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Where Are They Now? Episode 10

Where Are They Now? Episode 10

Episode 10: Andes STR

June 17, 2021

Growing up in Chile in a family of entrepreneurs, Sebastian Rivas since childhood has been on the lookout for problems that need solving.

He launched his first business at age 9, selling avocados door to door, and his second at 11, selling knives to those same customers. His side businesses put him through college and business school.

And yet Rivas was shocked – genuinely stunned – when his latest company, Andes STR, was announced as the first-place winner of the 2021 Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge. His team received more than $681,000 in investment – by far the largest award in the 25-year history of the competition, in what NVC professors say was the most competitive cohort they have ever seen.

Andes STR is a proptech company that helps people buy and manage short-term rental properties. Since winning the NVC in early June — a week before Rivas’ graduation from Chicago Booth — it has received interest from 20 additional investors, including institutional investors, he said.

In this episode, Rivas, MBA ’21, shares his journey with Mark Tebbe, adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Booth and an NVC professor. He discusses how he came up with the idea for Andes STR and made it profitable from the start, how he navigated the plunge in the vacation rental market during the pandemic, and how he went from giving what he thought was the worst business plan presentation in his NVC class to the best.

“My impression about NVC, if I had to summarize it, it’s like having Einstein as your physics tutor,” Rivas said. “You have literally the best of the best in terms of entrepreneurship or venture capital in every other aspect really guiding you and basically holding your hand throughout this three-month process. There is nothing better than this if you want to be an entrepreneur.”

Listen now on Apple, Spotify, Overcast, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Transcript

Transcript:

Sebastian Rivas:

To me, it’s just very cool being the driving force behind change, just almost philosophically. If you think about it, humans can willingly shape our surroundings, right? If we have a plan or idea how we want things to be, we can do it. So ever since I was little, to me just making things happen and changing how life is in a way because I have an idea and then I just can execute it, it was so cool that you could go outside of the box. You could do things that are just “not normal,” and that they work. So you’re changing reality.

Colin Keeley:

Hello and welcome to the Polsky Center’s Where Are They Now? podcast. I’m Colin Keeley and we catch up with founders from Chicago Booth’s New Venture Challenge on this show. Join us as we dive into their entrepreneurial journeys and get a look at the stories and struggles behind their success.

Colin Keeley:

This week, we have Sebastian Rivas, interviewed by Mark Tebbe. Sebastian is the CEO and cofounder of Andes STR, which helps people invest in short-term rental properties by taking on the hassle of buying, furnishing and managing the properties. He just won the first-place price in the 2021 New Venture Challenge, and received more than $660,000.

Colin Keeley:

Mark Tebbe is a professor of entrepreneurship at Chicago Booth, has been a long-time judge and mentor of NVC. Without further ado, here is Sebastian Rivas and Mark Tebbe.

Mark Tebbe:

Good morning. This is Mark Tebbe, adjunct professor at University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and one of the two professors of the NVC. And I’m sitting here today with Sebastian who … Sebastian, why don’t you go ahead and identify yourself?

Sebastian Rivas:

Yeah. Of course. Hey everybody. I’m Sebastian Rivas. I’m a second-year MBA student now. Tomorrow that’s going to change, when I’ll be an MBA, not just a student. And I’m also a very happy entrepreneur, as I was given very good news.

Mark Tebbe:

Sebastian, you weren’t really given the news, you earned the opportunity to be this year’s NVC 2021 or the NVC at 25, depending on how you want to look at it, winner of the New Venture Challenge, which is an amazing accomplishment itself. And the whole reason we want to talk to you today is because of you and your team’s ability to have won that.

Mark Tebbe:

Let’s get a little bit of background first before we get digging into the NVC itself. Let’s talk a little bit about yourself. I can tell by the accent you were not born and raised in Chicago. So where were you raised at?

Sebastian Rivas:

I was born and raised in Chile, in South America. Entrepreneurship kind of runs in our blood. My dad’s an entrepreneur. Literally every single one of my grandparents was an entrepreneur. My mom was an entrepreneur for a time and then I was a hard kid, so that became a full-time job. But yeah, that’s where I was born and raised. I got my engineering degrees there from my nice local university, and then I moved to Canada.

Mark Tebbe:

So before you moved to Canada, you said your grandparents were all entrepreneurs and your father and mother, also. What type of businesses did they have?

