Dropout to Entrepreneur

“An entrepreneur is someone who jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down.” — Reid Hoffman

I was born an entrepreneur and proud of it. Hoffman is right. The last three years were a total free fall, but I made that plane. The only problem was it lacked something…

The entrepreneur’s life is tough. I sacrificed a social life, health, and comfort for an insane amount of hard-work for self-fulfilment. It wasn’t for money. If it was about money, there are easier ways to earn it. Entrepreneurship is ultimately about passion. What drives us is the feeling that the world needs us to solve a problem and we’re the person with the right solution.

My work consumed me. A single minute without writing a process or coding, following-up with a customer, defining strategy, product road-mapping and design or developing financial projections was a waste of time for me.

Entrepreneurs have the illusion of super-powers. We plan and prepare relentlessly and say to ourselves ‘what could go wrong?’ And jump off the cliff anyway. First, you get a rush of adrenaline, then an extreme sense of freedom, happiness, and excitement. You can’t sleep at night. You become consumed with making your dreams a reality. The fear of failing your friends, family and all those who jumped off the cliff to help you takes control of you pushing you past your limits.

Entrepreneurship caught me at a young age. Between the ages of thirteen to eighteen, I started multiple projects. I couldn’t stop. I felt like I would die if I back away creating. I needed to do something more challenging than just school. The passion to build and innovate was strong within me. High school came and went, and I found myself with the dilemma of either going to college or working. I also had to contribute to my family’s financial well-being, so I got a day job. I split my time between my day job, my startup, and studying. After working for a while, I realized that I needed to do my start-up full time to make real progress. For the next few years, I would ride the wave of ups and downs that go with being a start-up entrepreneur.

After meeting my business partner, we rode the funding wave by first raising $50K from our co-working office friends. We used this investment to fund operations and employees to develop our web platform that helps merchants to build mobile e-commerce apps. Once that funds ran out we would journey to Silicon Valley for two months looking for investors. We hustled 16 hour days pitching to investors to no avail. Our low point was sharing a bed in a hostel as our funds ran low for housing to where we couldn’t afford separate rooms any longer. In our last week, we pitched to Google’s MANOS Accelerator. Though we felt good about our pitch, we returned to Buenos Aires anxious as our efforts were fruitless. We announced to our employees and investors that our dream was over. We were out of money. Half our team, including our CTO, chose to move on. The following week we got word from MANOS that they accepted us. From the lowest of lows, we returned to the highest of highs. We completed the MANOS Accelerator program rubbing elbows with legends of the technology world including Mark Zuckerberg and Chet Kapoor. We pitched in competitions in front of hundreds of people. The training allowed us to enter other pitch competitions in Europe which lead us to raise $600k at a $6M pre-money valuation and open our first offices in Buenos Aires.

Months went by, and I got invited for the MIT Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, a highly-selective program for entrepreneurs around the world, with an admission rate of less than 5%. This was the first batch outside Boston, held in Seoul, South Korea. As CEO of a startup it is not easy to take these kind of decisions. Nevertheless, I decided to attend as I believed it was a unique opportunity to learn about the Asian market and network with future global leaders.

The Bootcamp was a unique experience that transformed my life. I’ve never met with so many talented individuals in one place. From scientists to designers, each of them recognized because of their talents. During the program, I came to the realization that a lot of deep changes were needed in my company in order to move forward to the next stage.

Because of my entrepreneurial experience now I can share lessons on how to avoid the mistakes that I made as a first-time entrepreneur, and help startups in their growth process on how to raise funds and organize their companies internally to scale fast.

Nowadays, I spent most of my time traveling abroad and I am always down for a coffee to help out peer entrepreneurs, or to talk about crazy ideas 🙂

Feel free to reach nahuel@mit.edu.


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