How to Get Over Self-Promotion Shyness So You Can Market Your Small Business or Startup Successfully

Many entrepreneurs and small business owners, especially women, feel a bit uncomfortable with tooting their own horn to promote their business. But getting the word out is key to success in business, so here are a couple of tips to help you get over this self-promotion shyness and start telling the world about the amazing product or service that you have to offer:

Have you ever struggled with self-promotion shyness? If yes, please share below how you’ve managed to deal with it and to effectively promote your small business or startup. I’d love to hear everyone’s tips!

Do you know anyone who struggles with feeling good about promoting him/herself  and his/her business? Share this post and maybe you’ll help them get over it, get out there, and get more business. e.d

Costa Rica Startup Overview

Mexico was amazing and I can’t wait to get back there to dig a bit deeper into all of the opportunities that I discovered, but now I’ve moved on to Costa Rica and looks like this is going to be a wonderful stop on my Latin American journey as well!

Costa Rica has a lot going for it in comparison to some of the other Latin American countries: it boasts solid infrastructure (which is always important because it can get pretty tough to build the next Google if your internet doesn’t work), a great education system and well-educated work force, the presence of some power players – like Intel, and growing interest in building the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country. On the down side, however, Costa Rica is a small country of approximately 4.5 million people and it’s becoming increasingly expensive. Entrepreneurs in Costa Rica need to set their sets on the larger Latin American (or other international) market because the country is simply not large enough to provide a customer base able to sustain the type of growth that would interest equity investors and it needs to find a way to differentiate itself from the rest of the region in order to justify the additional costs of setting up shop here, as compared to some of the other, much less expensive countries.

During my first week in San Jose, the Costa Rican capital, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the presentation of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s report on Costa Rica. This is a bit of a big deal because Costa Rica has only been included in the GEM reports for the last few years and the event included a brief speech from the country’s Commerce Minister.  Because data on Costa Rica has only recently begun to be gathered for GEM, the graphs are not nearly as useful as those I showed you for Mexico. However, it’s exciting that Costa Rica’s ecosystem has grown enough that they are at least now on the map and being included in reports like those produced by GEM.

Hopefully, the next few years will show continued growth for entrepreneurship in the country, but there are definitely some challenges to be overcome if Costa Rica wants to become the Central American Silicon Valley.

 

 

In Costa Rica, I began by talking to entrepreneurs so we’ll have 2 weeks of interviews with the business owners on the ground in the country. Then I’ll speak with a couple of former PE professionals who are building a modern business incubator and partnering with Costa Rica’s largest angel investor group to make sure promising young startups get access to the resources – both educational and monetary – that they need to succeed. Finally, I’ll finish off my stint in this Central American startup hub with a chat with the Founder of Startup Costa Rica. 

I’ve also had some pretty great adventures seeing the sites, so make sure to take a look at the Where in the World? section to get a taste of the fun things you can get into in between business meetings. 

Mexico’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Interview 4 – Jackie Hyland: Project Analyst, Angel Ventures Mexico

It’s almost time to leave Mexico (okay, by the time I post this I will have already been in Costa Rica for 2 weeks – but it’s almost time for the blog to leave Mexico) but before heading to the airport I was lucky enough to be able to sit down for a coffee chat with Jackie Hyland. She’s a Project Analyst at Angel Ventures Mexico and interacts regularly with both startups and investors, so she has a pretty insightful take on the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Mexico City.

Since Jackie works at an angel fund, our conversation naturally started with a discussion of the investment environment and, according to Jackie, there’s a big gap at that initial seed-stage capital between what entrepreneurs need and what investors are willing to offer. She says:

“There are people who want to invest but very few that want to join in on a company that is at the prototype or even seed stage. [Investors] want to see sales.”

Just like some of the other insiders I spoke to, Jackie says she’s seen a lot of the family business culture and the monopoly culture. While in the U.S. when we think of an angel investor we may conjure images of a serial entrepreneur who’s started and sold numerous businesses, in Mexico the angel investors tend to come from a more corporate traditional background or have run a family business so they’re more risk averse.

On the positive side, however, Jackie says that the investment environment in Mexico is very open, meaning that investors share deals with other investors rather then trying to keep the next hot thing to themselves.

“Between the funding organizations, we want to share what we know,” Jackie says. 

She thinks the risk aversion and openness will change though, and that change process has already begun.  The government is saying the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem is a priority for them by creating the new entrepreneurship institute  and the entrepreneurs and investors are becoming more active.