Sebastian Rivas:

Different kinds. On my mother’s side, supermarkets. Actually interesting, they have one of the bigger chains down there. And on my dad’s side, laboratory supplies, biotech, that kind of stuff, so more niche-like businesses.

Mark Tebbe:

So very diverse type of businesses, a lot of different things. And so what was it like growing up in an entrepreneurial family?

Sebastian Rivas:

Different. It’s very different. The experience that you get. And it’s easy to see that growing up. It’s funny, the way my friends’ families operated in a sense, it was just very different than mine. There were some words that had a different meaning to us. Sacrifice, for instance. I remember my dad for the first seven years or so of my life, I barely saw my dad because he had to travel a lot, make that business grow and provide something for us. Being an entrepreneur in a developing country is not the same as in a more advanced economy.

Sebastian Rivas:

So sometimes, those paths are a little bit harder. The rewards sometimes are also better and bigger. But yeah, I think it was different. But they definitely, if there was one good thing that I took away from that was the value of hard work, effort, but I think more in the perseverance. It’s not just doing hard work for hard work’s sake. It’s having a goal, having a plan, having something in mind and being focused and just grinding, not looking back, not looking sideways, just going for it. It takes a special kind of person and my dad was the first role model I had for that. So for that, I am deeply thankful.

Mark Tebbe:

So do you have siblings?

Sebastian Rivas:

I do. I’m the older of three. I have two little sisters. I have a cute story about that one. We are spaced apart, right, so in terms of age. So I’m 31 now. My middle sister, she’s six years younger than I am, but the youngest, I’m 18 years older. So when my mom delivered, I went to visit her. My dad was actually, well examples. He was in a meeting so he couldn’t be there at the time. And I was the first one to show up. And so the doctors thought I was the dad. I’ve never seen my mom so red in my life. She took it as a compliment, but that was funny.

Mark Tebbe:

So did you know growing up, even with this age gap that I’m going to be entrepreneurial?

Sebastian Rivas:

Yes. I always knew. I think I was 6 years old and I knew. My dad told me when I was 5 or something, I told him that I wanted to do what he’s doing. I don’t remember. I think I have fuzzy memories of all that. But yes. Technically, my first business I was 9 years old and I was selling avocados around the block.

Mark Tebbe:

That’s nice. So besides role modeling of your grandparents and your parents, what kind of fire did you find that said, “I want to be an entrepreneur?” Because it’s a certain breed to be an entrepreneur.

Sebastian Rivas:

Yeah. It’s interesting. It’s a similar drive than the reason I began engineering, actually. To me, it’s just very cool being the driving force behind change, just almost philosophically. If you think about it, humans are a very special race in a sense because we can willingly shape our surroundings, right? If we have a plan or idea how we want things to be, we can do it, right?

Sebastian Rivas:

So ever since I was little, to me, just making things happen and changing how life is in a way because I have an idea and then I just execute it, just that concept. I didn’t know how to say it in a sense. But I’m just thinking back to when I was selling avocados, right? It was just so cool that you could go outside of a box, that you could do things that are just “not normal,” and that they work.

Sebastian Rivas:

So think about it. For a 9-year-old, avocados are sold in supermarkets. That’s how life is. And then you just buy one from a wholesaler. You buy some plastic bags, you make some marketing and then you go and knock on doors and now avocados are sold through me. So you’re changing reality in a sense. To me, that’s impressive.

Mark Tebbe:

Right. So it takes a certain spirit of person to identify a problem, conceive a solution, convince others to be part of that solution and then find customers who want to make that solution. But here you are at 9 years old able to do this with avocados. What did you do after your avocado business?

Sebastian Rivas:

Knives.

Mark Tebbe:

Knives?

Sebastian Rivas:

Yeah. So I don’t know how I came up with that one. I think my dad played a big role in that one, but I remember thinking all our knives are useless. They’re, and I don’t know, maybe there was a knife shortage in Chile. I don’t know. Knives were just no good. So then I did the same thing. I picked up my same customers and I started asking. And I mean kitchen knives by the way.

Mark Tebbe:

Yeah. I didn’t know what you meant by knives. So basically, you go back to the people, said you bought my avocados, would you like to have a knife now to cut them?

