Sergio Furio made the leap from corporate job to fintech founder. Having raised around $600M in capital, his startup was recently valued at $1.7B. His company, Creditas has recently raised funding from top-tier investors like Sunley House Capital Management, e.ventures, SoftBank Vision Fund, and Wellington Management, among others.
In this episode, you will learn:
- The difference in raising money in the USA versus Latin America
- His top advice before starting a company, that could save you years
- Why you can’t rely on your talent, and must become a people person, or hire great people-people if you want to survive
For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks
Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
About Sergio Furio:
Sergio Furio is the Founder & CEO of Creditas, the leading secured lending platform in Brazil. With more than US$600 million in VC funding and 400 employees, the company is one of the top funded technology companies in Latin America. By using consumers’ properties (houses and cars) as a collateral and reinventing the secured lending origination process, Creditas cuts the high interest rates that Brazilians pay for traditional consumer lending. Before founding Creditas in 2012, Sergio was a strategy consultant at The Boston Consulting Group in New York and Madrid, and an investment banker at Deutsche Bank.
Connect with Sergio Furio:
* * *
FULL TRANSCRIPTION OF THE INTERVIEW:
Alejandro: Hello everyone, and welcome to the DealMakers show. Today we have an amazing guest, a guest from Spain, so this is one that really hits home for me; definitely, a founder that really has been able to understand the moves from corporate to startup, the moves going from one geographic location to another one and starting from the bottom-up. I think that we’re going to be learning quite a bit in terms of building, financing, and scaling a company. So without further ado, let’s welcome our guest today. Sergio Furio, welcome to the show.
Sergio Furio: Thank you, Alejandro. Thank you for the invite. I’m looking forward to having a great time.
Alejandro: Born in Spain, originally in Valencia, but then you moved to Barcelona, so how was the upbringing and life in Spain?
Sergio Furio: Yes. I was originally from a small village in Valencia, with a 20,000 population. I studied there in my early years. When I was 14, my family decided to move to Barcelona. To me, it looked like a fantastic jump from the village to a huge city. I spent my high school there in Barcelona. I did my thesis education in Barcelona and graduated in 2000 and looking forward to meeting the world, as you can imagine, and looking forward to joining the corporate world.
Alejandro: Tell us about the corporate world because I’m sure that gave you a little bit of perspective as to how to approach problems, specifically during the consulting years. But, starting with banking, so why banking?
Sergio Furio: Actually, Alejandro, during my whole university period, I was going to be a marketer. I was totally into marketing. I had done my internships in Bic, the pens’ company, then in Dannon doing yogurt advertisings and so on. I had an offer to go there. In May of 2000, I started thinking, “There are no numbers here. This is more about communicating ideas.” I was totally into numbers and very analytical. I made a radical move in the last couple of months of my university and decided to apply for banking, and joined Deutsche Bank in Spain’s investment banking team over in large corporates and spent five years there. Those were crazy years in investment banking in Europe. The spreads were high. You had a lot of derivatives, debt capital markets transactions, high-profile deals. It was fun. It was like the classical environment of living in a bank, surfing the waves. By 2005, I was realizing that banking was like two specialists. The more you were progressing up the ladder, the more that you were completely narrow in your potential future growth. You were going to be focusing in either capital markets, in equities, in derivatives. That existential crisis came, and I said, “I want to do something broader.” The guys from VCB came to me and said, “Why don’t you join us? We’re looking to set up a team to be the best consulting firm in banking down here in Spain.” So I joined them in 2005. It was that type of movement that really doesn’t happen a lot. I spent three or four years there in Spain, working with almost every single large banking institution in Spain, and those were like glory years before the crisis – a lot of learnings, a lot of growth, strategy plans, operation excellence, technology, and everything related.
Alejandro: Consultants make fantastic entrepreneurs. Why do you think that’s the case?