“The movement has started now. There are people saying ‘I don’t need to just take over my Dad’s company or get a job. I can start something,'” she says. “But it will take another 3 or 4 years before people start seeing it’s not just about starting a company, it’s about coming up with something really unique.”

Unfortunately, Jackie sees that increased deal flow leading to less open communication between investors: “I think [funding organizations’ openness] is going to change once the deal flow changes and there are a lot of really hot projects with high value,” she says.

These changes are a part of the evolution of the ecosystem. According to Jackie, just a few years ago in Mexico entrepreneurship was just starting to come out of people’s mouths and now it’s exploding. Now that there are numerous incubators and accelerators that have started, people know about them, and people are in them; people are beginning to try to figure out how to make them better.

“Everyone says this is the prototype phase and now let’s go to phase two: let’s make it better,” Jackie says.

And part of making the ecosystem better is about tweaking the models so that they fit with the Mexican culture and ecosystem. “A lot of other countries want to mimic Silicon Valley: What do they do? What do they have? How do we bring that here?” Jackie says. But in order to truly succeed, the Mexican entrepreneurial ecosystem needs to adapt those models to Mexican realities.

“What I think and what I always ask Mexicans,” Jackie says, is “why do you feel like you need to mimic when you’re bringing something from another culture? Why not try to do more than transplant and see how this model fits with Mexico and make it bigger and better?”

However the ecosystem continues to evolve – as an attempted direct copy of places like Silicon Valley or as something intentionally uniquely Mexican – Jackie says, “the flow will pick up when entrepreneurs say: ‘Okay we’ve been doing this, we’ve been making companies, let’s figure out how to do this better, how to make a big difference.'” Thus, the question of the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Mexico seems to be one of how and how quickly, not if.

 

Do you have experience in the Mexico City startup scene? If so, please let me know your thoughts on what Jackie had to say in the comments sections below. Next up we head off to San Jose, Costa Rica to explore the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Ticolandia. 

Small Business Loan Tips from Joaquin Gallardo of Wells Fargo

This week’s New Venture Mentor video is a bit different from what I usually do and I hope you all like it! Instead of listening to me blabber on and on this week, you get to hear from an expert I brought in to talk a bit about what bankers look for in a candidate for a small business loan.

I get lots of questions on this topic so I thought it would be best to hear some advice straight from the horse’s mouth. That’s where Joaquin comes in. Joaquin Gallardo is a business relationship manager with Wells Fargo Bank in the DC metro market.  He manages business accounts ranging from startups to companies over $50 million in annual revenue, which includes managing their lending requirements.  He’s been serving the business banking segment for the past 6 years with the most recent 2 at Wells Fargo.  He currently serves on the George Mason University School of Management Alumni Board of Directors and is a founding member of the George Mason Business Roundtable.

See what advice he has to offer entrepreneurs in the video below:

 

Want to find out more about Joaquin or get in touch? You can find him here.

Mexico’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Interview 3 – Scott Wofford: Project Leader, Ashoka

After visiting Endeavor Mexico, Josh Ford put me in touch with Scott Wofford, a consultant and project leader at Ashoka who is developing a map of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Mexico City including development organizations, funding organizations, universities, etc. JACK POT – this is just the kind of information that I am interested in.

Unfortunately, Scott’s report isn’t yet released publicly so I can’t share any lovely links, but Scott was kind enough to grab lunch with me and give me another take on what’s happening in the world of entrepreneurship in Mexico City and where the city’s ecosystem is headed in the near future.

One of the key differences he identifies between the ecosystem in Mexico and that in the United States are that there is more classism for aspiring entrepreneurs to contend with in Mexico and that

“classism impacts many things about being an entrepreneur including raising capital and being part of the right networks.”

Additionally, because of the social stratification, there is more need-based entrepreneurship in Mexico than in the United States. Many people become business owners because it is the only option they have to support themselves or their families, however, these are not the entrepreneurs that have the resources or desire to grow those enterprises into fully functioning, scalable companies.

At the same time, there’s a lack of investment capital – specifically venture capital, in Mexico. Scott believes this lack of venture capital has a few causes: venture capitalists have trouble finding a pipeline; lots of monopolies prevent industries from taking off through a startup because those monopolies have a choke hold and since the startups cannot make it “really big” they are less attractive to investors; and Mexico is missing the qualified talent to manage a successful fund.

Scott also identifies more entrenched corruption in Mexico as something that differentiates the ecosystem there from that in the United States. Because of this corruption, Mexico doesn’t fare well on the ease-of-doing-business index and it can be difficult for entrepreneurs without the right connections to get the proper permits and licenses to begin doing business or to expand an existing business.

