LATAM • FINANCIAL SERVICES
FEBRUARY 20, 2020
Having a cosy home and a place where you can build your future with your family is a dream of many people. Unfortunately, saving money to buy such a place can take years, and for the majority, a loan could be the solution, but what if the bank procedures are very complicated and the interest rates are sky-high? RebajaTusCuentas, a financial advisor that helps people make better mortgage loan decisions, tackles this problem in Peru, Mexico, and Colombia. The company took part in the Seedstars World competition and became one of the 12 finalists at the Seedstars Summit 2019. We had a chance to speak to Sully Siucho Diaz, Co-Founder and COO of RebajaTusCuentas about the company’s growth, key learnings from their participation in the competition, and goals for the near future.
Why do you personally care about this specific problem in Latam?
RebajaTusCuentas targets a problem that millions of families face, an issue that directly affects their economies. In Latam, buying a house is not affordable for many families. The ones that get a house can buy it mostly through a mortgage loan. However, bank procedures can be complicated, and the situation gets especially worse when half of the population in Latam doesn’t understand basic financial concepts. As a result of these two factors, people tend to overpay for purchasing a home because they end up making long-term mortgage loans, which go with the high interest rates.
Our customers save on average, $100 per month, which represents ⅓ of the basic salary in the region. Extra $100 per month make a substantial difference for millions of families.
You started a business together with two other co-founders, Martin, and Nicolas Mendoza del Solar, in 2017. Two years later you are already active in 3 countries, which sounds pretty impressive. Can you please tell me how you started and what was your path?
We started the company based on our strengths. In our last one, we achieved skills and expertise in generating leads and customers for services and products with a complex decision process like MBA programs, transportation, and logistics.
We began analyzing different industries where we could apply our knowledge, and we ended up choosing mortgage loans. When we launched our business, we planned first to validate whether people would be willing to give us very personal and sensitive information online. Once we got that, we moved towards proving if we could manage all the mortgage loan process online without a need to meet the users face-to-face. With those two validations, we started raising our pre-seed round. Our plan was always to go beyond Peru; we aimed at expanding to larger markets like Mexico and Colombia to reach more families and grow in quality and quantity.
In your pitch during the Summit, you highlighted some of your quantitative goals by 2020, but how do you define your qualitative goals, your impact, and the associations you want people to have with your company?
Until now, we’ve generated more than $3.5 million in interest rate savings for our users. I know this is still a quantitative metric, but underneath it, we can see how much we are impacting the economies of many families in Latam. We have video testimonials where customers tell us about their experience with our services. They feel very grateful for our solution.
Our goal is to be the #1 online mortgage broker in Latam. We want to become that trusted financial advisor with the help of which people can find the best option for the most important credit in their lives.
You’ve got into the top 12 best startups during the Seedstars Summit 2019 that is a great achievement already. You were the one who pitched your business. What did you learn from that experience and is there anything that you would have liked to do differently?
From that experience, I learned that you always need to be ready for pitching and for delivering the essential facts about your business. Some day it can be a one-on-one meeting; another day, it can be an audience of hundreds of people.
Also, it’s crucial to be ready to receive investment at any time. You always have to have all the documents prepared in case someone wants to support your startup.
It was great to see that Latin America has more and more extraordinary entrepreneurs. Being among the top 12 startups was exciting, but what makes me even happier is that 4 out of the 12 startups had female founders, and we were one of them. I feel very grateful for having reached that point and getting to know all the great startups that participated from all over the world.
What are the pros and cons of leading business in Latam?
On the positive side, we find a sizeable unattended market. And this happens in many industries. In our case, the financial sector in Latam represents a great opportunity. It is an industry where there are mainly large traditional players, with processes often inefficient. Their way of doing things is slow, making it difficult for them to adopt technology and become digital players. Nowadays, users are looking for digital solutions; it’s not just a “nice to have” characteristic, it’s a must-have.
Among other benefits of the region are low living costs, in comparison to other countries like the USA or Europe, make it more affordable to pay and hire top-quality talent.
On the not so bright side, the legal, tax and accounting structures in Latam are not the friendliest and can become a problem if not well approached.
There’s generally too much bureaucracy and lack of understanding of what startups need. We’ve also seen a scarcity of sophisticated investors and venture capital firms. The ecosystem is growing more and more, but the potential is still huge, there’s room for more players.
You managed to convince a couple of funds that your business is worth investing in, including Seedstars and 500 startups. What do you think made investors believe in your idea?
We provide an essential financial service that until now hasn’t had any disruption (nor modernization) in Latam. However, in Europe and the US, the mortgage loan industry has been changing during the last 8-10 years. Just in Mexico, about 140,000 mortgage loans are signed every month. It’s a huge market that needs technology to deliver well-analyzed decisions, a better experience for users and more cost-efficient processes for the banks.
But besides this, I think that in our specific case, our founding team was a key factor for believing in our idea. As a founders’ team, we are a balanced one; we’ve shown we are a hard-working and performance-driven team. Nicolás is in charge of sales and leading the company, Martin is in charge of the technology, and I’m responsible for the operations and marketing. We all have solid experience in each of our areas. And we have experience working together for more than eight years.
What is your most significant achievement for today?
As you mentioned before, having been able to receive funds from international organizations like 500 Startups and Seedstars has been a massive achievement for us.
Back in 2012, Nicolás and I funded an e-commerce site in Peru. At that time, we already knew about 500 startups and dreamed of getting into one of their batches one day. Being part of an international program for startups and having the opportunity to meet super entrepreneurs from all around the world was an experience we wanted to live through. It didn’t happen at that time, but it became a reality six years later with RebajaTusCuentas.com.
And about going beyond borders, a launch in Mexico and Colombia this year is also a significant achievement. Last year, this was just a milestone, something written on paper as a plan, and now it has come true.
What are your plans for the future? What are your aspirations and dreams as a co-founder? Where do you want to see Rebajatuscuentas in a couple of years?
We plan to grow sales in Mexico; we want to originate $100M in mortgage loans in 2020. Our team wants to take all the learnings and know-how to this market, which is ten times bigger than the Peruvian one. Also, we are aiming at strengthening our team in Mexico and the user experience we deliver.
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