Sebastian Rivas:

Yes. That kind of stuff, exactly. But it’s pretty knife with a nice … The part where you grab the knife, I don’t know. Sorry about the English. And surprisingly, most people, at least at that time did not have decent knives. They’d just get the first one they could. Ten years ago, they were dull. And people liked them. So I knew of a company… and I was 11 years old.

Mark Tebbe:

Now you’re up to 11.

Sebastian Rivas:

Yeah. Exactly. So I knew of a company that my dad was working with and I don’t know how, but they were completely unrelated, but they also sold knives. And I thought they were super cool, super good-looking. They just looked cool. And I thought to myself well, if I think these are cool and there’s nothing like that in my household, maybe others will think the same. So in my avocado route, I started asking questions, figuring out the truth behind that. And it just so happens that people were willing to buy, so I was willing to sell.

Mark Tebbe:

There you go. All right. So you sold them avocados at 9. You sold them knives at 11. Somewhere you went to high school, and did you have a business while you were in high school, too?

Sebastian Rivas:

Yes. In Chile, we have different names for these things. The high school divisions. This is a funny one. I think it was before high school or maybe somewhere in between, but when I was growing up, we were a lot, super big into dragon ball. So it’s hard getting stuff around dragon ball in Chile, be it trading cards or whatever it is. They didn’t, maybe now they do, but they didn’t just get there. So my dad’s office, he had a copier machine and I got my hands onto this super cool poster. So I started making photocopies of those and selling them.

Mark Tebbe:

Wow.

Sebastian Rivas:

Yeah. I made them black and white, mostly white and contours, so people could color them and whatnot. And that picked up. Then I started selling bubblegum. I went to a wholesaler and he was half the price of the supermarket and I sold them. I was the dealer in the classroom. So I did a bunch of little things growing up. I never lacked pocket change.

Mark Tebbe:

That’s good. So you take all this and then you decide I want to go be an engineer. What led you to be an engineer? What kind of engineering were you in?

Sebastian Rivas:

I actually got two engineering degrees: industrial engineering, understanding more businesses and factories and production and then electrical engineering. Those are my two things. I was very curious, also, when I was growing up. I was the kind of kid that would learn, for instance, that if you leave the windows folder in your computer, it keeps running until you reboot it and then it doesn’t run anymore. I built my own computers growing up. I rearranged vacuum cleaners. They never worked again, but I tried.

Sebastian Rivas:

So I really wanted to learn how things work. That’s something that’s with me to this day for sure and it’s a big driving factor. But I like business. So I wanted to learn how business works and how things work. I thought that combination of industrial engineering and electrical engineering was a very good combination for both.

Mark Tebbe:

Sounds like it has been. So you came out of college with a dual degree of industrial and electrical engineering. What was your first job out of school?

Sebastian Rivas:

Right out of school, I actually went traveling a little bit.

Mark Tebbe:

Because you had so much pocket change from selling knives and avocados.

Sebastian Rivas:

Yeah. I did have a piggy bank, but yeah. And also, I went to Southeast Asia. That was popular when I was graduating and it’s super cheap, so it was a good combination. I lived, right now it’s impressive, but I lived with two bucks per day, something like that.

Mark Tebbe:

Good training to be an entrepreneur where you’re going to have to learn to be frugal.

Sebastian Rivas:

Yeah. Yes. Exactly right. I definitely learned a lot. And then my first job, like job job, was after university because I didn’t work with my dad throughout. I paid for my university doing businesses by the way, bigger business, though, not avocados, but airport equipment, things like that I sold to the government. And then I worked with my dad. And then after university, I did private equity. That was the first real, “corporate job” that I did. I did private equity for a year in Chile.

Mark Tebbe:

You said for a year. What happened after that year?

Sebastian Rivas:

I decided to go abroad. So I had my sights set on going to North America. So that private equity thing I was doing, it was in a small shop, but a good shop and we did renewable energy and infrastructure. So that was the asset class. At the time, there was a major bank in Canada that was ranked number one in financial advisory and infrastructure, all those good things. And they were looking for people, so I applied. Because that was part of the plan of going to North America and learning how business is actually done here. I got in.

Mark Tebbe:

Wow.

Sebastian Rivas:

Yeah. It was a very complicated process, 1200 applicants. I was super lucky I got in. So I packed my bags and I went to Canada.

Mark Tebbe:

What part of Canada?

