June 24, 2021

#42 - Building Latitud in public: Brian Requarth and Gina Gotthilf

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We believe that building in public can help founders build better. This means we’re open to sharing our ideas and strategy before they’re fully baked, even if it doesn’t make us look perfect. So this episode is a little different from what you're used to hearing around here. This is a frank conversation with one of my co-founders, Gina, about the raw process of building something new. In our case, Latitud. If you ever wonder what the heck we are up to, this is where you find out:

  • The why and the how of the Latitud Fellowship
  • The Latitud Fund's thesis and inner workings
  • And the products on our roadmap

For even more details on Latitud, watch the recording of ourOpen All Hands that happened on June 25th: https://youtu.be/lFpyQeX1HocCheck out our open Latitud Global Fellowships Director position

Brian Requarth: We believe that building in public can help founders build better. This means we're open to sharing our ideas and strategy before they're fully baked. Even if it doesn't make us look perfect. So this episode is a little different from what you're used to hearing around here. This is a frank conversation with one of my co-founders, Gina, about the raw process of building something new. In our case, Latitud.

If you ever wonder what the heck we're up to, this is where you'll find out the why and the how of the Latitud Fellowship, the Latitud fund's thesis and inner workings, and the products on our roadmap. For even more detail on Latitud, you can join us at our open all-hands tomorrow, June 25th. There, you can get a closer backstage view and ask questions to the Latitud team about what we're up to go to lu.ma/latitudallhands to register. We'll leave the link in the show notes.

My name is Brian Requarth and this is Latitud Podcast. Vamos LatAm!

Let's first start off this conversation by why we both like the idea of doing that.

Gina Gotthilf: Yeah, for sure. And to give you credit, Brian, honestly, when you first brought it up, I was just like: "Do we really need to build in public like this Brian, do we just want attention? What is this about? You know, do I feel uncomfortable with the idea of recording everything?" But we've been working not together for almost a year. I think you first brought this up more seriously nine months ago, and it's amazing how the concept has evolved and how we've seen everything go in that direction. And everything we do is becoming valuable for all of our founders because we're tripping on our own shoelaces and we want to prevent other founders from tripping on their shoelaces too.

Brian Requarth: Absolutely. It's kinda fun, a lot of founders like to act like they've got it all figured out, right? And the reality is that's never the case. There's no silver bullet for anything. And so, I guess from my perspective, some of the benefits are a bit more increased buy-in from what you're building, because you're kind of building it with the input of your customer in mind.

Which is if you build it publicly and you get people to comment and give you feedback kind of in real time, all the great companies listen to their customers. And so we're building, especially with this community, we've started building this community. Cohort zero was in September. And so we just put it out there, and then we got tons of feedback and we adjusted accordingly. I guess that was the first experiment with building in public.

Gina Gotthilf: There are a lot of authors who have been using this actually in publishing chapters on blogs, for example, to try to see how people reacted and like iterating before publishing. This has been kind of like an imminent little growth trend, but much more quiet one because authors aren't, they're not that loud, so to speak, but I think that there's been just a general cultural trend also in terms of everyone posting their perfect lives on Instagram, moving over to being more real in reels or TikTok or whatever. This push for brands to be transparent and to show who they really are is the whole point of what we're doing - I think in part is demystifying the whole entrepreneurship thing, taking away the badge of honor of being an entrepreneur, and showing that entrepreneurs are not actually perfect because then everyone was striving for something and having strife in their daily work can also identify with that by seeing all the mistakes that are being made that are not normally not talked about in podcasts like this one. People are here normally talking about how amazing they are and everything that they've accomplished so that they look good and get more podcast interviews.

Brian Requarth: Yeah. It's funny. I remember you brought the idea. You're like: "Hey, I want to start a podcast about fuck ups. Right?" And we all know that you learn more when you make mistakes. Part of the focus on the why I wrote the book that I wrote was because I wanted to kind of share those mistakes. That is a fast accelerator for learning.

What have you learned so far from your journey that we've been on? We're coming up on a year, and what's surprised you about what we've been able to build in a relatively short amount of time?

Gina Gotthilf: A lot, Brian. I think that the building in public thing that I was talking about at the beginning with you having spearheaded that, I just constantly keep getting reminded of like "wow, I really don't know. I don't really don't know everything."

I think I get things and I have a very specific way of looking at them based on my experience and my understanding of the world. And then someone from our team, or you, or Yuri will bring up something that I initially disagree with. It's so painful and fun to be proven wrong, to learn and to grow, and to understand that there's more to the world than you are able to see by yourself, and that's why working together is so cool.

But there's other things too, like for example, you know, at Duolingo, we were really focused on building one thing and doing it well. Everything at Duolingo was focuS, focus, focus.

