GLOBAL • REAL ESTATE
How does it feel to be first? What obstacles do you encounter on your way? What do you do when you think you won’t get your business to the next level? Our talk with Carlos Jordan, the founder and CEO of UltraGrupo.com, a Bolivian tech company focused on real estate and financial innovations improving the quality of people’s lives, gives us answers to all these questions.
Seedstars is extremely proud that our alumni continue to grow and bring more impact to the world. UltraGrupo has just secured $520,000 in second-round funding and is going to scale its products to other markets.
What were some milestones in the UltraGrupo’s history over the past four years? Where do you stand right now?
Our journey began in February 2015 with UltraCasas, the #1 real estate search engine and online mortgage broker in Bolivia. One of the most critical milestones was participation in the Seedstars World Competition. We got a chance to meet and engage with entrepreneurs that understood emerging markets and the startup ecosystems there. It was a big step forward. At that time, we ended up in the top 12, which is quite a good achievement.
The second milestone happened in January 2018 when we raised $240,000, which was the most massive round ever raised in Bolivia’s history. The recognition from professional investors such as Seedstars, Taris and El Comercio gave us confidence that we are on the right path.
The third milestone would be the launch of our second product UltraCreditos in February 2018, a platform that allows you to compare the best credit offers from banks. It was our next step in understanding how the loan process works and a crucial moment for our team, including investors. We had a lot of conversations about it, which in the end led us to the last milestone – closing of our second round in May 2019. This time we managed to attract $520K from the same VCs, but with a couple of new investors on board.
Where do you stand right now, and what are the core activities that are happening right now in UltraGrupo?
Today, UltraCasas shows growth not only in the number of users, leads and website sessions but also in revenues. We have been growing by 10% monthly for the past 12 months. Also, we passed to the second phase for UltraCreditos. In the beginning, clients would put their information on the platform, and it would only show them the loan average from eight different banks and let them choose the most cost-efficient option. It was only a loan comparison site. Two months ago, we launched a second phase, which is an app that helps you process your loan entirely online. We have been working on this solution for more than a year.
Wow! That’s great news! Can you tell more about the solution itself?
We track the client’s data with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI). We have algorithms to check and understand the person’s behaviour and make sure that a loan has all the necessary parameters for the bank to approve it. After, we send this digital form to the bank so they can make a final check and proceed to the formal approval. In less than a month, during a trial period, without a cent of investment in marketing, we received over 500 loan requests, out of which 30 are already completed.
Right now, our team is working extremely hard with the banks to be able to provide the right service to our customers. Our goal is to make all loan operations completely fluid. I would not say flawless, but as close as we can get to perfect. Once we have a stable process, we are going to expand to new markets like Brazil, Mexico and Peru in 2020.
How big is your team right now? What do you find unique about your company’s culture?
Now we are a team of 50. The average age is 25-26 years. We are all very result-oriented, young, fresh and focused. We work hard to make sure that everyone in the team understands where we are heading and why everybody is doing what he or she is doing. I believe that our greatest asset is our culture. We are more than just colleagues; we are friends.
What do you think helped you convince Seedstars and Taris back in 2018 to invest $440,000 in your business?
I think that the team was the most convincing factor, along with the initial results we were generating. We had the right strategy, the right knowledge, the right focus, and the right vision as a team. We had the right people in the right places. I can proudly say that we managed to bring together the best tech professionals in Bolivia. The funding we raised also allowed us to scale the team and attract the brightest talents in marketing, sales and business strategy.
What prevented you from failing and wrapping up your business, which is, unfortunately, a scenario for many startups in the world of incredibly high competition?
I think that what happened to us at some point, happens to most of the startups in the developing countries. There are not so many people to learn and get quality guidance from. You need to be more creative to find a path. We were wasting our time for more than a year, spending our money and not seeing any growth, any impact. We came to a certain point when we had to either close the company or do something drastic about it. We started talking to other people and seeking expertise. We were lucky to meet entrepreneurs like Gilles Blanchard, ex-CEO of Seloger, the number one property marketplace in France, which he sold for $ 900 million back in 2017. Mariano Nejamkis, founder ZonaProp Dridco, was also an extremely crucial person who provided us with the proper guidance. Once you can finally meet this type of people, you just need to ask the right questions. Twenty-minute conversation can replace years of learning on your own.
So, what helped us the most was having the right connections, being able to reach those mentors and ask good questions, as well as having the right team that can put those recommendations into practice.
How would you describe the tech entrepreneurial landscape in Bolivia in 2019? What are the trends and dynamics?
Four years ago, it was non-existent. When we started, maybe 2 or 3 teams were trying to get into the startup world. There were not so many people to talk to, not a single entity or place to sit down with and have a conversation about the startup world, growth and strategy. Nowadays, I have to admit that the situation has improved. Launching a startup is trendy today. The new generation is extremely focused on the startup world. In the past, young people wanted to become rock stars or football players or things like that. Today, they want to be successful entrepreneurs, especially in tech. Because of that, society and the government have to pay their attention and not lose the moment.
As a CEO, what goals and aspirations do you have when it comes to the company’s future? What is your ideal vision for UltraGrupo?
Our vision is to become the first success story, an official unicorn, in Bolivia and help the country’s startup ecosystem grow. To be able to do that, we aim to offer solutions that can be used not only in Bolivia but in other markets across the globe.
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