May 30, 2021

Startups in LatAm—How are LatAm Startups Different From Those in The U.S.? With Brian York

Startups in LatAm—How are LatAm Startups Different From Those in The U.S.? With Brian York

Brian York, Co-Founder & CEO at Cubbo, and Founder and GP at Bassin Ventures talks about Latin America and how it differs from the U.S. startup ecosystem. We also talk about exits from LatAm and Brian shares his advice to founders trying to expand their network in a new country.


Brian's LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/yupyork/

Cubbo: https://cubbo.com/

Bassin Ventures: https://www.linkedin.com/company/bassin-ventures/about/

Fundraising Radio episode about the exit of the largest e-commerce in LatAm: https://www.fundraisingradio.com/Marcelo-Franco/

Transcript

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And today is a guest speaker, we'll have Brian your Co, founder and CEO at Kubo that raised 2Million dollars from 21 investors and Brian he's also the founder and general partner at best Ventures.

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And this episode we'll talk about both Kubo and best Ventures.

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We'll talk about something called saturation tactic for fundraising also, building relationships with investors far ahead of the actual fundraising and how we can backfire 1 day.

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So, Brian, unless you get off by giving us a mega on yourself and on Kubo.

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Yeah, thanks for that. Constantine really appreciate the invite today. Excited to be here.

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Yes, so I was born in Boca on the streets and actually my mother was homeless. She actually still as homework today. I'll get into that story in a bit.

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And she abandoned me into an orphanage and I was adopted at 2 weeks old, and grew up in Boston, Massachusetts.

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Well, actually, 20 minutes south of Boston in a town called Norwalk, Massachusetts close to the South Shore. Well, close to the ocean on the cell shore. And yeah, I was the only brown kid in my town.

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So, I stood out like, a sore thumb, but fortunately wasn't to discriminate, discriminated on all too much and was felt to welcome the whole time. And it helped that I was on the soccer team inactive with the community, and the community was super well educated and all of that.

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So was a great experience. But.

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Through that experience of being different, and knowing that I was adopted, I always wanted to come back to Columbia to search for my family and get connected to my roots. And that's what brought me back 4 years ago.

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But before that, I started my career in San Francisco and got into startups, pretty, pretty early on in the early 2 thousand's.

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And started, my 1st startup was a social network for sports fans, and was able to raise a few rounds of funding.

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I've always been pretty good at fundraising, but on that 1st start up. I did a bunch of things wrong hired. The wrong people got too involved in all of the departments and.

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Slow at making decisions and ultimately the company never really found a product market fit.

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And pivoted the products too much, and ran out of that capital and how to shut that company down.

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Um, and afterwards I rebounded pretty quickly and did to enterprise start ups, enterprise software startups afterwards.

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Both of them were successful back to back and then in 2016, I was able to take off a little bit of time and start planning for my adventure down here to Columbia to get connected to my roots.

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And then,

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in 2017 came to Columbia,

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I packed everything,

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put it in storage in San Francisco,

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and came down here with my family and started lifted and lifted today is 1 of the largest tech companies in Columbia it's a Chuck delivery platform and which I Co,

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founded right when I got here in Boca tab about 4 years ago,

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and hit lightning in the bottle,

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but that 1 definitely my most successful startup so far and I was able to transition out.

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Last year after a private equity led the B round and brought in a new management team. So I was able to transition out take a little bit of time off.

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I constructed a new house 2 hours outside of Boca sat by the pool for a little bit. And then I got back to work late last year around Christmas time, and launched Cuba in January of this year.

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And Cuba does micro fulfillment.

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For brands, managing and doing same day fulfillment for their E, commerce sales.

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Nice epic background. I think we just have to address that question right away. Can you elaborate on the fact that your mother is still homeless?

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Yeah, yeah, so let's get into the personal story. So so I came back here and started to look for my biological family right away.

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So, even before I would, like, I jumped on to Facebook and started to just message all of the Rosa cruises that I could find just kind of like, blatantly this come out. Like, hey, are you my mother.

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Yeah, why not? And so I did that to like a 10,100.

