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How to Start and Grow Your Business in Latin America

Below is an article I have been sent by a business owner in Argentina whose business is an expanding start-up. I’ve not changed any part of it so it has an authentic Latin American flow and it contains some universal lessons that any new business owner should be aware of.

How to Start and Grow Your Business in Latin America

We are the biggest Price Comparison Site (Aggregator) in Latin America with more than 4.000.000 unique users and 20 employees in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and México.

But this is not about who we are or what we do, this is about how you can replicate this tactics and use them in your Start-Up.

1) Be diligent: There is not shortcut or trick, you have to work hard day and night, no other option. We start 4 years ago and we focus first of all in creating a great Service, you absolutely need to have a product that is a “Solution to an specific Problem”.

Perseverance when you are starting is your best friend. Forget about competition, when you are young what will kill you is not competition it is: Lack of work, lack of a great service or a bad relationship with your co-founder.

2) Always be learning: In order to grow without a big budget (since in this region of the world, Angel Investment and Venture Capital at the time was not an option), we have to learn and keep learning everyday about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and Email Marketing. For more information you can check out the SEOMOZ community with a lot of free resources about SEO and MailChimp for newsletters.

We get very close to be experts in these fields, we need new customers and with them we will to generate Revenue in order to grow organically our business. The reality, is that most of the Start-Ups needs to do this, and even more in the first days, when they are testing if their business model will actually work or not.

3) Keep focus on Feedback: What we learn by doing good things and also mistakes, is that listening to your customers is the best way to improve. There is no one in the world, no even the Founders, that know more about what the product should do, than the Customers.

Ask for comments and make surveys about what the Client need and start developing from there.

4) Iterations are the secret to Success: When you start you have only an idea, but the proof of concept in the first touch with the customers always almost fail. That is why you have to be prepare and confident to pivot your business. The best source of information in this subject is Eric Ries with The Lean Startup Movement.

Finally, forget about the Tech Stars like Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc., focus first on solving a real problem, what happens next is a matter of testing and learning, all the nice companies that I just mention start this way: no magic, no tricks, no shortcuts, only hard work and dedication.

Christian Rennella CoFounder at the leading Price Comparison (Insurance and Loans) in Argentina. Now also working in Brazil, México and Colombia with The Internet market is growing at 43% a year in the region.


The Rotten Core of CitiGroup

If you want to know why the world is currently in financial turmoil then this is a very insightful read:

To summarise, Citigroup (a whopper of a US bank with all sorts of questionable ties and one that received a massive bailout from the US Government) sold mortgages and they also bought mortgages from other financial institutions.

It then sold on these mortgage debts to other lenders and that alone is enough to make some people’s head spin.

The debts were sold on because they had value because the people who actually owed the money were paying interest.

Lenders often sell off their mortgages, it’s quite common.

The problem with Citigroup is, it was doing so much of this it failed to identify bad debts.

They did at first but then the volumes became so high they couldn’t check them all.

Citigroup got greedy (what’s that? a greedy bank? Who would have thought…)

It turns out people did identify some of these bad debts but not only did Citigroup try to brush them under the carpet, they also asked some of their staff to falsify documents to make some of the bad debts look good!

The link above is all about one woman who refused to participate and who blew the whistle on the whole fiasco resulting in a large settlement being paid to the US Gov’ment and her in turn receiving $31 million dollars as a kind of reward.

The more I read, the more I got the feeling that Citigroup may have been hugely responsible for much of the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Here’s the link again:


The Greek Referendum

How many European leaders slapped their brows when they heard the news about the proposed referendum in Greece? I’d hazard a guess at ‘quite a few’.

Having spent ‘hours’ in meetings discussing the way forward for further bail-outs for Greece the Greek Prime Minister decided his public should vote on the matter.

Why? Can you imagine what would have happened here in the UK if the ConDems had allowed us to vote on the austerity measures?

More people would have voted than they did in the elections and there would probably have been a unanimous result of a resounding ‘no’ to cuts. After all, we are all so well informed we know what’s best for the country far better than any highly qualified economists, surely?

So when a country that is going to have to put in place some much tougher measures to avoid bankruptcy suggests the people should vote it’s hardly surprising the rest of the world puts its head in its hands and sighs.

A quote from an article on Interactive Investor puts it quite nicely: 

‘There is no pleasing some people. Not content with borrowing and spending his own country into economic oblivion, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou single-handedly capsized global stockmarkets on Tuesday.

By giving the Greek people a referendum on the second tranche of bail-out funds from the eurozone, Papandreou has destabilised fragile investor optimism and placed a banana skin under the increasingly shaky domino his country has become’

The whole global debt crisis is no longer being understated as it was in 2009 when everyone was trying to pretend certain problems didn’t exist and global economies would return to prosperity in Q1 of, er, no wait, Q2..? Ah, Next year then…?

I recently received a hand-out at a meeting that showed Barclays Corporate base rate predictions sticking at 0.5% for at least another year.

I’ve also noticed forecasters downgrading their predictions for UK growth to a more pessimistic figure of about 0.3% so that when the news came out that growth was actually a staggering 0.5% the press could put a positive spin on the result – ‘UK Growth Higher then Predicted’!

Previously they’d have released optimistic figures only to be disappointed.

The threat of a ‘double dip’ recession is real but with growth so stagnant will it have much of an impact on consumer confidence that is already low (unless you sell iPads)?

Of course it could be avoided by swift action which is why Mr Papandreou’s decision is seen as a veritable spanner in the works.