My family is ethnically Chinese from Indonesia but I was born in Singapore and spent most of my life in the UK. In the fall, I will be attending the University of Chicago and hoping to major in Economics and Political Science.
I chose to do an internship with Magma Partners because of my passion for entrepreneurship and keen interest in learning more about Latin America. I was attracted to Chile because I wanted to immerse myself in the renowned food culture, explore the diverse nature, and improve my Spanish. However, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, I was unable to fly to Santiago. I still wanted to intern at Magma Partners and saw the opportunity to work remotely with a 12-hour time difference as I was based in Singapore. Instead of hopping on a plane to Chile, I hopped onto a Zoom call to meet my colleagues in Chile.
Working remotely has exposed me to the future of work and taught me to become more organized and adaptable. It has highlighted the importance of communication within a team for projects as well as social cohesion. I found the time difference not to be too much of an obstacle as I am generally a night owl thus able to join morning meetings with the rest of the team. Unfortunately, it did mean that I was unable to participate in afternoon calls.
As an avid fan of podcasts, I was immediately taken by Crossing Borders with Nathan Lustig. I found the insights and advice decidedly profound. I have included a few of my favorite quotes and anecdotes to illustrate the lessons I have learned.
In the episode with Rocio Fonseca she imparts a deeply resonating quote, “You can change an entire country’s economy empowering women”.
Women entrepreneurs, especially in Latin America, face relentless obstacles. Emilia Diaz shared anecdotes where she experienced a lot of sexism as a female founder. At a coworking space she worked at, a few founders were planning an event. Instead of inviting her to join as a fellow entrepreneur, they said, “We have this event coming, maybe you can help us out [...] we have some people coming, can you cook for us?”
In another episode, Gricha’s Alba Rodriguez mentioned that she faces a lot of sexism as a female entrepreneur in Latin America as many investors believe that because you are a woman you will quit once you are married or become a mother.
Maricel Saenz from Nextbiotics talked about her experiences meeting with investors. She has been asked if she was dating her co-founder– a question that a male entrepreneur wouldn't be asked.
These women’s experiences are merely a fraction of the sexism that female founders face. I admire their grit and tenacity that has pushed them to succeed. I hope to emulate their resilience and determination in everything that I do.
Furthermore, the articles about “The Rise of Femtech” and “The Secret Ingredient to Latin America’s Outsized Venture Capital Returns? Women” on Claire Diaz Ortiz’s blog have really inspired me for the future of female entrepreneurship and given me hope that the startup environment is evolving.
During my internship, I got the chance to attend the WiSE 24 2020 summit. It was inspiring. Chris Yeh’s presentation particularly resonated with me. During the Q&A session at the end of the talk, one of the attendees asked,
“Given the concentration of white male VCs and their lack of personal connection / understanding to many things female, how do you advise female founders to pitch to VCs who are white males?”
He replied, “Present them with traction. People will pretty much overlook everything for good traction. Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
Importance of networking
I believe the most invaluable advice I’ve heard repeatedly from books, blogs, podcasts, and articles is: Reach out. Don’t be afraid to ask others.
The Magma team was very supportive and eager to impart advice when I reached out. Nate encouraged me to “make the most of the internship and ask to do more tasks” in order to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible. Francisco emphasized utilizing “your expertise to gain a unique insight into a problem or market” to gain a competitive edge in solving your problem.
Listening is a vital skill emphasized by Pedro Pablo del Campo, “Be a more proactive listener, learn how to listen, surround yourself with monitors, you can never stop learning from others around you”.
It is further emphasized by Emilia Diaz who insisted that you must keep learning from those around you and “surround yourself with people who are smarter than you”. I believe that only by learning from others’ triumphs and failures will you be able to succeed. Everybody knows something that you don’t so you can always learn something from someone.
In addition, the importance of networking and building relationships became increasingly clear to me. You are able to gain unique insights into a problem by discussing it with others. Through connecting and tapping into your network, you can find partners and a team with the same mission as well as advisors, mentors, and investors for guidance. As Komal Dadlani stressed, “I want their network, not their net worth”. You should look to build a relationship with your investors and look for what you can learn and gain from them besides simply financing.
I found this quote from The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz incredibly poignant:
“Life is struggle.” I believe that within that quote lies the most important lesson in entrepreneurship: Embrace the struggle. It underlines the key lesson about perseverance and grit necessary to succeed as an entrepreneur.
In a Crossing Borders podcast episode, Maricel Saenz said,“The worst attempt is the one you never do”.
This particularly resonated with me because, like many others, I feared failure. Thus, it prevented me from attempting something new as I feared that I would not succeed. I learned during my experience at Magma from listening to entrepreneurs' journeys that failure is not a defining, unchangeable state. It is part of life. The only time when an experience is truly a failure is when you do not learn from it.
Believe in yourself. As Maricel Saenz said, “Sometimes you underestimate what you are capable of. We are the biggest enemies of our own potential by putting ourselves in boxes”. If you do not believe in yourself then why should your team, investors, and clients trust you? Self-belief is a key trait of successful founders. You should not limit your growth by restricting yourself. In doing so, you prevent yourself from achieving greatness.
My experience at Magma Partners has taught me to refine the organization skills essential for remote working– the future of work –as well as igniting a deeper curiosity to explore new fields and to expose myself to new ideas. It has ingrained in me the courage to never fear asking questions and failing.
I’ve had an immensely educational and eye-opening experience. Three months ago, I had little knowledge of the entrepreneurship and startup world, and an even lesser grasp of Latin America. One of my strongest beliefs is to “never stop learning” and at Magma I believe that I have pushed myself to take advantage of every opportunity to learn more. As Sean Park advised his younger self, “learn how to learn.”
A lesson I strive to incorporate in my life is what Guimar Vaca Sittic advised which is to “maximize the pace at which you learn and look for environments you can learn the fastest.”
Here are a few of my favorite articles from Nate’s blog: Fixing Latin America’s Broken Lending Industry, An Overview of the Insurtech Industry in Latin America, An Overview of the Cannabis Tech Investment Scene in Latin America, and How Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Helping Change the Way LatAm Does Business.
Completing The Stanford Startup School, Venture Deals Course, and Y Combinator Startup School has also taught me the intricacies of being a founder and an investor which gave me a better understanding of what makes a startup succeed. I would highly recommend them.
And finally, one of the most memorable quotes from Crossing Borders, “Trust yourself. Don’t be afraid to f*ck up” said by Mayer Mizrachi.
Crossing Borders episodes mentioned:
- Rocio Fonseca: Empowering Female Entrepreneurs and Startups in Latin America, Ep 21
- Emilia Diaz: Learning from Kaitek Labs’ Post Mortem, Ep 56
- Alba Rodriguez, Gricha: Using insects to solve food insecurity and improve nutrition, Ep 36
- Maricel Saenz, NextBiotics: Defeating the Next Superbug, Ep 76
- Pedro Pablo del Campo: Building Bridges Between Latin America & the USA, Ep 55
- Komal Dadlani, Lab4U: Turning Smartphones in Science Labs, Ep 63
- Sean Park: How GroupRaise Became The Tastiest Way to Change the World, Ep 31
- Mayer Mizrachi: How Mayer Mizrachi Launched Criptext From a Colombian Prison, Ep 48
Adelyn Gunawan was a summer 2020 intern at Magma Partners. In the fall, she will be attending the University of Chicago, hoping to double major in Economics and Political Science. She is passionate about entrepreneurship and is very keen to learn more about fintech and the startup ecosystem.