Given the current developments within the startup ecosystem here in Lima, I went into Peru Venture Capital Conference with high hopes.
In as little as four years I’ve witnessed the startup scene here in Lima go from non-existent to this: an impressive two-day event attended by 500 people each day, in a splendid make-shift conference hall (a collection of framework domes hugging the edge of Lima’s Pacific Coast) with presenters & startups from the US, Peru, Argentina, Scotland, France and more… all talking about startups, investments, developing ideas, growth, social impact & generally trying to make the world a better place.
The opening keynote was perfectly crafted by Chris Heivly an enigmatic character with over 20 years experience in the startup sector…he’s built industry-leading products (one was MapQuest that AOL bought up for $1.2 Billion USD), and co-founded other startups. He’s been recruited to captain existing businesses ranging in size from $200K to $20M in revenue and everything else in between. Today he’s representing Techstars, a Worldwide Network that helps entrepreneurs to connect with other entrepreneurs, experts, mentors, alumni, investors, community leaders, and corporate partners that will help their companies grow.
Chris was clearly enjoying the role of opening keynote speaker and delivered a brilliant talk. One of the things that stood out for me was his analogy of ‘building a fort’. The idea is that when we were young, everything was possible, you could build anything you wanted to. You would just go ahead with your friends and build a fort out of the materials that you could gather.
Chris explained it’s this child-like mindset of ‘let’s build a fort’ that drives entrepreneurialism, as well as the fact that you can not build a fort on your own, you need to find and connect with a community who shares the same mindset. “For your idea to become a reality you must socialize your idea without fear or inhibition. An idea locked in your head is all but useless, you must get out and share that idea with others who want to hear it before it can ever become something.” — Chris Heivly, Techstars
Think about it, as kids we could all build a fort, right? So what holds us back as adults? I think this is a great question to ask of ourselves.
Visible Startup Traction in Peru
The PeruVCC was held in Domos Art, Costa Verde. In my opinion a rather unique & ideal setting for a conference of this kind. Far removed from the square, drab, carpeted conference halls you normally get with hotels. As someone who has spent several years doing business at some of the biggest trade shows & conferences in the world, I can confidently say that Peru Venture Capital Conference is easily comparable to any of those in terms of the organisation, ticketing, catering, security, quality of presentations, panelists, product demonstrations, and attendees.
The main Dome is impressive and it was a full house throughout both days, every table full of business people, industry, press, graduates, startups, and investors from all around the world. The majority of attendees was clearly Peruvian but I met people from United States, Colombia, Chile, United Kingdom, Denmark, Brazil, China and more. Proof, if you need it, that the startup ecosystem in Peru is well on its way to catching up with the rest of the world.
At an after show party on Tuesday evening held at the prestigious UTEC University, I was able to catch up with Amparo Nalvarte, co-founder of Culqi, an online payment processor for Latin America. Amparo told me how they started: “As part of our graduation thesis, we were required to create a business plan, and this is where the idea for Culqi came about. We received a small seed investment of $5,000 USD and from there we built our minimum viable product (MVP).”
Fintech in Latin America is a fast growing sector and the total addressable market for Culqi is huge. As the conversation continued Amparo shared with me that the product that Culqi is today was, in fact, a result of a pivot away from the original idea. She said: “We needed a payment processor for our original idea for Culqi, there just wasn’t one that suited our needs, so we built one and after initial feedback and validation, we decided to drop the original idea and focus our efforts on the payment processor.”
This pivot is exactly what startups are all about, experimentation, listening to the market, responding to customers needs and pains and developing the solution for them. Essentially building a product your customers want, not a product that you want.
Another founder I got to speak with about the progress of the startup ecosystem in Lima, Peru was Diego Echecopar from Bocadio a handmade meal delivery service: “I think there is definite progress made over the past 3 or 4 years, I also think that governing organisations can do more to bring the ecosystem together. There needs to be more communication and planning between all the smaller communities.”
Diego came across as a very focused & able founder evident by the fact he’s raised over $500K USD for Bocadio and the well-deserved traction his business is now getting: “We’ve grown from 25 dishes per day to delivering over 200 per day.”
Ministerio de la Producción de Perú
On the main panel Gonzalo Villaran, Director General de Innovacion
del Ministerio de la Producción de Perú said: “In just about 3 years, we have gone from nothing to where we are now. Our rapid growth is because we’ve been late to market, we’re not making the same mistakes as other countries.” And this I think is a valid point and one that makes complete sense, and this quote from Isaac Newton comes to mind “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Gonzalo, also went on to acknowledge that Peruvian startups and the community as a whole are now beginning to gain attention largely due to the success of Cinepapaya, a Peruvian owned startup that serviced 42 million unique monthly visitors and in 2015, generated $7.5 million USD in movie ticket sales, that was bought out by Fandango. Gonzalo tells us: “It takes time to grow a startup community, and we need successes like Cinepapaya to draw attention from outside. We still have a lot of work to do but it’s a very exciting time for startups here right now.”
