The Rise of Argentina’s Startup Scene

Startup Stock Photos

Right in the center of Buenos Aires, “Espacio Bitcoin” (Bitcoin Space) is a meeting Argentina’s Bitcoin community. It was started in early 2012 by Wenceslao Casares, an Argentinean entrepreneur who developed an online bank in the 90’s and today is the CEO of Xapo, a Bitcoin Bank.

At Espacio Bitcoin they organize developer meetups to share notes and information on this new technology. Franco Amanti, one of the leaders of the local Bitcoin community, set up shop there.  Franco is one of the founders of Bitcourt, a startup offering contract certifications in the blockchain, which is one of the tech infrastructure pieces supporting Bitcoin.

“Argentina and Venezuela are the two countries where Bitcoin is used the most”, Franco explains. It makes sense. Both Argentina and Venezuela have endured populist governments for years, closed economies and high inflation rates. However, winds of change are blowing these days. At least in Argentina. Mauricio Macri won the Presidential elections and became President in December 2015.  The son of an important Argentinean businessman, Mauricio is the former President of the Boca Juniors Soccer Athletic Club, one of the most important soccer teams in Argentina and former Mayor of Buenos Aires. Macri started his presidential term with measures to immediately open up the economy and insert Argentina once again in the global markets. These events have spiked interest in the Argentinean Startup scene, the only country in the region with companies that have IPOed in the NASDAQ. This article offers a glance into the who’s-who in the Argentinean Entrepreneurial Scene.

A Little Bit of History

In order to understand the Argentinean entrepreneurial ecosystem we need to start by looking at the 90’s when, after years of high inflation rates and a closed economy, Carlos Menem’s government propelled economic reforms to open up the country. This period coincided with the “Internet bubble” and Buenos Aires became the regional “dot com” hub . During that time, about 70% Latin America’s venture capital was concentrated in Buenos Aires. It was then that the equivalent of Silicon Valley’s “PayPal Mafia” was formed in Argentina.

A young group of entrepreneurs started the first “dot coms” in Argentina. Wenceslao Casares was one of them. Others include Marcos Galperin and Hernan Kazah, founders of MercadoLibre.com, eBay’s regional equivalent (where eBay is also a stakeholder) which IPO’d in the NASDAQ in 2007. Andy Freire and Santiago Bilinkis founded OfficeNet, which was acquired by Staples in 2004. All of them became inspirational entrepreneurial leaders in a country where, until then, people viewed the typical corporate managerial ladder as the only way for the middle class to move forward.

Silvia Torres Carbonell is the renowned Dean of the Argentinean Enterprise Institute (IAE) Business School, one of the most recognized schools in the region. She had a front-row seat overlooking  the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region. “20 years ago people rarely talked about entrepreneurship” She comments. “But by the end of the 90’s  and the internet boom, becoming an entrepreneur became the path of choice”.

The 90’s did not end up well for Argentina. After a steep economic crisis, the country suffered a severe currency devaluation and defaulted on its public debts in 2001. In this traumatic context, Nestor Kirchner arrived to power, with a populist discourse aligned with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Kirchner was succeeded by his wife, Cristina Fernandez. In a hostile environment towards private enterprise, business  froze. Even during this difficult business environment, an entrepreneurial group led by Martin Migoya, Guilbert Englebienne, Martin Umaran and Nestor Nocetti started the tech outsourcing company Globant, which IPOed in the NASDAQ in 2014.

Throughout this decade, the Argentinean entrepreneurial ecosystem has been propelled by its entrepreneurs’ creativity, the quality of the local universities and the difficulty in raising capital; mostly due to public policies working against foreign capital investment in the country. In this context of foreign investment capital scarcity, the successful entrepreneurs from the 90’s “dot com” era became the main suppliers of capital to Argentina’s startup ecosystem  

Accelerator & Investors

Santiago Bilinkis, Andy Freire and Pablo Simon have spent a lifetime as an entrepreneurial group. During the 90’s they founded OfficeNet, and office supplies retailer, which they sold to Staples in 2004. In 2013, they starter Quasar Ventures, working under the “startup studio” format. Quasar looks for high potential entrepreneurial ideas and then chooses a team to execute them and bring them to fruition. They take 45% of the equity and the entrepreneurs take 55%. Their offices overlook the River Plate soccer stadium one of the most popular soccer teams in Argentina. Some of the most successful Argentinean startups in the most recent years were born and incubated there.

“Avenida.com” is the local adaptation of Amazon.com. They raised a Series C round in November 2015. Overall they have raised over U$D 50 million to date. Restorando, a restaurant table-booking platform similar to OpenTable in the US has raised U$D 24 million. One of Quasar’s latest creations is Rodati, which aspires to revolutionize the way car are bought and sold in Latin America.

“Argentina has a very good talent pool and a much lower cost than Silicon Valley” says Santiago Bilinkis. “That is why it is a great place to set up a platform to develop new projects aiming at both the regional and global markets”.