Sergio Furio: In consulting, you typically have this challenge of a white piece of paper in which a customer comes to you. Typically, it’s like a large corporation that has a problem that they are struggling with. It’s not day-to-day business. They come to you and ask you a question. They don’t have a framework for solving that, so you go to your laptop and start Googling about the problem. That’s always what you do first. They’re not like one of those things where you’re like, “I know everything.” You always Google the problem. Then you take a piece of paper and start drawing some maps and thinking about how you would solve that problem. If you think about it, that’s a bit of delight for an entrepreneur. One day you’re walking on the street, and someone tells you a specific thing or an opportunity or problem, and then you start thinking about it. What would you do to actually solve it? The framing of problems and diagnostic problems, ideas, and solutions work well with the consulting world. There are other types of projects in consulting which are more execution-oriented, more APMO-type, so managing a large project. Those are things then that you’re trying to do also in a startup when you heat the scale-up phase, and you want to have multiple streams running parallel from marketing, sales, operations, etc. Those are some formalities. Obviously, there are fantastic differences, as well. In consulting, they’re like a house of people who are truly talented, international peers that can help you in solving the problem, you have an amazing brand, great facilities, and when you set up your startup, you don’t have any of the above. You need to go and buy your coffee for your team; you need to be like the taxi driver for the team; you need to cheer the team; you’re like a cheerleader, and you need to forget most of the things that you learned in that previous experience, to be very honest, as well.
Alejandro: Absolutely. Moving to New York was a pivotal moment for you, not only because you met your now wife, but also because perhaps it shaped your mindset and the direction of where you wanted to go, so how was that experience of moving to the concrete jungle?
Sergio Furio: Alejandro, you know that New York is the place that you always want to go. You want to have a professional experience in the City. At least in my generation, it was like the destiny where everything from Wall Street to the empires, which are built there. I felt that this is the last thing that I want to do. Then after being there for three or four years, I was advising some of the largest banks in the country and doing a huge transformation for a while. Then two or three years down the road of that phase in New York, I started realizing that if this is the last thing or like the top of a building, I think that we’re stood up. There needs to be a better way. The feeling that I was having while advising those firms and actually being part of those projects was that there needs to be a better way of doing it. Technology is reshaping the world, and banking is not going to be out of that change and of that movement. I remember back in those days, it was sharing some ideas about how technology was going to completely reshape the banking industry, and there was a lot of hesitation of accepting that. Banks are big. They’re always going to be there. Who’s going to work with a small company? Who’s going to rely just on technology without a relationship? And that was 2012. It looked like 100 years ago, but it’s less than 10 years ago. It was impossible like if you were talking to every single executive in a bank, they would tell you, “This is it. It’s the way of doing that.” But I think it was like, “You’re providing me with the realization that even the top banks in the world were actually not moving fast enough.” They were not reacting fast enough. I moved to New York in 2008. The iPhone was one year old. Four years later, the entire world was iPhone. The entire world was in a mobile phone, and the banks had not moved fast enough to adapt and adjust to that new reality. That’s what actually provided me with the energy of let’s give it a try. In 2012, I was 33 or 34. I interpreted it as now or never. If I just stay here, I’m always going to be like an executive – and of course, it’s not that simple. So, you can become an entrepreneur whenever you want to, even if you’re 70, you can be an amazing entrepreneur. The other thing that happened in New York, as you were mentioning – first, I met a lot of friends, including you. But second, in 2011, I met my now wife, and she used to work in consulting, as well, also in Brazil – it’s like a small world type of thing. She came up with a simple sentence like, “In Brazil, people just stay 100% APR for a personal loan.” Boom. That was it. I said, “Okay. Don’t tell me more.” I guess there needs to be some opportunities there, and that was like the genesis of Creditas.
Alejandro: That’s amazing. It’s, obviously, quite a move because you are now in New York City, and it’s like you’re on top of the world. People in Spain or War Front, they look at New York and, in the movies, and it’s like the place to be. But, all of a sudden, your wife puts Brazil on the map, and you start thinking about this. What was that incubation process of your looking into this, analyzing the opportunity all the way to the moment that you say, “Let’s do it.” And you pull the trigger.
