South American Adventures

Taking flying leaps into the unknown

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Spectatular failure from red-hot startup Fab that raised $330 million and then went bust

I read / skim roughly 10 startup related articles going back 2+ years now. After a while things do get repetitive however today I came across a article about Fab which I found particularly interesting for 3 reasons.

1 – The dollar figures involved in investments received, sales generated, units shipped and acquisitions made is quite astounding especially considering the short time frame.

2 – Incredibly few companies reach product market fit. “Fab had product market fit, but Fab didn’t understand its product market fit,” a former Fab employee said.

3 – It had a CEO with an interesting personality and background who wrote an impressive memo to his stakeholders about the mistakes made.

I won’t attempt to summarize or try to add interesting anecdotes to the article as its superbly written and very insightful. I recommend you take a look. There are a lot golden nuggets in their which many founders can learn something from.

In early 2011, Bradford Shellhammer and Jason Goldberg shut down Fabulis and started Fab.

In early 2011, Bradford Shellhammer and Jason Goldberg shut down Fabulis and started Fab.

Spectatular failure from red-hot startup Fab that raised $330 million and then went bust


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My role as Taggify’s Financial Advisor

Most of us at Fundacity have a hobby outside Fundacity. Diego for instance has a rock band and spends the occasional weekend touring parts of Chile to hold heavy metal concerts, Adam is a self-development and sports fanatic and Jerry loves cooking and reading. Myself, I use my free time to advise startup Taggify on financial reporting, reporting to their board and fundraising. I’ve done this since Dec-12 and in jubilation of my 1 year+ with them Gustavo the CEO offered me advisory stock options.

It is by no means a significant shareholding in fact I forgot how many zeros there were after the decimal point but its the message that matters to me. It means they valued and continue to value my work for them. Giving continued and regular support for monthly reporting has been very tough as I am already working round the clock with Fundacity. Every month end I need to create extra time which usually means early hours at dawn and weekends to make sure I can finish my reviews before the board meeting. It always leaves me thinking I wish I could do more, but I am proud to say that since I joined reporting at Taggify changed incredibly. They were once an excel mess where there was no appreciation for most fundamental accounting principles and worse yet receivables and finances were not controlled at all. Today we use professional accounting software and create sensible reports and track results with precision.

The best part of the experience was learning. I learnt about global group structures, filling of income taxes in each jurisdiction, Delaware Franchise taxes, accounting software, bookkeeping and hiring and firing. It took me almost 6 months to fill the spot of financial controller at Taggify and involved managing the firing of a CFO and soon after that the replacement financial controller. Another interesting learning point was about structuring advisory stock options, which I will talk about in my next post.



Coming to Brazil: 3 weeks from idea to completion

I moved to Brazil. The idea arose whilst doing idea validation for the next phase of Fundacity. I noticed I was speaking all day with prospective clients (angel investors and HNWIs) and they were predominantly from Brazil. From the 200 targets I reached out to 100+ were Brazilian and 10 were from Chile. In addition the 10 Chileans were completely uninterested in speaking with me. Chileans can often be unenthusiastic to the new and unknown. It is easier to reach out to a high powered and successful New Yorker or Silicon Valley angel investor than a Chilean angel investor.

Early morning on 5 Feb whilst Skyping to an angel from the Harvard Business Angels club from Rio it occurred to me that we had move to Brazil to get them using Fundacity. We had absolutely nothing more to benefit from a physical presence in Chile. I was all day on Skype speaking to people abroad. I jumped on my bike and made my daily 6km treck to the office mulling over this sudden idea to relocate the team. Pros and Cons?


  • Big market where there is almost 10.000 buyers for anything you may want to sell;
  • Several active angel groups and VCs;
  • Exploding startup ecosystem growth;
  • Supportive pro startup government;
  • Global attention and connectivity (further heightened by World Cup and Olympics);
  • Huge financial center;
  • People – Brazilians (in my experience) are open and welcoming to foreigners which is partly due to their own very racially mixed nation;
  • We have several clients there and our user base is increasingly Brazilian; and
  • Will inject new energy and drive into the mainly non-Chilean team that is getting bored of life in Chile.


  • Expensive to move and live in Brazil and we are running dangerously out of runway;
  • Different language and whilst we speak 6 languages amongst the team none of us speak Portuguese;
  • Brazil is notoriously bureaucratic (not to say that Chile isn’t);
  • we need visas and they are hard to get; and
  • Public safety is an issue.


Arriving in the office for our 10am daily team meeting I shared my thought “ok guys, i’ve been thinking that perhaps to really blow this up we need to move to Brazil for business development, what do you think?”. The uproar was unanimous, but nonetheless we agreed to reflect on the pros and cons and debate it over lunch. The decision was unanimously made.

