquisition of Cornershop for $225M set off a firestorm in Chile. Everyone from politicians to investors, columnists to entrepreneurs has thrown in their two cents.
Why didn’t any Chilean VCs invest, when 2 of the founders were Chilean? The debate got hotter when Oskar and Dani, two of Cornershop’s founders, shared their perspectives on Twitter and in interviews, and a prominent reporter used the acquisition to bash wealthy Chileans.
Some have turned Cornershop into a referendum on wealthy Chilean businesspeople. I’ve written about the Chilean extraction vs. value creation mentality. That’s a part of it. Others have seized on Chile’s conservatism. That’s also a part of it. Others have blamed CORFO, the Chilean government agency that supports new businesses and venture capital. Others blamed Chilean VCs for missing the boat. They also deserve some blame, although a Chilean fund did invest $500k into the Cornershop founders’ previous startup Seahorse, and multiple Chilean angel investors invested in Cornershop.
I got multiple requests for my perspective from entrepreneurs, investors and family offices from around the region. What happened? They also asked why have Magma Partners been the only VC fund in Chile that hasn’t taken CORFO money? And why we haven’t taken any government money from anywhere, whether its the US, China or Latin America.
I love CORFO. CORFO created and supported Start-Up Chile, the world-changing program that brought me to Chile back in 2010. It indirectly showed me the opportunity to create Magma Partners in Latin America.
I also love CORFO because it’s made up of well-meaning, smart, dedicated people who are doing their best to change Chile for the better. Thanks to everyone involved. You’ve truly changed my life.
I also love CORFO because CORFO backed funds are blocked from investing in many of the best deals in Latin America. Since 2014, Magma Partners has invested in 42 startups across Latin America. And we found that CORFO blocks much of Magma’s Chilean from at least 40 of our best investments.
In 2014, the US government launched an initiative called “Look South” to show companies in the United States the benefits of shipping to the Latin American market. Despite numerous trade agreements between Latin America and the US, 58% of US companies at the time were exporting to only one other country: Canada or Mexico.
Latin America is a close US trading partner, yet the complicated shipping logistics in most Latin American countries – whether by air, water, or overland – are hurting the region’s supply chain.
The challenge of automating and streamlining shipping logistics in Latin America is becoming more pressing as e-commerce and other B2C delivery businesses take hold. Not only are large corporations dealing with sending and receiving bulk cargo across the region, but individual consumers want more on-demand services that require better organization and logistics.
Latin America still lags behind in the development of its shipping industry. The World Bank reported that in 2014, no Latin American country was in the top 25% of the Logistic Performance Index global rankings. In 2016, this figure hardly changed; Panama is the top-ranked Latin American country for logistics and shipping, yet it comes in 40th on the LPI global rankings. Chile is next at 46th, with Mexico and Brazil ranking 54th and 55th, respectively.