On the positive side, however, because the social divisions are so defined,

“Once you’re in, you’re in,” Scott says. “Some of the success stories go through all of the programs – Ashoka, Endeavor, etc. even though they don’t necessarily need the help.”

This is a theme that came up in other interviews in Mexico City as well – because the ecosystem is still at its early stages, it’s a small community in which everyone knows everyone.

Mexico also maintains a strong family structure as a deeply entrenched part of its culture so friends and family “rounds” of investment are more common. Additionally, Mexico has a growing middle class and good macro-economic growth that, combined with its proximity to the U.S., position it well to bring established U.S. models and apply them in Mexico – usually for less risk.

So where does Scott see the Mexican entrepreneurial ecosystem in 5 – 10 years?

“Right now, 80%-90% of entrepreneurs who’ve been invested in or accelerated by one of the big programs will increase 25%-30% per year but only a few will be big success cases in terms of ROI.” In 5 – 10 years, “I think that there will be a couple of big success cases where entrepreneurs become pretty famous.”

 

Do you have experience in the Mexico City startup scene? If so, please let me know your thoughts on what Scott had to say in the comments sections below. Our next interview will be with Jackie Hyland of Angel Ventures Mexico.

 

Tips for Pitching Your Startup or Small Business to Investors

Many an entrepreneur dreams of raising money from a prominent venture capital firm or angel investor, but this type of funding is hard to come by. If your company is suitable for an equity investment and you’ve been lucky enough to land an audience with some investors, it’s important that you don’t blow your pitch if you want to make a good impression and get the funding you need.

Today’s video gives you some quick tips to make sure that your pitch impresses your potential investors so that you can get money you need to build your dream startup.

Mexico’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Interview 2 – Joshua Ford: Analyst of Entrepreneur Services and Search & Selection, Endeavor Mexico

After speaking with Jorge Madrigal of Aventura in my last Startup Nomad post I was really excited about Mexico City’s potential as a startup hub. I wanted to speak to someone connected to an international organization to get a comparison between the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Mexico City and ecosystems in other cities, so I headed over to Endeavor Mexico to talk to Joshua Ford.

Josh is an Analyst of Entrepreneur Services & Selection, so he’s on the front lines interfacing with entrepreneurs who would like to become a part of Endeavor’s program and he gets to help decide who’s ready to get going with the program, who needs a little bit more work before entering the program, and who just isn’t a good fit for what Endeavor offers. He was kind enough to show me around the Endeavor offices in Mexico City (very Google-esque) and to let me grill him about what he sees happening in Mexico City’s world of entrepreneurship.

According to Josh,

“Mexico is just starting to get to the point where people are starting to think about entrepreneurship,”

and he sees some key differences between entrepreneurship in Mexico and entrepreneurship in the U.S. Firstly, he sees a lack of capital in Mexico. According to him, venture funds are smaller and more hesitant to invest because of “cultural stuff,” while, at the same time, entrepreneurs are hesitant to give equity stakes because they’re more guarded as the practice is not as familiar, there isn’t much understanding of how to value a company, and many entrepreneurs don’t realize that they could/should be looking outside of their network of friends and family for money to start or grow their businesses.

This mentality brings us to another difference that Josh identified between the U.S. and Mexican entrepreneurial ecosystems: Mexico’s lack of an entrepreneurship culture. There aren’t nearly as many pitch competitions, mentorship programs, or academic programs highlighting entrepreneurship as a viable career path and educating Mexicans about how to pursue it. There is also greater social stratification with most entrepreneurs coming from wealthy families because the “life tracks” start at a very early age. Public education in Mexico, according to Josh, is not as good as that in the U.S. so the wealthy in Mexico have an even bigger leg up than those in the States. Plus, since there are so few “rags to riches” stories there are not role models available to encourage entrepreneurship among less-well-off young people. Thus, the potential pool of entrepreneurs is the top 5-10% of the population (economically) instead of the entire population.

Finally, Mexico lacks some of the basic infrastructure to really be a tech, startup, and innovation powerhouse because the availability of things such as high-speed internet varies greatly from place to place within the country.

However, just like Jorge, Josh sees these barriers starting to crumble. In 5-10 years he believes that entrepreneurship will be more of a “known thing” and that young people will be talking about it, which will lead to more mature innovation. He says,

“One of the coolest things is that in emerging markets [like Mexico] there is still tons of opportunity. So far a lot has been taking ideas from the U.S. and Europe and doing them here, but in the future we’ll see more people innovating from zero and creating completely new ideas [in Mexico].”

