Originally from Peru and now based in Mexico, Michelle Fischman is Head of Platform at Nazca, a venture capital firm focused on early-stage investments. She previously worked at Endeavor México. Together with Anais Cisneros, she also founded Amela, a community of founding women in Spanish-speaking Latin America.
What are the main challenges facing the Latin American tech scene?
Our ecosystem has evolved a lot. There are a lot more international investments around Latin America. There’s a lot of money coming in, which is driving up valuations and making the market even more competitive. Everything is going really fast. It will stabilize, but right now the prices are super high. It does not help create a healthy ecosystem. As a fund, you always have to go through the unit economy. Right now, some VCs don’t even look at those kind of sane metrics.
There are also certain industries that are becoming oversaturated. For example, many fintech startups offer solutions around payments and open banking. One of the challenges now is to approach other types of industries like edtech. There are a lot of opportunities around healthcare technology, accessory technology and logistics as well.
Why did you create Amela and what is the purpose of the organization?
Last year, Anais Cisneros and I read that none of the $4.4 billion in funding for 2020 in Latin America went to startups founded solely by women. It opened our eyes. We didn’t understand why it was zero. We said, “OK, what’s going on?” We started more research. I was working at Endeavor at the time. I was about to move to Nazca, and we realized that the female founders didn’t have the same visibility as the male founders. It was a major pain point. So we said, “OK, now what are we going to do about this?” This is how Amela was born. We help founders with fund mapping and introductions, and we have a mentor pool that helps them with their pitch, pitch, data room, and business model.
Amela’s second goal is to connect female founders. We focus more on early-stage founders, because that’s where we believe we can really add value. We hold meetups every month to build community, and through these meetups we bring in speakers like Lolita Taub and Antonia Roja, who is one of the only female VC partners in Mexico. We have over 100 female founders from all over Latin America. 43% come from Mexico, but we also have a lot from Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru.
What barriers do women in tech face in Latin America?
Latin America continues to evolve, but it lags behind in many ways. Women do not have the same visibility as men. The media and the ecosystem simply do not give visibility to what the women founders do. I’ve also heard a lot that when it comes to pitching, if a woman doesn’t have what’s perceived to be a strong enough attitude, investors don’t take her seriously.
I think it’s more of a structural problem. In Latin America, STEM careers generally do not have as many women as men. So before you even start your professional career, you go to universities. If you choose a STEM path, you don’t see many women. Work needs to be done from an educational perspective to start erasing this taboo that women can’t do technology. It’s an old model. We must change.