Based in Mexico City, Christine Chang is a venture partner at Rally Cap, a venture collective of fintech founders, operators, and angels investing in emerging markets, as well as editor-in-chief, Latin America, for This Week in Fintech. She also works with early stage founders via Santosha Advisors and Next Billion Advisors.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the Latin America tech ecosystem right now?
Previously, the three main areas were tech, capital, and talent. The tech is moving along — I don’t think anybody could argue with the fact that tech is going faster than any of us can really keep up with. And then capital is not solved, but it’s a very different picture than it was 18 months ago. I wouldn’t say capital is as abundant as in the United States, but we’re definitely living in a different reality than we were pre-Covid. Before that, I would really struggle to get 15 people around a table when I would take entrepreneurs to Miami to try to raise their rounds. And now, every single day, investors from Silicon Valley are coming out to visit. For talent, because the ecosystem is still quite young, we’re just starting to have second-time founders. We have the opportunity to create more depth of talent and bridge the Silicon Valley culture with the Latin American culture.
What is unique to Latin American tech culture versus Silicon Valley culture?
We’re still very afraid of failure. In any culture, it sucks to admit when you fail, but that’s something that’s very innate to Silicon Valley. With Latin America, we’re still very traditional in the sense that if you feel your friends and family are not going to support you, it’s still stigmatized. On the good side, Latin American culture is very collaborative. There’s more of a sense of camaraderie — that a rising tide lifts all boats. Even though there’s one neobank competing against another neobank, we know that when we work together to bring the best investors down to Latin America to educate consumers, that helps all of us.
You work on supporting women in tech and venture in the region; how can that be moved further forward?
It’s similar to how entrepreneurs here have lived through the same challenges and automatically have to band together, because, otherwise, you’re not going to make it by yourself. It’s been really gratifying to reach out to any woman in the ecosystem and look at how we can collaborate or just talk about the things that we all experience. The issue can move forward by everyone realizing that it’s not a female problem. It shouldn’t just be women talking about how to get more women into the ecosystem. If you’re thinking about where to find more talent, if you’re leaving out half of the talent pool, that’s the most obvious answer.
What are the most overlooked opportunities in Latin America tech right now?
There are overlooked and underrepresented founders everywhere, and especially in Latin America. If you haven’t gone to the right schools or if you don’t have the right family connections, it’s harder for you to make it into the mainstream. When you talk to Silicon Valley investors, some of them will admit that they look for first degree connections. So that means somebody who went to Stanford, or somebody who’s worked in the United States, or somebody’s brother or cousin. You’re really looking within the obvious, and there’s a huge amount of founders who don’t have that pedigree.
You’re involved with Web3 and crypto — how would you respond to skeptics of the space?
A good level of skepticism is good. There are weeks when I think, Oh my god, I’m totally drinking the Kool-Aid. Every technology system has its pros and cons. If I were living in the U.S, I probably wouldn’t be this much of a fanatic. In emerging markets, the context is totally different. because we have a traditional financial system that is totally broken. So the infrastructure is broken, the rails are broken, and the power is in the hands of very few. You can argue that within crypto, a few account holders of bitcoin hold the majority of the wealth. But for me, it’s more about the potential to change the infrastructure. If you take DeFi enabled remittances, you get lower cost structures, which can benefit the end user.
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