We are focusing at Latitud, but at the same time, we're juggling all these balls. And originally I was like: "This sounds like a, like a suicide mission. We're going to build this fund. We're going to build products. We're going to build a community with a fellowship. That doesn't seem doable." And again, just trusting and working together and like sometimes agreeing to disagree and accepting and moving forward has been incredible because I think we are now at a point where I couldn't have really perceived back in the day.

Brian Requarth: It's funny, it's only been less than a year. One of the things I like about building in public is that it's kind of crazy, because we've had people apply for different positions and like wanting to join the team.

That's another huge benefit of working in public. You build excitement for what you're doing. And since we have this kind of important mission, we think that communicating externally what we're doing helps us generate more momentum for this movement we're creating, right?

Gina Gotthilf: Yeah, I hope so. I think that making, making mistakes and making them in public, I know, I don't think we've made huge mistakes in public yet, or anything like that. Not to say that we haven't made mistakes, but being more vocal about them and transparent I think will attract people because people want transparency, honesty, truth, and to work for a company that they can really trust and transparency makes you trustworthy.

Brian Requarth: We're in Latin America, right. And so drawing the connection with how we're approaching this: Do you think there's any element to that being even more kind of interesting or relevant for Latin America? And why do you think the current timing is interesting for what we're doing?

Gina Gotthilf: That's a tough question. Look, I think that in many ways in Latin America, we are behind in certain trends.

There are certain trends that are just going different directions. We are ahead in other ways, but in terms of tech and the progression of businesses operating, Latin America's often a few steps behind the U S. I think that this is changing as we see different pools of talent, tech, and innovation spreading across different parts of the world and even different parts of the US. I think that this whole transparency thing that may have started in the Northern hemisphere is now present in the Southern hemisphere, but is a lot weirder still in terms of whether you should be talking about your mistakes in public and it's okay to not be embarrassed and falling on your face. I think Latin America tends to care more about your appearance and like what people think of you and your reputation.

I think it's even weirder for us to be doing that in Latin America, but at the same time the founders that we're working with, they're all very forward facing and future thinking and embrace all trends as long as they make sense.

Brian Requarth: And when we're working in public, you know, we share the good and the bad.

I think there's benefits to both. I think we have made some pretty good decisions so far, but we clearly don't have everything figured out. And I think that the fun thing about this is that when I talk about what we're building at Latitud it's hard, because usually when you're talking about your startup, you are expected to have extreme conviction and clarity on what you're doing. That presents confidence for investors, for people that want to join your team. But when we look at even a job description that we wrote, you know, you wrote, I think for this Global Fellowships Director, which, if you're listening and are a badass and you want to be part of this journey, take a look at the job description. But the only constant is change in a startup. And I think that we, you can read that even when we describe our job position, we just filled a role on our venture team, and we're like: "Yeah, we don't even know what we're going to call this person." And it actually attracts the right type of people. Because if you're kind of very clear with like: "Hey, we don't have this all figured out. You attract people that want to figure stuff out." If you've got it all figured out and you're like, we know exactly what we're doing, you're probably gonna attract someone that just wants to be alongside you while you're doing that.

I think that there's a lot of different benefits to the approach that we're taking. I'm sure there'll be some negatives revealed as well, but so far it's been interesting.

Gina Gotthilf: Yeah. And I'm always happy to reveal the negatives, as you know, I'm very happy to talk about them publicly. But, you know what I was thinking about while you were talking, Brian, is that it used to be the case that companies would build a product and then they'd be like: "We made this thing! Now, marketing team, take it and go take it to market."

That's how a lot of the world works, I think tech has changed that because code is ever evolving, and we have so much access to data that you can't help but observe what people are doing from a very data driven perception, not just like qualitative, and you can actually adapt, understand, and incorporate that into your "product".

It's constantly changing, so you're always building, I think that's different from how things used to be, where you kind of had a "secret sauce" behind the curtains and people didn't know what the secret sauce was, and that's kind of how you got to sell your thing. That doesn't exist anymore.

And then, you know, I'm a philosophy major, so I can't help, but think of the ship of Theseus, which is like the ship that leftI think from Crete to somewhere else, I should probably know the specifics. Basically he had to to sail the ship and during, the journey, one of the planks broke and then they had to replace the plank, and then another plank broke and they had to replace the plank, such that by the end of the journey, none of the pieces of the boat were the same as when it left the dock. The sail, the steering wheel, or whatever, everything was different.

So the question about this little story is, is Theseus's ship the same ship that left one port and arrived in the other port? And what makes something one? That makes me think about how startups grow.

Brian Requarth: What's fun about that analogy that you just gave, I love that there's a parable in there and it's very applicable to our situation.

I mean, we were literally just talking 20 minutes ago with Yuri about what we are. Are we a fund? Are we a product, a future venture backed company? Ironic thing about that is that we actually, don't a hundred percent know, but there's a couple of things that we're focused on. Maybe we can talk a little bit about Latitud and the motivations of why we're building what we're building.

