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Crossing Borders with Nathan Lustig


Hello and welcome to Crossing Borders with Nathan Lustig, where I interview entrepreneurs doing startups across borders and the investors who support them, with a focus on companies that have some relationship to Latin America.

Oct 9, 2018

Most people skip over Bolivia when talking about Latin America’s startup ecosystem. The landlocked 11-million person country has yet to develop a thriving homegrown tech scene, but it shows tremendous potential for growth. It often just takes one or two success stories to catalyze the whole industry. Carlos Jordan, founder of UltraCasas and UltraCreditos, might be just the entrepreneur Bolivia needs. After raising the biggest round in Bolivian history from international investors, Carlos became one of the most influential actors in Bolivia’s nascent tech ecosystem. He takes this responsibility seriously, reserving a fierce optimism for Bolivia’s development potential.

I sat down with Carlos on this episode of Crossing Borders to discuss Bolivia’s nascent entrepreneurial ecosystem, Carlos’ role in building the industry, the inflection point for his business, UltraCasas, and what it was like to raise funding from abroad. We also talk about doing business in Bolivia and the future of its tech ecosystem. Carlos is the first Bolivian entrepreneur to join me on Crossing Borders, so check out this episode to learn more about one of Latin America’s youngest tech economies.

Why can’t I find an apartment online in Bolivia?

When Carlos first looked for an apartment in Bolivia in 2015, he had to use the newspaper classifieds. After ten unsuccessful visits, he realized there was a need for a better solution. Everyone else in the world was looking for apartments online at this point, so why couldn’t Bolivians? Born in Bolivia and educated as an engineer in the US, Carlos seemed like just the person for the job.

However, it took him more than a year of puzzling before UltraCasas was born. “We thought we knew a lot, when in reality we didn’t know anything,” says Carlos. Find out how Carlos got international mentorship that helped UltraCasas reach its inflection point.

From Bolivia to the world

When Carlos tried to raise funding for UltraCasas in Bolivia, he was met with blank stares. A year later, he was in Switzerland with Seedstars, raising the biggest round in Bolivian history. Carlos has since grown UltraCasas from 50 views a month to over 23,000 weekly views and 60,000 monthly leads; he feels ready to tackle the regional market, even against huge competitors in Brazil and Chile.

He hasn’t stuck to a single product, either. Carlos is developing a technology to help new apartment and homeowners get mortgages; stay tuned for the launch of UltraCreditos in November. Find out how Carlos tapped into his network in the US, Europe, and Latin America to create a regional growth strategy for one of Bolivia’s first successful startups.

The best ten years in Bolivian history

Bolivia is growing incredibly quickly, although it is still lags behind the rest of Latin America, especially in tech. Part of the challenge of doing business in Bolivia lies in its complex geography; businesses must provide solutions for people living everywhere from the humid Amazon rainforest to the freezing Andean high plateaus. However, Carlos is confident Bolivia will surge forward. Why? An extremely young, talented, and entrepreneurial population that is increasingly joining the middle class.

Despite Bolivia’s rapid growth, Carlos still feels that the ecosystem is missing several pieces that are preventing its development. Check out the rest of this episode to find out what Carlos thinks Bolivia needs to move forward in tech.

Bolivia is one of Latin America’s youngest tech ecosystems. While its young, talented population bodes well for Bolivia’s development, the local economy is still missing a lot of pieces that are holding it back from a tech revolution. UltraCasas and UltraCreditos are some of the first examples of homegrown tech that provide solutions for the Bolivian economy. Carlos recognizes the significance of his success for Bolivia’s growth; the country needs more success stories before it can surge.

Show Notes:

[1:30] - Nathan introduces Carlos Jordan

[2:34] - Doing business in Bolivia

[4:17] - The diversity of Bolivia’s landscapes

[6:45] - How Bolivia’s young population affects tech adoption

[7:55] - Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?

[11:35] - How did you decide it was time to strike out on your own?

[12:45] - What did family and friends think?

[14:00] - Bolivia’s entrepreneurial ecosystem in 2015

[18:38] - What is Seedstars?

[20:05] - What did you learn from mentors and Seedstars?

[21:42] - What can people do to build the Bolivian ecosystem?

[23:16] - Where did you raise funding?

[27:13] - Launching UltraCreditos

[30:32] - What is Bolivia’s mortgage market?

[32:15] - The evolution of the Bolivian real estate market

[35:55] - Carlos’ advice for his younger self

[37:00] - What’s next for UltraCasas?

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