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People named Rosa Cruz and I was unsuccessful.

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But I at least I was starting the journey and I also went to the orphanage and got my paperwork.

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And was able to obtain my mother's identification number and through that I tried to search for her myself. But because of my lack of Spanish skills, which still exists today, I wasn't able to get too far.

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And I ultimately had to hire a private investigator who helped me finally find my family about 18 months after being here in Columbia.

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And so my mother, I met 1st to still by herself and she lives in town also, 2 hours outside of Boca. But on the other side.

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I'm going to the South side,

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and she now will like,

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she,

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she prefers her lifestyle of kind of living at farms and she'll go and help clean the yard and the landscape or the home.

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And part time, but mostly kind of like, live in, like, the shelter that the farm provides the helpers, but mostly because of her age now, not working so much. Maybe putting in a few hours.

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Turn like 50 to 100 dollars a month, but she is able to find bounce around and find places to help up. She still doesn't have like a home home home, but she kind of like, prefers.

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That lifestyle I also have offered for her to come live here in this house. I just constructed, but she kind of likes the where she's at and she knows the people and she's quite comfortable where she's at.

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All right, I just wanted to put it out, so that it doesn't sound depressing. I knew there was going to be a good story behind it. So she's clients again. Okay. Perfect happy to hear that. She is happy with this lifestyle choice and it's not enforced on her. I agree.

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Now that we're covered all that stuff. Let's move on and talk about fundraising specifically. So, on our presurvey call, you mentioned that 1 of your major issues with all your previous startups was that you were actually fundraising too much can you tell us a little bit more about that?

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How do you know that you're raising too much or continuing? Just elaborate on that a little bit more.

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Yeah, so well, so I think the way I phrase that it's a great question and the way I phrase it is like, if you asked.

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My business partners in the past, or investors, not all of them, but, you know, probably a healthy bunch would probably say that Brian fundraise too much.

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And, for me, it's just the style that I have, and I also try to integrate the fundraising process into other process. And mostly it's sales in my company now.

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And my company I had last, it's it's kind of easy to integrate.

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Supply chain services, sales into fundraising, because a lot of the people you meet with, especially here in Latin America, I feel are directly or 1 off directly connected to a potential customers.

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So I go in and I pitch hoping to get a yes. On the fundraise. But it's also a good opportunity for me, because I have a pretty proactive follow up strategy to try to convert them as an investor.

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But, if not as a way to get an intro to a customer, eventually, because through that process, you're also becoming friends or acquaintances with the person. So you can always lean on them at another at another time. So.

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For me, I don't see it as a weakness because I'm also trying to, like, kill a few birds with 1 stone but from an outsider looking in it.

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See, him that my, my, I, over optimize on fundraising and so some people could see that as a weakness.

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Right, I mean, it can be viewed from both sides. I think it's actually pretty good to try to kill the 2 birds with 1 stone.

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Let's talk a little bit more about fundraising, especially in the previous companies that you were running. So looking back from years and the bill year on those fund reasons, what would you change? I mean, besides the fact that probably you would raise a little bit less or spend a little bit last time raising money.

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Other than that. What else will you change in that fundraising purposes?

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From the beginning I was really bad at.

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But I always, I jumped into entrepreneurship, kind of just in the deep end without putting a lot of research into it or planning. It's always just kind of been my style.

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I kind of like, jump into the deep end and then figure it out and I did that with my 1st startup and it took me a long time to actually launch a product and the product was absolutely horrible.

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But I was able to just launched myself into the fundraising process.

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This by,

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like,

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even just starting with the bankers that I knew in San Francisco,

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it's kind of like an associate banker who kind of had a weak connection to a venture capital,

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associate a venture capital firm and was able to get a coffee with him.

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And then follow up with him.

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Um, and get that more introductions, and I've always kind of had a knack of, like, being pretty persistent with fundraising, which is good, but going looking back.

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On that 1st, start up I was just really awful. I had all of the questions that came in. I had no idea what I was talking about. Not even close.

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Some of the most embarrassing parts of my career as I look back on that 1st start up and fundraising. I was able to.