Sergio Furio: I was a consultant at that point with the goods and the bads. The first thing was getting to a Central Bank of Brazil website and looking; hopefully, they had some data about the market to understand it bottom-up of the market. Portuguese is similar to Spanish, so you don’t have to be a master in Portuguese to understand what was going on there. It had plenty of Excels and analysis. It’s an amazing Central Bank, by the way. Over the early three weeks or so, I got to know the Brazilian banking system and started reading journals about what people thought about that problem of high APRs and very expensive financial services. Most of the time, what the banks were saying was that the prices are high because delinquency is high, funding cost is high, and just because Brazil is just like that. Essentially, that was like the low-quality explanation. Later, a different thesis, which was based on an inefficiency from network. Now, it’s very obvious, but I remember my first trip to Brazil after making the decision, by the way, the decision when I was still in New York – on my first trip to Brazil, sharing those ideas with some of the executives in the banking sector. They were looking at me up and down. I thought, where are these guys coming from? “Don’t you see that the Brazilian banking industry is the most profitable in the world?” And, it’s true. It’s just that it’s so profitable because they’re efficient, but because the prices are far too high and the elasticity is radically low for a consumer. With that in mind, I said, “Okay. This is a very clear problem, and technology is going to completely reshape this.” That was the first part of the genesis of it. Now, the second part was just because there was a problem, and technology is going to change something, that doesn’t mean you’re ready to become an entrepreneur and they prepare your luggage and then just leave the country. I had one of my best friends, Palo, which is the co-founder of [14:18]. I had given him a first check back in 2009; I think it was. Every single week, we worked together, and then one week, I think it was Thanksgiving, we went to his family’s house, like 100 miles from New York, and I said, Palo, I want to be an entrepreneur. I’m going to do something in financial services. What’s the 101 of entrepreneurship? We spent Thanksgiving weekend theorizing on that, talking about the good, the bad, and the ugly. It was refreshing to see that. In commercial, it feels a lot like being scrappy and finding your way through another jungle, obviously, different like Wall Street. But you just need to be humble and prepared for the rollercoaster. I scratched a very simple business plan. I remember his family getting from FJ Labs that he was co-founder of [15:29]. Palo introduced me to him. I went there. I pitched him on the idea while still in New York. Then after 30 minutes or so, he says, “I totally like this. That’s what I funded [15:43] in São Paulo. Essentially, the guy was telling me, to my face, “Yeah, I agree with you. That’s what I already funded in other companies.” “It looks like entrepreneurship is going to be a very interesting thing.”
Alejandro: That’s amazing. I’m sure that for you, too, when you’re coming out of Spain where the only options that you have – now, obviously, things have changed, but we’re talking about 2012 or so where the environment in Spain hadn’t changed much around innovation and startups. Now, everyone wants to do a startup. But back then, it was like you would finish university, and you would either go into consulting, banking, or become a lawyer. So, in this case specifically for you, would you say that from a personal perspective, that was a little bit tough to perhaps have to tell the family and friends that you were giving up on basically being in these amazing corporations and also being in New York City, and now here you are, wanting to start from scratch, going to a different country. They probably thought you were completely nuts. So, how did you deal with that personally?
Sergio Furio: Yeah, with a lot of fear. [Laughter] Study hard, working like crazy, long hours in banking, long hours in consulting, and then you end up craving a taste of nice restaurants and nice suits, nice ties, nice shoes. Then, suddenly, you say, “Okay, am I really going to do this?” I remember the first conversation with my parents in saying, “I’m going to be doing this.” And they’re like, “You’re going to do what?!” Entrepreneurship has never been in my family. Maybe three generations ago, they had a store or something. Yeah, it was a lot of surprise from my family. “Are you really sure?” Regarding my friends, definitely, they felt I was going nuts. Regarding my co-workers, that was tough because you’re leaving a company where you’re making decent money, and I was going to bootstrap the startup. So, you’re embracing yourself for at least a year of not having a salary, having to pay for others. I was taking my last year’s bonus, and I remember in those early days, the thing that was tormenting me every single day was fear. It was like, “What if I don’t make it? These people are going to laugh at me.” Call it like your secret monster always attacking you, and your insecurity comes back to you because you’re making a dramatic change in your life and risking a bunch of things where you had a safety net, where you were in your comfort zone. So, the early days were very tricky. I remember that when we officially moved to São Paulo, and got an apartment, I took my money there that I had brought from New York because the computers and monitors were three times cheaper in New York than in Brazil because of the import taxes, like all the things there. I fabricated myself a logo of the company. At that point, it was called Bank [19:06]. The name came to us in 2016, 2017. So I fabricated the logo, put it on my monitor, and then my wife arrives and say, “What are you doing?” But that was my company – me, a laptop. In those early days, I said, “Okay. I have $150,000” – my last bonus at the consulting company. “I have 12 months of runway with this. I’m going to be paying for this operation.” I have my Excel, and I was putting how many people I was going to hire and what I had to do, and a very romantic view of that, but a lot of fear. Then, when I was talking to my friends, I was like, “I really need to make this happen.”
