Ariel Valverde co-founded Yaigo, a Bolivian last-mile delivery startup that was acquired by Venezuelan self-proclaimed super app, Yummy, in 2021. He’s now country manager for Bolivia.

How have things changed for Yaigo after Yummy’s acquisition?

November marks the first year after the merger. The last few months have been very intense for the company. Our brand, Yaigo, has kept operating pretty much the same way it did before the acquisition. But soon after that, we were part of the $47 million round that Yummy raised this past June. Our budget increased exponentially, which means better local marketing, more services, and added value for the final user. And my fellow co-founders at Yaigo and I have learned so many lessons from Vicente Zavarce, Yummy’s founder. He launched the company in 2020, one year after we launched Yaigo, but he scaled much faster. Yummy was part of Y Combinator’s top companies last year, so that definitely helped in terms of fundraising and building a growth strategy. But, now that we’re part of Yummy, we’ve also taken on its problems. We’re a team now, and so, while we’re still running most of the Yaigo operation in Bolivia, we’re trying to support Yummy’s overall growth in other countries. 

As a company, what are your priorities during the ongoing investment crunch?

We’re definitely seeing a lot of effort going into achieving operational efficiency, not only in our company but in the entire region. Yaigo has been completely bootstrapped since our foundation in 2019. We had not had the experience of raising large amounts of money like other startups had. We didn’t have their same burn rate. Translating the experience of doing more with less has been important for Yummy. So, we’re working on optimizing our unit economics companywide. It was thanks to this that we were able to raise $47 million during this period of investment uncertainty in the region.

Though we’re now owned by Yummy, Yaigo is at a stage of growth where we’re still hiring and expanding. As the market has changed, we’ve focused on growing in countries where we weren’t before. We’re about to launch a ride-sharing service in Peru and Panama, for example. 

What has Yaigo’s exit meant for other Bolivian startups?

I would say it made Bolivian startups more visible in the region. Another delivery startup in the country had managed an exit before Yaigo: Netcomidas, which was acquired by PedidosYa (owned by Delivery Hero) in 2018. Both Netcomidas and Yaigo are startups based in Santa Cruz — Bolivia’s economic hub and one of the cities with the largest growth rates in the region. We both have contributed to the Bolivian ecosystem to be on international investors’ radar, who used to bypass the country almost entirely. And we, as founders, have also started to invest in early-stage startups, trying to offer the same opportunities we had. We’re becoming the angel investors we used to seek outside the country.