Quasar’s strategy is regional. It usually takes an idea or business model that works somewhere else and adapts it to the Latin American reality. They start in Argentina and then scale regionally. If they achieve traction in Brazil, with a 200 million people market, they can aim for a strategic buyer acquisition.

Quasar shows a typical strategy followed by many Argentinean startups. In general, they try to replicate the success seen in other geographies. Very few try to innovate globally. However, we find these cases too! The most salient one in Satellogic, a nanosatellites company founded by Emiliano Kargieman.

Satellogic, Running the Space Race from Argentina

Emiliano Kargieman is a serial entrepreneur in cybersecurity as well as a Venture Capitalist. While attending Singularity University in Silicon Valley in 2010, he came up with the idea for Satellogic. It is Headquartered in Buenos Aires’ Palermo neighborhood, where half a dozen scientists wearing bunny suits similar to the ones you can find at Intel’s manufacturing facilities assemble satellites as small as a soccer ball.

“Developing and launching a traditional satellite takes about 10 years and hundreds of millions of dollars” Explains Kargieman. “We plan to launch a constellation of small satellites at a much lower cost, connect them and make them work as a network”. Over 100 satellites will continuously orbit Earth while taking High Resolution images. This way we will be able to take pictures of our planet in almost real time, for applications from marine routes optimization to oil pipes control and harvest yield computations.

Satellogic was incubated at INVAP, a state enterprise focused on space technology located in the Patagonia region. It has a distributed workforce in Argentina, the United States, Israel, France and the UK.

“This kind of infrastructure will change the way we related to our planet” states an excited Kargieman, a big fan of Stanislaw Lem, the Polish science fiction writer. “Space is going through a revolutionary phase. This industry is becoming much more competitive. A new space race”.

Venture Capital

Many startups in the Argentinean ecosystem start their journey applying to NXTP Labs or Wayra, Accelerator and Incubators that function with a similar format to Y Combinator. They take teams with some kind of prototypes or proofs of concept and invest U$D 20K to 50K in the venture. However, getting into one of these programs that not guarantee success. Problems arise later, when the need to raise a seed investment round of capital.

Mario Tapia, a specialist in the mobile market in Silicon Valley states: “a significant disadvantage for a startup located in Argentina is the lack of access to seed and angel investment financing”. Carlos Esnal, CEO of LugLoc, a company focus on luggage tracking comments: “in Silicon Valley, an idea written on a napkin can easily raise a million dollars. In Argentina, to get a million dollars the product needs to be much more advanced and show a lot more traction”.

These kinds of companies look for a seed investment round of about U$D400K to 600K. These amounts are usually raised from angel investment rounds in which each angle ponies up between U$D 50K to U$D 100K. The situation gets a little trickier if the company keeps growing to the point of needing venture funding.

“After the internet boom, when many funds from abroad came to invest, there was practically no venture funding in Argentina” comments Carolina Dams, Dean of Austral University’s School of Management Sciences and venture capital researcher. The VC funds did not trust Argentina which was nationalizing private pension funds and enterprises. One of the first post dot com bubble funds was CAP, which was formed by both private investors and the IADB.

“In 2007, when the CAP fund was launched, it was very hard to build a pipeline and deal flow because there were very few companies that fit the investment criteria for venture capital” points Manuel Mauer, CAP’s fund manager. “Today the ecosystem is much more developed, but still has its limitations. A traditional fund investment cycle of 6 to 7 years it’s usually too short for the timelines of a typical Argentinean startup. Moreover, there are very few potential buyers within the country to consider a strategic purchase of a company a viable investment exit”.

As opposed to many Silicon Valley funds, the CAP fund is a general fund, not specialized in any specific industry vertical. It holds investments in food, Telemedicine, Internet, and eCommerce. The CAP Fund participated in these investments with amounts from U$D 300K to 3 million. The ecosystem does not offer a big enough deal flow to justify specialization. The “Smart Money” and the experience to build companies with global ambition and not as abundant in Buenos Aires.

NXTP Labs

NXTP Labs is an accelerator created in 2011 by Marta Cruz, Ariel Arrieta, Francisco Coronel and Gonzalo Costa, following the Y Combinator format. They are Argentina’s most active early stage fund  and an important player in Latin America.

They have a portfolio of about 160 companies with founders from 15 different countries, with offices in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay and the US. NXTP lab invests in a wide range of tech companies, such a eCommerce, mobile, gaming, new media and digital marketing. They invest U$D 25K in exchange for 2% to 10% of the company. Fintech is one of NXTP’s latest vertical focus.

NXTP Labs is raising a U$D 120 million fund. “It will help us invest additional money (between U$D 1 to 5 million) in about 32 companies, of which 70% are coming from our current portfolio” Explains Ariel Arrieta, NXTP partner.

Wayra

Wayra started in 2011 as an initiative from Telefonica Group. It has offices in 14 cities in Latin America and Europe. One of them is in Buenos Aires.

Wayra invests U$D 50K in each startup that makes it to their acceleration program, in exchange for 7% to 10% of the company. It offers entrepreneurs a great channel to commercialize their products through Telefonica’s mobile platform.