Sebastian Rivas:

Toronto.

Mark Tebbe:

So you move to Toronto, you get a job at this bank and then how long were you with the bank?

Sebastian Rivas:

Sure. The job I got was contract. It was something in between an internship and a full-time job because they didn’t want to take the risk of hiring somebody full-time Day One that’s an unknown value. They just don’t know it. But I already had the experience, right? So they wanted to do something in between. So I go there. I do my first four months, goes well. Then they extend the contract because they wanted to keep me around. And then, this is the life of an entrepreneur. So then the whole investment banking division had a hiring freeze.

Mark Tebbe:

Wow.

Sebastian Rivas:

Yeah. So that was very unfortunate. So they gave me the option of being more time on contract, so either extend it again, or going back to Montreal to the headquarters of that bank and getting another job. So I went to Montreal and I talked to… the people there were great though. I spoke with the president of the bank. He did everything in his power to make it easy, to really go and find a job and all that stuff. But there were no jobs that really appealed to me and I’ve never been someone to settle, in a sense. So I decided, you know, look, I’m out and I’m going to start looking for another one.

Sebastian Rivas:

So while I was in Montreal, I started working with the same private equity shop I was working with in Chile, but in a deal-making capacity. So now we’re selling projects, big projects, $300 million GM solar power projects, right?

Mark Tebbe:

A little bit more than selling avocados.

Sebastian Rivas:

It’s an upgrade. That’s for sure. And that worked out, actually. In six months, we did sell three of those projects, so that was nice. Throughout that time, I was looking for a job. I spoke to literally 300 people. I think in four or five months there was many coffee chats, many, many, many, many. And along the way, I met my future boss. So then I go back to Toronto and I start working. I got a promotion in a sense and a full-time position this time.

Mark Tebbe:

Great and so what was that to do?

Sebastian Rivas:

Same field, investment banking in infrastructure and real estate.

Mark Tebbe:

Okay. So at what point did you start thinking, I think I want to go to school? Or did you already … I remember at one point you said you had paid for school by having this company which now has become Andes STR. Which came first, Andes STR or your decision to go to business school?

Sebastian Rivas:

Business school. That was part of the grand plan in a sense. I knew I wanted to do business school before I left Chile. That was part of the plan. In fact, one of the big reasons I wanted to go to the US and Canada was I thought it made a good story for myself, but also, it fits very well with going to an MBA, right? Having that international exposure, understanding how business is done in Chile and South America and North America, being a good bridge. I thought it would be a very well-rounded experience if I took an MBA after.

Mark Tebbe:

Okay. So you decide you want to get an MBA. So you start looking at schools. How did you decide Booth versus the other schools? What other schools did you look at.

Sebastian Rivas:

Oh, no brainer. Seriously. I applied to the what I would call the typical five, right? So I applied Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT and Booth. Those are all the ones I applied to. I got into most of them, not all of them, and I decided for Booth.

Mark Tebbe:

What was it about Booth that said this is the school I want to go to?

Sebastian Rivas:

One, of course, entrepreneurship. Having a flexible curriculum, world-renowned entrepreneurship programs. I know many people before me that have been here, specifically Booth taking the full-time program, and they all said the entrepreneurship here is world class. There’s nothing like it. It’s impressive, right? So I took them on their word.

Sebastian Rivas:

And the other big thing is, I’m sure you know, but University of Chicago is huge in Chile. It’s like Harvard, basically. The Chicago boys, right? A very, very important institution for Chile. It changed how Chile evolved for the last 30 years. So the alumni network down there for University of Chicago is huge. It’s impressive. So those two were the main factors.

Mark Tebbe:

Oh, so Booth is lucky that it has gotten you. So you come into Booth and did you already know about the New Venture Challenge before you came to Booth?

Sebastian Rivas:

I knew, but not that much. I knew about it. I had heard about it. I had some of my buddies back from Chile that had been here before and they participated. They tried getting in and all that stuff and they talked about it, but I didn’t know all that much. I hadn’t done my due diligence.

Mark Tebbe:

So you had this predisposition and this preconception that entrepreneurship was very strong at Booth. You come to Booth. What insights did you gain by now being a full-time student participating in entrepreneurship versus what you were anticipating? The good, the bad, the ugly.

