The Heroes of the Argentinian Investment & Startup Scene
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Marta Cruz is the Co-Founder & Director of NXTP Labs, an Latinamerica-based acceleration program with an early-stage fund, focusing on Spanish-speaking technology startups that are pursuing global or regional opportunities. NXTP provides seed funding, consulting services, hands-on advice, training and, access to a network of mentors across Latin America, the US and Europe.
Marta is also Co-Founder of digital agency Nextperience, where she currently serves as a Director.
Prior to these two ventures, Marta worked for more than 8 years at MRM Worldwide, the McCann Worldgroup digital agency, as Latam Regional Director, managing accounts likes of HP, Intel, Coca-Cola, GM, Hilton Hotel, Nortel and MasterCard
Marta’s introduction to entrepreneurialism began in 1979, when she founded with her husband, Ponchiarello, a men's clothing factory, focusing on the wholesale and retail business. Their decision to start manufacturing and selling uniforms for companies led them to develop their business on a large scale.
Marta has a BA degree from Buenos Aires University- and a postgraduate specialization in management from IAE, Austral University. She is also professor at San Andres University (BA) and ADEN Business School.
We spoke to Marta about the exciting companies funded by NXTP Labs; the challenges of being a female entrepreneur in LATAM; and the female hero she considers the "mother of female entrepreneurship in Argentina".
TNW: Give us three examples, at least one female founded, of exciting LATAM companies which have received funding from NXTP Labs. Which NXTP-funded company makes you most proud and why?
MC: This is a difficult question to answer. We firmly believe that each of the 73 startups that are part of the NXTP Labs portfolio are top line. However, in order to answer the question, it is interesting to draw attention to the progress made by the following companies:
The Social Radio - It's the platform that converts social media timelines, especially Twitter, to audio and makes it accessible from any device (for instance, iPhone, Android and Web). The user can listen to his Twitter timeline, Facebook newsfeed, lists, trending topics, fun hashtags and searches.
Robert Gluck, its CEO, was chosen as one of the major young innovators under 35 in Argentina by the MIT TR35 contest. His co-founder is Alejandra Negrete, who is the CTO of the company and is one of those cases that women entrepreneurs in Latin America should use as a reference, her having a 100% technological background. The entrepreneurial team is completed by Demian Renzulli who is the cofounder and the software engineer of the platform.
They are currently in the United States and are part of Venture Hive. Additionally, they won the Yammer hackathon in SF, and are now in integrating fully with Yammer which will bring them exposure to five million users.
WeHostels – Led by Diego Saez Gil, it is a mobile booking tool for travelers on a budget. The application allows travelers to book last minute hostels and cheap hotels worldwide. Furthermore, users can discover and connect with other like-minded travelers to share tips and plan activities.
Ideame – It is the company that is fostering and leading crowdfunding in Latin America. It was a part of the first generation of companies that joined Nxtp Labs. And aside from having acquired its Brazilian counterpart Movere, it has already raised over a million dollars in contributions.
The founding team consists of Mariano Suárez Battán, who already founded and sold his company, ThreeMelons, and sister Lucila Suárez Battán, who left her job to focus 100% on Ideame. It is a story of how, as women, we can reinvent ourselves professionally and also successfully do what we love.
TheOtherGuys - It's a gaming company meant for the post-PC era. Led by Pablo Mayer, it features a top team. He was formerly involved in ThreeMelons, one of the major success stories of the local ecosystem. The company was sold to Playdom, which was later acquired by Disney.
EveryPost – A complete solution for publishing and storing multimedia content on multiple platforms. This project created by the Argentine Fernando Cuscuela and Leandro Armas offers a new posting experience intended to simplify the process of publishing in multiple social platforms. Currently, they are part of the Venture Hive program in the US.
Workana – Founded by Thomas O'Farrell, Workana, grows quickly and solidly. Their mission is to connect freelancing professionals with prospective employers anywhere in the world. This is a huge market potential especially in areas such as design, content, translation and programming. They have raised USD 500 K and most importantly there are over 2500 users that validate the product.
TNW: Roughly what percentage of entrepreneurs applying for funding with NXTP Labs are female? And what percentage of companies which receive funding from NXTP Labs are female-founded?
Approximately 30 percent of the teams that apply to the accelerator have a woman in their founding team.
Out of the selected teams we can say that 10 percent have a woman as co-founder of the startup.
TNW: What is the most common piece of advice which you give to early stage entrepreneurs?
MC: Every idea, product and business plan are successful when the entrepreneur knows how to focus and be consistent with the plans designed and executed.
Do something you really like and take pleasure in, because that’s the only way to enjoy the entrepreneurial process.
TNW: Do female entrepreneurs in LATAM face the same challenges as their counterparts all over the world? Or are there specific obstacles to overcome in this region?
MC: In general, they do. Anyway, it’s a fact in the region that women entrepreneurs have less access to capital. Among the factors that influence this, there is the low participation of women as angel investors. The female presence is necessary, then, in the entire ecosystem in a distributed manner.
Women entrepreneurs who have an idea that they can transform into a product and women who have the capital and know how to invest in those products and ideas. It’s a virtuous circle.
TNW: Specifically with regard to Argentina, is it a good time to be a female tech entrepreneur? Why/why not?
MC: Argentina is a lucky country in the sense that it produces a vast amount of talent, as well as entrepreneurs, both male and female. As I'm interested in projects with a regional scope, I don’t think about this being or not being the right time for Argentina, but that our country is a good place as a test market.
TNW: Please give us three examples of Argentinian female business heroes who you admire (executives, entrepreneurs or investors).
MC: Three Argentine women I consider to be role models, are:
Susana Garcia Robles, who is a true leader and what is called an "intrapreneur" within the MIF (Multilateral Investment Fund) at the Inter-American Development Bank. She has become a world citizen and consistently supports the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem in a culturally male organism such as MIF.
Another indisputable referent is Silvia Torres Carbonell, lifelong Entrepreneur and Director of the Entrepreneurship Center at IAE Business School.
Undeniably, she is one of the leaders of the local ecosystem whether or not gender is involved. In fact, she is the mother of female entrepreneurship in Argentina.
When I think of the ability of turning a problem into an opportunity, as regards resilience, I think of Inés Berton, founder of Tealosophy, who has not only created a wonderful product, but also inspires people with her brand .
TNW: What startup trends are you observing in Buenos Aires at the moment? What kinds of tech startups are flourishing there at the moment?
We look for digital platforms that solve real problems that impact on people's lives, improving them.
We know that through these kinds of solutions there will begin to emerge businesses that will solve problems of our "offline life".
TNW: You are a professor at San Andres Business School and ADEN Business School. Do your observations there leave you feeling positive about the future of entrepreneurship in Argentina? Generally speaking, how do the female students view entrepreneurship as a possible path after their studies?
MC: The topic of entrepreneurship in Argentine universities is just being incorporated into the curriculum.
There are still vestiges of the pervasive culture that states that the best thing that can happen to a professional after leaving college is to enter the corporate market.
Not only should we teach or include topics related to entrepreneurship, but also issues related to ways of investing so that professionals can become angel investors.
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