We know that it's very hard to build a venture backed company in Latin America. It's very hard to build a startup. It's very hard to even just get going. You have friction before you've even started. It's expensive to start a venture backed company and do it the right way, and there's so many different friction points.

So when we look at, you know, why we started Latitud, I think it resonated with the fact that we could make a massive impact by facilitating the process of starting and scaling a company. And, you know, we've had the benefit and the good fortune of being part of growth stories.

You were describing your experience this morning at Duolingo, when you're a translation company initially, and then you're monetizing that, then there's other opportunities that come about and it's, you know, replacing the plank here, replacing the plank here. Then all of a sudden you've got an almost a different boat. You're still going, you know, following your north star and you still want to solve this friction point that exists.

I think that the fun thing is that we don't know exclusively what we are. And that makes it hard sometimes, but I do think that we have identified a couple things and then let's double click into those. We can talk a little bit more about the fellowship and why that was kind of the centerpiece and the heart and soul of us getting going. And then I'm going to talk a little bit, maybe more about some of the alternative opportunities that are presented once you get the network effects going of our fellowship.

Gina Gotthilf: Yeah. I'd be happy to, and ask me questions along the way 'cause this is new. We're having like a completely kind of conversation and I don't know exactly how we want to describe the fellowship, but I think it's important to go back Brian to our original conversations early on as a founding team about the three pillars that we thought we could tackle to incite change in Latin America and to really help founders succeed. Because as you said, everything is harder in Latin America. It's harder to get started because you know, your laptop might be stolen while walking down the street. Literally. Or the government just comes up with a random law that doesn't make your startup possible.

So there's three things that we thought we could, we could make a difference with.

And I also like to joke, and I won't say the bad word that I used in a podcast recently and was told I was the first person to say a bad word on that podcast. But in Latin America, we tend to mess things up. Like even when there's like an amazing opportunity and we're like: "Woah, look at all these startups, everything's happening, there's so much potential." Like, even there we tend to mess things up.

So we thought, okay, there are three things: One, we think community is really important for startups to succeed because being a founder is really lonely, as you've described really well in your book from your own experience. And also because in Silicon valley there's this amazing unseen network of information being exchanged every day by people at coffee shops, people at bars, people on dates, talking about Facebook's marketing strategy. You're constantly learning just by being there because everyone around you is exchanging information and that doesn't exist in many other parts of the world, and it certainly doesn't exist in Latin America, where I think that a high percentage of people still are afraid of sharing an idea in fear that someone might steal their idea. Whereas in other parts of the world that are like, you know, like in Silicon valley, you consider the execution to be a lot, a lot bigger of a part of the success of a company than an idea.

And then the other part of the community that we think is really interesting is Latin America has so much potential. It's the largest latitude region in the world and there's very little collaboration, honestly, between countries. I joke that the United States sees Latin America as Latin America, and that's what Latin America is. It's like what the US sees below the border. Because we in Latin America don't tend to really think of ourselves as Latin America. We think of ourselves as Brazil in Brazil, and Mexico thinks of itself as Mexico. And we're not holding hands and like, and dancing around. In fact, we speak a different language in Brazil. The rest of Latin America is like: "Brazil is this weird thing. They don't even eat cilantro." So there's a lot of differences when we focus on those, but there's so many similarities, especially in terms of the struggles and strifes of living in Latin America and all the problems with our governments, our economy, safety, and access to information and access to a banking account or health. And there's so much to learn across borders too, because things operate in a much more similar fashion than with other parts of the world. Fostering a community across Latin America can be so powerful in terms of putting our region on the map in terms of a huge tech epicenter, as a tech part of the world, much like India has done.

The second thing is capital. Access to capital is hard. It's just really hard raising capital, but especially in Latin America, where access to information about how VC works is even harder to come upon. If you're not part of this little elite group of Stanford people like, so to speak, people who went to very prestigious schools and have come from very wealthy backgrounds, you don't even know people who are in VC, so it's hard to break in. And if you don't look like the VC, they don't really pay attention. There are less VCs. So it's a lot easier for them to control what the terms are. There's a lot that can be improved there, and we want to help the beginning of the funnel.

Brian Requarth: Just piggybacking what you said, Latin America has definitely hit an inflection point. But the region remains kind of disjointed, right? Like you said, there's not a lot of like sharing that goes on from Argentina and Mexico, or Brazil and Colombia. You mentioned India. It's heavily under invested. If you, if you compare with India, the size of the market, it's twice as large as an aggregate and yet it receives half of the venture dollars, and it's starving for tech driven solutions to become world-class. So the way I would describe Latitud is: It's where founders find community, capital, customers, and talent to scale their venture backed companies in Latin America.

