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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.

Jul 2, 2018

Paraguay is often overshadowed by neighbors Brazil and Argentina in conversations about the Latin American startup ecosystem. Despite being one of the world’s largest hydroelectric energy producers, Paraguay has yet to emerge on the global or regional stage as a tech hub. However, Paulo Duarte, founder of Broterra, a Paraguayan superfood company that provides wages for more than 2500 families and has ambitions of selling on the US market, says that Paraguay has the potential to develop as a startup hub, especially in the food and agtech sectors.

I sat down with Paulo for this episode of Crossing Borders, my first with an entrepreneur from Paraguay, to talk about launching and scaling a startup in Paraguay, the challenges and opportunities of doing business in his home country, and why Paulo is confident that Paraguay will eventually rise as a regional hub.

The global market for superfoods is on the rise

Paulo’s entrepreneurial journey started when he planted chia seeds on his family’s land in 2013. He worked out of a garage with his cousin to build an audience for his product. Not many people were talking about superfoods, including chia, in Paraguay at the time. Four years later, Broterra is supplying sesame seeds for Burger King and McDonald’s in Paraguay, and exporting several seed varieties to the United States. Check out this episode of Crossing Borders to find out about the strategic partnership that helped Broterra grow explosively in its first year.

Paraguay is opening its doors for investment

Paulo is confident that Paraguay is ripe for investment. Despite its small population of just 7 million people, Paulo says that Paraguay is a young, growing, and stable country with a very favorable tax environment for businesses. As the regional fervor for technology and innovation reaches Paraguay, the government is investing in programs that will convince startups to launch in Asunción. Find out why Paulo thinks Paraguay is a country ‘condemned to success’ in this episode.

From Paraguay to the world: Broterra’s plan for reaching the United States

Until recently, most supermarkets only offered imported products since Paraguayan products could not compete even locally. Paulo sees that trend changing. In fact, as Paulo develops Paraguay’s first superfood cereal bar, he is preparing to target the US market, as well as the Paraguayan market. Learn about Paraguay’s shift from exporting raw materials to developing value-added products for a local and global market in this week’s episode.

Paraguay is often left out of conversations about the regional tech ecosystem. My guest this week on the podcast, Paulo Duarte, is confident that Paraguay will be able to leverage its young population, stable economy, and strategic positioning in the Mercosur free trade zone to join the growing trend of tech innovation in Latin America. Check out this week’s podcast to learn more about the unique story of Paraguay’s nascent startup ecosystem.

Show Notes:

[1:03] - Nathan introduces Paulo

[2:10] - The Broterra story

[4:27] - How Paulo got started in the superfood industry

[7:00] - Reaching 25,000 points of sale in just six months

[8:07] - Selling cereal bars in Paraguayan market

[9:38] - Getting the business off the ground

[12:00] - Doing business in Paraguay

[13:40] - Paulo’s thoughts on the Paraguayan tech scene

[15:51] - Broterra’s impact on the entrepreneurial ecosystem

[17:50] - The effect of being in MERCOSUR

[19:17] - What’s next for BroTerra?

[24:36] - Advice for US investors looking at Paraguay

[28:01] - Paulo’s advice for his past self

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