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‘Closet entrepreneurs’ boost Mexican start-up funding

The country is Latin America’s leader for the number of VC deals

Adalberto Flores always knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur. The 33-year-old spent much of his 20s amassing venture capital contacts, working so many events and flashing so many smiles that friends joked he was the official greeter of the Mexican venture capital world.

By 2012, he had nailed down a business plan. He spotted a need for quick credit in Mexico and launched Kueski, an online micro-lender. But Mr Flores exhausted his personal funds — roughly US$50,000 — within the first six months. Then the follow-up financing he had arranged, from wealthy acquaintances in his native Guadalajara, fell through.

Rather than feeling down, he remembers feeling excited. “I didn’t have anything to lose, I was living with my parents,” he says. It didn’t occur to Mr Flores to try the bank. Mexican banks have a reputation for lending only to people who already have money.

Then Mr Flores’ venture capital contacts came through. Shinya Akamine, an early arrival to Silicon Valley and general partner of venture capital firm Core Ventures Group, led a $1.3 million seed round for Kueski. The company has since raised another $12m and secured a $90m credit line. Today Kueski employs 80 people and has more than 60,000 clients — mostly small businessmen who borrow less than $300 at a time, spurts of money to cover unexpected expenses in a pinch. In its short existence, Kueski has made over 250,000 loans worth $30m .

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