Alejandro: It’s interesting because you’re mentioning here the word fear, and many of the entrepreneurs that are probably listening right now are also hearing those voices – the what if? What’s going to happen with this, with that? How have you learned as an entrepreneur to be more at ease with those voices than with fear?
Sergio Furio: When you’re looking from the outside to the community, the community of startups, venture capitalists, journalists, and cover those things, you look at it like a clam very close. You know how things operate inside. Everything looks glamourous; everything looks like “These guys know what they’re doing. They really know how to speak, how to story tell,” and you feel that’s not part of the world, and you really need to learn a lot. Definitely, it felt like that for like a year. Then, slowly, I realized they were like normal people that besides those newspapers covering news like the startup that just came up and it was like an overnight success, you realize that the story behind that founder is nothing close to that. There was a lot of suffering, a lot of insecurity. We try to do our best every single day, and the important thing is that you work hard. And if you go back home, you try to sleep, you cannot make it, and you wake up at 2:00 in the morning, go back to the laptop, start working again. When you’re talking to other founders, you start realizing that everyone feels the same; everyone does the same things. Second-time founders are like a different story. They already know you; you’re much more secure; you already know how the industry works, but there’s nothing like a bad thing in being frustrated, and it’s not like the end of the world if you don’t make it with your startup. The important thing is that you are trying, and everyone is looking at you. If you failed in the first one, but you’ve known it was amazing in the first one, even though you didn’t make it, the investors are going to be there for you, and they’re going to be helping you create the next venture. I think that gave me a comfort. It doesn’t mean that it’s easy. At least it’s like working from the fear to something more about encouragement on the future.
Alejandro: Absolutely. In this case, for you, the landing there in Brazil and starting to bootstrap the operation – bootstrapping is very difficult. Any move in the wrong direction could mean death. But I’m wondering, what were those early days like? What would you say was probably the toughest part about bootstrapping the company?
Sergio Furio: It looked like very depressing things, but I talked about fear before; now, I’m going to talk about loneliness because I was a solo founder. Building a team that was more straightforward. I was a foreigner coming to Brazil, and Brazil embraces people from the outside. They think they actually know more than what they do, and attracting talent is easier probably for foreigners. I was bringing in a team of developers and a couple of journalists who helped me with the content at that point because there was a component on financial education. I really didn’t know what I was doing. But I remember from conversations with my friend Paulo that he was telling me, “If someone else in the world has done that type of thing that you’re trying to do, just call them. Talk to them and hear from them what they did well and what they would change.” “Are you sure they will actually talk to me?” He said, “Just try.” The reality is that I met a lot of people that were doing very similar things, and everyone was there to help – even people that were listed companies. I remember that I was using, at that point, as a benchmark, Bankrate, which was a company that was later acquired by Red Ventures, and that was a couple of billion dollars valuation leased a company, and I managed to get an entrance to the CEO, and I went to Europe, talked to the CEO, and tried to understand what they were doing and the things that they were trying to do. They wanted to come to Brazil. I said, “No, I don’t know if this is good or this is bad.” But then, you realized that they had so many problems that you’re better off by explaining what you’re trying to do, getting the feedback from them, and learning from them. It was a lot about the unknown and about trying new things – trying multiple things. I think that one of the key learnings that I got from that face is if you select a very narrow market, then you better be right. In our case, we selected [25:12], which was huge – a very inefficient lending market in Brazil with huge spreads, a massive industry, massive opportunity. We did so many things wrong, but because the market was so big, you were moving from one place to the other, trying one thing here, and this doesn’t work, so try this other one. The important thing that you realize very quickly is what is working and what is not. Don’t be too stubborn with one single idea, but at the same time, try to be resilient to keep away from that idea and move to something else, even if you’re staying with the target market that you are having. Now, I was speaking in those days with venture capitalists in Brazil. There were a few in 2012. That was, obviously, one problem. The second problem was that there were already four or five guys trying to do the same thing I was trying to do. Ut oh. This is not looking good. In those days, everyone is telling me no. Eighteen months later, the seed round we did was 1.5 million dollars. It was like a small seed round at that point, and it was 18 months after launching the company. Everyone was telling me, no, and that was a very difficult round. I had to pull a bunch of executives from financial services in micro-VC funds with small tickets. Actually, it was the toughest round that I did ever in the company. Three months before that, I was terrified because I thought that I was not going to make it with that round, and I sold my apartment in New York. I went back, and I said, “I’m going to cash out; I’m going to put that money in my account just because I don’t want to say stop. I want to continue.” I was believing in the company, but, obviously, very concerned that if the revenues weren’t going up, maybe nobody was going to give me money.