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Find a way to get in front of amazing investors and just totally blow it because I had no idea what is doing.

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But fortunately, I think I'm good at reading people and I could feel like I was.

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I was embarrassing myself heavily, so I didn't, you know, I went back and try to get better and to be quite honest.

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Actually, I was just straight really bad at fundraising that whole time, but I was able to convince people to give me a few 1Million dollars to ultimately fail at that social sports startup.

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Like, I was just straight out bad that 1, but I was able to slowly get better.

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And by the 2nd company, and then the 3rd, and then I was able to get better and better.

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Lift at my, my 4th company, my past company was interesting because.

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I came to Colombia 4 years ago.

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And I didn't know anybody I knew lifted has 3 Co founders.

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And when i1st got here, it was just me and Felipe act in court and 1 of the other Co founders, like, in the very beginning. And he was like, basically the only person I knew.

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And I ended up meeting angels, sell us the 3rd Co founder pretty quickly. So you finally had a 2nd friend here.

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But I was starting from scratch and I had to basically go to LinkedIn, which is like, my go to tool and just start building a network. And I've always been the avid LinkedIn user for a long time.

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I still use it a lot today for many things. And now we're just kind of my safety net. I just literally woke up and pounded all day long.

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And just try to get random coffee meetings with anybody.

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And obviously, I use some filtering, like, I would go to LinkedIn and carry, like, investor or entrepreneur. And then I would see if we had a bunch of common connections. And then I would start there.

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And at the time, it was like, our common connections was like, 3 or 4 or 5 and then I was like, okay yeah, because I was like, okay.

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Let me start here. I have no idea who this guy is, but I'm just going to kind of this cold message him and use the message. Hey, and Brian, I just relocated from San Francisco. I was born here. I'm looking for my biological family, which is always a good story to tell everyone likes that.

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And then that was the icebreaker to get like.

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You know, 20% conversion on that. 1st, outreach.

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Um, and out of that conversion, like, converting that funnel into, like, 3% to get a coffee.

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And then from there, you just kind of like, you know, went out and introduce myself and started to fundraise for Lyft. It.

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And in 2017,

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I spent the entire year fundraising in Colombia for lifted and ultimately met with well,

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over a 1000 people and was able to convince was able to convince 84 people from Columbia to angel invest.

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But those.

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Those people don't say, yes, in the beginning, like, especially at that time, because it was.

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It was before Latin America got hot, it was just starting to get hot, but it was still had a long way to go because today it's absolutely hot.

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But 2007 not so much and but there was like, the fire was kind of kindling ready to explode where it is today.

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And so most of those people said, no, and then, like, the advice I give to entrepreneurs is like, it's that 1st know that you get is kind of the 1st step to getting a yes. It's like, what are you going to do with that? No. And so.

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I've always been pretty good at doing investor updates and then I try to do monthly updates actually, with the company I'm doing today. I'm Super deliberate.

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I set it up send them out every every last day of the month, whether it's a business day or a weekend.

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I send out investor updates and BCC, investors, potential investors, customers, other entrepreneurs and I did that for Lyft it, and actually had a BCC list of, like, 3000 people.

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If I even if I bumped into you at Starbucks.

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And you are a friend of a friend of a friend, like you got onto my list. Nice. That's cool. How does that work? That's actually.

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As a super important question that I frequently forget to ask building those and mailing lists. I know that they're pretty frequently very, very efficient, but that's that's normally the major problem with the mailing list that they grow. Very, very, very slowly.

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So, how does.

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It worked for you specifically so, like, let's say we bump into each other on Starbucks. You add me to your list what happens next? Do a lot of people I show convert into something useful after this kind of interactions and then getting onto your list or is it more of a.

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Wanted a 100 times. Okay. Yeah. I mean, I think it, it has different use cases for every scenario, sir for lifted. It was great because no, 1 knew me.

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So it's just a great way to just start trying to make noise for myself.

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And I think the investor updates are a good way to be able to communicate how you run a company and, like, give people a taste of what it is. Like, if they were to invest or or just to get to know you as a person.

