August 9, 2022

#104 – How to balance change and control to scale: Maite Muniz, Truora

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When it comes to communicating in Latin America, WhatsApp is king: people use it every day, all the time. But how many times did you sign a contract or had your ID checked via WhatsApp? That's a US$ 3.5 billion potential addressable market according to Truora, a Colombian startup that offers businesses tailored digital authentication solutions like background checks and identity validation.

Back in April, that sort of pitch got it US$ 15 million in a Series A round led by Propel Ventures and Accel on a ​​US$ 75 million valuation. And full disclosure here: I have also invested in it, along with many other founders who see potential in the idea.

Truora was founded in 2018 and it's now active in 9 LatAm countries. One of its founders is Maite Muniz, who wears many hats and is responsible for managing product strategy, research & development, and customer relationships. She's been an entrepreneur for pretty much her entire professional life and has learned on the job how to deal with some of Latin America's most challenging issues.

Today Maite and I talk about:

  • How Truora mapped growth opportunities in Latin America
  • The challenges involved in scaling authentication solutions
  • How to work intentionally to level the playing field for women in tech


Brian Requarth

Maite, thank you for coming on the podcast. It's great to have you on.

Maite Muniz

Thanks, Brian! It's great to be here.

Brian Requarth

Kind of setting the stage here for everybody: Truora began by offering this background check solution for companies in Latin America. And you're the one that was owning the product strategy, right?

Maite Muniz

Right, yeah. So, I think we began around four years ago and it was fully background checks by then. Now, it's just a little bit more complicated.

Brian Requarth

Yeah, that's how it usually happens, right? I actually tweeted last night that no business ever starts out and then their first plan ends up being the entire execution of the business. Why don't you walk us through the first 100 days of the build, and where did you start?

Maite Muniz

Sure. It's definitely grown and changed a lot since then. But I think our main focus on the first 100 days was that there was an issue in Latin American companies at the time, especially if you're thinking about marketplaces, the gig economy, and so on. They were growing faster than government services could help them through, especially when you're thinking of hiring a bunch of people and personnel.

So we started getting a lot into this topic, or into the problem of "how do we help these companies hire their couriers or their riders faster?" That's how the background check strategy began.

Our main objective since day one was that we'll build initially for Colombia, but it needs to be scalable and faster for other countries. So, our second country was Mexico. As Mexicans, it just sort of made sense. And Mexico's the biggest Spanish-speaking market in LatAm, so it made sense that way as well.

On our 100 days of product build, we had two main customers and we were building exclusively for them. So, we were listening to their issues, talking to them, and whatever they needed or required, we would go, research, do, and launch an MVP. I definitely remember this whole idea of "the product that I'm showing you today is going to be the worst one you're ever gonna see". It's just that mentality that we have to launch fast, and faster each time. We had to be enemies of perfection in that way. Just keep launching and iterating as we're going, with actual user feedback, in order to improve.

Our roadmap was initially Colombia mostly. Their government services, regarding criminal and legal records, are easier. So it was just an easier product build. And then we tumbled into Mexico. And it's just more complicated because legislation here is made up by each state. We had to have criminal and legal records per state. Everything was just way more complicated in that way. 

It helped us definitely on our tech architecture to build everything with a really complicated country from the get-go, which I think we later appreciated.

But at the beginning, we had two teams and they were struggling with the huge differences between one country and the other. And it was definitely an API-first product. We had a front-end because we wanted to use it for sales -- for demos, for showing to clients. But every key functionality was API because we were going towards big marketplaces.

Brian Requarth

For the benefit of the audience, let's just double click on exactly the specific problem that Truora solves. I wanna build from there.

Maite Muniz

Sure. So, what we help companies do is hire people or get users faster. The problem we're solving for them was "I need to hire a driver for my driving company, and I wanna make sure that they are not criminals, I wanna make sure that they haven't committed any big crimes in the past". And you'd be surprised, but, like... Things going from murderers and being involved in a heist or a robbery to more normal situations, such as the "I have a traffic ticket, I shouldn't be the one driving people around Mexico City" sort of thing.

