The e-interview: Amanda Jacobson, Village Capital

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“There are more ventures, more accelerators, and more funds focused or being raised around the [FinTech] sector”

LinkedIn: Amanda Jacobson, Manager of Latin America at Village Capital
Twitter: @AmandaJLA

What do you do currently?
I help Mexican entrepreneurs to solve major global problems. For the past two years, I’ve been focused on finding and training early-stage entrepreneurs who want to address the needs of the unbanked and under banked in the country. In the coming months, we’re be looking forward to expanding to more sectors and more countries in Latin America.

How and when did you get involved with the Mexican entrepreneurial ecosystem?
As I finished up my studies, I was interested in working in the private sector, but traditional careers like consultancy or Wall Street finance didn’t excite me, and wasn’t sure what other options were out there. I was intrigued by social enterprise because it hit that intersection of challenging and meaningful for me, and became an IDEX Fellow in Social Enterprise with Sankalp Forum of Intellecap (like the FLII of India). I had the opportunity to build an investment pipeline before I even knew what that meant. After 6 months back home in LA doing every possible job a millennial can do (Lyft, Sidecar, oDesk, Task Rabbit, babysitting, events…), I found a part-time, entry-level job with Village Capital’s (VilCap) Boston Health cohort. My job basically consisted of buying pizza and setting up desks, so I pushed to learn by watching the entrepreneurs and add value by designing the most amazing budget tracking spreadsheets you’ve ever seen. When that role ended, I was excited to learn that VilCap was opening its Mexico offices for a FinTech program, and I jumped at the opportunity to finally use what I’d learned to lead that initiative. That experience soon became the roots of our growing LatAm operations.

How would you describe the ecosystem in Mexico?
Nascent, but ahead of the curve. Venture Capital is only a few years old in Mexico, but (especially in FinTech) there are signs that it’s just getting started. From a recent AMEXCAP report, a quarter of the investment funds raised 2011-2015 in LatAm were based in Mexico. Both Mexico City and Monterrey make the Top 10 Venture Capital centers in the region. However, compared to what I’ve seen in other LatAm countries and emerging markets, Mexico is at the forefront. Moreover, it has community. Come to Mexico in December and you’ll have trouble getting work done around all of the fund, startup, and general entrepreneur community brindis navideño holiday parties.

What do you expect in the next 12 months?
I’ve been seeing a boom in FinTech. There are more ventures, more accelerators, and more funds focused or being raised around the sector. In the next 12 months, I’d love to see more attention in other sectors like health and education.

What are the main challenges?
A study by Ignia and SWS outlined it really well: Mexico’s ranking on the Competitiveness Index hasn’t improved since 2005. Why? Corruption ensues and security in some states is still a serious issue. Obviously, this would be a concern to foreign investors who don’t see the flip side: Mexico is not only the 11th most populated country in the world, but it also has the 15th greatest economy in the world, with certain states standing out in competitiveness and growth.

What change or result would bring the greatest benefits for the ecosystem?
Eliminating Mexican fear of failure. I’m not a Mexican, so can’t speak first-hand, but after attending several Fuckup Nights here, I believe that one of the core reasons why there’s a limited pipeline in Mexico is because people are afraid of taking the risk of starting a business, and the educational system doesn’t encourage taking risks, failing fast, and trying again and again until you succeed.

Describe your typical day
Possibly the most difficult question here, but something along the lines of: Wake up at 8 am (I’m not superwoman) and get to my desk. Spend an hour responding to emails, then hop in an Uber to meet with potential partners and find out how we can better support VilCap entrepreneurs. Head back to our co-working office WRK to meet with my team, balance a series of Skype/Google Hangout/Phone (and even occasionally Whatsapp phone) calls. Choose one of our fave fondas in Roma (frequently Madre Agua and COME) and grab lunch with the team, a coworker, or some other social enterprise or entrepreneurship junkie. Get back to the office and keep hustling. Gym run. Cook something new from Epicurious.com and catch up with the roomies. Continue my addiction to getting work done. Netflix. Repeat-ish.

Who is your favorite entrepreneur?
Forced to choose just one, Armando Kuroda, Co-Founder of Credilikeme. Besides growing his business like crazy, pushing new successful products, and growing their loan book (impressively, 30% of borrowers are thin-file, 1st time formal loan users), he’s down to earth and has the ‘weird’ factor. Unlike most Mexican entrepreneurs I meet, he’s from Culiacan and on LinkedIn simply has his headline as artista. He doesn’t conform to the stereotype of how a “successful businessman” should look and act. He doesn’t have a “businessman haircut” or spend time showing off how awesome his venture is. During the VilCap program, he consistently gave meaningful advice to his peers, and as an alumni, always makes the time to stay involved and give back.

A recent book do you recommend?
Venture Deals by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson.

Smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop?
Smartphone, it’s my digital leash.

iOS or Android?
iOS – all about UX.

Favorite App?
Google Maps–not the most “exciting” find, but it knows where the Esquina del Chilaquil is in Condesa, and that’s impressive.

Favorite social network?
Facebook: I am a true American millennial. I may be behind the times, but still addicted.

Ideal vacation?
Backpacks and starlight. Fresh air and salsa dancing. No bug bites. Mind-blowing food.

What are your goals for the next 12 months?
I would love to accomplish the following:

  • Get VilCap operating in more countries across LatAm, in more sectors like health, education, and agriculture
  • Encourage the discussion around the importance of financial technology in addressing the needs of the 61% of the country that doesn’t even have a formal bank account
  • Dedicate more time to salsa dancing and rock climbing

One word that describes you?
Surprisingly funny.


Previous interview: Alejandro Diez Barroso
This entry was posted in Actualidad, e-entrevista, Ecosistema, English, Mexico and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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