Wayra’s program is smaller than NXTP’s. They have invested in about 36 companies, in batches of 8 to 10.

Within Wayra’s investment portfolio we can find companies related to Internet of Things (IoT), education platforms and Big Data eCommerce solutions.

Kaszek Ventues

Kaszek was started in 2011 by Hernan Kazah and Nicolas Szekasy, cofounder and ex CFO of MercadoLibre. While founded by Argentineans and having an office in Buenos Aires, Kaszek’s investment activity in Argentina is small. They raised a U$D 95 million fund mostly from capital from the US, which they investment in 23 companies. They raised an additional U$D 135 million in January 2014 which they are still deploying today.

Some of their investments in Argentinean companies include Eventioz (ticket booking platform for events and shows, similar to Eventbrite in the US), Restorando and GoIntegro (Corporate HR platform) Kaszek focuses on Series A rounds investing amounts in the order of U$D 3 million.

Human Capital

In November 24th, 1960, the first computer in Latin America arrives to Buenos Aires, where it was used for simulation processing. It was 18 meters long and was installed at the University of Buenos Aires. They named it Clementina, because each time it processed a program it chimed the tones of the popular Clementine song. Manuel Sadosky, the mathematician leading the team, is considered one of the fathers of Computer Science in Latin America.

Argentina was always an advanced country in terms of science in Latin America. Argentina is the only country in Latin America with 4 Nobel Prizes in science categories. Universities like ITBA and UTN train very good software engineers. Many of them end up working in Silicon Valley, where salaries are more than three times the U$D 30K per year usually earned in the Argentinean market.

If Argentina is to keep its engineers, its needs to set up enabling policies for startups and attract foreign capital for investment. This is the large task ahead for Mariano Mayer, a startup attorney. Mayer has led many city government entrepreneurial initiatives in Buenos Aires, which former Mayor is the current Argentinean president Mauricio Macri. Today Mayer is the leader and responsible for all federal policy related to entrepreneurship.

“Argentina currently ranks very low on the World Bank’s Doing Business index.” Says Mayer. “The first phase involves changing the norm to enable and make entrepreneurship easier”.

This is the work being tackled by the new Entrepreneurial Law, supported by the Argentinean Entrepreneurs’ Association. The Law aims to simplify the paperwork needed to incorporate a business and boost seed investments in particular and venture capital in general. We can refer to Chile’s success case to see that this is possible and the kind of benefits it can bring. In 2010, Chile launched “Startup Chile”, a program that offers companies U$D 40K without taking any equity in return for companies to set up shot in Chile for at least a year. Many Argentinean entrepreneurs are heading over to Chile to start their companies, taking advantage of the seed investment in a country open to capital markets, with a clear legal framework and economic stability.

Startups Future in Buenos Aires

In the movie The Third Man (1949), the character played by Orson Welles says: “Italy, for 30 years under Borgia ruling, it went through war, terror, murders and blood baths, but it also produced Michelangelo, Da Vinci and the Renaissance. Switzerland, on the other hand, enjoyed a lovely time, with 500 years of peace and democracy, and what did they produce? The Cuckoo clock”.

Argentina’s history seems more similar to that of Italy than Switzerland, both because of the origins of its immigrant population as well as a recent past marked by blood and terror from a dictatorship ruling the country between 1976 and 1983.

Argentina provides contrast. At the beginning of the 20th Century, Argentina was the 8th richest country on Earth. After that it suffered decades of economic stagnation and political instability since the 1940s with Peron coming to power. After the steep crisis of 2001, it went through Kirchner’s populist ruling. Now, Mauricio Macri’s new government promises a new alignment with the West and an open economy to help boost the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

In their book Startup Nation, Dan Senor and Saul Singer study Israel’s success case in entrepreneurship, a country that has massively developed its entrepreneurial ecosystem in the last 20 years. The authors note that one of the key elements of Israel’s success is Chutzpah, the Hebrew word for a concept that could be translated as the “creative energy to overcome obstacles”.

Pablo Brenner is a Uruguayan engineer who lived in Israel during the time the entrepreneurial ecosystem was forming there. Today Pablo is  the General Manager for Globant Uruguay: “There are some similarities and differences between Israel in the 90’s and Argentina in 2015” Pablo notes. “Both Israel and Argentina have good scientists and universities. “Chutzpah allowed Israeli companies to attain goals that seemed impossible to reach. Argentina is, without a doubt the country with most chutzpah in the region”.

Argentina’s history is one of individual’s success and collective failure. The land of Messi, Pope Francis and Jorge Luis Borges. While its citizens and venerated around the globe, Argentina has lived through decades of economic stagnation since mid-20th century. The new government promises economic integration with the rest of the world as well as setup the conditions for a country of 40 million entrepreneurs. This promise gives hope to many in this land known for its lands and beef, but which has much more to offer to the tech world.

