Exploring Opportunities in Latin America: Mexico City!
Written by Andy Ambrose, Liveoak’s Co-founder and CEO
Three and a half years into starting and building Liveoak, I often reflect on our path – all the twists and turns that have put us in the place we are at today. I have to admit, we did not set out to start working with global enterprise companies so early. Especially ones that are based in other countries. As you can imagine, it is hard enough to be an early stage enterprise software company selling to legacy financial service powerhouses, but adding the challenges of these companies being HQ’d in other countries carries additional obstacles (language and cultural differences, different regulatory requirements to name a couple).
In spite of the above, the tradeoff is quite exciting. For one, international footprint this early validates that the new category of Virtual Business has a global addressable market. That really fires me up every day, and our investors are pretty excited about it also.
Another great by-product is getting to explore and immerse into the culture of the people and country. The extent of my travel growing up was road trips; camping in the awesome state parks of TX. Driving to coastal beaches in the family station wagon (sometimes no A/C) – all priceless. So in my adult life, traveling has become a passion shared by my wife and children. Adding this element of excitement to my work life, frankly, is a bonus. Travel can be exhausting, but it always seems like a special reserve of energy comes from within to match the energy required.
This past week, I had the privilege to be invited to explore opportunities with one of the largest banks in Latin America HQ’d in Mexico City. I had never been to Mexico City but always wanted to; it was as amazing as I had imagined.
Here are a few thoughts and observations from my recent trip:
Make an effort to participate in the language and culture
Whenever possible, try to speak the language. Many probably would debate this with the notion that it could make you look foolish – I think the opposite. It shows effort and interest. Google Translate is ridiculously helpful. You can even search for pronunciation. I re-titled my presentation slides in Spanish on this trip, also added business nomenclature that I picked up. I think it was well received…we will see! Also, embrace the customs of the people; like kissing new business contacts on the cheek even on the first encounter. Roll with it.
Make time to do some sightseeing
Even if a 1-hour detour on an early run or a gap in the schedule. This is a city that has over 1000 years of history of civilization. There is an amazing museum – The Museo Nacional de Antropologia in the center of the city. You have to check it out. I also make a point to find the ‘central park’ of any new metropolitan city. Knowing how special Zilker Park in Austin, TX is to us who live here – it’s no different anywhere else. You can feel the energy. Whatever your interest is – you can find something super interesting to see anywhere – I’m certain.
Museo Nacional de Antropologia
OMG – the food. It is as good as everyone says. Farm to Market isn’t a new thing here – it’s just the way it is. Don’t be afraid to pop into one of a zillion taquerias as you are walking by when you see it spilling out with locals. A sure sign of a good place to eat. Note: Don’t start the Whole30 diet if traveling to Mexico ?
Make new friends
Having friends around the world is pretty cool. It gives you even more reason to travel. This trip I coincidentally met up with another founder and CEO of an early stage FinTech company based in Columbia. Amazing how much in common you can have with someone so far away. In this case, Javi and I both had participated in a TechStars Accelerator and immediately were able to relate to business opportunities and challenges. Another contact I met, who was born and raised in Mexico, was very generous with helping translate, and guide us in the ways of Mexico City.
Friends, family, co-workers all are interested – and as they say – pictures are worth a thousand words. Here are some pics of Ciudad de Mexico from the recent trip – I definitely would put this on your bucket list.