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And then slowly get to like you, because even if you meet someone for the 1st time.

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No matter what the occasion like, it could be a great meeting or a bad meeting. You're going to be like, okay, that was great or bad and then you go off to your next meeting and slowly over time you kind of.

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That excitement or non excitement comes dwindles away. So it's important to continue to follow up.

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And through those follow ups that people can get to know you for lift it. It was a way for people just to get to know who Brian New York was. I had. Absolutely no network.

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And then, because we also at the same time, it's important to build an interesting business because if you're.

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Um, blasting everyone every every month and you're building something that's Super. Not interesting. And then it's kind of like.

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A waste of time so fortunately, with lifted, as I had mentioned, it was kind of a lightning in the bottle situation and then, like, everyone kind of just kind of got interested and it felt like.

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Those thousands of people actually many of them. Most of them didn't add value, but I know, like over time, people would like to start talking.

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Um, over a beer with their other friends, and then like, that, that kind of slowly over time.

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Um, evolves into something that benefits the company.

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Um, great. Yep, absolutely. Loved those tactics that you were just doing in the background and, you know, that.

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In 5 years, it's going to pay off as just fun and frequently it does be also perfect for that moving on to the next thing that you mentioned, our Pre interior called, which is saturation tactic for fundraising. Can you tell us a little more about what is that?

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Personally? I'm not going to lie. I've never heard this term fundraising. So can you tell us a little more about.

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Yeah, and it could just be me, like drinking my own Kool aid, but I also, I think you can tie into the story. I just told.

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Um, where if you communicate in, like, in your communication, tried to be positive and thoughtful and not spammy.

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Which is important people start like, the next person to come into the same space.

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Everyone's going to be like, oh, yeah, but brian's doing this. Like, I've heard from him multiple times.

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And I'm kind of I've already invested and or like, I'm just tired. I'm tired. I'm fatigued with the space because brian's, like, pounding on my door every month.

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And so, like, I don't even want to hear your pitch and so I felt that, like, with Lyft, it, it was.

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I still think today, I mean, there's, there's some players that have creeped into this space and perhaps if, like, the epic.

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Uh, Stanford guys, or, like people from Latin America, they have, like, cause I'm meeting with a lot of them now from from them that are there, or just graduated.

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You are getting some really interesting teams, but, like, unless like, an amazing team comes together super well found it goes to I see. And tries to attack what lifted to doing that. That could work.

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But the likelihood of that, it is low. So, like, if you kind of put that to the side, you just put like.

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Random 1st time 2nd, time entrepreneur in Latin America, going to put together, like a team try to compete with truck deliveries wherever you are, whether you're in Monterrey all the way down to South Paulo.

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Probably the 1st thing that people are going to say is, like, yeah, but like, what about lifted, there's also cargo X, which does has done a great job, kind of doing the same. But I think that because I had been so proactive and.

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And fundraising that it is kind of like, by the time, someone else comes into the room, like, the investor is a little like, fatigued of the space.

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But in a good way, just because I'm always out, kind of like self promoting if that makes sense.

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100%, I mean, there is definitely a thin line between being nicely cellphone and yourself and between being annoying so people, if you want to take this tactic, it definitely can back fire rail, rail rail radio hard.

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So be careful, be wise what that definitely works out from Brian but, you know what your options think, which 1 is going to work for your best and then move on with it.

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So 1 more question on fun doing, specifically, on being focused on this long term kind of relationships, super important thing. You know, I've seen a lot of founders who have been friends with investors for, like, 510 years. Then they just come by 1 day.

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Say, hey, I've opened a company. Can you invest and me at 10Million valuation? They're getting the best just because they know the person is good. That's it. That's the benefit of long term relationship.

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Do you have any examples of how you're putting a lot of time into investor mean without drinking coffee, having lunch is all is good stuff and then they just disappear as soon as you start talking about investing your company or did that not really happen to you before.

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Yeah, that's happened multiple times. And the 1 I'm doing today with Kubo there's a guy in San Francisco. His name is Dan green. He's pretty well known. He's a lawyer at Gunderson. detmar.

