Eric Pérez-Grovas is a Mexican investor who helped shape Latin America’s tech ecosystem through his early investments in unicorns including Kavak, Konfío, Loft and Nubank. With his partner Cristobal Perdomo, he recently announced their firm, Jaguar Ventures, would change its name to Wollef and open a third fund, which aims to raise $100 million.
Jaguar was an early investor in some of the biggest tech companies in Latin America. What do they have in common?
A key element of building a successful business is believing you are going to do it. I was lucky enough that I met Marcos Galperin when he started MercadoLibre, and he invited me to start MercadoLibre in Mexico. Even in its first months of life, he would tell you he was going to build the largest retail e-commerce business in Latin America. The other factor is the ability to recruit amazing talent and convince people to join and be part of a team.
How has venture capital in Mexico and Latin America changed over the past few years?
It’s more accepted to be an entrepreneur. Now people see it as a very good and valid opportunity to either start or become part of a tech startup. Another important change is the availability of resources. Now, the steps are ready. You can start getting money from angel investors, but then you can move to pre-seed, seed, and Series A, and beyond.
Is there any tension between the long-time local investors and the international investors who are flowing into the country?
There has always been competition. For example, Konfío has been an amazing investment for us. Even in 2014, we had to fight our way into the company because [founder and CEO] David Arana didn’t want a single Mexican investor. He already had a lot of foreign investors. So this has been going for a while — that as investors, we had to prove our worth to entrepreneurs. What has changed is that more foreign investors like the idea of having local investors. It has gotten to the point that we sometimes receive calls from entrepreneurs telling us, “I’m speaking with such and such firm from the US, and they asked if we were talking with you because they want to have a local fund with local expertise and local validation.”
What do you think are the biggest Latam tech opportunities currently being overlooked?
We need to go further down the pyramid into the masses to be able to start delivering digital services to the market that has a smartphone, but they don’t have credit or insurance. There’s huge potential there. If you see basic businesses in Mexico — like Bimbo, like Cemex, like Telcel — these are companies that have created massive businesses serving the bottom of the pyramid.
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