Nearshore Americas

Setting Up Stateside: Why These Entrepreneurs Made the Move

The source of the Nearshore industry’s work stream begins of course with the customer. Understanding their goals and objectives, as a result, is incredibly important to the suppliers trying to win their favor.

How valuable is it to a company to based where clients live and breathe? We chatted to three Latin American entrepreneurs who have moved permanently to the United States to ask how living in the client market has helped their business thrive.

Hello Iconic

Jorge Garcia of Hello Iconic

Name: Jorge Garcia

Title: CTO and Founder, Hello Iconic

Location: Pasadena, California

Years in US: 10

Most valuable tip on building a network: Focus on a region first. Building a network becomes easier as more people within the same region know you and can reference you to people that trust them. You will then have multiple points of reference when someone doesn’t know you but trust one or more people in your circle.

Jorge’s Insights

Jorge Garcia, CTO and Founder of app development company, Hello Iconic, located in Pasadena, California, picks out the incorporation of his former company, Escolarea LLC, as a turning point in his company’s growth. Having originally arrived to New York in 2011 to take part in a DreamIT Ventures accelerator program before splitting his time between his native Honduras and the US for three years, his growing company faced one constant question.

“We realized that because we were travelling to the US so much, clients began to see us as locals. But the first thing that clients asked us, after getting to know our skillset, was how they could pay us. They wanted to know if we had a company set up in the States. This is when we began using Escolarea LLC, and it proved to be a differentiator,” he said. “Paying can be a friction point in contracting. But if you have a US corporation it removes any obstacles to payment – clients don’t want to transfer money outside of the country if it can be avoided. Then we added other requirements like liability insurance. These legal aspects were vital.”

If you have a US corporation it removes any obstacles to payment – clients don’t want to transfer money outside of the country if it can be avoided” — Jorge Garcia

The company now employs over 60 people and has contracts with world famous artists like Neil Young, as well as major media companies based in LA. Part of the process of the company has been to “Americanize” itself, he explains: “We made some adaptions. We rebranded from Icoms to Hello Iconic two or three years ago. Our website looked like that of a tech company from Latin America. Now we look more like a US agency.”

The company’s portfolio has helped attract more clients, says Garcia, and the fact that it uses regional talent allows the company the provide world-class services at more competitive prices than an agency based entirely in New York or San Francisco. 

Though the practical issues like in-person meeting is an advantage, the story of Hello Iconic and its founders is one that clients really admire, he explains.

“When we tell clients our story, we get a really positive response. They appreciate the boldness and the risk that we took in moving here to open an office and going to the next step. I think the American culture really respects that sort of commitment. It’s an entrepreneurial culture and one that is based on chasing your dream,” he said.

Our sales calls became Zoom calls, but we are still sharing the same skies — Jorge Garcia

Interestingly, he believes that the last 15 months has increased the need for clients to build trust through shared experience despite the fact that remote working and Zoom calls are now more part of business culture than ever. Ultimately, selling is about building a connection, and having lived the same experiences helps build that connection.

“The pandemic has heightened the sense that we and our clients are sharing the experience. The fact that we were living the same mandate, the same spikes and everything that came along with that made a difference. Our sales calls became Zoom calls, but we are still sharing the same skies. It helps the dynamic of the conversation, and that matters for sales.”

Making Sense

Cesar DOnoforio, Co-Founder and Chairman at Making Sense

Name: Cesar DOnoforio

Title: Co-Founder and Chairman, Making Sense

Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Years in US: 15

Most valuable tip on building a network: Pick one location or city and travel as frequently as possible before you move there. Built your network, build your reputation and then move permanently when you know the time is right.

Cesar’s Insights

Cesar DOnoforio’s American adventure began in San Antonio Texas, a far cry from Silicon Valley. DOnoforio, originally from Argentina, was hired by a company in 2006 and moved to the Lone Star State with his family. But after launching a landing page platform, Lander, and seeing success, he and his family relocated to San Fransisco in order to be closer to the beating heart of the industry. 

Now, DOnoforio leads Making Sense Ventures, a company specializing in software development to improve customer journeys.

Despite working in the Nearshore industry, and the business world’s recent acceptance of remote working, the ability to meet people in-person remains essential to a company’s growth, DOnoforio suggests. 