And then the community is at the kind of the cornerstone here where we're kind of building this network. We have tapped into some network effects, which is pretty exciting. The way I look at the community is that in a short amount of time, we've become the place. My goal with Latitud and the community is that I want it to become almost irresponsible not to start your journey at Latitud.

So to recap, you know, community, capital, customers and talent. And so, right now we're starting primarily on the community and the capital piece, which, the fellowship is the heart and soul of the community. The capital, we have a small rolling fund, which we've been really fortunate to bring on some LPs that are all founders and GPs are operators of tech companies.

That's kind of where we are on a journey, but like you said, we're kind of replacing the planks as we go, and we don't know exactly what we'll become. But we do know that there's massive problems to solve and that we're super focused on supporting those early stage founders

Gina Gotthilf: So with regards to the fellowship, the community piece there, I think is clear. The capital is more so with the fund. I think the third piece is access to knowledge.

Maybe that's where a lot of the fellowship comes in. First it's, it's a way for really top tier tech founders with great ideas or excellent backgrounds who are interested in getting into being a startup founder or who have just started and want more direction to come and meet other people who are going through the same experience and learn from each other, especially people who are one or two steps ahead of them, because that's just the best way to learn. Kind of like almost like an, not an apprenticeship, but it's a lot more useful to learn from someone who's a step ahead of you than someone who's super inspirational and like pie in the sky like Bill Gates who has amazing things to say, but doesn't know how to run a Facebook campaign super efficiently.

So access to knowledge from each other, from the community, but also as part of our community, we have these amazing mentors and, two reasons why we decided to make Latitud be in English, which is controversial because we are in Latin America. The first one is to unite all of Latin America and allow for a common language across all countries. And the second one is because some of the best companies in the world, some of the best tech companies, I would argue the majority of them, are not in Latin America yet. Maybe we'll change that, but they're not in Latin America. Mostly if you are a tech founder in Latin America, you get access, iIf you're lucky, to the best mentors in your country, which is awesome. But then your ceiling is just a little bit lower because you're not necessarily getting the best mentor in the whole world. We wanted to bring advice from people who have worked at the top tech companies or top organizations around the world, and that's partly what the fellowship allows. It allows people to access, in addition to the community, to meet some of these people, to get knowledge directly from them and to get advice directly from them. That also includes some of the top VCs in Latin America and around the world.

Brian Requarth: And, you know, I think we're just kind of starting with the fellowship.

The network effect has started because we've had some amazing startups that come through and then they attract capital. And the way I kind of like to think about it is the more companies that attract capital, it's going to actually result in more startups being created, right. When you know, you've got, I remember the inflection point when Buscapé sold their company, shoutout to Romero if he's listening. And then all of a sudden it paved the way for all this additional capital to come in. More startups were started. I got started kind of right around that time. And it facilitated the opportunity for me to raise capital because people are like: "Oh, this is possible". And so you've got more capital attracting, more startups and more talented people going after startups.

And then when you have more startups in capital, the talent becomes an abundance because it just becomes more feasible. Then this talent joins and launches more startups. And then I think that the ultimate network effect is when successful founders reinvest in startups. So network effects are driven as the number of people grow in our community, the value of the network to each individual participant increases and everyone involved becomes a promoter.

And it's the heart of why traditional universities like Harvard and Stanford are so hard to disrupt.

Gina Gotthilf: Absolutely. And that's why they've been around for so long. It's exciting to be part of what feels like a new movement and education that allows for a lot more people to access these benefits and especially more focused on what they want to do in this case, entrepreneurship.

And it's also what allows us to attract incredible investors, because we have very exciting startups coming our way and very impressive founders. And then also your experience, Brian, um, and the rest of the teams. So maybe you can talk a little bit about people who have invested in our fund.

Brian Requarth: Yeah.

Yeah. Let's, let's talk a little bit about some of the investors we have and we just talked about network effects,right?

Our first LP was actually the general partner of NFX. Literally the network effects investor. So I think, you know, I remember having a conversation with Pete Flint who was an early kind of advisor and mentor for me. And I remember having that conversation with him just about what we were thinking. He instantly got it. And it helps when someone who's a seasoned veteran in network effects businesses is like: "Oh, I get this. I would love to support you." And then they, you know, write their first check.

But subsequently as that followed. Really lucky to have built up an amazing network of people like David Vélez from Nubank who was an early supporter, one of our first LPs. Sergio from Creditas, the Guiabolso folks, Cornershop, and a handful of others from Brazil and Latin America.

And the key thing is that the fund was kind of an afterthought.

We started this community, it was really an extension of the angel investing that I'd been doing. But I wanted to ramp it up a little bit more, have something that had shared economics for everybody at Latitud. And so we decided to raise a small vehicle and we did that in a rolling fund format. And it was very kind of informal how we did it, where we just basically reached out to people in our network.

But the amazing thing about this is that the three types of investors we have in our funds, they're either founders, they're either operators of top tech companies, or they're general partners or investors in funds. And so in some cases it's downstream capital and then the operators and the founders, they also come in with a wealth of knowledge, right?