Alejandro: In this case, Sergio, what would you say was the turning point for the company where you were like, “I think we’re into something here.”?
Sergio Furio: After that seed round, we saw things very pragmatically of what do I need to actually make it to the Series A? That was a combination of a couple of things. One is, traction always helps. Especially in Latin America in those days. In the U.S., you were looking at companies with no revenues but doing a billion-dollar-valuation type of thing. But in Latin America, that was not the case. You had to have a solid business, even if you were obviously not making money, but at least you had the unit economics. Number one was traction, the unit economics, the financial side of it, so let’s make sure that in 2014, we triple in revenues versus what we had in 2013. Then, the second one was storytelling. At that point, I had already realized, and some of the former mentors that I had at that point were telling me, in storytelling, focus on how to communicate. I got into an endeavor community in 2014. That also supported me a lot, and meeting people, getting ideas from others. I probably spoke to more than 200 people in 2014. By the end of the year, I realized that the idea that we had since the beginning, they were right. But the industry was moving slower, specifically because the consumer in Latin America, the adoption pace of the smartphone was significantly slower than in Europe or the U.S. But it was happening. This idea of using that we have a case that speaks today, which is using assets to characterize a lending problem, call it a house or a car or the salary of an individual, using those as guarantees. It was something very unique, and no one had thought about that as a business that could scale. There were some tests, but no one was actually scaling that. I thought I had the background on my side as a founder, plus a team that was doing an amazing job. I had a plan in place. So even though the company was not something very robust at that point, the storytelling changes everything, and the results of the execution was good enough. So I went to the market, and in that case, the reception was amazing. It took us probably five or six months to raise the Series A. We took that money in 2016, and we thought, “That is it. Now is the moment.” Alejandro, the problem is that when you think, “This is the moment,” that is when something hits you. What happened at that point in 2015 was I had the money in the account, [30:15] 101 after Series A, build fast, grow fast, you need to make it to the Series B. In Series B you need to have more traction. You need to have a solid prob. So we started to deploy capital in hiring developers. I remember the cohort of developers that we hired in Q4 2015 – remember, at that point, it was like a 40-50 employees’ company. There were 15 developers that we hired in Q4 2015. Three quarters later, there weren’t any of them. We were running out of ideas; we didn’t have proper communication with the team; we didn’t have a clear culture the way that we were operating. You know when you forget about everything that you have learned in your previous corporate experience because you have to. You have to learn to be more scrappy. Then, you have a team of 50-60 – when those skills go back to you, and I just didn’t make it. I, honestly, was too focused on the traction, the problem, and doing things, talking to investors, and I forgot about building that culture that you want to have and having an operational management be involved there. So, I thought that was going to be the end of the company. That was just a year after the Series A in 2016. That was actually the tipping point. We took the business that was like a marketplace before 2016, and then decided that it was time to migrate it into a full-fledged lender and twin in which we were controlling the customer acquisition; we were controlling the production of the loan, and then the funding of the loan, as well, connecting with the capital markets. The first run section happened in April 2016, just 16 days before we actually got our term sheet as an extension of the Series A because we didn’t have enough time. So we successfully made that thing. The revenues of the company, overnight, increased three-fold, just because of the migration of the market. We got that additional funding that we needed. That was another 10-12 million dollars. From then on, everything started being much more like a company – more like a machine where you have your executive that runs sales, your executive that runs marketing, people from technology, and I was orchestrating the thing, so we moved from a very scrappy startup, garage-mode, even though we had 70 to 80 people, into a normal company. I brought in a couple of executives, and that was definitely the moment.