“Everything is about relationships and it’s difficult to build that closeness when you’re far apart” — Cesar DOnoforio

“Being based in the US allows a company to grow two or three times faster because you can make connections far more quickly and build relationships. The comfort that clients receive from knowing you personally is important when a client may be buying millions of dollars in software from you.”

There’s a simple but direct reason for this, he believes. Selling technology is very different to selling a traditional product.

“I’m here because everything we sell is a service. You can’t see it – it isn’t a physical thing. Therefore, the foundation of our industry is built on personal relationships. That I can share the same day-to-day possibilities with clients and colleagues is vital. The idea of chatting about the weather or where to golf is really important. It’s still important to be physically close to your clients and your client-facing resources should be too,” he said.

“It’s still important to be physically close to your clients” — Cesar DOnoforio

He points out that these intangible social factors all play into the ultimate goal to a business – to sell its products and grow. Forging trust by way of familiarity acts as a validation that is difficult to replicate when you don’t share the same life as a client.

“All of this is included in the price you’re selling your services. You’re a local and your service is meant to be higher quality,” he said. “Everything is about relationships and it’s difficult to build that closeness when you’re far apart.”

“We’re local in that we are based in San Francisco but we can also leverage a talented pool of engineers from Latin America” — Cesar DOnoforio

Being from Latin America and living in the US also provides advantages over local, US companies, he says. “We’re local in that we are based in San Francisco but we can also leverage a talented pool of engineers from Latin America, and it would be very difficult to find that amount of engineers here. The two different parts – on one side the local people who are responsible for the handling of project, and on the other, the leveraged talent from other parts of the world – is important,” DOnoforio said. 

And for a growing company, the Silicone Valley environment is difficult to beat, he believes. “The mindset is different. In Silicon Valley, you are surrounded by people who are involved in the tech industry and in startups. It is a constant feature of life. When you surround yourself by people who are talking about the next innovation or growth or advanced technologies, it changes your perception,” he concluded.

Twnel

Carlos Sierra, CEO at Twnel

Name: Carlos Sierra

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Title: CEO, Twnel 

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Years in US: 10

Most valuable tip on building a network: Remember that your talent pool and connection network comes from around the globe. Use those connections to compliment your offering. Take advantage of your past to reach out to people to build your business.

Carlos’ Insights

“There’s a psychologic difference you get when you’re in a place where you can see the world differently,” Carlos Sierra said, when asked why he chose to set up shop in the US. 

Sierra’s company, Twnel, which uses messaging services to help automate processes within companies, is unlike many other Nearshore organisations. Rather than being based in Latin America and selling services to the US, the company sells to Latin America and the emerging markets from its headquarters in Boston. 

But Sierra, originally from Colombia, is clear on the advantages of being US-based. Many companies in Colombia believe their market sits within the country’s borders, he believes. “In the tech industry it doesn’t make sense not to scale globally, not to grow outside of your immediate market,” he said. In Boston, as in San Francisco and other tech hubs, we are reminded every day that the world is our market. It isn’t just one country,” he said.

“In the tech industry it doesn’t make sense not to scale globally, not to grow outside of your immediate market” — Carlos Sierra

Sierra first arrived in Boston to study his MBA at MIT in 2011. He’s remained in the city ever since, and says that the world-renowned universities and technology ecosystems offer access to expertise that few other places in the world can match. “In Boston, we’re right next to some of the best universities in the world. We have access to interns, professionals, VCs and some of the brightest minds. People are constantly debating your ideas and questioning your hypothesis,” he explained.

This access to talent is a fundamental part of the US proposition. Nowhere else, he says, can small companies such as Twnel find the kind of talent that is needed to help get to continue developing.

“There is incredible access to growth talent, to people who know how to make businesses really grow. In Latin America there isn’t as much of a talent because, though there are companies like Rappi or Nubank, there hasn’t been a huge generation of people who have that growth experience and move to the ecosystem. In Boston, this type of knowledge is dense,” said Sierra.

Peter Appleby

Peter is the Managing Editor of Nearshore Americas. Hailing from Liverpool, UK, he is now based in Mexico City. He has several years’ experience covering the business and energy markets in Mexico and the greater Latin American region. If you’d like to share any tips or story ideas, please reach out to him here.

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