It's the definition of smart capital because those same people that invested in us, we're investing in those founders that hopefully will eventually become the next Creditas or fill in the blank. And so that's kind of an interesting network effect again, you know, that's been fun. I think we have 43 LPs that have come in.

And they've kind of come in organically, it's just basically network or, you know, they hear about what we're doing. And the amazing thing about this is that there is this kind of new era, and this is a benefit of building in public.

You know, I was on a podcast, I was on Fabrice Grinda's podcast, who's actually one of our mentors and also an LP, you know, at FJ Labs. I've done business with them for over a decade. I was on the podcast, and then after the podcast, I looked at our AngeList account where we manage our funds. And, you know, there was a check from someone I'd never met. It just appeared in our, in our account.

And the reason why this is interesting is because, historically, in a fund you've got a type of structure, which by the SEC guidelines, you're unable to solicit money publicly. It's called 506C reg or 506B. We are a 506C regulation entity, which means that we can go on the internet and just say: "Hey, we've got a fund. Would you like to invest?"

In fact, I'm going to do that right now to be super lame. Go to fund.latitud.com and you go there and you can actually like, literally you can go and invest on the internet. You have to be an accredited investor, but that feels like a very big evolution in this category.

And so the benefit of building a public is that this investor, I think, I think I had two investors that I didn't even know that came in. They had read my book and then they're like: "Oh, I kind of like how this person thinks." And so when you publicly share your thought process, you then get interest from people because you're able to kind of build a relationship with someone without even knowing them.

And that to me is transformational. It's why I think that this whole solo capitalist movement where you've got individual brands, Harry Stebbins is a podcaster turned to VC, right? And so he built an audience first and then he raised $130 million, and he's 24 years old! It's phenomenal that that's even a possibility.

Anitta just joined Nubank's board. That's phenomenal because we met Anitta, she came and spoke at one of our events one time and she's just a walking business. And so distribution is going to be incredible for Nubank when they expand regionally more aggressively.

And so there's just all these things that I think are being transformed.

Gina Gotthilf: And since we are building in public and sharing kind of all of our thoughts as they come, maybe Brian, you can share what are the reasons you think that people like David Vélez and Fabrice, etc. have invested in the Latitud fund and are so excited about the potential benefits within the region.

I think it also goes back to why Latin America now, in addition to, you know, they're your friends and they love and they believe in you and they believe in sort of the mission, but I think that there's just why we're all doing this right now and why we're focused on Latin America and the opportunities here.

Brian Requarth: Clearly, there's an inflection point with where we are in the cycle. The maturity of the region, the talent, you know, when I go back to when I started, the idea of joining a startup was very secondary. It was either you worked in consulting or banking. So undoubtedly it's incontrovertible that we're at an inflection point in Latin America.

I think the reason why they're excited about it, I do think that the mission is like the first early adopter. When you have something, they're investing either in the people, we didn't have a lot of things figured out. And I think it's a testament to Sergio. When I had him on my podcast, we didn't even have established what we were building yet. And he's like: "Tell me where to wire the money at the end of the podcast." You know? So, but I think that that speaks to a broader concept, which is, we're at that inflection point where you have people reinvesting in the ecosystem and that's where flywheel really gets spinning. Because along with this money, it's more than money.

And I think back to my journey, I give so much credit to people like Greg Waldorf, Simon Baker, Wences Casares, Micky Malka, Kevin Efrusy, like these early champions of Latin America that saw an opportunity and then also had this wealth of knowledge and experience over a decade. When I met Greg, you know, Greg had been investing in the internet since 1994, he was the CEO of eHarmony. So he'd scaled a company, he'd raised venture from top funds and it was just like, he spoke the language. I quickly learned the language from him and others, and that put us in an amazing position to know how to navigate this. And so that is just another level of maturity.

Guys like David Velez also care. He's Colombian, he's a citizen of the world, but he does have some pride in Latin America. I'm an American, you sound American, because you went to an American school, and you grew up in, you know, you spent a lot of time in your adult life in New York and the US, but if I look at my life, 65% of my adult life was spent in Latin America.

So, I mean, I think of myself as an American, but I have such a deep connection with the region. My daughter was born there, I have so many friends there. And so I think that there's also just this desire for things to be elevated in the region, and we know that the incredible potential is there.

Gina Gotthilf: Yeah. I definitely align with you and I think with the whole team on the giving back front and like really giving Latin Americans access to everything and supporting the region.

But then also from a business perspective, I think that there's just iIncredible opportunity right now. It's almost, I joke it's like: "Oh, imagine if we could go back in time 10 years in the US and then invest in all the companies that we now know are successful." Because we now know what's happening in terms of HealthTech, FinTech, et cetera. Yeah, it is 10 years ago in Latin America and, with a little bit of help and understanding who's who and how the different countries work, you can find those companies and you can still be that investor. And so I'm very bullish from like a financial point of view on reasons to work on Latitud.