Alejandro: And the rest is history because how much capital have you guys raised to date?
Sergio Furio: The Series A, in total, with expansion, was $25 million. That was ’15, ’16. Since then, we have added another $550 million. On top of that, we did this year’s B and C in 2017. That was a magic year that we did 7x revenue growth. In 2019, we did a Series D that we got $230 million, and then last month, we announced the Series E, which was $255 and at that point, a $75 billion valuation.
Alejandro: That’s amazing. So, the business model, as we were talking, you guys have been very good at listening and very good at adapting, so for the people that are listening now, what is Creditas today? How do you guys make money?
Sergio Furio: Creditas has moved from a secure lending platform, and what that means is that we find customers that want a loan, produce a loan which is extremely complex through Creditas platform because we use the collateral, so we need to make sure that you place the lien on the property properly. And then, finally, we take the loan, and we sell it to capital markets. We keep a trench of that segregation that we call it, and that’s the source of revenues for us. It’s a margin on every single loan that we get. It’s recurring revenues instead of being an upfront model. If you think about it, we have a customer acquisition cost that we invest in bringing in a customer, and then we have a stream of cash flows that come from that customer every single month over our radically long timeframe. On average, our loans has seven years, so we keep our relationship with the customer using the house, the car, or the salary as collateral for those six or seven years just for the first transaction. So we are profitable in the first transaction. Then, the way that we expanded that business model was last year when we decided, “This is not enough. Beyond lending, we need to penetrate into the user case and what the customer wants to do with that money. How can we help the customer in the usage of that money,” because it was a relatively large ticket. So we started and created what we called consumer solutions. Those go across three ecosystems: your car, your house, and your salary. We have things ranging from related to your car, we upgrade your car, so we buy the car from you, sell you a new car, and move the financing from the previous car to the new car, and we manage all the process. We have our own reconditioning center to serve those customers. In the home ecosystem, we do a home evaluation for our customers, and, obviously, we fund that home renovation through our home equity product, but we have our own architects and engineers that work together with the construction company in order to deliver the product to you. Then, finally, in the salary ecosystem, we realized that the employees don’t only want to have a salary; they want to make the most of that salary. We partner with Apple, and we create an Apple-for-life program in Latin America for the employees of our partner companies in which the iPhone is not paid by the employees. It’s paid by the salary itself, so we discount the money from the salary, some even get subsidized from your employer, and that improves user experience, improves our economics because we are categorized by the salary. And finally, it raises a value proposition for the employer. It’s a great benefit for the employees. The last component of them all, we decided to go into national, so we have been almost eight years only in Brazil. Last year, we launched Mexico. We’re super excited about the Mexican market – plenty of things to do, and it’s an operation that really deserves something better.
Alejandro: That’s amazing. Definitely, incredible growth, and just to get a sense on the size of the operation and the scope, especially for the people listening, is there anything that you can share in terms of maybe the number of employees or anything else that is relevant?
Sergio Furio: Yeah. We are getting close to 2,000 employees. Back in 2020, we only grew by 25% of the number of employees. We had COVID in the middle, so we slowed down the growth on the employee-base, but we continued growing fast on the revenue side. We closed the fiscal year with $70 million in revenues, already with run rate of close to 100, and hoping to continue doubling every year for the next three years. So, hopefully, we’re here for the long run, and I’m building a multi-billion-dollar company. Last year, we were half this size, and just three years ago, we were 1/10th of the size that we have today.