So, that's why we had to get a lot into government databases. Because we needed this data. It's just "pass [it to] me here, that's publicly available". And the reason our product was captured and needed was that we did this in under two or three minutes, depending on the country, for every single user. So we sped up processes that used to take days, and that some people had to go in person to do. And we started doing it with tech.

Brian Requarth

Got it. You mentioned that it's more complicated in Mexico, would you say that it's complicated good because it's harder to build and then you have defensibility or complicated bad because it's hard to get a product out the door?

Maite Muniz

In this case, I would say complicated bad. We first thought it was complicated good, but in retrospect, it's complicated bad. Because at first, we thought: "we'll tackle it with great tech". And we did have amazing engineers, we had a great tech on it. But at the end of the day, there were some struggles that are always going to be there.

If you're thinking about any type of database, we had a database that was so dirty that we weren't able to clean it, because we had received so many inputs. Even if you add dubious AI on it, the best tag automations, if you're never able to get that data as clean as you need to, you're never going to be able to write a product that brings as much volume as you want in the other countries.

Today, years later, we do have a great product for background checks in Mexico. But I can see the difference in the value add that Colombian, Chilean, or Brazilian background checks bring to the customers, so to the companies, versus the Mexican ones. It's something any other background check company struggles with.

I think that's honestly why we started sort of diverging from only doing background checks. We kept seeing complicated countries where it was something that, even with good relationships with governments and with good tech, was sort of not in our hands to fix. So that became a little bit of a break there.

Brian Requarth

Yeah, as we say, garbage in, garbage out, right?

Maite Muniz


Brian Requarth

And speaking of expanded roadmaps, prioritizing a product roadmap is super challenging. I guess that, historically, in my last company, I was so narrow in my focus with Viva Real. And now you can look at Latitud, and it's this weird mix of a bunch of different things. Someone might say that we are unfocused in some respects, even though we have a master plan. So, how do you balance challenging what's next when you have so many good ideas as an entrepreneur?

Maite Muniz

I love the expression "master plan". I think it's definitely that, and I definitely empathize. It was super challenging when we started growing, and to bring some context to our prioritization issues, we were expanding in countries. So, which country was more important to build next? We had Chile, Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina, Costa Rica... All these other Latin American countries. That was growing our same product, so background checks, across many countries.

But then we wanted a more robust solution to the problem, that expanded not only to employees but also to users. "Who do I give a credit card to?" sort of thing. And that's when prioritization got super tricky. Our master plan as a company went from "every six months evaluated" to "what's the market size towards our solution or other, the TAM, the total addressable market?"

And this became really a north star at some point because we realized that, for example, background checks did not bring as much potential revenue in the future as we thought. The TAM was smaller than we needed to. So we had to be thinking of other verticals of products to build and explore. 

The way we were able to make a more structured product roadmap: we had to do different squads for different products. And no matter what pressure one team was having versus the other, we would not switch resources unless it was sort of a high-end product/CPO decision.

The way to think about this was that I had a team that was focusing on background checks for Mexico, Colombia, and the other countries, I would say. And there was a team that on focusing on building the new product. 

There's always going to be a lot of tension from the ones that are growing the product that is currently bringing revenue, so background checks. But if I'm never focusing a team, or a roadmap, or a product manager on the next product or the next idea, they're never going to be built, they're never going to be a priority. 

We sort of had to divide and conquer, and it was so much fun. It's still fun to date because we now have so many products and so many PMs. But it's honestly building sort of building a Tetris and trying to figure out which one should get the most value out and from what. I think that any product manager out there with a lot of products can empathize with this. 

There are multiple techniques, but it definitely comes down to what is gonna bring the company the most revenue in the long-term and then in the short-term. Sometimes, depending if you're raising a round or thinking about winning one big customer, you prioritize for the short-term. But you always need to have someone thinking about prioritizing for the next five years, in order to build a sustainable company.