Brian Requarth: We've seen that also very early. With our early investments. I mean, we've got a couple of investments already that are already being marked up by other investors. And, and the funny thing is like, you don't know, like, you don't know if you're a good investor, usually for 10 years, right? Like, or at least five, seven years, because you just don't know. And so frankly, whenever I raise money from LPs, I'm just like: "Hey, listen, I'm gonna try to do my best." We're, you know, we're all working together. You know, we've got the fellowship here. We're meeting incredible founders. We're helping lots of founders, not just the ones we invest in. So like, you should be aligned with the mission part of what we're doing. But I do think we've made some good picks and case in point with Pomelo, we invested in it before it was just on PowerPoint and then a lot of money piled into that at a higher evaluation.

Of course, they've got a lot of work in front of them as do Newtail and other companies that have come onboard. But I'm very bullish and very excited about the companies that, you know, we've been able to meet early and support. And the cool thing about it is they're seeing value in what we're doing, which, that to me is proof point of our business.

Gina Gotthilf: So, we talked a little bit about how to become an investor and kind of what we're doing. Maybe we should talk a little bit about how we make some of these decisions in terms of investment and how someone can actually become eligible and pitch us, so to speak and how to, you know, be part of Latitud.

Brian Requarth: Yeah. I think that like most of the investments we're doing are through the fellowships so they're founders that are in our fellowships. And just as a quick call-out, Tomas Roggio, more affectionately known as Tomi. He's been running the investments that we've done. We just brought on Marcial, both from Argentina, coincidentally.

So we have a pretty, pretty diverse team here with people in Mexico, Brazil, US, Ecuador, Uruguay. And so we're quite a people hodgepodge. This kind of process of investing, What we do is we, we kind of have two different investments that we make.

Sometimes we'll invest in really early teams that don't even have product market fit yet. There may be focus a bit on a sector, but they're just on very early days in what they're doing, and it's more of a talent check that we just think the person is incredible, or there's, you know, a little further along where they've got some initial kind of customer feedback.

And so Tomi has been really running the investment process and it's a small amount of capital. So unfortunately different from YC, we don't invest in every single company that comes through. And just to be clear, we're going to miss a bunch of them because we just don't have enough capital.

We'll probably end up raising a little bit more capital because I'm already feeling like there's some companies that we've seen. We're like: "Oh, we just don't have enough money to be deploying across you know, all the companies that we like." So if you're an investor, an angel investor, even institutional seed investor, or even a Series A investor that wants to get a look at companies early, I don't think there's going to be a better signal for Latin America that understands Latin America. And in terms of the YC comparison, some people have made that comparison, but actually I look at it as much different because I think that we're going to be sending companies to YC. We've already had over a dozen companies that have gotten into YC after Latitud. We've even invested in companies that have gone through YC. And so the process we have is pretty straightforward. We usually get to know the founders during the fellowship. Ideally, what we'll do is that we'll bring in opportunities for angel investors, funds, and we'll just be this amazing curation source.

We don't need to lead investments. We don't have a target equity. So unlike most funds, we don't need to own 15%. It's a very flexible source of capital. We can do checks from $25,000 to $250,000. That's kind of where we are.

Gina Gotthilf: And step one is joining our community, right?

So if you're someone who's thinking like: "Man, I've been at this job at the top rank and I have this amazing title for 10 years and I really want to start a tech startup. And I think I kind of understand what's missing in this industry." Or if you're a tech founder that's, you know, already kind of starting something, you have an idea. You're testing your close MVP, you're testing product market fit, and you're interested in being part of Latitud, you're all welcome to apply to join. The link is apply.latitud.com. Please fill that out first. And then based on whether we think that the whole experience will be super beneficial to you and a bunch of other things, we make a selection and that's who gets to participate in our fellowship, which is kind of like an entry point into the Latitud community.

It's just a way to bond with other people, learn a lot of things together and then you can continue contributing and helping each other and making connections and learning and participating in a lot of different sessions. And then a subset of those companies gets selected as Brian was saying, based on potential and just, you know, your participation at Latitud and our observation of how quickly you're growing and how open you are to feedback and, and the potential.

So I think that that's just a piece that was missing. And the other thing to notice, as Brian was saying, yeah, we're not like YC in that you, you know, to join Latitud the community, you don't give us any equity. It's just, you know, a fixed fee that helps us pay for the costs of running this community and producing the content to help our founders, etc.

Brian Requarth: Speaking of which, our team, we've got to shout out our team. We've got an incredible team of people, I guess there's 11 of us right now. So it's kind of hard to go through everyone individually.