The growth of entrepreneurship is a cycle, so that next level of innovation will lead to more conversation, awareness, and availability of mentors and role models so that more people will be inspired to pursue entrepreneurship and the growth will continue. In Josh’s opinion the biggest success was having an entrepreneur come through the Endeavor program, succeed, and create a contest to encourage young entrepreneurs.

Josh also expects to see more expansion into the rest of Latin America because Mexico is simply better positioned to enter those markets than the U.S. is. He also predicts that more money will start to flow into Mexico as the violence decreases and more people educated abroad return to Mexico to fill holes in the market.

So what’s his advice for current and aspiring entrepreneurs? Well, he has a lot of it: Firstly,

“There is no substitute for hard work,” he says. “It’s easy to work hard for 2 or 3 months but the typical success takes many, many years.”

He also advises entrepreneurs to be very strategic about who their market is and how they’ll target that market.

“You need to know your market inside and out,” he says. ” There’s no way you’ll be able to capture a market if you don’t know what the market is.”

He suggests you find the niches – whether geographic, class, etc. – and try to figure out how to get ahead of the curve and weather the storm while you educate your customers because you’re ahead of the trend.

“Entrepreneurs really need to look at not only what’s been Mexican forever – what’s already a part of the fiber – but also what could be a part of the fiber and figure how to tell the consumers what they want,” he says.

He also suggests that entrepreneurs move strategically, not necessarily rapidly. “Don’t expand just for the sake of expanding,” he recommends. He also stresses that you need to know your numbers because, “no matter how good your idea is or how excited you are, [investors] want to see your financials.” Therefore, you need to know your finances or, at least, bring on someone who does.

Finally, he says:

“Know your weaknesses AND know your strengths. A lot of times people are so focused on their weaknesses that they let their strengths fall. You want to bring everything up, not let your strengths and weaknesses meet in the middle.”

 

Do you have experience in the Mexico City startup scene? If so, please let me know your thoughts on what Josh had to say in the comments sections below. Our next interview will be with Scott Wofford of Ashoka.

How to Manage Interns at Your Small Business or Startup

I’m a huge advocate of startups and small businesses utilizing interns and I think that entrepreneurs can get a huge bang for their buck by doing so, while at the same time helping young people learn, grow, and add a great internship to their resumes. However, if you don’t properly manage interns, they can turn into nothing more than a huge time suck and actually become a hindrance instead of a help.

To make sure that you don’t waste your time (or that of your interns) here are some tips for managing interns at your small business or startup:

What tips do you have for recruiting and managing interns? Do you have any horror stories or success stories that you’d like to share? Please let us know what you think the benefits and struggles are of working with interns in the comments section below. 

Mexico City Startup Overview

Mexico City – Mexico’s capital – is a major metropolitan hub and the driving force of the country’s economy, generating nearly a quarter of the country’s GDP. It’s also just a short plane ride from Silicon Valley and has been growing its entrepreneurial ecosystem in recent years. With easy connections to both the U.S. and the rest of Latin America, increasing adoption of technology, and government efforts to support entrepreneurship, the city is primed to be able to make a name for itself as a major startup hub.

However, economic and cultural issues hold the city (and the rest of the country) back and there is work to be done before Mexico City can claim its seat at the table of truly vibrant world startup hubs.

Taking a look at these visualizations from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor you can see that while Mexico has lagged the United States in terms of established business ownership, it’s making a real push to catch up – and maybe even pass the U.S. – in terms of new business starts.

Established Business Ownership Rate in Mexico - Global Entrepreneurship Monitor
Established Business Ownership Rate
Percentage of 18-64 population who are currently owner-manager of an established business, i.e., owning and managing a running business that has paid salaries, wages, or any other payments to the owners for more than 42 months.
http://www.gemconsortium.org/visualizations
New Business Ownership Rate in Mexico - Global Entrepreneurship Monitor
New Business Ownership Rate
Percentage of 18-64 population who are currently a owner-manager of a new business, i.e., owning and managing a running business that has paid salaries, wages, or any other payments to the owners for more than three months, but not more than 42 months.
http://www.gemconsortium.org/visualizations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My next few posts will be interviews with movers and shakers in the startup world of Mexico City who will share their takes on where the startup ecosystem in Mexico’s capital city stands, what obstacles Mexico City faces in creating a more vibrant startup community, how the city can help to develop its entrepreneurial ecosystem, and where the startup community in the city will be in 5 to 10 years.