ENTREPRENEUR OF THE MONTH
Mexico City, Mexico
Our LatinSF Entrepreneur of the Month for February is Carlos Ochoa. The Mexican has founded two Venture Capital firms, multiple startups, and has worked on Government projects. Additionally, Carlos’s expertise revolves around several industries, including cybersecurity, software development, and telecommunications. He is currently focused on his new role at Alpha Impact 8 Ventures. The firm wants to support the development of infrastructure for underserved communities, especially in emerging markets. Prior to Alpha, Carlos founded Chilango Ventures.
Carlos was born and raised in Mexico City where he lived most of his life. He suffered the infamous 1985 earthquake. During that time, Carlos lived by the Tlatelolco neighborhood. When the tragedy happened, most of the structures around the neighborhood fell apart. Some of his childhood friends died in the tragedy. “That same day, we were out on the streets as the mothers from kids around the neighborhood took rounds to commute the children to school. Nobody came to pick us up that day… they were buried”. Carlos recalls. His family moved to the Coyoacán borough afterward, as the building they used to live in almost fell. A necessary change.
Moving to a different neighborhood in Mexico City can change almost everything in the city. Because of the population density, it is more than reasonable to switch routines, schools, offices, and restaurants. Carlos’s situation was no exception and would bring him into a new school and friendships. “I entered into a school of rich kids… I lived in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Coyoacán. Perhaps that was one of my incentives to become an entrepreneur. I would always go to a school where students had more possibilities than me… And I would realize these things. They would talk about things I never had access to, never saw, lived, or were simply unreachable to me”.
His passion for computers dates back to when he was 10 years old. His father bought him a laptop, which became a learning tool for his career. The first approach to the path Carlos will ultimately follow. He developed a talent for computing in school as well, where he would stand out in his coding classes. His passion for programming would become a routine in after school hours. Carlos enjoyed hacking games and playing them with his mother. “I’ll change the language to Spanish, or even the settings in order to give her an advantage, so she could compete… I loved to be in front of my computer. The first nights I would stay awake late would be either because of playing games, writing a program, or trying to develop something new”. Carlos would quickly gain a reputation as a computer expert around the block. In fact, her mother’s friends would constantly reach him out for IT services.
Carlos moved out of his house when he was 19 years old, and started his bachelor’s in Computer Science, Networking, and Telecommunications, at ITAM university. According to Carlos, this was an excellent opportunity for learning, as it taught him to create more developed programs. Additionally, internet usage and memory capacity were transforming the industry, which would take computing into a new era. “There was a necessity to think bigger, to create algorithms… algorithms are a must learn a thing for everyone, not only developers”. According to Carlos, working after school hours was one of the most important things he did during his time at ITAM. He worked in the governmental sales system Compranet. “They gave me a wide space to learn on it… At the time, Compranet became one of the most important tools in government sales systems… the project even received recognition on a word-wide level”.
Additionally, Carlos Co-founded ISLA Consulting (later Edge.com), a software development company with hardware solutions. The company gained a reputation for preparing call centers for renowned customers, such as AT&T, The Embassy of the United States in Mexico, and Cablevision, among others. “Those were different times… people would laugh at me when I told them I was the director of a company with 17 employees… also, raising capital was nonexistent.” According to Carlos, pricing and their fast pace in creating partnerships where the two major “edges” of the company over its competitors. “We were a different alternative, with high expertise on web page development, as we were doing this on a daily basis”. Carlos was in charge of Edge.com from 1999 to 2007. A lot of things happened during that time-lapse. “I switched partners, lost friends… you realized there are projects that can’t scale… one of the most important things I learned during that time of my life was saying NO to new projects.” Carlos recalls.
Prior to moving to Silicon Valley, Carlos Co-founded Smart Security Services, a cybersecurity company sold to Kio Networks in 2013, and is still running. “We generated one of the best cybersecurity companies in Latin America…. Nowadays, the company continues to run successfully on Kio Networks’ hands”.
In 2014, Carlos arrived in San Francisco looking to develop a new company that protected consumers from Credit Card fraud, with the intention of selling these services to Visa. Their most important client, BBVA, ended up taking control of the project through its subsidiary Global. The rest of the team ultimately moved with BBVA.
Following-up, Carlos entered the VC world by 2015. His experience in entrepreneurship, along with the Valley’s top-level ecosystem in the industry dragged him to provide both his knowledge and capital. “The dream of all entrepreneurs is that your investor can understand you… put himself in your position”. Due to this, Carlos founded Chilango Ventures. For him, this organization was a test to realize if he had the capacity to both discover disruptive companies and scale them up. Chilango Ventures also helped Carlos realize one of his biggest passions: underserved communities.
This successful Mexican is currently Managing Partner of Alpha Impact 8 Ventures. The fund is focused on the creation of fintech infrastructure for underserved communities, especially in emerging markets. The main barrier for underserved communities to innovate is not their negligence to modernize, but the lack of technology infrastructure they live in. “Around 1.7 billion people across the world live in this situation… I remember neighbors that didn’t have a front door, but owned a big, flat television”.
In the words of John Chapman, “… The crazy people are the ones that are going to make a change in the world”. For Carlos, “you need to be crazy, but you can’t fake this. You must believe it”. In resemblance to Chapman’s words, Carlos’s manifesto is always present at Alpha Impact 8:
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the originals, the rebels, the misfits, the introverts. The ones who see things differently. They invent, they inspire, they heal, they imagine and create a new world, they are the ones that push you forward. While you see their crazy we see their grit and passion to make the world a better place. Here’s to the underdogs.”