Yuri was the first person that I met through my co-founder at Viva Real, Thomas. I knew that the next thing I did, I needed to have an incredible tech founder in what I was doing, because we always struggled with that. And so Yuri fills that in spades with his background at Escale and having started a company before. And so we're really lucky to have him.

This podcast is brought to you by Gabi. She's behind the scenes. She's done an incredible job. She was over at Endeavor for a while, and we're really lucky to have her. And she's been spearheading a lot of the content initiatives that we have. We're really excited about the prospects of what we can build from a content perspective. So that's fun.

We've got a handful of other folks also on the team. Yan was also an early member of the founding team along with Gabi and he's spearheading a product.

It's a pretty cool balance between the founding team and the founders, you on the growth side and marketing and operations, and then Yuri on the product and tech, and then kind of my role as a CEO. It's a collective effort here and, and we're all kind of learning from each other in this process, but it's really fun to be on this journey.

And speaking of the products, maybe we could talk about that a little bit and, and how we're kind of approaching that. Going back to when we started this, I was really allergic to the idea of just being solely a fund. As a founder and an operator. I love talking to other founders and I love building things. I love building products and I love solving problems. And the idea of sitting in this ivory tower as an investor and just like deploying money, it sounds really boring to me. I do it as an angel, but it's something that I really wanted to be part of launching new products.

And so when we think about what, we're, what we're building, we have the fellowship, that's a piece of what we're doing. We have the fund and then we have this product component and there's no shortage of friction that exists, as I said earlier. And so the first product we're building, which is, I've been very vocal about my, I would call it like a snafu, but that sounds like too small of a word, where, where I created the wrong corporate structure.

I wrote about this publicly as well, so that's more of the building in public. And I shared my painfully expensive hundred million dollar mistake. And so I like to put my money where my mouth is, and instead of just talking about the problem and warning people and trying to get them aware of this, we're actually solving the problem through Latitud Go, which is our first product we're building.

It is essentially an automated company formation process. It's spearheaded by Yan. If you want to learn more about it, you can check it out at go.latitud.com and join our waiting list. We've got a lot of interest for that product, as you can imagine, and we'd love to have more people on that waiting list as we learn and build that product.

But the idea for the product: If you're building a venture backed company in Latin America, I think it's terrible that you have to pay such a high amount of money to build a corporate structure to allow you to receive VC investment. And it takes a long time to get set up.

And so we thought, can we make this thing 10 times cheaper and do it twice as fast? And so we're partnering up with Gunderson, Carey Olsen in the Cayman, and we're automating this company formation, in which a majority of the companies should have this Cayman sandwich. Which is a Cayman holding company, a Delaware LLC, and then a local opco.

And so we're now beta testing that product and getting initial customer feedback. And it's been incredible so far and we should be launching that relatively soon.

Gina Gotthilf: So the idea is to basically make the lives of founders in Latin America way easier and make launching and scaling amazing companies easier and more accessible, more possible, but from all ends.

So we're doing that by figuring out how to provide capital to all of these amazing founders, knowledge, network, talent, etc. And then products that solve major problems like for example building a company and we have a couple others in mind based on what we think are the three hardest things for most founders that we meet.

Brian Requarth: Exactly. And so just like any company, the product roadmap will change and I'm sure we'll be opportunistic with where we see an opportunity. And the great thing about this is that it's incredible that we have this burgeoning community because we have an embedded distribution of products that we build.

You know, we're able to give early access to those founders and we get customer feedback from them. We understand what they want. And so it's like the definition of building for your customer. We're almost 500 people in our community that are building startups.

And so with Latitud Go, we literally threw up a landing page. We just, you know, asked people what they're interested in, got feedback. And we had clarity that there was demand for the product before we launched it. So that's something we would love to also help other founders. I think one of the benefits of having a community like this is.

We just invested in a company called Bhub, and they're automating a lot of the back office stuff for startups in Latin America. The benefit of being part of Latitud is we can deploy a little bit of money, invest in the company, help them with all the things that you know they're going to have on their journey and support them. But also we've got this community of other companies.

And if there's a company we think is solving a really important problem for other companies, We now have this network of growing 100+ companies that can probably benefit from those solutions that are being built. So it really is a network effects driven play.

Gina Gotthilf: Absolutely. And then the next problem that we think about a lot is also hiring.

It's so hard to hire amazing talent. Period. But especially in a tech startup where you can't offer an amazing salary for someone who comes from an impressive background, for example. And there's just a lot of shortage of top technical talent and so on and so forth.

And so how do you solve that problem? As you were saying, we're building this community of very bright minds. Some of these founders might eventually decide that they actually want to go become very early employees at other companies. And a lot of people who want to join maybe are better suited to be a first or second employer, a technical talent rather than a founder.

Just bringing together these amazing minds and helping them connect with each other and find each other more quickly can also be very advantageous. So we've been thinking about that from a product perspective, but that's still TBD.