Brian Requarth

That's great. Just sharing one quick framework that I used in my last company, in terms of geographic expansion. We had a 2x2 simple McKinsey matrix, of the size of the market, competitive landscape... And then we'd plot, in our case, cities like São Paulo, Rio, Belo Horizonte, Salvador... We'd group the ones where we saw the biggest opportunities, where there were less competitive dynamics. That's how we thought about it.

And I wanted to piggyback your statement on new products, maturing products versus testing new things. At what point in the company do you make that shift where you, as the founder and someone spearheading products, are really just driving the roadmap or you're letting the team bubble up and decide where the focus is going to be? How is that done today, and how do you think that's maybe different from the first, let's call it, six months?

Maite Muniz

Oof, this is great. So, yeah, first of all: prioritization matrices, I love them. McKinsey's is cool. I've already used many of them. But thinking about how you let the team decide... I was the only product manager, so I was leading the product alone for the first eight to nine months. When we grew engineering a ton and I was the only one doing product, there was definitely a mistake on our part of not hiring faster, honestly. 

But at first, it was really simple. There was one PM and six engineering teams, and I was also a founder. So I could have this huge upside on talking to the big customers and directly affecting the roadmap. It was just super simple. 

Scaling that, to have more team members, was super hard. When you're scaling to having multiple people make decisions, you do need to have a system of "you make decisions up to what point? Up to what objective?" So what we do now is that there are more senior PMs, let's call them. And what they do is that they're able to define their roadmap up to a certain objective we want to reach as a company. This objective is defined by founders and by senior teams, and we do a whole brainstorming to bring a lot of people into it. And then the PM decides how he and his team are going to get there. And this brings him a ton of liberty on the roadmap, whether it's a feature, a bug, or a new country. They are able to define this based on "Am I hitting a metric?", "Does this metric make sense to the founders?"

And the reason why we wanted to give this, like, flexibility was when you work on a B2B business such as us, there are certain customers that will definitely impact the roadmap a lot. And you can't ignore them. It doesn't matter how big your company is: if one of the biggest banks in the region wants you to do something really specific for them in order to use your product, you're gonna say yes. You just have to, especially if you're trying to open more of the market in that country. So we have to give our PMs the flexibility of choosing when a customer can impact and change the roadmap, or when maybe a risk of churn or a new market opportunity arises. 

What we do is that every month, all the PMs sit down. We define roadmaps, and we review roadmaps more than anything again. And then every 15 days, we only do it with the product leads. So we plan to iterate and change. We have the perfect plan, the perfect roadmap, the perfect idea, and the perfect strategy. And we change them constantly. I think we're still at that point that we're young enough that we don't want to be tied down by the decisions we made a month ago, that may not be true with today's market.

But we do have some controls in place so that we're not changing every single day. We try to balance that. And there's a roadmap owner as a whole. So if you really want to change something really big, that owner that has the context of the main clients, the main issues, and all of the roadmaps, has to be the one that gives the ok, the go-ahead. That has mostly worked for everything that we do that's core and managing. We do have an outside team that does experimentation and growth for other things. But for the product, there has to be a head that knows all of the roadmaps together.

Brian Requarth

How do you balance the demands of a large corporate customer that maybe is going to write you a fat check, versus [creating] a scalable solution that serves a huge swathe of potential customers?

Maite Muniz

Oof. I think that has always been our biggest struggle. Every B2B PMs that I've talked to are mostly in the same boat. We try not to build so specifically that we become a software factory. I remember from day one: that's the worst thing that could happen to us it's not dying as a company, it's becoming a software factory. That has always been the mindset.

So you also have to have great negotiators in front of customers, to be able to really, really understand their issues and their problems before agreeing on a solution. So for us, our product managers negotiate a lot with the customer. They don't say yes to everything. Any sort of special thing on a contract, product [leadership] has to approve, and it's especially because of this. If we let our sales team and even all of the PMs run along free, they would say yes without coming across the consequence that we'd have to build that.

