The Entrepreneurs Organization Quito hub invited me to come and speak in Ecuador. I had the pleasure of spending the week of January 15-20 in Ecuador with 2 other VCs, Pablo Castro and Sebas Yerovi from New Light Ventures, and a founder, Monica Muñoz from Bubi Bags, who’s also my sister. On one of our car drives, we decided that it would be a great idea to co-author a piece to share a glimpse of what can happen in a VC’s and founder’s day-to-day. Enjoy your Backstage pass!
Disclaimer: The day-to-day of VCs and founders vary; there are no two days that look the same. And this week was above and beyond a unique experience. Also, all experiences, opinions, and thoughts are exclusively those of the authors and no other entity.
The 3 VCs + Founder
- VC 1: Lolita Taub, Principal at Backstage Capital, US
- VC 2: Pablo Castro, Managing Partner at New Light Ventures and EO Board Member, Ecuador
- VC 3: Sebastian Yerovi, Managing Partner at New Light Ventures, Ecuador
- Founder: Monica Muñoz, Founder of Bubi Bags and Peace Corps Health Volunteer, Ecuador
But first, an ice breaker. What would you spend $1000 on? It has to be something superfluous — nothing related to productivity, work, or growth. Find our answers at the end of this story. In the meantime, think about yours. 😉
Startup Grind and EO GSEA Quito Events
Monday and Wednesday
- Lolita: On Monday, I did a fireside chat with Sebastian, Managing Partner at New Light Ventures, where we talked about Backstage, technology, and the importance of thinking and solving big problems while always remembering that we’re humans who need support. On Wednesday, I chatted with the EO board and member community over lunch, and keynoted the EO GSEA annual event with a talk about the opportunity that lies in underestimated people and countries, such as Ecuador. EO GSEA highlight: watching Moshal, an Ecuadorian woman-led startup, win the night’s pitch competition!
- Pablo: On Wednesday, I hosted the lunch for the EO board and Lolita. It was great to see our board and Lolita align on many key issues from the opportunity in Latin America to the impact that can be made through the different industries that EO’s board members represent. Later that day, I gave the opening talk for the GSEA Final Competition; this was a great opportunity where Lolita connected with student entrepreneurs about how this could change the region, and ultimately the world, no matter what their background was or where they came from. To end a great day, I was honored to hand over a check with all expenses paid to GSEA Global Final in Macau China to Johanna Salazar, founder of Moshal (yes, we believe in female founders!) She will represent Ecuador there as the student entrepreneur of the year.
- Sebastian: I was honored to interview Lolita on Monday — she has such a powerful story and supreme knowledge of the hard questions about VC and tech. I loved the fact that I decided to run the interview by connecting with her and the stories we shared throughout the day (way better than a script!) Bonus: It is the duty of organizations such as Startup Grind and EO to establish the role models for upcoming leaders.
- Monica: As a first-time founder in Ecuador, it was really enlightening to hear about the startup ecosystem in Ecuador and venture capital/startups in general at both Startup Grind and EO GSEA Quito.
Meetings with Ecuador’s Investors and Entrepreneurs
Monday through Friday
- Lolita: I must have spoken to 20+ founders after both of the Startup Grind and EO events and in 1:1s. Topics ranged from deal flow, investment criteria, fund construction, international expansion, strategy, to partnerships. I also loved my interview with Ecuador’s leading CEO magazine Numbers. Two treats: I got to connect with Ecuador’s Microsoft and PwC GMs.
- Pablo: I had the opportunity to talk to other VCs in the industry and have a conversation about how we are all facing the same challenges. It was great to touch base on how working together was the only way we could create an exceptional startup ecosystem where we all can succeed.
- Sebastian: Latin American investors and entrepreneurs face great opportunities and responsibilities by building — not fixing — a diverse startup ecosystem. Hence, intentionality would likely be the most important trait for upcoming leaders.
- Monica Muñoz: The entrepreneurs we met were all incredibly passionate about what they did and why; whether it was creating a magazine or running a world-recognized chocolate company, their focus was creating an impact on the world while serving others to live a higher quality of life. They also seemed to have one thing in common: self-determination and the belief that they can do anything and reach their end goal.
Meetings with Quito’s Startup Ecosystem Players: Entrepreneurs’ Organization, IMPACTO Accelerator, Krueger Lab, and Buen Trip Accelerator
Monday through Friday
- Lolita: I was warmly welcomed, learned a ton about the Ecuadorian successful business segment spread, and the fun and profit inducing approaches they are using to develop the startup ecosystem. My favorite thing about these meetings has to be all the impromptu brainstorming sessions on how to support the next wave of underestimated founders on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday.
- Pablo: The community was amazing, welcoming, and very open to different ideas of how we can create change and move forward. All egos were left at the door. It was great to know that whether talking to some of the countries top CEOs or some of new startup founders who are creating the next impactful venture, we all agreed that things had to change.