The future is bright & the future must be about community
There were many great talks & panels throughout both days but a talk by Dave Blakely, Mach49, who rather convincingly illustrated why non-tech corporates should invest in startups, struck a chord in me. He believes that a strong community fosters the startups that are required to disrupt existing markets, referring to AirB&B (Hotel industry) and Uber (Transport industry) that in just a few years have current valuations of $31 and $69 billion USD, respectively.
Speaking with Dave after lunch I asked him what’s the one thing that governments, organisations, and corporations here in Peru should do to accelerate market growth: “Support the development of efficient capital markets… the other elements are already in place, and Lima is showing the characteristics of an emerging and healthy tech hub.” This observation, coming from a partner of Mach49, a Silicon Valley firm that helps the G1000 companies accelerate should not be overlooked!
Somewhere walking between interviews and presentations I ‘bumped into’ Claire Delauney (well if I’m honest, I kind of whisked her away for an impromptu coffee break, merci Claire!) the co-founder of OTTO, a startup of autonomous transport network that was acquired by Uber in 2016 for $680 million USD. “In my research, I have collected a lot of data points and 2017 is a great year for tech, especially in emerging countries.” I asked Claire for her interpretation of a startup investment and she said: “I think it’s very hard for traditional investors to understand what a startup is. In the traditional engineering sense, you would need a large investment just to build a team to get started, but that is not the case anymore. In fact, a startup with just 5 people can be hugely successful and have a worldwide presence.”
To cap off the keynote talks was the inspirational Paul Singh, who is a prolific investor in startups. His company, Results Junkies, has over 500 companies from 35 countries on their portfolio. But above all his achievements, Paul is a fascinating character with a real zest for life that is simply contagious. For example, since the start of 2016 he has been driving across America in a 30-foot Airstream Travel Trailer with his wife and business partner Dana, their 3-year-old daughter and a big dog, clocking up 30,000 miles to date, visiting all the places start-ups begin (and grow) their business. At each stop, they create a week-long series of events for entrepreneurs, investors, and community leaders. Along the way, they mentor thousands of entrepreneurs, visit incubators and co-working spaces, hold investor dinners and dive into the local tech culture. I think this is just simply brilliant.
Speaking with Paul, I asked him what can we do more as a community and he said one of the biggest barriers we need to overcome here in Peru is that of awareness of what’s going on. “People need to see what is happening here in Peru,” Paul said (referring to folks outside this region) “we should be getting daily, weekly emails sharing updates on the news & development here.”
I agree with Paul’s logic here, it’s sound and well grounded: “All it takes is one successful exit from one startup to really establish a startup community almost seemingly overnight.”
You see it? This recurring theme of the importance of building a community — the key takeaway from the conference is clear: all startup stakeholders in Lima today really must promote locally and internationally to shine a light on the developing startup community here.
There have been some amazing insights shared at this event, and my review has only really scratched the surface of everything that went on over these two days. I’ve personally made some great new friends and connections over these past two days, I’ve been blown away by the genuine talent being shown from all the startups and I am encouraged by the conversations that I’ve had.
In conclusion, I think events like Peru Venture Capital Conference are a testament to the positive change happening here in Lima. It’s clear we need to work together, to achieve the end result. One that will benefit the country economically, socially and environmentally. Other countries have done it, so why not Perú?
By supporting each other we can continue building positivity and momentum, we can provide more training and workshops, investor confidence will then increase and new ideas, that have potential to change the world, can become a reality.
After all, a rising tide floats all ships.
Article originally posted on: This Week in Peru / Living in Peru
Here is a list of all the Peruvian startups who presented:
We are a group of professionals with ample experience in financial services and technology. We share a passion for finance and technology and the belief that obtaining a financial service should not be a difficult or tedious process.
CULQI was founded in November of 2013 by two graduates of the University of the Pacific (Lima, Peru). CULQI seeks to simplify payments in Latin America and technologically empower companies, giving them access to tools that allow them to positively impact the results of their business.
qAIRa wants to digitize and democratize air quality information in order to empower everyone to be agents of change in favor of the environment.
Online reservations at the top restaurants in Lima, Peru MESA 24/7 is the easiest and fastest way to book a table online at the best restaurants in Lima and Cusco in Peru.
BOCADIO is the first delivery of haute cuisine for busy people. A different food experience, designed and prepared by our professional Chefs, and are delivered to your door within the hour.
Helping farmers monitor their crops with drone technology. Their drones carry visible cameras, 360 and multi-spectral sensors for a complete analysis of the different variables in the crops.
A home entertainment startup. Karaoke Smart has a catalog with thousands of songs in the best karaoke format, with great audio quality and the ability to adjust the pitch to sing to your style.
Freshmart is a young company born of the current need to consume fresh and healthier products at home without having to go to the market to get them.
A courier and delivery solution for Peru.
Mi Media Manzana
An online dating site for Peruvians.