Brian York, Liftit: How Entrepreneurship Paved a Path Back to Colombia, Ep 67

Brian York left Colombia when he was two weeks old, adopted by a US family and didn’t come back until 2009. Although he grew up south of Boston, Brian never forgot his Colombian heritage and always planned to travel back to try to meet his biological family. Most people would probably go on vacation to Colombia to accomplish that mission, but not Brian. Instead, he started several businesses in his birth country (including current venture, Liftit), raised millions of dollars, and began supporting and angel investing in Colombian startups. Brian is now tackling one of Latin America’s most pressing challenges, logistics, and is already operating in almost every major city in the region.

Brian has watched the Colombian ecosystem evolve over the past decade and is long on the future of the region. In this episode of Crossing Borders (recorded in Liftit’s Bogota offices), I sat down with Brian to discuss learning from failure, transitioning from the corporate world to startups, starting a business in Latin America, and the Mexican and Colombian investment ecosystems. Check out the rest of this episode to hear from an entrepreneur who exemplifies doing business across borders.

Continue reading “Brian York, Liftit: How Entrepreneurship Paved a Path Back to Colombia, Ep 67”

Why Latin American Startup Valuations Have Been Lower than Silicon Valley Valuations

I wrote an article on The Next Web about a topic that comes up weekly at Magma Partners: valuations in Latin America. I hope Latin American founders take a look at this article before they start talking with venture capitalists, so that we can start a conversation. I also hope that more US, Chinese and Latin American investors get in the market, and that more US, Chinese and Latin American companies start making acquisitions so that this valuation gap can change. From the article:

Latin American startups haven’t had the same valuations as Silicon Valley startups. This frustrates many Latin American entrepreneurs seeking investment, as they don’t understand why Latin American VCs aren’t doing deals at Silicon Valley valuations.

There are important reasons why Latin American early-stage investment valuations are lower. For one, there are few acquisitions in Latin America, and when acquisitions do happen, they tend to be at lower valuations than their counterparts in other parts of the world. VCs need to make returns, or they’ll be out of business. Therefore, if exits are lower, the initial price that venture capitalists pay must be lower.

But what other reasons are there for this? Why are there still so few Latin American exits and why are they at lower valuations compared to their international peers? Here are just a few of the reasons.

Read the rest of the article 6 reasons why Latin American valuations are lagging behind Silicon Valley on The Next Web and if you have any feedback, would love to hear about it in the comments here.

Parallel 18: Equity Free Startup Accelerator in Puerto Rico

I recently visited Parallel 18, an equity free accelerator in Puerto Rico, to mentor their 3rd cohort of startups. Modeled after the successful Start-Up Chile program, Puerto Rico is trying to grow it’s startup ecosystem and change their culture to try to diversify their economy and start to build a tech sector.

Started in 2015 and now just starting Generation 4, Parallel 18 works with ~30 entrepreneurs per cohort. Parallel 18’s director Sebastian Vidal, an ex-director of Start-Up Chile, has iterated on the model and made improvements, including bringing investors and other mentors like me to talk to the teams each week. They’ve also created a local fund that can match VC investment that Parallel 18 companies are able to get.

I was really impressed by the quality of the teams and it’s clear that Parallel 18’s 3rd generation is way ahead of where Start-Up Chile was in their 3rd generation.

I was also interested in to learn about some of Puerto Rico’s tax incentives for startups, funds and successful entrepreneurs. I think Puerto Rico is an interesting example of a small place doing all it can to attract startups and will continue to keep an eye on the teams that come out of Parallel 18. Continue reading “Parallel 18: Equity Free Startup Accelerator in Puerto Rico”

TechCrunch: A New Era in Latin American Startup Investing

I recently wrote a column in TechCrunch called A new era in Latin American startup investing where I talked about how things have changed since I first moved to Chile in 2010 as part of the pilot round of Startup Chile.

Some of the pioneering investors and entrepreneurs have started to be successful, paving the way for the next generation of startups. Other founders who tried and failed in the early 2010s have learned their lessons and are starting second rounds of companies. The ecosystem is much more developed, including startup specific attorneys and more experienced venture investors. From the link:

Startups in Latin America are using creative solutions to address not just local but also global problems. For investors outside the region, the prospect of working with these startups can appear attractive, yet complicated. Investing in early-stage startups in Latin America can present challenges; however, despite the challenges, time and time again I’ve found it can be well worth the effort.

When I first came to Santiago, Chile in 2010 as part of the pilot round of Start-Up Chile, there was hardly any talk of startups. Most people didn’t even know what startups were. Within nine months of returning to the U.S., the company I co-founded was acquired. So I decided to go back to Chile to look for more opportunities in this emerging market.

Over the next couple of years, I taught entrepreneurship in Chile, mentored local entrepreneurs and eventually started investing in Latin American companies myself. I’ve now invested in more than 30 early-stage companies in Latin America, and I firmly believe the time to help early-stage startups in Latin America has never been better. Here’s why.

Continue reading A New Era for Startup Investing In Latin America on TechCrunch.

Photo credit: Alessandro Pautasso