Originally from Peru and now based in Mexico, Michelle Fischman is the head of platform at Nazca, a venture capital firm focused on early stage investments. She previously worked at Endeavor México. With Anais Cisneros, she also founded Amela, a community of female founders in Spanish-speaking Latin America.
What are the main challenges facing the Latin American tech scene?
Our ecosystem has been evolving a lot. There’s a lot more international investment happening around Latin America. There’s a lot of money coming in, which is making valuations higher and making the market even more competitive. Everything is moving really, really fast. That’s going to stabilize, but right now prices are super high. That’s not helping to create a healthy ecosystem. As a fund, you still need to go through unit economics. Right now, some VCs are not even looking at those kinds of healthy metrics.
There are also some industries that are becoming oversaturated. For example, there’s a lot of fintech startups coming up addressing solutions around payments and open banking. Now, one of the challenges is addressing other types of industries like edtech. There is a lot of opportunity around health tech, prop tech, and logistics as well.
Why did you start Amela, and what is the aim of the organization?
Last year, Anais Cisneros and I read that none of the $4.4 billion in funding for 2020 in Latin America went to female-only founded startups. That was eye opening for us. We didn’t understand why it was zero. We said, “OK, what’s happening?” We started more research. I was working at Endeavor back then. I was about to move into Nazca, and we realized that female founders didn’t have the same exposure as male founders. It was a major pain point. So we said, “OK, now what are we going to do about this?” That’s how Amela was born. We help founders with funds mapping and introductions, and we have a mentor pool that helps them with their pitch, their deck, their data room, and their business model.
The second objective of Amela is to connect female founders. We focus more on early stage founders because that’s where we believe we can really add value. We do meetups every month to build community, and through these meetups we bring speakers like Lolita Taub and Antonia Roja, who is one of the only female partners of a VC in Mexico. We have over 100 female founders from all over Latin America. 43% are from Mexico, but we also have many from Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru as well.
What are the roadblocks that women in technology in Latin America face?
Latin America is still evolving, but it’s behind in many ways. Women do not have the same visibility as men. The media and the ecosystem just doesn’t give visibility to what female founders are doing. I’ve also heard a lot that when it comes to pitching, if a woman does not have what’s perceived as a strong enough attitude, investors don’t take them seriously.
I believe that it’s more of a structural problem. In Latin America, STEM careers don’t usually have as many women as men. So even before starting your professional journey, you go to universities. If you choose a STEM path, you don’t see many women. The work needs to be done from an educational side to start erasing this taboo that women cannot do tech. It’s an old pattern. We need to change.