Luis Montalvan: “Starting A Startup In Nicaragua Is Like Playing The Hardest Video Game You Know”

Luis Montalvan is the Co-Founder of Vynil, a mobile application aimed at millennial nomads that connects them with exotic & exciting experiences. Luis also works with businesses to create dynamic strategies by combining his skills as an Economist and a human-centered approach built on empathy. I took the time to talk with Luis on his journey as an entrepreneur in Nicaragua and the challenges that he has faced.


Q: What are some challenges you faced when developing your venture?

All. Of. Them.

Starting a startup anywhere is hard, but starting it in Nicaragua is like playing the hardest video game you know in “you’ll never make it mode” while being blindfold.

I could go ahead and nag for the lack of opportunities but the beauty of entrepreneurship is to see music where others just see gibberish… and that is what we did. We realized central and Latin America had a vast collection of taste, sounds and experiences and the best part is that it is already a popular and affordable destination for young tourist from Europe, North America and Australia.

We just decided to bring them together in style.

Q: Was there any point when you thought it was over? That you were going to fail?

Yes. I’ve always been an overly tenacious guy but three months I hit rock bottom, or so I thought.

First, due to understandable reasons one of my cofounders dropped our project. It was hard in many ways and it got even harder the next week when my other cofounder dropped me for understandable reasons too. Now picture me hating the word understandable, in debt, with tons of work to do and no team whatsoever to have my back. People whom I worked with back to back for over a year, gone.

I got depressed, watched Hotel Paradiso and ate frozen pizza. Next day i wrote my goals and a step by step guide to achieve them. Two months later Im in San Francisco, have a team in Nicaragua and we are all preparing to launch a massive launch just before summer vacations.

It’s been a trip.


Q: As an entrepreneur how important has flexibility been in developing your venture?

From day one we fell in love with the problem rather than our solution. In that sense we have co-designed our solution along with our users, clients, and possible allies.

I personally quit my job and moved to a surf town to have a firsthand experience in what tourist wanted and what small and medium touristic businesses needed to connect with them. Flexibility on the roads you take to achieve your goal is not only necessary but required.


Q: What was was your spark, where did it come from?

In Nicaragua I noticed that more tourist where popping with their gigantic backpacks but it really hit me when working in Barcelona and noticed how many acquaintances where saving money to backpack across Latin America.

This are young people like me, they have their phones and have a thirst for authentic connection born out of shared experiences. Not experiences as a price tags as some major players perceive the experience space, but phones as a tool to connect with the world!

4. What are your non-work habits that help you with your work-life balance?

My work life balance is pretty much inexistent at this stage but I would share Michael Knights, the founder of Nike, advice:


Mr. Knight went for a six miles jog everyday, it is an amazing way to get your thoughts in order, exercise, let off steam and relax. I follow up by everyday counting my blessings and being grateful for having the opportunity to kick the status quo in the balls and make something!

5. What is your best tip for entrepreneurs?

Focus on the most important task on your current stage. You need to focus on the one thing or couple of things that you don’t enjoy doing, but will take you to the next level. That was one thing that was hard for me as an entrepreneur — I really enjoyed the creative aspect, but don’t get sidetracked on the networking or business cards — focus on building your clients, your team, the things that really matter at the stage you are in.