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I met with Dan a long time ago.

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And and told them about my businesses and told them even about lift it and it was just like, never because he has exposure to Latin America and it was never a good time for him to.

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Get involved with the company and he barely knew me, but sure enough like.

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7 years, 8 years later he comes around and invests into Cuba and so, you know, that's just 1 example of something working out, but that that happens a lot.

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And that's why for me, fundraising is a very long term play.

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Um, because a lot of the time you're gonna get the nose in the beginning, but if you can have if you could be heads down show good results the 1st.

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Or 2nd startup could have success or not have success,

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but if you can execute thoughtfully from beginning to end and also thoughtfully follow up with people,

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investors,

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I believe,

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can convert eventually.

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And that's why, for me, fundraising is more of a long term play, whether it's a long term play to get them to invest into their company you're working on today or something into the future.

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Nice yes, that's a perfect answer. Absolutely. All of it. And on this positive note, let's move on to you the few last questions 1 of which is a.

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Best venture, so you are the founder and general partner at best adventures can you tell us a little bit more about it? Would you like to invest in with Debra check size and what's.

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Stage do I invest in 3 questions.

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Yeah, definitely. So Sebastian Ventures is a fund I founded in 2014.

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I was living on a street called bass and lane and situate Massachusetts, which is basically like a beach street right? On the ocean. It was it was beautiful.

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I was there for the summer,

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just like doing,

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like,

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renting a house there and I was in between startups and by that time had made enough of a name for myself and people,

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especially in Massachusetts,

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because I grew up there.

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That's kind of how things started to go. I had my own network and I was kind of at the time.

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I was in my thirties and had a pretty good network of people who grew up with me that we're now in your thirties, you kind of like, convert into making some interesting money.

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So they were kind of like 1st money, and I also having gone to school in Vermont, there was alumni who I was close to, who are not only in my grade, but most generations older than me, who fortunately, I became friends with over time.

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And so they also jumped in kind of all in the same thesis of, like.

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To wanting to true cheaper to provide me a small application of money to see if it made sense. Because I was ultimately, mostly full time in San Francisco even now.

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Like, when I raised the fund, I was in situate briefly that they wanted to see if they could get more exposure into San Francisco.

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So it was kind of like a scout fund 1st initiated by my own network and Massachusetts,

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but then kind of snowballed into and actually,

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again,

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because I had been fundraising for so long it had been people that I got to know over time,

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whether they invested my operating companies,

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or not I eventually became friends with a lot of people that wasn't a good fit for the operating company as an angel investor,

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but they were happy to put in a little bit of money as a limited partner into the fund.

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So, it was a small fund in 2000.

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14, it allowed me to do 40 investments with, like, an average check of 50 to 100 K and then being able to do follow ons.

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And mostly for that fund, I did San Francisco deals, because I was there mostly and I did like towards because I did 2014 to 2016. I invested in that 1st fund.

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And towards the end of 2016, I was transitioning into Latin America. So the last few deals I did on fund 1 was into your laptop, and the very last 100 K I put in lifted, which was really awesome. 1st, money in investment for sure.

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And then I had always wanted to raise a 2nd fund, but it wasn't the appropriate time relative to my priority or running operating fund operating company rather. And ironically, actually, just recently.

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Um, was able to it was like, you know, because I had just transitioned out to lift it and Cuba hadn't ramped up as it is today. And so I was able to put together a fund to basically with all the same limited partners.

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Plus a few more. I like to keep it pretty small. I'm probably going to just do, like, maybe a little bit bigger than the 1st fund. And because I don't want it to be a distraction at the end of the day. I like to be able to make quick decisions.

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And maybe a few hours on the weekend, take a look at a few deals, but by absolutely no way distracted me during the week when I'm heads down on Kubo or whatever fund whatever company I'm operating.

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And so that's important for me as well. So, that's the background on bass and today with fund to, I'm only going to 100% of the deals is going to be into Latin America. Very biased towards Columbia.

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Um, I actually did already a few kind of random deals here locally, because I had gotten to know the entrepreneurs, but.

