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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.

May 6, 2018

GroupRaise is an online platform that helps groups raise money for the causes they care about by eating at restaurants. I previously interviewed two of the other founders of GroupRaise, Devin Baptiste and Sean Park, in Episode 5 and Episode 31 of Crossing Borders, so please check out those podcasts if you are interested in learning more about GroupRaise.

In this episode, I sat down with Kevin Valdez, one of the co-founders of GroupRaise to learn more about how he moved to the US from Guatemala in middle school, helped build the family business, and eventually joined Devin and Sean to found GroupRaise.

From the Guatemalan countryside to Houston, Texas

When Kevin Valdez was twelve years old, his family moved from a rural small town in Guatemala to a small town outside of Houston, Texas. At the time, Kevin spoke no English and his family of five shared a single room in his aunt’s house. However, Kevin is proud to come from a “family of entrepreneurs,” and it did not take long for his mom and aunt to begin building an international business to sustain their family by delivering packages to Guatemala. Working in the family business taught Kevin to be extremely customer-focused, as he watched his parents take phone calls at all hours to help Guatemalan families in the US.

Creating opportunities for other Latin American students

Kevin frequently looks back at his childhood in Guatemala and considers his classmates who did not move to the US and receive the same opportunities as he did. While at university, Kevin attended a talk by former Mexican President Vicente Fox who reminded him that for every Latin American student who made it to the US, there were ten more who would love to be in their shoes. Kevin is inspired to work hard to help give other students in Latin America the opportunity he received and to uncover the untapped potential in the region.

Getting GroupRaise to 10,000 restaurants and beyond in 2018

GroupRaise is already connected to 9000 restaurants in the US, and employs a team that spans Chile, the US, and the Philippines. Having worked at the family business since he was fifteen, with an outsize role since his parents didn’t speak English, Kevin is used to managing many projects at once. However, he struggled to drop the do-it-yourself mentality when it came to growing the business and had to learn to efficiently manage a team so he could focus on strategy. As GroupRaise reaches the 10,000 restaurant mark, Kevin is dreaming big; he thinks GroupRaise will be active in 25,000 restaurants in the next few years.

Kevin’s unique perspective as a Guatemalan immigrant and child of entrepreneurs helped him gain the confidence to found GroupRaise and manage their Houston office. Check out the rest of the episode to find out how Kevin plans to empower students across Latin America to uncover the potential of the region!

 

Show Notes

1:33 - Nathan introduces Kevin Valdez

3:25 - How Kevin met Devin Baptiste while discussing their entrepreneurial dreams in university

6:10 - Did you always know you would be an entrepreneur?

10:50 - What it is like to move from rural Guatemala to Houston, Texas

13:16 - How Kevin’s ESL teacher changed his life

16:22 - The perspective Kevin gained from growing up in Guatemala

19:40 - One key lesson to build a successful business: be extremely customer-focused

21:51 - Advice from Kevin’s father: “Don’t waste any time. Time is precious.”

26:15 - How to go from from doing it all yourself to hiring a team

30:50 - Kevin’s entrepreneurial streak comes from working at the family business

36:24 - What to expect when you visit Guatemala

39:10 - Feeling responsibility to create opportunities in Guatemala

42:16 - How the internet could be used to leverage education in Latin America

47:05 - Why Kevin is bullish about the US and the business climate

56:02 - What it’s like to have a sales team spread across three countries

56:15 - What’s next for GroupRaise in 2018

Resources and People Mentioned