Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tango in the valley

So last year I had the good fortune to visit Argentina.
Having traveled a bit in Brasil, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia in the 90s, I expected a 2nd/3rd world travel experience. Sure I had heard about Buenos Aires being the "Paris of Latin America", but I knew better, I had done my time in the backalleys of Lima and Sao Paulo and Salvador and Rio and Quito. I was ready for the grime, the crime, the beggars and the pollution.

Actually I was very wrong. Buenos Aires blew me away. As did Argentina as a whole. It was a first world country tucked away down south. Beautiful city and countryside. Very proud Argentines, and rightfully so. Great food, culture, design, infrastructure (around BA anyway). Admittedly I only saw a small part of the country, BA and a side trip up to Bariloche in the Andes for some skiing. But it was pretty awesome. Steak, malbec, excellent chocolate and those amazing Andes. Oh yeah, and it was pretty cheap too, the dollar actually had a great exchange rate against the peso.

Downtown BA, at Plaza e Mayo

Musica Folklorico in San Telmo district, BA
Up in the Andes, Cerro Catedral ski resort, Bariloche

The purpose of my trip last year was to speak at a LatAm venture investing/company pitching event, Puente Technologica, being thrown by the cities of BA and Barcelona. I heard lots of pitches (good and bad), spoke about the 2009 state of Silicon Valley (bad but getting better) and connected with lots of good people in the technology entrepreneur eco-system of BA. Net: Lots of great software talent, especially good with UI, games, mobile; Argentina a 40M person market with the real big LatAm markets being Mexico and Brasil; and that there is a lack of available venture capital and successful LatAm start-up role models. There is lots of potential in the Argentine tech sector, but it is still embryonic, needing some dedicated government and private sector help.  More on that in a moment.

I have kept my ties to BA warm, meeting with BA entrepreneurs and government officials who come to Silicon Valley. This week I had the opportunity to attend two LatAm and BA related tech events.
Traweln - 200 of LatAm's tech leaders high up on Old La Honda

Lining up for some really fine Argentine style asado

1. Traweln event - I went to a Sunday afternoon asado high up on Old La Honda Road in Woodside which had 200 of LatAm's top entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. In addition to the incredible setting and fine malbec and the great asado (even the Argentine guests gave it a thumbs up!), I spoke with some very interesting people who had come to our neck of the woods to learn more about the process of building great tech companies. The Traweln event was thrown by an organization called Endeavor which seeks to help the developing world move forward by supporting entrepreneurship in these countries. They select the most promising companies from Asia, Africa, Latam and provide the selected companies with mentoring, connections, funds. If you have interest in helping out with this mission, check out Endeavor, they have a local office in San Francisco. I'm planning to meet with them soon.

2. Tango in the Valley - Another great LatAm tech organization is Palermo Valley. Palermo is a hip district of BA (kinda like SOHO in NYC or SoMa in SF) where a lot of tech companies are located. Palermo Valley, the organization, is a network of 50 regional chapters located all across LatAm that help promote tech related events and services. Maybe kinda like SDForum or SVase here in the Valley, but spread all over LatAm. The BA Palermo Valley along with LAVCA (LatAm Venture Capital Assocation) brought 30 companies from BA to come experience a week in SV. Last night I hard the companies pitch.

Here are a couple of ones I thought were cool (a combination of most likely to succeed plus interesting to me) out of the many fine companies I saw last night:

1. Avantrip – LatAm travel booking tools leveraging user social interests

I like the idea of using social profile data for helping book trips (also check out fb app BonVoy in this area). These guys are doing some real revenue. I think the whole Kayak-SideStep-Orbitz travel search model is ready to be disrupted, no innovation in years.. Are these the guys? Don't know. But someone has to.

2. Creation Flow –Saas service for proofing creative work

The founder says the product is for “For people working on photshop all day.” Online simple solution. Free trial and then $24 to $400 month. Solution for Animation, Architect, Designers.
I like the focus. Just launched and has customers in 5 countries. Will be interesting to see if they can get viral, word of mouth marketing effect. Got a nice write up in GigaOM/NY Times.

3. Taggify – AdSense for images

Pixazza like, has some differentiators like automated picture tagging.
Looks like a good (big) idea if it works. This has potential, maybe as a Latam version of Pixazza Maybe it can come to U.S. later if the Picture ad market takes off (how is Pixazza doing?).

For more info on Palermo Valley or these companies, email


  1. Hi Des, I guess you met some of our Friends from BA!! we were planing to go but work kept us really busy and we couldn't get on board... business are business!

    Matias Paterlini
    CTO at Altodot Social Technologies

  2. Hi Des:
    Thanks for mentioning CreationFlow.