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Five Outstanding Women in the Latin American Startups Ecosystem

Five Outstanding Women in the Latin American Startups Ecosystem

Posted by Juan Gavasa on November 07, 2018

The lack of women in the startups world, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean, is relevant, although in the last years there have been relevant advances. This same picture is the one found in other spheres of economy and society. It is a contrasting reality generated by different causes and apparently of a difficult solution. This has other repercussions of great impact like gender gap, which puts women away from different professional areas and careers, specifically STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

Different analyses reflect that in Silicon Valley women represent only the 23 percent of the enterprise responsibilities where there are less of 100 employees and that in the 10 most important technological enterprises of the area, women occupy the responsibility of only 18,3 percent of technological departments. In Latin America the percentages are almost alike, although there are exceptions that we consider to outstand. For example, the 38 percent of the micro employers in Chile are women. Out of a whole sum of almost 2 million enterprising in the country, more than 700 000 represent the female gender. That was assured by a study published by BBVA Microfinances Foundation last year in the Hope Fund ("Fondo Esperanza" in Spanish) and Microfinances Undertake ("Emprende Microfinanzas" in Spanish).

According to the Eighth Annual Conference of Undertaker Women summoned by Dell, out of the 50 best cities in the world for women to undertake, two of them (Sao Paulo and Lima) are in South America, while Mexico counts with other two: Guadalajara and Mexico City. This is according to the classification established considering aspects like reputation of the innovation centers and undertakings the different cities have.

What can we do to better that situation? Many experts support the idea that there exists a problem of a cultural basis which demands correction, although there might need to pass some generations to have a real impact on the business ecosystem. It should go through motivating women to educate themselves in technological careers, push them to create their own business without any fear (because their success rates are better than those of men), increase trust in the investors of undertaker women so as to allow them to access to the same opportunities for finance as their male colleagues, and contribute to the identification of female referents in the area.

During 2015, Telefónica Open Future  launched the initiative Women’s Age to stimulate female undertaking. The initial diagnosis revealed that there was a very notorious lack of women in the executive staff of technological undertaking projects or ´startups’. However, there came up a very important datum: the positive effect caused by widening the female quota inside the executive teams. The study also revealed that the enterprises with larger gender diversity in the executive team survive longer than those teams where women lack. In the global portfolio, the general percentage of startups that failed is the 28 percent, while it comes down to its half (14 percent) in the companies that include undertaking women, Women´s Age reported.

Startup-Up Chile created The S Factory three years ago aiming the same pretension: empower the undertakers to develop their enterprise projects in equal conditions. Patricia Hansen, director of The S Factory, recently said that about the 85 percent of the undertaking leaders that were in “Seed” central program were males, and that there was only 15 percent of women. We wanted to outstand in PanamericanWorld the example of five Latin American undertaking women which one day decided to found or co-found their own startup, or simply support new enterprise projects. At present, they are models of success in the world of business and of inspiration for other undertakers of the region.

Luciana Reznik. Wolox (Argentina)

Luciana Reznik is an Informatics engineer and CEO in Wolox, a technology enterprise that runs, among other services, web developments, mobile and games. At first, she was a programmer, after that she got into the Processes and Quality area and then she headed Innovation. Now, at the age of twenty eight she runs a company that has begun its international growing to Latin America and The United States. Wolox has a particularity: CEO position rotates. “Position and role have a remarked leadership within the directory, but not a vertical one where the authority takes decisions. Coming leadership is collaborative, based on the team and its members”,  Reznik explains in an interview made for El Cronista journal. To her, this position came naturally although there were many challenges. “The hardest thing is to deal with the responsibility and to become it into a good energy and not a weight”, she says. The influential businesswoman from Argentina Marina Diaz has recently incorporated herself to Wolox. Marketing and electronic trade strategist and Mercado Libre ex-manager, Diaz Ibarra created DeltaX in 2017, startups impact accelerator, in collaboration with Singularity University. Nowadays she is the Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) in Wolox. In this enterprise the 50 percent of the top management are women.

Blanca Treviño. Softtek (México)

Blanca Treviño is Softtek´s founder and president, one of the most successful Mexican technologies enterprises in this last years. Her enterprise put Mexico into the Technologies of the Information sector, a market that in 2013 was 292.000 million dollars value. In this moment, Softtek already counts with more than 30 offices around the world. Treviño is considered the most influent Mexican woman in the world of technologies and has been praised by Forbes and Fortune thanks to her professional achievements.