Brian Requarth: Yeah. And one of the words that we kind of flushed out there that all kind of subscribes to was serendipity.

It's incredible what happens, right? When you put a bunch of these smart people together, they're motivated, they're aligned in kind of helping transform the ecosystem. And there's also this give first mentality, which has been a cornerstone of our community and our fellowship.

People have taken time giving us feedback. We take time, other people support other founders. And so there's definitely a handful of things that are on the roadmap that we'll figure out what comes first. But right now we're just starting with getting started. So it's a good place to start because it literally is the start.

Gina Gotthilf: Yes. And the serendipity thing, you know, like basically creating situations for people to meet other people that might become their co-founders or their first partners or their first clients or whatever. To me that brings us back to Theseus' ship, being able to be open to what's next and sort of like take in the wind as it comes and, and replace the planks that you need to replace and make the calls that you need to make.

But you can't know what's going to need replacement. You can't know exactly how the wind's going to turn. You just need to be open and reactive and be proactively reactive to see those serendipitous moments happen, to take advantage of them, to pivot, to change, to, to embrace it and to grow as a startup.

And I think that that's how I think about us at Latitud evolving and understanding what we're going to become. By defining like, this is what we are saying: "I build a chair and I want to sell this chair." It doesn't allow for serendipity. It doesn't allow for movement. It doesn't allow for embracing the future and building something new.

Brian Requarth: I also worry about, as I do more investing, I worry about becoming stale. Because if you haven't been in the trenches for five or 10 years, you're disconnected from a lot. So this is amazing because we actually get to see that the empathy is continuous.

Because we still are trying to figure out what we're building to some degree. And so, also as trends change and new new products are built and we were early adopters of Notion and you know, no-code tools and those are things that are actually highly useful for the founders as they build their kind of MVPs and get customer feedback.

And so it allows us to maintain being sharp with our operating abilities while at the same time being able to be an investor and have capital to invest as well. So I think that's another added benefit.

Gina Gotthilf: I think it all kind of comes full circle in a certain way.

And maybe this is the end of the first iteration of this conversation. As we figure out where we're going and basically admitting in public that we honestly just don't know, and that we're making mistakes as we go and we're choosing tools or trying new things, and some of them are just going to flop. In fact, we have had situations where things have flopped with like, you know, a hundred people.

We need to be able to be empathetic of each other. I think we were empathetic with our founders and our founders are empathetic with us as we make mistakes. As you always say: "The rising tide lifts all boats." Which is really nice with this Theseus' ship thing that I had going before, because I do believe in that.

And as we're empathetic with each other and we're able to pivot together and make things move as the winds change, we're able to move more quickly and accomplish a lot more.

Brian Requarth: Well, this has been kind of poetic. I feel like we should end it on this poetic ending of the changing winds and the tides.

And all I can say is that I'm super grateful, gratitude. Gratitude is part of our philosophy. And, so I'm really enjoying being on the journey with you and also the rest of the team. We're all like learning so much together and we're moving really quickly. I think it's the start of something great. You know, this is a movement, this is something about getting LatAm on the map, attracting more capital to the region, and empowering the next generation of entrepreneurs to build iconic companies that put us on a global stage.

Then we've done our job. And so it's a long way to get there, but I think the momentum, the wind is at our back.

Gina Gotthilf: The wind is at our back. Yeah. That's awesome, Brian. And if you're listening to this and thinking like: "Huh, I've noticed there's a lot of travel metaphors in here and they're talking about boats and ships and wind and journeys."

I wonder if it's an accident and that their company is called Latitud and that their logo looks like a mountain, maybe something to think about, discuss with us and that can bring us back to our next episode about this, where we will probably have decided to pivot into a DVD rental company. Stay tuned.

Brian Requarth: It's also, Gina's comedic relief at all times at Latitud. Thanks for coming on the podcast. It was a fun chat. And yeah, if you're listening and you want to join Latitud as a fellow, apply, as Gina said, you don't have to have your idea fully baked. You just have to be ambitious with your idea and you know, want to build a venture backed company. We'll help you on your journey.

Also, if you're looking to work with us, we like entrepreneurial minded people that are focused on impact, have a little bit of a mix of investing and company building and all of the above.

Gina Gotthilf: -Also, aren't afraid of changing tides.

Brian Requarth: That's critical. So yeah. Thank you for the chat.

Gina Gotthilf: Thank you, Brian. And thank you Gabi in the background, making all of this possible.

Brian Requarth: Everybody, thanks a lot, and stay tuned for future chats! Bye bye.

Thank you for listening to the Latitud Podcast. Be sure to check out latitud.com to find out how to apply to our fellowship program and subscribe wherever you listen to your podcasts for more talks with great founders and investors in Latin America. I'm your host, Brian Requarth. Vamos LatAm!

See you next week.

Gabriela Levy

Head of Marketing at Latitud

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