So what we do now is that if we really find something that we have to do to a specific customer that's really big, so that represents a big ticket, before we build the solution, we try to agree on the solution with them in a way that it can work for other customers as well. We're super strict that we're not going to build anything that serves exclusively for a client. If you want me to build a connection to your internal databases, so that you can connect our KYCs [Know Your Customers] solutions with more specific data that you have in your databases, we'll do that. But we'll do that in a way that we can connect any external API to our solution so all the customers can sort of benefit from this feature. 

It's really hard because then you're building really big things. But it also brings us to really, really see down with the clients. Talk through the problem, show them the solution and the plan, have their input, have them be a part of it, and they have to be willing to test that with us as well.

Honestly, it's the hardest thing we have to do. And when you have to say no to a really big customer, we know what's on the line. And we do say no a lot. It's just a part of it. And trying to not make as many mistakes as you can on those decisions would be a big part.

Brian Requarth

Yeah, probably easier once you've hit some escape velocity, and you have a repeatable product and a more diversified customer base. In the beginning, when you're in survival mode and you're just in the early days, you need to get that revenue in the door, you've got the pressure of growth, and all those things. That's when you can succumb to some of those high pressures, but you don't want the tail wagging the dog.

Maite Muniz

Totally, oof. I remember the initial days. I would say in the first nine months, especially since we were opening in new countries, every new customer per country… You know, whatever they said we'd do. I mean, we needed them. They were opening a country for us, it was that important. 

And to some of those customers today, so three years later, we're not saying yes to everything. And it's been a huge change of mentality and mindset for both them and our team as well. Like, our team cannot believe that we're now saying no to some crazy requests because they were so used to us saying yes to those customers. You actually mature on some of your decisions, and it goes both ways. The customers have to understand where they are standing on your roadmap. And you, as a company, have to decide which customers you're going to say yes to on everything and which ones you're going to have to be way more strict on your decision-making.

Brian Requarth

Now, these types of solutions you're building demand an enormous amount of data, right? From all these different sources, as you said. Some higher quality data sources, some lower quality. But all this data has to be processed, and it has to be processed very fast and very precisely. What role does data have, and how do you scale it? What are the challenges that come with that? How is data discussed and managed inside Truora?

Maite Muniz

Data is our bread and butter, literally. I would say that if you'd describe Truora in a really, really simple way, we give you insights on data that you should be able to get your result. You're not because, one, it's hard to gather and hard to clean. The other thing that's important about the data we have is that it's personal, identifiable data. It's regulated by so many data government regulations worldwide. We have to comply with GDPR and ICE regulations, we're definitely handling users' most personal data. We handle their identity, their past, pictures of their ID, so... Anything that you can think of on any bad news situation about data, we have it.

More than how great or not is our data, we have to be super, super careful on how we store this data, handle, encrypt, and make sure it's not crossed between users, entities, and so on. That has a huge role in what we're playing with. Actually, one of our biggest advantages was that, since the beginning, we knew this was an issue. So all of our systems are built in a way that's encrypted per customer, we pass all the banking regulations, and so on. This is important because then you're able to work and operate with them.

When you think about data, there are two sides. First, how we get the data. We get a lot of the data from the end user, whether it's through our web app, WhatsApp, or an API. We get the user data, we process it, we save it, and we have to be able to delete it. We're only processing things so the end user can have them. So our customers -- the bank, the fintech, the marketplace --, they're the ones that own the data.

It's a huge issue... What I would say is that we've learned a lot along the way. You have to have identifiers per user in our case. So I'm identifying Maite because of her national ID, which in Mexico it's called the CURP; or I'm identifying her because of her cellphone so that I can match everything that she's done; I might identify her based on her name. So, we now have different identifiers that help us connect users, and we're able to cross-reference multiple sources.

To give you a high-level example, for a KYC onboarding use case. Maite's opening a bank account in one of the fintechs that Truora works with. I get from Maite her national ID pictures, her liveness authentication, and her national ID number so that I can cross-reference her in financial databases. I check her background, I check that she's not on any international blacklists. So I'm building a huge profile on Maite, that I send to the fintech.