AUTHORS

Federico Ast. Studied Economics and Philosophy at the University of Buenos Aires. Enterprise Management PhD Candidate at the Argentinean Enterprise Institute (IAE) Business School. Entrepreneur, consultant, investigator and journalist specialized in tech companies. @federicoast

Leandro Margulis. Industrial & Systems Engineer. Yale MBA. Entrepreneur, investor, consultant and business accelerator in Silicon Valley and emerging markets. @leanmarg

Make My Quince modernizes the planning of your Quince!

 

What’s your elevator pitch? What problem you trying to solve?

  • MakeMyQuince is the first to bring online event planning and crowd funding to Quinceañeras. Our goal as a company is to build trust and provide great customer service to the Latinos; our entry point to the Latino market is through Quinceañeras. A Quinceañera is a once in a lifetime event and Make My Quince creates their solution of guiding Quinceañeras and their parents through the planning and funding of their family event.

Team Intro Kick-OffHow do you see your start-up disrupting the space it’s in? What type of impact do you envision your start-up having in the market? What inspired you to do your start-up? 

  • Make My Quince is taking planning tools, such as visualization, checklists, and budgeting, and bringing them together with the option to padrino fund items needed to create the perfect Quince event. We used the idea of padrino sponsors used traditionally by some Quinceañeras and applied it to our event planning service. Make My Quince is disrupting the way Quinceañeras and their families plan one of the most important events their families will celebrate and refining it to be available online or moblie. Latinos (teens and their parents) are already online and on mobile; Latinos are early adopters to new tech trends and top engagers on social platforms. The Latino market is a starving market as well as one of the most influential in purchasing power. Make My Quince strives to provide great service to our users and exceed their expectations in the planning of a Quinceañera.
  • Our inspiration behind Make My Quince stems from our experiences with Quinceañera events. Families are currently planning Quinceañeras the same way they did 20 years ago; we see Make My Quince making this planning process more efficient and fun. We also have the vision to use Make My Quince to empower Latino teens and their parents to practice skills such as budgeting, fundraising, and decision-making together as a family.

venturescape MMQ team

Is this your first start-up venture? How did your team come together?

  • Our team has a variety of individual professional and personal experiences and have all attempted entrepreneurship in the past. Make My Quince is the first start-up we have worked together on as a team.
  • Our team met at StartUp Weekend Sacramento in November 2014. Co-founder Fatima Ruiz pitched the idea of “crowdfunding for Quinceañeras” and as a team we developed a business plan, revenue streams, brand identity and won 2nd place that weekend. We have continued as a team since November 2014. We have had three focus groups and each one lead to big “AHA” moments – these have shaped our direction and validated the need and desire for our service.

 

How has your startup journey been so far?

  • After winning second place as StartupWeekend Sacramento in November, our team came together weekly to work on our project “Make My Quince”. We did not think that less than five months later we would be pitching Make My Quince, now an incorporated start-up, to serial entrepreneurs and leaders in the Silicon Valley. We have received great feedback and excitement from our daily interactions in pitching Make My Quince as well as learned what our users want from us. Our users want guidance on one of the biggest events of her life, while having the independence to make her event her own and Make My Quince will make this happen.

 

What would you like to achieve during your time with Manos?

  • We are communicating with users on a daily basis and adjusting our features to make them the best they can be for our users. We hope to have Make My Quince ready to be tested as an application and redesign our website. We also are looking for key Quinceañera vendor partnerships. Our first month at Manos Accelerator has been very enlightening. The access to a great network of mentors and networks have been influential in shaping our direction as well confirming the problem we are solving as Make My Quince.

 

What type of funding are you looking for?

  • We are currently looking for bridge funding of $500,000 for the development of two application and new user acquisition.

 

If you are part of a Latino owned startup and would like to be featured and connect with our Cultura Ambassadors please reach out to us via our website or any of our social media channels.

 

 

SmileyGo bringing smiles to Nonprofits & Corporations

 

SmileyGo (smileygo.org)

  1. What’s your elevator pitch? What problem are you trying to solve?

SmileyGo (www.smileygo.org) is the tech platform that is integrating the corporate world with the nonprofit sector, matching the philanthropic needs of a company with the requests of a nonprofit. We are creating opportunities to bring positive results in the fulfillment of CSR efforts and societal needs across the globe.

So, what is the problem? Nonprofits spend more than 40% of their time plus an allocated percentage of their budget on fundraising, which often distracts them from focusing on their mission. At the same time, companies spend a tremendous amount of time and money on PR and marketing, often searching for nonprofit alliances and community outreach opportunities to align their brand with. This diverts their focus from meeting and exceeding their customer’s needs and expectations. Ultimately, Corporate Philanthropy is difficult work and that is why we are working on a product that will automate and facilitate this process, while maximizing social impact on a global scale.

Via SmileyGo, we are streamlining the CSR process and helping companies do philanthropy more efficiently, via our low-cost, online platform, while generating greater social impact and smiles around the world.