- Sebastian: Such a great community with huge opportunities and challenges ahead in working together to figure it out and to think of ourselves beyond borders. I just always love talking to leaders. It’s fun, challenging, and inspiring.
- Monica: Incredible how much talent is available, and truly inspiring and exciting to see the collaboration and innovation available in my (now) home country!
Sprinkled Fun (Food + Birth of a Founder + World Treasures Included)
- Lolita: On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, we went to the middle of the Earth, Quilotoa (a lake inside a volcano), and visited both the HQ of the best Ecuadorian organic chocolate, and a leading rose, producer. My favorite people experience: I observed the birth of a new founder on Wednesday night when Monica pitched her Bubi Bag concept and recruited her first product manager and VP of sales over dinner. My favorite food experience: Michelin star experience at Quitu Identidad Culinaria. I can’t even describe it. It was that good!
- Pablo: There were many great experiences but one of the highlights was the visit to Rosadex, one of Ecuador’s leading rose producers and exporters. It was interesting for me to be able to observe how one of the country’s oldest industries implements technology to be able to innovate and have a global edge.
- Sebastian: It is quite beautiful to repeat experiences, all over again, be it food, traditions, or places. If you share them with different and AMAZING PEOPLE there is always something new to learn. Perspective might be the best teacher (alongside Monica of course).
- Monica: After over a year in this beautiful country, I finally had the courage to try cuy (guinea pig), not once but twice! I liked it much more the second time around.
What’s On the Schedule for Next Week?
- Lolita: After this week, I need to follow up with folks and make sure to stay in touch with super-connectors and good friends Sebastian, Pablo, and Michelle! Can’t wait to close some deals together and continue to prove that underestimated folks can make magic happen in business and have fun while going at it.
- Pablo: Schedule more meetings with local founders and VCs to talk about different ways to come up with new ideas to contribute in building a better entrepreneurial ecosystem for the region. Also connect with more international VCs to get more brains working on the situation we are trying to improve in our ecosystem.
- Sebastian: Apply intentionality into the future we are building for the region at New Light Ventures. So sit down and truly apply fundamental critical thinking for the massive challenges we are addressing as the VC/AI Latin American industry. In other words, lots of caffeinated Guayusa tea, 1000s of pages to read, and zombie-walking while daydreaming and brainstorming.
- Monica: I am still incredibly passionate about health, but now am interested in learning about venture capital and working on my first entrepreneurial venture. Be on the lookout for Bubi bags in the near future. 😉
Here’s the Ice Breaker Bonus!
If you had $1,000 to spend on something frivolous, how would you spend it?
- Lolita: 12-course A5 Wagyu beef because it melts in your mouth.
- Pablo: $1,000 in workout clothes! Did I mention I’m a sports junkie?
- Sebastian: Hummus!!
- Monica: As much of J Lo’s skin care regime that $1,000 could afford me because her skin is #goals.
Did you find this post interesting and helpful? If you did, tell us why. We want to write more about what you find useful.
Thank you for your claps and shares, in advance!
Special thanks to: Backstage Capital, EO (the backbone of Quito), Startup Grind Quito (new Quito startup blood), New Light Ventures (Latin America’s newest AI fund), NH Collection Quito Royal hotel (great service), Numbers (premier Quito CEO magazine), IMPAQTO (LatAM’s premier social impact co-working and accelerator), Rosadex (global producer of 38 types of roses), Pacari (global premier organic chocolate company founded by a power couple), Quitu Identidad Culinaria (the next Michelin star restaurant) and Gravity Speakers.
About the Authors
Lolita Taub is Backstage Capital’s Principal for the “It’s About Damn Time Fund”, a fund focused on investing in Black women-founded tech startups. Her prior early-stage tech investing experience includes Portfolia and K Fund. Before joining the VC world, Lolita spent nearly a decade in B2B enterprise tech, consulting and selling solutions to Fortune 500 companies at IBM, Cisco Systems, and Silicon Valley and NYC startups. Lolita holds a BA from the University of Southern California and an MBA from the IE Business School. She’s living the dream working alongside and investing in the next generation of diversity-led tech unicorns. @lolitataub
Pablo Castro is a Cofounder and General Partner of New Light Ventures, an Early Stage Venture Capital Fund that invests in Latin American founders that are building the next generation of Artificial Intelligence applications. He serves on the board of EO Ecuador and is an M.S. Candidate in Education Entrepreneurship at University of Pennsylvania. @pablocastro182
Sebastian Yerovi is an early stage artificial intelligence venture capitalist in Latin America. He is a Cofounder and General Partner of New Light Ventures, a TEDx speaker, and Quito Director for Startup Grind by Google for startups. @SebasYerovi
Monica Muñoz is a Health Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador and the founder of a Bubi Bags, the producer of clip-on sweat-proof and breathable bags that store goods without having to carry a purse. Monica has an enterprise tech background from Oracle Systems. She has a B.A. focused in Psychology, Nutrition and Health Promotion from the University of Southern California. @monicamunoz