All of this has to be perfectly stored, really easy to look up, and interconnected. That's what we help our customers do. We, obviously, authenticate along the way that Maite's not a criminal and that's she giving you all of her actual IDs. But, at the same time, we're helping you store this data in your system so that, as a fintech, you can lend her better credit and so on.

Same-day is an issue, connecting data is an issue. There are countries that are really, really complicated. And there are others that are more simple. At the end of the day, they want to have their data as the end user, so we have to become experts by necessity rather than by design at the beginning. I'm talking to this user to get their initial data. So, yeah.

Brian Requarth

You mentioned WhatsApp at some point. And as a small anecdote... So, just for full disclosure here, I'm an investor in Truora, and I got a message the other day. It was like a chatbot, and it was the investor update. It was like "would you like to know this information?" and I entered a few responses. And it would prompt me, then share the information on WhatsApp. I thought it was a really innovative way to share. I get all these email updates, which have been sitting in my inbox and I can't get through all of them since I'm an investor in a lot of companies. So I thought it was innovative.

I know that your product is evolving with a heavy focus on, from what I understand, WhatsApp -- it's a huge part core part of your focus now, in terms of identity and everything else that you're doing in your business. And we all know -- if you're listening to this and have any sense of Latin America, you know that's a hugely used medium. But it's really thought of more as a communication tool, not for authentication. 

So, what's the potential here, and how is it overlooked by other startups in Latin America? Where are the opportunities to use WhatsApp beyond just, like, staying up on what's going on?

Maite Muniz

Oof. So, yeah, the investor update was really fun. But it's definitely that, the upside that startups are missing, or companies as a whole. We all have a full inbox. We all ignore SMS. But we still read and acquire information all day long, usually from social media. Whether your social media is LinkedIn or Instagram, it really doesn't matter. But the one we all use the most in Latin America is WhatsApp. 

And we don't think of it as a social media of sorts, because it's communicative. You have to reach out back. You talk to your friends, you talk to your grandma, you talk to everyone there. That's the piece that Latin America is starting to change over to, not just startups but banks and everyone else. Because the users are in that channel. 

The reason we launched our authentication and communication services on WhatsApp was that, as I mentioned, we were becoming experts in understanding the user. And we realized that I don't want to download an app that may give a financial credit after they ask me a ton of questions and they do a KYC, and then they may say "Hey, Maite, now you have a pre-approved credit of..." Whatever amount.

But I would be willing to talk to someone and send them a few pieces of information on WhatsApp. It would be like a normal conversation. They would pre-approve it, and then I would download their application, their app, whatever they were doing. So it became a way of connecting faster with users and getting a better response rate. And that's the piece businesses are missing.

Your objective as a business is not to have downloads of your app or messages to your app. It's to have an active rate [of use] of your service. If your service is financial credit, then it's to grant credits, get them paid at the right amount of time, and so on. It's not [to measure] how many people open your app every single day. That's the gap we saw in the industry that we could really, really help companies benefit from. 

And since we're based on LatAm mostly... Even if our solution of WhatsApp conversations was worldwide, we're focusing on LatAm because most of the users are LatAm. All of them have WhatsApp. Not everybody has access to the best data on their phone or has space on their phone for all of their applications. 

We see this as a way of "how can we bring tech to everyone? How can we make sure that these awesome delivery services that we have, these new financial ways of saving money and investing, can be reached by the base of the pyramid in Mexico, Colombia, or Brazil?" It's not that they don't have internet or data on their phone. It's that WhatsApp brings them free data, they don't require downloading anything else. It was finding that niche of people that wanted to talk to someone through WhatsApp, through a bot to get access to a service that couldn't before. And that's when it exploded.

This service of authenticating people through WhatsApp, we've tested with the clients we have in multiple industries. If they're trying to reach the base or the middle of the pyramid in Mexico, you're able to reach them. But if you want to reach someone like an investor, that's usually at the top end of the pyramid or whatever, they answer back as well. Because we're so busy with every other communication channel that if I get a notification on WhatsApp, I'm gonna pay attention. 