Her story dates back to 1982, when together with other partners decided to create the company. Ever since then have taken a long way that has led them to open new markets in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Spain, Venezuela and The United States, countries which technological market represents more than the 60 percent existing all over the world, and which results have internationally projected this Mexican enterprise. Blanca Treviño thinks that the fact there are just a few women in the technological field is because “there is a predisposition to say that women are not good working with numbers, although this is not true and besides that, there are not so many numbers in this career. In technologies, you have to be good at logical thinking, but not at numbers, because you are not an economist, or a statistics worker. Anyway, there are big technologies enterprises directed by women, such as HP. The second in Facebook is a woman and Yahoo is also headed by a woman”, she specifies.  

Mariana Castillo. Ben & Frank (México)

Mariana Castillo, together with other three employees, founded the first startup in Mexico four years ago with the purpose of trading sunglasses. Ben & Frank has achieved to become important in a country where trading through the Internet still generates insecurity and where glasses are easily found in any other supermarket. After studying economy at Ibero, Mariana wanted to work in a project that will benefit her country. In 2011, she got into the Mexican Bank, where she worked for more than three years in the operations area. During her MBA at Chicago University she found a turning point for her career and right there she decided to create the on-line Ben & Frank sun glasses store together with other three partners. She is at present the CEO and she is the head of the operative team and finance. In “Ben and Frank, the two operative partners are women, and in brief, the experience to undertake has been fantastic”, she added. To set a startup in Mexico has not been an easy task, she says. Although there is a small enterprise net that have found in the Internet the impulse they need to get going, the bureaucratic paperwork stops the lifting of the electronic trade in Mexico. The Mexican market, which is still against banking, has left payment alternatives beyond credit cards that have allowed many startups to continue growing.

Vera Makarov. Apli (México)

Vera Makarov  is a co-founder and co-CEO in Apli, online platform for contracting according to demands that was selected as the best startup in Mexico during 2016 by Seedstars and IBM Smartcamp and best startup in Latin America in the New Venture Competition of Harvard Business School. Vera has been Director General of Lamudi and Carmudi in Latin America and of Hellofood México. Before that she worked for Bain Capital, Bamboo Finance and Ignia investment funds. Vera has got MBA at Harvard University and a master´s degree in Arts History at Cambridge University. Vera Makarov and José María Pertusa (previously in Linio) is a very dynamic couple with a wide knowledge about electronic trading, experience that permitted them identify the problems that bring about not having the necessary personnel right at the pick moments of certain activities in a given business. Among the employments offered by Apli, we can mainly find those related to industry of restaurants with jobs like waiter, assistant waiter, cook, barman, hostess, and other office jobs like capturer, vendors, tele vendors in call centers. The platform uses a questionnaire and different variables to manage right with the professional profile each applicant is looking for. To do this, they make use of the artificial intelligence Watson of IBM. This way they can calculate the possible performance each worker will have. She has been able to make compatible her condition as a mother with that of undertaker, although she recognizes it has not been easy: “I found out that I was pregnant some days after I did the pitch with our investors and I was afraid to tell them, because there might be discrimination”, she explained in an interview with Expansión. “But they only congratulated me and went ahead with the projects”, she ended up.

Mariana Costa. Laboratoria (Perú)

Mariana Costa is a co-founder and Director Executive of Laboratoria, a Peruvian startup of social character that enables low-income young women as web developers and connects them with high-quality employment opportunities in the technology sector. Since the launching in Peru in 2014, Laboratoria has extended to other countries like Mexico and Chile and within its objectives there is to continue working so as to make women get more opportunities every time to access to the work market. Mariana had previously worked in programs of social development in countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti and Kenya in organizations like TechnoServe and Organización de Estados Americanos. She got a bachelor in International relations at London School of Economics and she got a master´s in Public Administration and Development at Columbia University in New York. She became greatly notorious when she was elected in 2016 to participate in a panel of Global Entrepreneurship Summit held in California together with the ex-president of the United States Barack Obama and Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg. Mariana Costa went to England, at the age of 18, to study International Business. After ten years, she returned to Peru together with her husband, an Ecuadorian engineer. Both of them, together with a friend, decided to start and enterprise of web development called Ayu. To integrate the working team of the new company, they needed to contract men and women who could contribute with ideas from different perspectives. However, they run against reality: only the 7 percent of web developers in Peru are women. That was the way Laboratoria came up, which educates women who could not reach any level of education, mostly because the lack of resources, so that they could work as developers through intensive courses where they learn to use the main programming languages..

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