What it takes to get buy-in from a tiburona: an interview with Rokk3r CMO Andrea Arnau, an investor on Shark Tank Colombia
By Lyanne Alfaro
If you want to get buy-in from serial entrepreneur and investor Andrea Arnau, you need to be thinking about tech and taking it global. Having been born and raised in Colombia herself, Arnau practices her vision every day.
The CMO of the idea-to-exit company Rokk3r has helped her fair share of companies become investable and scalable through what she calls “exponential technologies.” That’s all the hot button technologies you’ve heard about like augmented reality, artificial intelligence and self-driving cars, that are growing at incredibly fast speeds. Her goal is to find scalability for these kinds of companies in as little as six to nine months.
Investment and subsequent growth, in particular, tend to be a pain point for Latinx-owned businesses. Though Latinx businesses have double the growth rate of all businesses across the U.S. and contribute $700 billion to the economy every year with Latinx women leading the way in business creation, this group only received .4% of $400 billion in venture capital funding from 2009 to 2017.
Arnau says that to change this trend, investors need to start becoming increasingly Latino as well. She’s likely not the only investor that would say this. In a 2018 study by investor Richard Kerby, he found only one percent of the VC industry was Hispanic, three percent black and 70 percent white.
Racial Breakdown: 2016
Racial Breakdown: 2018
This fall, Arnau will be a part of a panel of powerful investors on the third season of Shark Tank Colombia: Negociando con Tiburones, airing early September.
We sat down with the tiburona to learn a little more about her journey to becoming an investor and her keys to growing a company.
You were born and raised in Colombia. Did it shape the way you chose to invest at all?
At this point, I’ve spent more than half of my life outside of Colombia. I don’t know anymore if the decisions I’ve made are because I’m from Colombia. I haven’t made decisions to invest based on one country. In Colombia, I was investing in people that I knew that could dream big and that I could help them achieve a big dream because what happens a lot in Colombia is that we speak in diminutives. Everything is (small): “negocito,” “casita,” “vuelito.” Because I’m from there I know that’s the way we speak and sometimes limit ourselves.
I’ve been privileged enough to travel outside and live a big chunk of my life outside of Colombia. I know that it doesn’t really matter that you’re from Colombia or anywhere in Latin America. You can still have the dream to build a huge company. The market today is the world; it’s not your background. It’s not your backyard like it used to be. I really do think that people who are building a company and anywhere in the world they can and should be dreaming of taking that company global because a lot of the problems that we have that are the most important problems in the world like climate change and access to capital, access to a bank account, to food...any big problem we have in Colombia is true too in other countries. I was investing and am investing in people who are solving problems that are important and hopefully, global.
What kind of companies will you invest in on this season of Shark Tank Colombia?
Tech in general. Any company that can be made bigger with the help of technology is what I’m most interested in. Of course, I am also interested in companies that solve an important problem. Those are the ones I am most attracted to.
What does a solid pitch delivery look like? What are some pitfalls?
Something entrepreneurs should always have in mind is knowledge of their business and their space where they are operating. As investors, we don’t know every single space in the world. We need to trust that they have done their job in really understanding their space and their market, client, etc. Also, be able to know their numbers really well. Not only how they are doing today, but where this investment is going to take them. A big mistake I see is companies raising money just because there’s an opportunity to raise money. Sometimes they don’t have a clear plan, and their answers are very generic. For instance, they want to acquire more customers, so they’re going to use the money they raise in marketing, but they’re not thinking, “How does the next round of fundraising look for them?”
A lot of the companies I invest in are companies that have a very strong technological potential, or there is a big potential for technology to help them scale and for that reason -- because of the opportunity they can be global and sometimes acquiring more users in a short period of time is not as important as showing any other kind of traction, like going to another country.
In the U.S., one of the most significant issues for Latinx entrepreneurs is access to capital. What are some of the solutions or factors that can start to break the trends that we see?
From the funding perspective, companies like Rokk3r, based in Miami with a large Latino population ourselves who can be on a panel and evaluate a company led or run by a Latino, we can relate. If you’re in Silicon Valley and you’re a white male and somebody talks to you with an accent that might suggest that person is thinking with an accent as well. That’s not true. Having more companies like us, that have the diversity and understand cultural nuances is important. We know that being Latino doesn’t mean anything more than you’re Latino. From a funding perspective, that’s one thing.
From an education perspective, Latinos need to get more. The government, the private sector, everyone needs to do a better job at educating Latinos to understand that entrepreneurship is something that they can aspire to and that it is something with no limitations.