That's the mentality, the mindset switch we want to do with our customers and with the users. The users are already there. We get a 40% better response rate on WhatsApp than on any other channel that we reach users with. The businesses are seeing that now and they're doing not the migration, but opening up to this new possibility of contacting and reaching leads, customers, and users.

Brian Requarth

Yeah, on WhatsApp either I respond in 10 minutes or it's in like, two weeks.

Maite Muniz

Yeah, or it lasts forever. But then I can send you a message two hours later of "hey, don't forget."

Brian Requarth

Yeah, I know. I got a question on WhatsApp for you, quick poll here: on WhatsApp, audio message, good or bad? They're kind of like cilantro, either you hate it or you love it.

Maite Muniz

So, I love them, but businesses hate them. Even if there are many new technologies for authenticating voice, or pulling data from it, for businesses it gets really hard to process. We actually spoke to the WhatsApp team, to the Meta team. They're improving the insights, as in getting voice notes as a service, but it's not there yet. So businesses hate them. As a user, I love them, but businesses hate them today.

Brian Requarth

Yeah. Even as a user, some people don't like them because they feel it's rude to send an audio. But obviously, I love communication, I have a podcast, so... And I think that capturing tone and flexion in your voice is very important. I've seen so many misunderstandings...

Maite Muniz

Oh yeah. On text, I agree. Yeah, I think once the technology gets up there on getting the data out of the voice, it's gonna make communication so simpler. But I think today, it just becomes a sort of "lost in translation". Somebody has to listen to it today in order to get information. And when you're thinking of analyzing all your user's conversations, tech makes it become simpler.

Brian Requarth

Totally. I know that female representation is a big topic for you, and a lot of decisions in Truora take that into consideration. Can you share in which ways, and the impact that this had on your company so far?

Maite Muniz

Sure. So, it's definitely been an objective for us to bring more females into tech. At first, we only focused on engineers. So, we wanted software engineers that were female. This has always been a challenge. From there, we realized that being a female in tech doesn't mean being a software engineer in tech. You can be a program manager, you can be a recruiter, or you can work for sales in tech.

The reason we want to push more females into the industry is that we definitely see the upside on this, right? We have a diverse customer base, we need a diverse team as well. Truora has a really big mission of granting opportunities to people in general. We started hiring students at the beginning. And now, through the same mindset of opportunity, we want to bring women the opportunity to have a better career. One that is the fastest growing in terms of payments or salaries in the world. We don't wanna feed the disparity that's happening. That's what we're really focused on.

If I can teach a really cracked female, whatever her background, towards being a PM, towards working in tech, towards being a designer in tech, she's gonna have a future. Just because she has access to an industry that pays better salaries. So that's something we're really working on. It means that, when we hire, we at least ask the hiring manager to interview the same amount of male and female candidates. Anything else doesn't matter: hire the best one. But make sure to find both genders when you interview. Those types of things become really, really important. 

And we've created a culture that's really cool at Truora, that they are not affected by having females in the leadership. We have tons of female leaders, and I think it's just really fun. But it's always based on the work that you did. So it's meritocratic. It's not like "oh, you know, we hired you for this role just because you're a female". We don't like operating in that way.

Brian Requarth

Yeah, I think having women in the leadership is really important. I'm lucky to have cofounder Gina. And there are many times when the women that we attract to the company are just inspired by her, right? They aspire to be like her and are inspired by her career and how she's developed. It's good to have an example of someone else that maybe has a similar background to you, or looks like you. That's something that I think provides an advantage ultimately for companies because you appeal to a wider audience and you have a richness of perspective. We advocate for that also at Latitud.

I wanna shift gears here. You raised this US$ 15M series A round. I wanna talk a little bit about the funding, what it unlocks, and what's top of mind for you right now. And then I have a specific question about: how do you budget as a startup? You've got US$ 15M. I've been part of large companies, my last company became a larger company, and you had strict budgeting cycles. But given that things are very unpredictable at the earlier stages of a company, and that things change so fast... 