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More broadly bullish on the whole region of Latin America. The markets that I'm focused on is supply chain and marketplaces, because I have a lot of relevant recent experiences.

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I do like enterprise Sass because my 2nd, and 3rd companies where that, and I had just recently become super obsessed with crypto.

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Um, so I'm also doing crypto investments. Nice. I love it and yeah, I mean, the more and more, I read Twitter the more and more, I.

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Feel like everyone thinks that lead time is definitely on fire and yeah, I mean, based based on my few interviews I had with people who are working with them who have been founders in lead. They're more I agree with people on Twitter so yes.

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Good choice loved the focus here and the average check size is going to be the same right? 52 hierarchy and the well, I forgot. The last question is.

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The stage of the company so, who should apply. Yeah I mean yeah. I like early stage. Actually. I love being 1st, check in.

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I've been 1st check in on a few occasions and, you know, I just being on the other side. The founder getting the 1st check when you're just putting together the PowerPoint. It's so hard to get.

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And I just know how that's probably 1 of the happiest moments of the journey of startups is getting that 1st, check it inside when you're when you're 1st starting.

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And so I like to be that guy and I have a pretty big appetite for risks. And so I've been in this game for long enough where I can check the boxes on a few kind of high level things.

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And especially if it's in a market that I know and I can add value, I like to be 1st in. But if isn't a market that, I don't know, even if it's in Columbia.

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Like, I'll wait to, maybe a little bit, but that said, actually, the last check I just did to this week was into I believe I was the 1st check in.

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And as an entrepreneur that I had gotten to know over the last few years, and just love this guy's persistence and his thoughtfulness and he's really smart guy too happy to support him on that. 1.

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Nice. That's really cool. Absolutely. Love. 1st, check. Investors are always fund. They're always raised kit and.

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All right, that's all. You need to know about them. They're just cool. So, on this another optimistic. No moving on to the very last question of today's app is a, which is a call to action.

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So, Brian, would you want to always have to do as soon as the episode is over and keep in mind that, like, over 95% of our listeners are early stage founders.

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Based mostly in the United States, by the way.

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Yeah, that's fine. So I hope this isn't Super random, but I don't think it is, but 1 of the best things that I did for myself is just drop TV.

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Um, like like, pretty much, like, around the same and I guess, like, the overarching thing is like, just like distractions and so.

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Today I cut out as much just distractions as I possibly can even though it sounds like I'm doing a lot with a funded and everything. Like, I prioritize my time pretty well.

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So, it all started with, like, just like the TV, I think is a good example of something that's insanely non valuable.

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And so I quit TV over a decade ago and has been and efficiency driver for me, like, beyond anything else. And so I figured.

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If I'm going to waste that time, like, I might as well be on a podcast learning more about the industry that I'm in or just becoming better and better entrepreneur or just, like, get back to work.

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Because it's, like, try to have, like, if you're going to have downtime to spend it with your family or exercising, but don't waste it on on non value, add stuff like that. So that's my call to action.

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I hope it's not super random, but it worked out for me and I believe, like, 90% of the people, it's just like a Super distraction for people.

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Higher percent, I mean, you would definitely just cold. My major hobby a waste of time. That's true. That's true. It's definitely not something useful. I just think it's completely defining after work. You're like, okay, that was a good day.

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Wherever I'm just going to spend 4 hours watching this show I don't care. Sometimes I do more than 4 hours. Trust me. I'm not the most productive person in the world for sure.

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I think it's fine, but again, everyone has their own ways of running life. So exactly think about it. Maybe it's a good call to action.

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Honestly a lot of people just like, myself spend a ton of time wasted on this stuff so yeah and, yeah, Michael's going to be checkout description. This episode.

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I'm going to leave the links to brian's LinkedIn. I'm going to leave a link to best and Ventures. I'm going to leave a link to Google and probably do something else. Maybe do another story of acquisition from Latin America.

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The founder was the founder of the largest E, commerce.

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Of last time, at the time of the acquisition. So if you are curious to see what's going on and what time if you want to hear more stories about last time, definitely check out the description. This episode, the links are going to be there and is usually have a good date.