SmileyGo at Manos Accelerator launch

  1. Is this your first start-up venture?

SmileyGo is the first for-profit global venture for many of us. Having a diverse team working together to solve a global problem, we all bring different experiences to our team, and most importantly, we all share a passion for helping others make the world a better place. Pedro started a non-profit when he was 16 during high school: www.yatayperu.com, a social enterprise connects teachers in American Schools in Peru with local Andean children in the highlands. Michael also founded two ventures, Conservosmart, a solution for kWh usage within homes, and MultiSite Professional (http://www.multisiteprofessional.com), a reliable, personal option for website development. Maria who is passionate about civic technology founded encire in 2014, which is an online platform that connects users to key information on the issues that affect their social, political, and economic lives. Dante founded esQela.org last year, an ed-tech platform to empower Latino students in their Quest to attaining higher education. By working together, we leverage our passions and experiences to develop a unique solution to making it easier for companies to make smart investments with long-lasting social impact.

  1. What inspired you to do your start-up?

The SmileyGo Team shares an innate desire to help others at a global scale. We all possess the SmileyGo DNA: passion, drive, and energy. We all have a passion to help others, the drive to revolutionize corporate philanthropy, and the energy that is required to change the world. In particular, the life experiences of Pedro David Espinoza and Dante Alvarado-Leon revolved around giving back to their communities. Both having lived in developing countries in Latin America saw the need to create solutions to help those in need and took action at a young age. Pedro’s main inspiration came from looking at all of the opportunities and positive impact his mother’s nonprofit created for young women in Peru. When he met Juana, a young woman from the Anders region of Peru, who told him that her future was going to work on a farm, Pedro and his mother helped her and opened the door for many opportunities for her. In the end, Juana enrolled in a higher education institution and graduated as an engineer. Similarly, Dante was inspired by the stories of children he met at an orphanage that he volunteered with his family in Mexico. Dante recalls the words of one of the children in an orphanage in the city Tijuana who told him, “I want to be like you and help those in my community when I grow up.” Ever since that day, Dante continued to give back to his community through service and by using his education to help those around him. These two stories combined with the diverse backgrounds of all of the members of the SmileyGo team led to the creation of SmileyGo, a global venture aiming to stimulate companies to give back to nonprofits at a global scale.

4.  How do you see your start-up disrupting the space it’s in?

SmileyGo is taking the lead in showing that companies as a whole can give back in a meaningful way that has a lasting impact. Other organizations may encourage individual employees to go volunteer or make donations toward a certain non-profit. However, at SmileyGo we want to make sure that companies – not just the individuals that comprise it – are socially responsible and that the resources being donated are being used properly. We strive for a simple, straightforward process that creates transparency. This transparency won’t only be helpful for consumers and companies, but will hopefully get non-profit organizations to effectively allocate and manage resources. Ultimately, we wish to revolutionize the way business is done, and prove to the corporate world that business is not only about making revenue, but it is also about creating impact, and that companies can do well by doing good.

  1. What type of impact do you envision your start-up having in the market?

We see SmileyGo as the catalyst for companies to do well, while maximizing social impact worldwide. By directing philanthropy toward charities and non-profits that will effectively use it, we aim to encourage more corporations to give back to communities in need around the world. Here at SmileyGo we are revolutionizing the way business is conducted. We want to make companies more aware of the needs of the world, and make it easy for them to become catalysts of change. Essentially, we are streamlining the process for both the non-profits and companies and helping them collaborate to help each other out. By matching the requests and needs of a non-profit with the resources and funding of a company via our tech platform, we will be able to foster a win-win situation and help companies make smart investments that will have long-lasting impacts on the non-profits.

  1. How did your team come together?

The co-founders, Pedro David Espinoza and Dante Alvarado-Leon brought together a diverse and talented team that shares the same vision and passion for a global cause. SmileyGo naturally attracts those who are passionate about corporate social responsibility and want to see a change in the way businesses give back to society, help non-profits in their struggle for resources, or a combination of the two. Our team is comprised of students from around the world, from the U.S., Mexico, Colombia, China, India, Africa and many other places. Most of us met at the University of California, Berkeley, and since then we have become a family of student leaders and young entrepreneurs with the vision to change the world, the heart to help others, and the spirit to dream big.

  1.     How has your startup journey been so far?

The start-up journey has been quite a thrill thus far. We are always making progress, but the progress has been far from anything like a straight, upward line towards success. The journey has been filled with twists, turns, loops and sometimes backtracking too. But through the entire process, we learn more about our company’s goal as a whole and have a deeper understanding of what we need to implement to create the best possible product. We are not the typical startup that rushes, seeks money and never sleeps. We rest, we bond, we are a family of winners, students, young leaders and learners. We have had to make many sacrifices to develop and create a global solution to corporate philanthropy, however, we have a passion for what we are doing that drives us to keep on going. To sum it up, our journey so far has been one of the best experiences in our lives. All of the work we put in every day, all the miles we have traveled together, and all of the time we have spent together to make our idea come to life has shown us that SmileyGo is our passion. We, the SmileyGoers, all share a common dream to work together as a family of young leaders and entrepreneurs. At the end of the day, we want to inspire and encourage others, especially our generation to dare to dream big, to be innovative, and to embark on their own entrepreneurial journeys to develop solutions to the challenges that we are facing today, while always remembering to smile.