Two-part question: plans with capital, what does this unlock for you? And how do you go about managing that capital, making sure that you get the best bang for your buck, and that you manage your cash in a way that gets you to the next stage of growth?

Maite Muniz

Both are great questions, the second one's tougher. The first one's a little bit easier. So, the reason we raised a round was that we were starting to see a lot of traction with WhatsApp onboarding, but we wanted to definitely be leaders in two markets. One was Mexico, and the second one was Brazil. 

We started focusing first on Mexico. And the only reason for this is that our product is built in Spanish. We do have everything in Portuguese, but it's not the same. I'm Mexican, so this is like a personal challenge. We definitely wanna grow Truora in Mexico with our WhatsApp onboarding solution, and it's what we're doing. And we need a bigger market. Even if we're big in other countries, we will not be able to reach our targets of growth for the next year and the year after that if we're not in a really big market. That's Mexico and Brazil, for sure.

In deciding how we spend our money and how we manage the money in the bank, we have a great culture at Truora, to our great deterrence sometimes, that is, we're always operating as if we don't have money. Honestly, like, we still have this mentality of the first days, four years ago, as a startup when we had no cash in the bank. We were super scrappy and super thoughtful of every dollar spent. 

I love that this mentality moves forward. Because then, the team actually focuses on that a lot. When we're defining a new product and solution, or migrating a database, the cost of maintaining the database or the cost of the service that we're gonna integrate it's definitely part of the conversation, and it's a huge part of the conversation. 

We're always focused on margins, versus other startups that at the beginning are not as focused on that. We've always been super focused on that. On that end, we don't have to train anyone in that mindset, which is awesome. But then we do have to spend the money, so how do we do it?

We focus on burn a lot, so we review burn every month. And we are trying to optimize the money we're spending most efficiently. We're currently learning how to do more marketing and awareness stuff, to get more customers. And this is something you have to learn on the go.

So today, something we don't spend the money as efficiently as we could on is our new crazy ideas, growth, and marketing, that's for sure. But we try to keep ourselves honest about tracking the money we've spent. If this month I put US$ 30 on Google Ads and the return was negative, please don't put US$ 50 next month, right? Bring that down, iterate with less cash, and then put more cash on it.

It's hard when you're in a growth stage, that we really wanna be at, to use the money to grow faster and more efficiently, but don't waste the money. And control of money happens really through the expense of the CEO, so we have to get the approval, that's a way of centralizing it, and through the CFO, so he has to approve any crazy idea we have as well.

We're really working towards having a better cash optimization system. But for now, we're in that sweet spot where we have it, we can use it, but we're so picky with it. At least, with an understanding of what we got out of it. Managers have the decision-making piece there, and they're usually coupled with a founder to sort of get it through and approved, I'd say. If it has anything to do with the growth strategy for Mexico or Brazil, it's easier to get approved versus if it has anything to do with expanding in Colombia, where we're already market leaders. We would not invest as much in that country. We're working towards the other end.

Brian Requarth

I have one more question that just came to mind. How do you motivate the teams when some product teams are working on something that's like the shiny new object, versus the good trusty one that pays the bills?

Maite Muniz

Super hard. So, our good trusty product that pays the bills is still background checks, to date. We spent two years building it, so it's by far the coolest product. And we have our best senior engineer on that product. He's honestly awesome. I'd love to steal him for any other product, but checks are his baby. Like, he's right there.

Motivating those teams is really hard because you're not upgrading the product anymore. You're maintaining the product at the best of its standard, it doesn't require any additional features. So, it's not a "creative toward growth" mindset, it's a "creative toward optimization" mindset. How can I maintain this awesome product with fewer bugs, with less maintenance, with better filters for homonyms and international searches, or whatever? 

