Latin America has its fair share of startup incubators, accelerators, and VC funds helping to bring about the next great startup; but nestled among the Cerros Orientales (Eastern Hills) of Bogotá, Polymath Ventures has decided to take a different approach.
“We’re a venture builder, which is very different from a VC,” says Maria Paula Polchlopek, VP of Marketing for the firm. “We are the first one in Colombia, and I believe one of the first in Latin America.” Indeed, their approach is very different from other firms, but the breakout success of several of their ventures shows that their model of building companies can work.
What exactly is that differentiating factor? It can’t be boiled down to one single thing, as their whole approach to building companies, from idea generation to helping build out the business model and beyond, is unique. Whereas incubators will take a young company and help them “incubate” their idea and business model, Polymath takes a hands-on approach by cooking up the ideas in-house using a data-driven process. This results in a fleshed-out business idea to recruit builders to design a company around.
It all starts with their “Seed” process, which is not a typical brainstorming session. This process is driven by their thesis and focus on Colombia’s middle class, and it begins with the selection of a sector ripe for disruption. Some factors going into sector decisions include market size, high fragmentation, and a definitive human need. “It’s a very conscious process of developing ideas,” says Polchlopek, “At Polymath we take very seriously our process of developing these ideas and transforming them into companies.”
Seed is generated from a “Human-Centered Design,” using social immersion such as interviews, observations, and personal feedback. It’s a very boots on the ground approach to gain market insights and the actual needs of a particular segment. Through continual social feedback, along with a diverse team with different perspectives, prototypes are created, tested, and iterated until a sound business idea is formed.
Once the opportunity and business plan are defined, Polymath’s talent team goes through the intense process of recruiting a founding team, of which there are a few criteria they look for:
People with proven growth in their careers and expertise in solving complex challenges.
People with outstanding edges that translate into a clear competitive advantage in their way of work.
Passion for the product and impact on the community, which in turn translates into an individual who can sell, pitch, and fundraise for the venture.
With this process, Polymath can recruit top talent. Beyond this, they also look beyond their immediate community for recruiting teams and already have over a dozen nationalities in house. They currently have 7 open roles for those interested in joining their platform.
Many traditional investors may pause when they hear this model and think to themselves “Is there a risk associated with a founder running a business they did not originally come up with?” According to Polchlopek, this has not been an issue for their ventures, stating “I think it is important to reflect that even though some of the founders are not part of the process since the kickoff of the project, most of them are critical to the development of the actual business model, and their background and experiences are key to the actual launch of the operation. We also tend to match a founder with a venture according to their background, and also their passions.”
Once the founding team is in place, Polymath continues to closely guide them through the development of the product and go-to-market strategy. Beyond an initial injection of capital, Polymath provides in-house marketing, finance, legal, and investing teams that work closely with each venture as they find product-market fit and begin to gain traction with the business. After 12-24 months of business development, the founding team will begin seeking outside investment from angel investors and VC’s for a seed round.
Since its inception in 2012, Polymath has helped create 9 different ventures. Several of them, including Táximo ($7M Series B) and Aflore ($3M Series A), have seen continued growth and recognition as leaders in Colombia’s startup scene, proving that Polymath Venture’s approach can create tomorrow’s breakthrough companies.
For more information on Polymath Ventures, please visit https://polymathv.com.
If you are an individual seeking more info on their ventures, please check their links below:
Táximo: Data-driven vehicle leasing for Latin America’s ride-sharing market
Aflore: Mobile-enabled network of financial advisors bringing financial services to the middle class
Vincu: Recruitment platform utilizing data & algorithms to deliver highly-matched candidates
Autolab: Auto repair platform leveraging technology and an innovative operating model to integrate and solve the key pain points of mobility aftermarket actors
Elenas: Social selling platform for consumer products in Latin America
Nido: Platform to serve tenant’s growing demand for affordable room rentals.