Alejandro: That’s fantastic. One of the questions that I typically ask the guests that come on the show is, imagine I take you on this time machine, Sergio, and I bring you back to those days where you were in New York, and you just met your wife, and at that point, you are in front of this problem, and you’re thinking about maybe doing something about it. If you had the opportunity of talking with that younger Sergio, what would be that one piece of business advice that you would tell that younger Sergio before launching a business, and why, knowing what you know now?
Sergio Furio: It’s a great question. I think I would add a lot because, obviously, we made a lot of mistakes, and you always forget about those. You only remember the mistakes that you made. But I think that one of them was not talking enough with potential investors. My business was a business that needed investors. There are businesses where you don’t need them, but you can be running the show, and you don’t consume capital, but if you work in financial services, chances are you need a bunch of money. So, I was thinking that I had to have the perfect pitch deck and everything nailed down before I was going to get in front of the investors. I was working crazy, preparing the pitch deck even before talking to the investor, and then go into the room, and then explaining all the things that I had learned. Then the investor was, “Yeah, that’s very interesting.” Most of the time, they don’t want to tell you the bad news, which is, “I don’t want to invest in your company.” They didn’t like what I was doing at that point. This marketplace model didn’t work, and they knew it. They had seen another ten entrepreneurs before you explaining exactly the same. If I were back then, I would go to investors, and I would ask them, “What are you looking into? What are you interested in in this specific space?” Let’s say financial services. “What are you looking for,” because they will tell you the things that actually they want to invest. So, if you want to make sure that you minimize the chances of running out of money, talk to the main investors. Ask them what they are looking for. What are the ideas that they have realized that are relevant? Ask those before you launch the company – before you even explain what you want to work on. This is very simple, but I think it would have saved me probably a couple of years of work if I had just talked plainly about that. Now, we have programs that go into residences. Obviously, they are more dilutive, but the beauty of them is that they help you in figuring out what these investors would invest in. You get to know them. I think that’s the first one. And the second one, and this is very obvious, but I think those guys that are like alpha personalities – we think that we know it all, that we come from amazing, great backgrounds, and I’m being successful every single day in our lives. We think that we can make it, just by ourselves. Talent is so important. I’m a person that I’m not necessarily focusing on people. That’s not my area of expertise. It’s not what I’ve been good at. I’ve always been good at sitting in a room or in front of a whiteboard, and then it’s scratching things and trying to find a solution for a problem. But, you realize, especially now, with a couple of thousand people, that you really need to be a people-person, and that talent really changes the world. It’s not you. It’s the people that are going to be helping you in doing that. If you are not – in my case, I was not – someone that likes managing people, you’d better surround yourself with executives that can actually do that and that can see your vision and move it to those employees and a greater culture that remains and that helps you in building an amazing company.
Alejandro: I love it. Very, very profound, Sergio. For the people that are listening, what is the best way for them to reach out and say hi?
Sergio Furio: You definitely can find us in Creditas.com. In my case, just go to [email protected]. I’m happy to talk to other founders. This is part of my role, interacting with other people. I learn so much. I’m still a mentoring endeavor, and I learn so much from younger founders and those ideas that they bring me, and I say, “I want to listen to your opinion because now you’ve had this experience over like a decade.” They don’t realize that they’re helping me so much just because I take those ideas, and we apply them, obviously, in different formats and across different industries. That’s what keeps us awake and will keep us alert to improve the business and bring in more innovation.
Alejandro: Absolutely. Sergio, thank you so much for being on the DealMakers show today.
Sergio Furio: Thank you very much, and hopefully, the audience liked this discussion.
* * *
If you like the show, make sure that you hit that subscribe button. If you can leave a review as well, that would be fantastic. And if you got any value either from this episode or from the show itself, share it with a friend. Perhaps they will also appreciate it. Also, remember, if you need any help, whether it is with your fundraising efforts or with selling your business, you can reach me at [email protected].