I think a lot has to do with communication. So we have a weekly All-Hands, where we really try to bring down to the team how important it is to keep this going. But we definitely struggle with this because most of the new customers are focusing on the other solutions. So, when we're trying to win a customer, everybody is talking about that [for the] customer, right? "Oh, we had a bug for x customer, we're trying to fix it, we're trying to build for them, we're trying to work for them". It just becomes a really intense startup mindset of getting something out there. That's really hard to replicate with a product that's stable and that's paying the bills.

We try to have honest conversations with them and try to rotate the team as well. And we actually had a premium, I think, at some point, we paid a premium on maintenance, I think. I'm not super sure. It really helps that our best engineer is working on that team. So if you wanna learn a lot and work with him, you're working on that team. But it's hard, for sure.

Brian Requarth

I guess that's a good incentive, right? If you have someone who's a really senior engineer there. Because I mean, young engineers, that have less experience, they want to be paired with people that are inspiring, that have built amazing things, and that are really knowledgeable. That's one way to attract people to that product, and ensure that people stick around to develop their skills.

Maite Muniz

Yeah, that's the way I see it, and I think that's the way we see it. Honestly, always putting the best team we need for that specific problem. We try to balance it.

Brian Requarth

And is Brazil part of the game plan, are you currently active there? Or is that something on the road map?

Maite Muniz

So, we are active in Brazil, but we're not intensively trying to expand there. Our biggest product in Brazil today is our electronic signature, and it's run under the ZapSign team. They were an acquisition we did last year and they're amazing. They're based mostly in Brazil and they target a smaller base. A "really small SME" target. To grow toward bigger enterprises, we're holding on to that plan while we grow on bigger enterprises in Mexico first.

I think we have not duplicated many things yet, so our big enterprises' focus is on Mexico, and our small enterprise's focus is on Brazil. We hope to pass on learnings from one to the other eventually.

Brian Requarth

Well, shameless plug for the Vamos Latam Summit, that's going to happen in São Paulo on September 21st.

Maite Muniz

Oh yes, everybody's talking about that, I've heard something! I've gone to a ton of founder dinners, and I'm like, "I'm going to São Paulo!" So yeah.

Brian Requarth

Yeah, so, it's going to be a great one and we're happy to host you out there as well if that makes sense to you. Before too long, we can definitely partner on the Mexico one, which will be in Q1 of the next year. We'll be having the Vamos Latam Summit, Ciudad de México version. 

So yeah, congrats on the business. Glad to have you on now. Daniel [Bilbao, co-founder of Truora] was on the podcast before. So it's great to hear from you and hear about your products, about opportunities and challenges, about things you've learned by taking Truora from this small little startup, with an idea that's focused on one thing, to offering a multitude of products and leveraging WhatsApp in a really unique way as part of the innovation that you brought to the table. So, congrats on that. I'm happy to be a supporter and an investor in your company. And also excited to see where it goes.

Maite Muniz

Thanks, Brian. This has been great. We definitely will partner and work on the Mexico front. I'm looking for more entrepreneurs in Mexico. This is a really fun thing now. So, yeah, we're really excited about what we've built so far, honestly. And I think it's really exciting that we get to see how many startups grow because they start using our system to iterate things. They use WhatsApp to test and create ideas because it's no-code. The best part of this product line is that we actually get to work with a lot of startups, so it's been really fun. Thanks for having me again, and yeah, we'll be working together!

Brian Requarth

I'm sure we can get together in person sometime because now that I'm in Mexico City and you're here too, we could be like five buildings away and we don't even know.

Maite Muniz

We should, and we definitely could be!

Brian Requarth

I'll probably start hosting maybe some founder dinner series. If I start doing that, I'll be sure to let you know and we'll meet in person.

Maite Muniz

Please let me know! And if you need anything, I'm a Mexico City native, so I'd be glad to help.

Brian Requarth

Gracias por tus contactos y por tus conocimientos. Entonces un gran abrazo, y vamos LatAm!

Maite Muniz

Great, love it. Thank you, Brian!

Brian Requarth

Co-founder of Latitud

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