  1. What would you like to achieve during your time with Manos?

During out time in the Manos Accelerator, we hope to achieve a clear direction in which we will head, so we bring to clarity to the problem we are solving, the solution we are providing, and how we can be sustainable throughout the process. At the moment, we are working towards developing an attractive, innovative, and concrete business plan that will allows to develop an efficient platform. One thing that Manos has definitely helped our company with–as a result of mentors and the number of resources we’ve been given–is setting a stable and simple foundation for what we aim to do and how we will implement an effective plan to create our tech platform to produce greater social change. By Demo Day, we hope to have a working and updated prototype so that we can begin connecting the corporate world with the nonprofit sector.

  1.     What type of funding are you looking for?

We are looking for seed funding, so that we can build the most efficient and reliable tech platform and stimulate our progression with SmileyGo. By the end of the summer we will possibly look for angel investments, if needed.

 

If you are part of a Latino owned startup and would like to be featured and connect with our Cultura Ambassadors please reach out to us via our website or any of our social media channels.

Dream Tuner empowers unsigned Musicians

 

We had a chance to visit with Dream Tuner and ask them about their startup being accelerated at Manos Accelerator in San Jose.  Are you a closet musician waiting to be discovered?

  • Is this your first start-up venture? You could say that it is at this scale. I had a couple of businesses in college and during my MBA that would generate extra income such as getting web designers in South America to develop pages for US companies at a lower rate (2006-2010).

Dream Tuner

What inspired you to do your start-up? I can say that music plays an essential role in my life, I still remember listening to The Beatles White Album and Let It Be with my mom and brother in our house when I was 7 years old, while She and my dad were getting divorced. Music became an outlet for my brother and I. He picked up the drums and I the bass guitar and for many years I guess that kept us sane from all the craziness that was going on.  Later on we had to go to college, get jobs and basically grow up, and left behind the instruments but we never left the music. The Aha moment came when I was visiting my family and my kid brother (ten years younger than me, from my mother’s second marriage) asked me to give him a ride to the local college station so that he could drop off a demo of his band to a DJ. That is when I realized that so much had changed thanks to technology and the internet but musicians were still dropping off their demos as had been done by young musicians since the early 60’s and 70’s.  I knew that I had grown up and had given up on the dream, but why should so many others follow that same path.

 

  • How do you see your star-up disrupting the space it’s in? Dream Tuner wants to empower the unsigned musician. We want to help them achieve their dreams while making it easier for their music to be discovered. At the same time we want to target listeners that label themselves as trendsetters, evangelists mavens. That one friend you have that is always promoting new music. We feel that both of these, the artists and these types of listeners are under served. We want music to be for the people and by the people.

 

  • What type of impact do you envision your start-up having in the market? We want to be the place to go for unsigned musicians to catapult to the next level. In baseball terms, we want to be the farm to help them make the leap to the big leagues. What product hunt is to app discovery we want to be to music discovery.

 

  • How did your team come together? Our team is composed of 2 brothers. A drummer and a bass player. I came up with an idea and called my brother in Los Angeles ( I was in Austin TX) to tell him that I had an idea in my head for about a month. it made sense to talk to him since he had studied music production and now worked at a music production company. We took it from there and kept developing the idea to a business plan even after I moved to Miami. After that, it just made sense that I should move to LA where my co-founder is and where so many musicians arrive every day with huge dreams and hopes.

 

  • How has your star-up journey been so far? It has been quite a ride. From a simple idea in Austin Texas, to winning a pitch contest in Miami, to developing the idea and then being in Silicon Valley. We never thought we would make it to where we are and the journey has always been uphill but exciting. We have learned a lot and have been questioned by many and have even been called naive by others for pursuing this dream, but we carry on. You learn to think fast, adapt, be persistent and know that for every 1 startup that makes it there are thousands that fail, in a way, it resembles musicians, for every one band that makes it there are thousand that see their dreams crushed.

 

  • What would you like to achieve during your time with Manos? Learn and keep learning. The ecosystem in Silicon Valley is like no other in the planet. The ideas that are generated here change the world and we want to be a part of it. We want to take full advantage of the opportunity Manos has given us to create a great product and at the same time collaborate with other startups. We hope to share our vision at Dream Tuner with the world soon.

 

  • What type of funding are you looking for? We are currently looking for angel investors to help with seed funding.

Manos Accelerator 3rd Cohort kick off Event images

 

Manos Accelerator 3rd Cohort kick off event

Manos Accelerator welcomed their 3rd Cohort of startups

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Manos Accelerator 3rd Cohort Kick-Off

 

Recently Silicon Valley Latino had the pleasure of attending the Manos Accelerator 3rd Cohort Kick-Off where the 2015 Spring Class was presented to the community. This time the Kick-Off was hosted by Ernst & Young at their San Jose offices and it featured five exciting new start-ups.