We were to move to Rio for some months. I began the visa process and  attempted to move  mountains and decipher the bureaucratic hurdles of the Brazilian consulate, Chilean ministries and Brazilian universities.  15 days later I had a 7 month visa in hand. Within 3 weeks of the decision I arrived in Brazil. The guys are to follow shortly.

I think this bore testament to a saying we have in the team about how much we do in a single day and why

“1 day feels like a week, 1 week like a month and 1 month like a year and months….well we can’t even think that far because everything is possible.”

Thus, part 2 of the South American adventures begins: the conquest of Brazil.

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Our minimal viable team at Fundacity

This week I thought I coined a great new word…the Minimum Viable Team.

A Team

A Team

I got the idea from the much used term ‘minimum viable product‘, namely our minimum viable team or MVT. Sure enough, I soon found out that I merely trod in the foot path of other startup pioneers. The awesome startup blog ‘This Is Going To Be Big” already wrote a splendid article on the subject, titled, as expected: The Minimum Viable Team :).

What I wanted to share wasn’t my near-to innovative moment but rather that in Fundacity I finally feel that we have found our Minimum Viable Team consisting of 4 great individuals. On the personality side we all share some key characteristics: hard working, stable, friendly and dedicated to our craft, but we differ greatly in our special powers :).

Amongst this team of 4 we have all major areas covered needed to make Fundacity big. The article on MVT outlined that basic function of a tech company comprise of:

1) Engineering
2) Marketing
3) Sales
4) Business development
5) PR
6) Design
7) Product Management
8) HR
9) Operations
10) Finance

but that these can be grouped into:

1) Attracting and benefiting from outside interest
2) Customer experience
3) Engineering
4) Some outsourced crap the team shouldn’t be thinking about

There is of course some overlap between our roles, but we each gravitate toward our distinct areas quite naturally which is fantastic.

Assembling the MVT together was not easy and we had many bad apples in the bunch. Some we fired and others I failed to fire quickly enough but fortunately they resigned sensing it was better for both. Getting the right team together is probably the hardest and yet most important thing that defines the fate of a startup. Each hire significantly impacts the culture and functioning of the startup.

Mistakes can equal death

thus it is advisable to

Hire fast and fire faster

To say the least, I learnt a lot along the way. The following two articles were insightful reads on hiring and firing. Hire Fast, Fire Fast and How to Deal with Pure Recruiting Mistakes. Hope you enjoy them.


How can I market our start-up product? Benefits, Features, Advantages…

We are launching a drastically new homepage with Fundacity. It is the final fundamental step in pivoting to helping investors save time and make better decisions in the startup selection process and away from the Startup Ecosystem we once visioned to create. The previous homepage had conflicting messages that left viewers confused on what we do and where to go next.

The new homepage is meant to:


1. Support our sales calls through reinforcing our message,

2. Generate sales leads independently; and

3. Direct traffic to the sign up process.

Fundamentally, the homepage has to market the product we are selling, i.e. the DealFlow. On our first attempt we wrote down lists of features that we think sell. However, features and advantages don’t sell… benefits sell.

So which is which and how do we formulate things? It is damn hard for those of us in the detail to step back and think like an outsider at times but there is lots of interesting and helpful material out there to consult. The article was very helpful in explaining the subtle differences for me between features, benefits and advantages and giving real life examples. Ultimately the benefits are the way in which you solved their problems and made life better for them…the benefits are why the user gives a damn about your product and will ultimately pay for your product.

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Thoughts on “Startups Are NOT Glamorous – They Run on Fear”

Its a good article and it reads well but I believe somewhat narrow in telling the story that is “never told” about entrepreneurs… Indeed there is fear driving us but I think it is window framing to state fear is the single fuel behind what truly drives startups.

Fear, I agree is an important aspect but fear is an emotion that plays a role in many things humans do in life. Fear of a consequence in any situation does motivate. The 9-5 guy fears many things as well and perhaps he/she is even more afraid. Fear keeps him/her going in and doing their job everyday whether or not they like it because otherwise they would be fired and face the many consequences of that.

In my opinion, there are far more factors motivating an entrepreneur to get up and hussle.  For instance: Intrigue for learning, fear of failing, excitement regarding achievements, passion for innovating in an industry I enjoy and hope that maybe I can create something new that people love to use …….are some of the things that motivate me most. and of course caffeine 😀

via Startups Are NOT Glamorous – They Run on Fear | LinkedIn.

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Thank you PwC

It was time to put fingers to keyboard and draft that email. The sabbatical from PwC was drawing to an end and I was expected back in April. It was time to admit to myself and others that I was not going to return to London and work as a corporate advisor. They were good times. I learnt a lot. I met great people but this seems like the logical next step.

Thank you PwC!

People missing me :) IMG_1611

Cool people at my leaving drinks in September 2012


Handing in my security pass in September 2012

Handing in the PwC security pass