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Meet the community that seeks to build the next 10 ‘unicorns’ in Latin America

Startup Grind is a community whose focus is to sophisticate the founders in order to build the next 10 largest companies in Latin America by 2030.

It all started 8 years ago

Pablo Lascurain was already a serial entrepreneur, had sold three traditional companies and sought to make a fourth technology base, but it did not work. He looked for an organization where he could talk about the challenges he had faced, but found nothing. All were focused on those who barely had an idea or was their first company; They were not seeing the needs of the founders.

Pablo had found a place in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Mexico. With that concern, an investor in Monterrey introduced Derek Andersen, an American entrepreneur who founded Startup Grind, a community for founders.

It was an impact company (legal figure that is between a non-profit and a regular company) that sets goals or impact and then makes them economically sustainable through business alliances and sponsorships. Today its main sponsor is Google.

Startup Grind organizes monthly events with local founders, innovators, mentors and investors who share knowledge and experiences on the way to building large companies.

In 2012, when Pablo joined the community, it had a presence in three countries and 15 cities. Today, they have 700 chapters in 147 countries. Each chapter organizes between four and 10 events a year. Among the strongest are London, in the United Kingdom; Silicon Valley and New York, in the United States, and Beijing, in China. The latter turned out to be a special case, since it has 50 people working and held 52 events during 2018, in 37 different locations, with more than 79 speakers and 1,200 attendees.

The three premises

The first Startup Grind that Pablo organized was with Jorge González, founder of Sidengo, a company to create websites without having knowledge of programming. The second, with Gustavo Zambrano, co-founder of SeMeAntoja.com, a platform for ordering food at home, which was acquired by Hellofood in 2013, and then created Skydrop, to make shipments.

“We tried to get ahead to identify which startups were going to grow and on what issues they could get stuck,” says Pablo. They discovered that the issue was financing and focused on bringing Monterrey to all venture capital funds. “The venture capital and the founders knew they were needed, but there was not a sufficient level of preparation for them to interact. It was as if a child wants a bicycle, his parents give it to him, but he doesn’t know how to use it”.

Then they started inviting people to help the founders know if they were ready to grow, such as Isaac Saldaña, who is co-founder of Sendgrind, a transactional and marketing email platform, and Bob Dorf, co-creator of the Lean Startup methodology, whose axis is to test an idea before turning it into business. This is how they discovered Jesús Martínez Larralde, founder of SendFlores.com, a logistics service created in Monterrey.

The premises of Startup Grind are: “make friends, not contacts”, “give before receiving” and “help others before helping yourself.” “Establishing this helped us attract the right people,” says Pablo.

Sophisticate the founder

Pablo started in Startup Grind as director of the Monterrey chapter, then was director of Mexico and Latin America and finally became a partner. At the head of this organization seeks to print sophistication in the founders of companies that, in some cases are not clear about basic issues such as: what problem are they solving?

“The sophistication of a founder has to do, more than with university degrees, with being superprepared in your sector so that when you raise money you can scale it and strengthen it with knowledge. If you need 10% knowledge to sell your product, get ready! and manages to have 50%”, he warns.

In 2016, Inadem and Tec de Monterrey were consolidated as institutions that would support nascent companies or people who wanted to start a business. Then, Startup Grind had to focus on the companies that needed to scale. Thus they achieved a good understanding with the investment funds and became a benchmark for data intelligence; They could tell a fund what background a company had, what deal they had closed with other companies and who was the talent they were hiring.

Pablo identified that entrepreneurs loved to plan, but “they were very uncomfortable to execute,” so they had to take away all the excuses by putting them in contact with executives, investment funds, clients and even collaborators. “We don’t take you by the hand anywhere; I open any door. And that became the heart of our organization, ”he says.

Startup Grind knows that an ecosystem does not explode because of the increase in the number of entrepreneurs, but that there is a need for technology companies, as in Israel, Silicon Valley, Utah and Texas, where technology companies became public and, in turn, Its employees – with a lot of knowledge – began to create startups.

“Our goal is to sophisticate founders to create the next 10 largest technology companies in the world and Latin America by 2030. If we manage to make a company public, we have 200 startups around it”, Pablo explains the strategy.

It is a rather ambitious goal and they intend to achieve not by taking the role of educators, but by making curiosity and internal questioning popular. “We can help you discover the process, but the founders must do things for themselves”, he emphasizes.

Give without thinking of receiving

In November 2018, the US investment fund Sequoia Capital invested in the Mexican startup Rever, founded by Errette Dunn, an online platform that allows manufacturing companies to involve employees in the execution of continuous improvement processes. This fund has invested in 650 companies in the United States, China, India and Israel, including Apple, WhatsApp, PayPal and Alibaba.

For Pablo, this is a sign that in Mexico there are entrepreneurs with a great depth of knowledge. This leads to projects with greater impact because they have a high level of sophistication and “they don’t run out of track to grow”, he says.

The impact company was born to educate a million entrepreneurs, a goal they achieved in 2016. Now they have planned to impact 4 million entrepreneurs, holding four global conferences: Mexico, in Latin America; Australia, in Asia-Pacific; London and Barcelona, in Europe.

“Our community model puts its members at the center. We do not sell consulting or services; We are here to follow the guidelines of our community and evolve all the time”, he says.

Pablo says that in Mexico there is a good attitude towards building community. The challenge is to change the perspective of always seeing what you earn and what you get. “I have learned that if you help others, they will look for ways to do something for you”.


Also published on Medium.

Published inStartups

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