AMG_1062Dream Tuner – out of Miami, Fl, is a platform dedicated to helping independent and unsigned musicians achieve their dreams,

MakeMyQuince – out Sacramento, Ca, is the first solution to bring online planning tools and crowd-funding to Quinceaneras

 

Shovel Apps –out of Buenos Aires, Argentina, is a flexible open source CMS and App Maker that lets you create awesome mobile applications for Andriod and IOS without coding skills

SmileyGo – out of Berkeley, Ca, is a social enterprise that connects businesses and non-profits via its technological platform

The Exchange – out of San Francisco, Ca, is creating synergy between digital and physical realities through wearable technology.

 

Over the next few weeks we will feature each of these start-ups one at a time so stay tuned!

Manos Accelerator highlighted in Latino Magazine

 

Manos Accelerator recognized by LATISM as best in class 2014!

SVL Chats with Yahoo’s Roberto Ortiz

 

SVL Chats with Yahoo’s Roberto Ortiz

 

By Guadalupe Carrillo and Alex Ontiveros

Minutes after the Manos’ Demo Day on August 27th ended, SVL had the opportunity to do a one-on-one interview with Roberto Ortiz at Yahoo Headquarters. Ortiz is the Director of Mobile Design at the company and he sat down with us to talk about the entrepreneurial mindset and how it helped him get from working at a bodega in Philadelphia as a teenager to now directing a team at Yahoo that focuses on designing mobile experiences used by millions of people daily.

Roberto Ortiz Manos AcceleratorConsidering that we had just finished watching a group of young Latino entrepreneurs pitch their startups to the industry, our conversation quite naturally landed on the topic of entrepreneurship. As a judge for Manos’ Demo Day, Ortiz had paid close attention to the group’s presentations and he was pleased at how the night went. “I get ecstatic when you bring a group together to go after something that is big—something bigger than themselves,” he says with genuine excitement. Ortiz gives kudos to anyone who has the courage to go up on a stage and say, “I’m working on this and I believe in this product.”

Where this kind of entrepreneurial mindset comes from and how more young folks can learn to cultivate it is an issue that Ortiz is clearly passionate about. He describes this mindset as way of thinking. As he sees it, it is a mode of viewing the world that allows a person who has never built a wall before to have the confidence to say, “I’ve never built a wall before but I know I can do it. I just have to go over there and figure it out.”

A son of Puerto Rican Immigrants, Ortiz developed this confidence and mindset as a teenager in Philadelphia. While his mother was busy working and raising five kids (his father passed away when he was young), Ortiz had made some bold moves starting at age twelve. Looking to put some cash in his pocket, he asked the local restaurant owner if he could have a job sweeping the floors. When he wasn’t working, he would be teaching himself tech. According to Ortiz, he spent a lot of time “hacking away at web design and front end work as a teenager.”

His love of tech and his entrepreneurial mindset came together when he approached business owners in Philly—from the local restaurant owner to the guy selling tacos at the corner—and offered to build them a website for free because he just “wanted the experience.” Ortiz eventually started making money for his services. It was “empowering” to see that someone would pay you for your talent, he says.

WG1A2477“I think that changes the way you think,” he reflects, “once you get a taste of that early on, it’s just momentum building, and it gives you the confidence to say, ‘I can go figure this out’.”

The momentum continued to build for Ortiz. His mother, though busy, made sure her son was part of educational programs that harnessed his talent for tech. And by the time Ortiz was seventeen years old, the technology company Lockheed Martin had recruited him for a full-time job. He later decided to attend college for a business degree. Now, Roberto Ortiz is a seasoned web and mobile designer and has worked in some of most innovative tech companies in the world.

He is also an emerging leader both inside and outside the tech industry. Indeed, Ortiz is the co-founder of ELEO, a leadership conference for aspiring and experienced entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, so it is no surprise that he enjoys thinking about how to inspire and help the younger generation to go after their dreams despite where they started. What drives people “to not be a product of their environment” is a worthwhile conversation to have in our communities, he says.

According to Ortiz, people can easily become content with just living paycheck to paycheck and not making the most of their natural talents and strengths. He calls this a “mindset of contentment.” When he talks with his own family members or high school students, he sometimes hears this mindset whenever they say to him, “I don’t know how to do this,” or “I’ve never done this before.” His reply to these statements is always, “well, let’s go over there and do it!”

It is important to challenge that mindset of contentment, Ortiz suggests. While he understands that there is nothing wrong putting in an honest day’s work in order to pay the bills (his parents, like many immigrants, worked to support the family), he still thinks folks can build that confidence to go after a career that makes the most of their potential. “I encourage people not to just settle and be content so fast; I say give it a shot, go for it, and try to get something going” Ortiz tells us.

He similarly encourages the new entrepreneurs that he saw on Demo Day to think big. Ortiz loves seeing that a lot of their business ideas and technological innovations come directly from the experience of being Latino—for to be an entrepreneur is to draw inspiration from “everyday life,” he says. However, Ortiz also thinks that their unique set of experiences gives these entrepreneurs a vantage point from which to reach a global market. “You start niche because that’s your backyard,” says Ortiz, “but there are so many opportunities for pivots.”

