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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 16, 2019

In the US, most people would be surprised to find that WhatsApp is the main platform for Latin Americans to communicate between friends and family, and even more surprised that its one of the main channels for businesses and their clients to communicate. Migue Morkin, an Argentine entrepreneur and founder of Sirena, explains that in Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil 70% of the population actively uses WhatsApp on a daily basis.

However, Migue noticed that businesses that used WhatsApp for sales, didn’t have a proper tool to do follow ups with their clients. Sirena seeks to solve that problem by helping businesses centralize, distribute, and answer their clients’ incoming messages from WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, chatbots, and websites through one app. 

In this episode, I sit down with Migue to talk about his journey from working for a machine learning startup that was acquired by a global business, to starting a market place in Brazil, and the decision to pivot that led to successfully building Sirena to what it is today. We also cover how Migue thinks about raising money, advice on being a Spanish-speaking entrepreneur in Brazil, and how Latin Americans can start their own global businesses within the region. 

Choosing an AI startup over a large enterprise

As a child Migue would show his parents drawings of inventions he wanted to make– early inklings of an entrepreneurial mindset. After university, that innate curiosity for innovation led him to work at a startup instead of choosing the more traditional route at a large enterprise. For two years, Migue worked for the small consultancy agency that used machine learning to forecast for larger companies like Unilever. His early experience in a startup gave him insight on what it’s like to start a business. 

Listen to this episode of Crossing Borders to find out what Migue learned from working at a startup that eventually got acquired by Accenture.

Rodati: the marketplace that led to Sirena

Sirena was born from a project within a project. Migue’s first endeavor as an entrepreneur was Rodati, an auto marketplace in Brazil that unfortunately had to be closed. Rodati was successful in creating traffic for car dealerships, but the problem lay in the delayed responses between businesses and clients that resulted in lost opportunities. Migue solved this problem by developing a tool to improve communication with customers. This tool became Sirena.

Learn more about Migue’s decision to pivot Rodati and pursue what would become Sirena on this episode of Crossing Borders.

The language of SaaS

Migue recalls one of his favorite pieces of advice from Nicholas Taleb: the best way to learn a language is by going to prison in that country. Migue took an alternate route to incarceration, and immersed himself in the Portugese language by moving to Brazil when he wanted to tackle Latin America’s largest market. When he started Sirena, he knew from early on that restricting himself to Argentina’s castellano would be limiting to a SaaS startup. Creating a product that would adapt to different cultures with ease was key to Sirena’s expansion throughout the region.

Find out why Migue stresses on the importance of learning about different cultures when engaging with a foreign market in this episode.

Migue Morkin is helping accelerate the response rate in industries where the first to answer a lead is often the one that seals the deal. He recognized a communicational problem in Latin American businesses that was costing them customers, and found a solution that allows for a smoother conversation from multiple channels across the region. 

Show Notes

  • [1:19] -  About Sirena
  • [4:17] - The pervasiveness of WhatsApp in LatAm
  • [6:36] - Choosing the entrepreneurial path
  • [8:31] - Foreign companies with LatAm tech teams
  • [10:14] - From a consulting to a SaaS business model
  • [12:38] - An Argentine launching a business in Brazil
  • [14:29] - Tips for succeeding in Brazil as Spanish-speaking entrepreneur
  • [16:25] - Deciding to pivot and letting shareholders know
  • [18:50] - First steps after pivoting
  • [19:56] - Operating in three countries
  • [22:04] - Pivoting with success
  • [22:39] - Process of raising money from Mexican and Argentine funds
  • [24:31] - About weird term sheets
  • [25:57] - Advice to other LatAm founder on fundraising
  • [27:12] - Advice to Migue’s younger self
  • [28:36] - Books, blogs, and podcasts Migue recommends for SaaS entrepreneurs
  • [30:04] - What’s next for Migue and Sirena?

Resources mentioned