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Argentina to Miami, a bridge worth building (Part 6)

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By Natalia Martinez-Kalinina

Miami has a ways to go before we can truly claim the title of regional epicenter, but Argentina has long been recognized as one of the primary entrepreneurial - albeit not particularly stable - ecosystems in Latin America. Figuring out how to support Argentina’s wave of growth and appetite for engagement represents a unique opportunity to add value to the region and truly deliver on our vision as a gateway.

As a first step to test these waters, a group of us came together to co-author a full day of programming within StartupWeekBuenosAires - the largest event of its kind in Latin America-  specifically focused on how to engage with the U.S. ecosystem and market by way of Miami. Ahead of the full agenda being announced shortly, if you are interested in participating or learning more, please fill out this form.

Leading up to the event in December, we will be featuring interviews with a varied range of Argentine entrepreneurs and companies making their way to Miami. The first installments of this series have featured interviews with Balloon Group, Wolox, La Comunidad, and Oasis, Juana de Arco. For the fifth feature, we spoke with Martin Enriquez (pictured above), CEO and Co-Founder of Socialmetrix, an Endeavor company founded in Argentina but whose US expansion has been based in Miami since 2014.  

Tell us about Socialmetrix - how the company emerged, how has it changed over the years?

The idea of creating a company focused on listening to what people were saying online was something that started back in 2006. At the time, I had the chance to work with a very well-known computers brand, who had a major incident with one of their notebooks, and they were very worried about their online reputation and the impact of this episode on this notebook model sales.

After several iterations on the idea, we started up with Socialmetrix in late 2007 (formally in early 2008) in Argentina. Back then, Social Media in Latam was essentially Blogs, Forums and Message Boards. MySpace was kind of the “new thing” but wasn’t mainstream, just a few in Latam used it, and was very tied to the music community.

With a lot of effort, and our own savings invested in the company, by early 2009 we had a first product, and started our sales efforts in the region. We managed to bring a few nice brands as clients in different countries like Mexico, Chile, Argentina and Brazil. At that point the company was a startup completely, we had very little processes, we were learning which kind of professionals we needed to build our vision, and we were a bit ahead of the curve, which sometimes resulted in prospects looking at us as Martians.

All of that was progressively changing, sometimes easy but most of the time we experienced some type of growth pain, which somehow helped us to maintain our focus.

In mid 2009 we participated in La Red Innova, in Madrid, where we received a special mention as one of the most innovative companies in Iberoamerica. Later, in 2010 we were selected Endeavor Entrepreneurs by the Endeavor Foundation in Pebble Beach, CA, a very meaningful milestone for Gustavo Arjones, my co-founder, and myself. In 2011 we decided that we needed to raise capital to grow, and after having conversation with several VCs we partnered with DMGT, and since then have them as partners in the company.

Where do you see the growth and future of the company in the next years?

There is no doubt that Social Media reshaped the way we communicate with others and with brands or companies. This transformation is still happening, and there is an enormous opportunity to extract value from these conversations, helping companies to listen to their audiences and helping everybody else to get better products, better services and better overall experiences. I see Socialmetrix right in the center of this transformation, developing technology and actionable knowledge.

When did Socialmetrix come to Miami, and why?

We came in the second half of 2014, pursuing regional and multicultural accounts that were managed or lead from here, or other cities nearby.

What opportunities are you looking to find here?

A significant portion of Global Corporations have their Latin American and Multicultural Headquarters based in Miami or nearby. Being here enable us to create a conversation with these brands, understand their needs for these markets and provide a tailored set of solutions, leveraging our unique knowledge and experience in the US Hispanic market and Latin America.

What risks may you come across?

I think the biggest risk is to be too naïve. To get to Miami with the idea that the US market is open for business just because you are here, is a misinterpretation and an exaggeration of the opportunity. There is no doubt that there is an opportunity and an advantage being here, but materialize the advantage and the opportunity in form of new revenue for your company takes a lot of effort and money. The US market isn’t inexpensive, especially if you must hire top execs to execute your business development plans. Good professionals are expensive (compared to our countries in Latam) and they also require time to produce results.

So, coming to the US without having a clear understanding of costs and timing may become a very bad idea for the company.

What is the evaluation and product release/sales process in the United States?

I can only speak from my experience in my own vertical (SaaS for Social Media Listening and Analytics), having said that, although the US market is more competitive in terms of quantity of players offering solutions, and that the clients tend to be a bit more “experienced” than in Latam; the product evaluation process itself, in the US, is not that different from Latam.

Maybe this is what we experienced in Socialmetrix because in either region we engage with large corporations, who tend to have similar procurement processes no matter the country.

And so, selling to the BtoB segment in Latam is similar to selling to the BtoB segment in the US (process wise), there are other nuances to have in mind when selling in the US; like the quality of your collateral materials, the client’s toleration to errors, and the client’s expectation for the quality of a presentation/presenter.

Any lessons or advice for companies exploring similar moves?

I would suggest a few things that are obvious but in the heat and rush of your day to day may get forgotten:

*Make sure you have a clear business case to come to Miami, with a meaningful potential for your company.

*Spend as little as possible during your first months here while you research the market, get to know people and start building your network.

*Since day 1 dedicate yourself to business development. This single activity will give you a clear understanding of the market and your real opportunity here.

*Get your marketing materials revised by a native English speaker with experience in your industry. Miami might be considered “the capital of Latin America” but in business everybody speaks English and expect to have materials and documentation in this language.

*If you can afford it, and after validating yourself that there is an actual business opportunity, hire a native Business Development professional with experience in your industry and an existing client base.

*Make sure you run your numbers and that you have enough financial resources to sustain this new venture for at least 18 months (ideally 24 mo).Plan beforehand, what will you do and how will you do it if sales don’t take off and the opportunity don’t materialize as new revenue.

From the perspective of the Latin American entrepreneur, what do you expect as a contribution from Miami?

Although there are a few initiatives putting together professionals from Global Corporations who are based in Miami, I still feel the lack of a more connected entrepreneur community with corporations, and some sort of incentive for these corporations to create links with local entrepreneurs.

From this same perspective, what do you think Miami can do better to become a true value-adding "hub" in the region and support entrepreneurs who come here?

I think Miami could “teach” Latin American Entrepreneurs how to do business in the US. The city itself is a crossover of cultures, that, well managed, could add great value for those entrepreneurs who don’t have the experience or the knowledge about the US business culture.

Organizations like Endeavor have talked a lot about the Argentine model (not just the shortcomings, but the great achievements and opportunities). What do you think Miami can learn from Argentina’s case?

I think that Argentina, with its own shortcomings, has done a good job at creating a small but true entrepreneurial ecosystem around Tech, where successful entrepreneurs are now investors and advisors, and are also helping new entrepreneurs build their companies.

Miami probably still needs to figure out which industry / vertical will have as a main focus, and then help entrepreneurs build a few success stories around that. There’s probably no magic recipe, it takes time and a lot of people involved, pushing for (more or less) the same outcome.

Do you see potential for collaboration and bridge-building between the entrepreneurial ecosystem and the creative economies in Buenos Aires and Miami? Why or why not?

If Miami can effectively become a meaningful stage for Latin American entrepreneurs, where they can showcase their companies to the rest of the US, and maybe other developed countries, I believe there is a great opportunity for collaboration.

Natalia Martinez-Kalinina is the General Manager of CIC Miami and the Founder of Awesome Foundation MIAMI. If you are an Argentine company looking to expand to Miami or a Miami-based entrepreneur/investor looking to connect with the argentine ecosystem, please reach out to Natalia at martinez@cic.us

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