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.
After 50+ episodes of Crossing Borders, my podcast where I have conversations with entrepreneurs, investors and the people who support them with a focus on Latin America, I decided to go back and make a list of the books they’ve recommended the most. There were two books that stood out from the crowd, but be sure to check out some of the other gems below, from business, to history, to finance and fiction.
1. The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz
This is the most recommended book, mentioned by 7 different entrepreneurs include Diego Saez-Gil, Marco DeMello and Alba Rodriguez.
Devin Baptiste, cofounder of GroupRaise, shared my favorite reason why he recommended the book:
“I love that book… I remembered the night before I was set to meet with a top tier VC. I woke up and threw up in the bathroom. In the book Ben is always throwing up. There is a problem, he throws up. He is constantly throwing up. And I remember thinking like oh this is what it feels like. And then like ten minutes later I throw up again and I realized it is probably food poisoning… It made me realize stress is part of the experience. That kind of ramp up and gear up is okay.”
Brian Requarth, cofounder of Vivareal, the Zillow of Brazil said:
“The single most important book I read. I still go back to that book… I realized I was going through a lot of the same things… The struggle is real and hearing someone else’s perspective allowed me to understand that I am not that alone.”
Jonathan Nelson, founder of Hackers/Founders put it this way:
“I love the first half of the book where he just talks about the misery of being a founder and that was in my mind very cathartic.”
Pedro Pablo del Campo is a Chilean entrepreneur, and the newest addition to our Magma Partners team. Born in Punta Arenas, one of the most Southerly cities in the world, Pedro Pablo traveled the world in his youth since his father was in the Air Force and then a commercial pilot. From a young age, Pedro Pablo was eager to be involved in early-stage enterprises and has gone on to founding or joining early teams of several startups and nonprofits bridging the US and Latin America. In 2016, he joined the Techstars team in Austin as the Business Development Director for Latin America, a position they created just for him.
Pedro Pablo has now brought his passion for supporting Latin American entrepreneurship to Magma, where he will be helping manage our portfolio and evaluating future investments for the fund. In this episode, we discuss Pedro’s non traditional career path, his start in the nonprofit world, how a cold email got him connected to the Techstars network, and what he thinks of the maturing Latin American entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Jack Fischl and Kyle Wiggins studied across the Charles River from each other in Boston, but they didn’t meet until they both became Peace Corps volunteers in Panama. Even then, they were placed in two communities that were a 14-hour bus ride apart. So how did they build a successful Latin American travel marketplace together? It started with a simple WordPress site they created over several visits to their local internet cafes.
After realizing their communities had no way of marketing the unique tours they were offering, and that local tour guides were being ripped off by large corporations, Jack and Kyle came up with Keteka. In this episode, Jack and Kyle explain what they learned from going through Start-Up Chile and the Booking.com Accelerator program, raising a funding round through Latin American angel investors on FounderList, and receiving investment from more traditional VCs like my firm Magma Partners. But it all started with the lessons they learned in the Peace Corps.