If Ortiz’s personal story can serve as any type of roadmap for those wanting to reach their potential, these entrepreneurs will simply need to build something that they have never built before—and be okay with that.

 

 

 

Latino Entrepreneurs Pitch Startups at Manos’ Demo Day

 

Yahoo! Headquarters served as the stage for a group of emerging Latino entrepreneurs on Wednesday.   They were there as part of Manos Accelerators “Demo day” to pitch their startups to a panel of judges and to a roomful of tech and finance professionals.  While the low representation of Latinos in Tech continues to be an issue for the industry, Wednesday’s event showed signs that people are starting to recognize that Latinos have the innovative ideas and technological skills to potentially create the next “big” startup.

Yahoo! Latinos Unidos Manos Accelerator Demo DayThe “Demo Day” was organized by the Latino Unidos group at Yahoo! and by the Manos Accelerator group, a mentorship-driven accelerator program that provides “education, business resources, infrastructure, capital, and guidance for promising startup companies led by Latinos.” Manos Accelerator was founded by Ed Avila, Sylvia Flores, and David Lopez (who happens to be Jennifer Lopez’s father) in 2013 and has so far put two cohorts through its 3-month program.   Many of the mentors who worked with the second cohort were in the audience, and, as Ed Avila told the crowd, “Much of what you will see here today is a product of mentoring and coaching.”

 

Drawing inspiration from personal experiences seemed to be the common theme shared by all of the “Demo Day” pitches.  The day got underway with CoupleCare, a company from Chihuahua, Mexico that helps couples who want to conceive with an app that tracks a woman’s fertility cycle.  The pitch started with a personal anecdote about what the CoupleCare founders discovered after moving to the states.  They noticed that while couples in Mexico were concerned with preventing pregnancy, here a large number of couples were spending “time and money on starting a family,” which is a typical situation in industrialized nations.  They used this insight as the basis for creating an app platform for couples and not just for women.

David Lopez Manos Accelerator

The second company to pitch was Cuestiona.me, which was founded by two seasoned entrepreneurs from Venezuela.  While living in their country, the founders observed how difficult it was for citizens of Venezuela to communicate their questions to influential leaders in government and business.  Recognizing that eliciting a response “from people of influence” is a problem that many people face around the world, they designed a platform that would allow users to pose their question and have other users vote for their questions.  The Cuestiona.me founder explained to the audience how it worked: “You create a question, you share it, you find votes and then the leader sees it.”

 

The founder and CEO of FashionTEQ, who was the only woman pitching that evening, was frank about how her personal experience inspired her to create wearable technology, stating, “I started fashion tech because I am an engineer and I am living in a woman’s world.”  She gave us a glimpse of her company’s newest product Zazzi, a pendant-like device that can be attached to necklaces, rings and bracelets, which provides notifications/vibrations when a special someone calls and keeps women discretely connected to their smartphones.  Not wanting to compromise beauty over functionality, she has partnered up with Swarovski for the next line of Zazzi.

 

A hunt for tacos during an ordinary lunch break was the inspiration for saySquare, a startup from Honduras that allows small businesses in developing countries to process financial transactions through a mobile payment platform.  The idea for the startup germinated when one of the founders failed to buy his lunch because the local taqueria in Honduras did not accept credit cards. He described the event as “lose-lose situation” because, as he joked, “the small business lost a sale, and I had lost my lunch.”  This situation is all too common in developing countries, he said, simply because “they don’t have a way of processing payments.”  For that reason, saySquare sees all of Latin America and the rest of the developing world as a potential market for their platform.

 

The last startup to pitch was Audive, a company that provides hobbyist musicians with the opportunity to collaborate and record with other hobbyists across the world. The experience of being a music lover and an immigrant in a new country had indirectly influenced the idea for Audive. As one of the founders explained, he had grown up playing guitar and “jamming” with his brother almost every week. However, once he moved to the U.S.A it was difficult for him to continue with this weekly ritual. He and his team decided to develop Audive so that music hobbyists can engage in real-time collaboration even if the users are geographically far apart from each other.

Nicole Sanchez at Manos Accelerator Demo Day

 

Sitting at the judges’ table were Roberto Ortiz, Director of Mobile Design at Yahoo!, Nicole Sanchez, the CEO and founder of Vaya Consulting, Rodrigo T. Garcia, founder of SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers), and Sergio Monsalve, a partner from Norwest Ventures Partners. The distinguished panel of judges did not offer scorecards or prizes. Instead, they offered something much more valuable for entrepreneurs starting a company: feedback. While Ortiz was “looking for that magic user experience,” Sanchez was interested in hearing if the company had identified a problem that was experienced by enough people such “that it warrants a solution.”

 

SVL looks forward to following the progress of these startups and we will keep you posted on the next Latinos in tech event.