Sebastian Rivas:

When I came here, I did not expect classes to be that hard at the beginning. Some classes were very hard. It’s good. I graduated with honors and everything, so I did my homework, but it was a bit distracting, especially for an entrepreneur because you can’t do everything. You’ve got to focus. So if you’re trying to build a business or do stuff more on the entrepreneurial side, there’s only so much time you can put into lessons. So that was one thing.

Sebastian Rivas:

The people were really nice. I really liked my colleagues, the other Boothies. I liked them. For the most part, they’re great people, very diverse, different backgrounds. It’s a really great place. One thing that I was disappointed with is that sometimes, especially for international students, it’s hard understanding which 10 topics we can talk about in a sense sometimes. There’s different cultural nuances that are hard sometimes for people like me to navigate. But besides that, it’s been an amazing experience, one of the best things I’ve done in my life.

Mark Tebbe:

To say you crushed in an NVC would be an understatement. So you didn’t know a lot about the NVC until you got here? What was it about the NVC that really drew you to say this is something I want to participate in?

Sebastian Rivas:

I didn’t know almost anything about NVC when I joined, when I got here at Booth. But then first year, I started seeing some of my colleagues here joining and having a blast, making something out of just an idea or a small business. So I thought that was super cool. I thought the competition format was super cool.

Sebastian Rivas:

Then once I started talking with them, with my friends, one day they told me how you get this exposure to really good investors, really renowned and knowledgeable experience and the coaches that were amazing and the research is out of this world that there was nothing like it. So they would say these things, but if you’re not living it, it’s hard to relate, right? Because I’ve never been through this. I’ve never really fund raised or anything like that. I did not have that much venture capital experience, actually nothing really besides a small internship. So I didn’t relate that much. And then I actually applied to NVC the day before the submission was due.

Mark Tebbe:

This year or last year?

Sebastian Rivas:

Yeah.

Mark Tebbe:

This year.

Sebastian Rivas:

Yeah. I was not sure because I knew we could do it, but I didn’t know enough about it. I knew it was super cool because I’d seen these other teams like last year’s winner and it was impressive. I actually watched the live event and it was impressive. I was like, “Holy mackerel! That is business. I want to invest in this one.” Right?

Sebastian Rivas:

And then I decided to apply. I did not hope. I didn’t think I was going to get in. But then I started talking to people and then they told me, sure, they look amazing by the time they’re in the finals, but they start in a very wildly different place. So they said, you’re starting off just as bad or as good as anyone else, so I think you have a good shot. And then, that’s when it all really started.

Mark Tebbe:

Wow. That’s amazing. I’ve known you for four months through the NVC process. I did not know that you were last-day applicant. That’s surprising because you turned out a great business and became a winner of this year’s NVC. So let’s talk about the business. It’s called Andes STR.

Sebastian Rivas:

Correct.

Mark Tebbe:

What is it?

Sebastian Rivas:

We make it very easy for people to buy short-term rentals as investments. That’s what we do. What it means is that we help people like you and I first identify good properties and we define good as properties that will yield high returns, right, in nice markets that are “low-risk” and poised for growth. We are solving for total returns in a risk adjusted map, in the short-term rental market. That’s the first thing. So first we identify those properties. Then we facilitate the buying process so it’s super seamless and friction free.

Sebastian Rivas:

Normally if you want to buy a property, especially nowadays with COVID and the shortage of supply, it’s very hard. It’s going to take you at least 100 hours of just research before you can pull the trigger and then you have to go through this process. And if it’s the first time … It’s very localized, as well. Different markets react differently. There’s different people, different intermediaries. So it is not an easy thing to do. So we make all that super easy, right?

Sebastian Rivas:

Then we furnish the properties and then we manage the properties such that at the end of the day, the only thing that our customers have to do is tell us a budget, tell us a market and we do everything else for them.

Mark Tebbe:

Sounds very interesting and it’s an amazing opportunity. So how do you differentiate yourself? There’s been businesses out there for a long time that’ll basically help people manage property that they own, but they don’t live in full-time. How do you differentiate yourself from those other businesses?

Sebastian Rivas:

Yeah. Great question. So I think our main thing is that we are investments first, but we’re also fully turnkey, right? If we’re fully turnkey, that means that from the very beginning, even before you buy the property, we’ll make sure that it’s going to be a good investment for you. All right? That’s the first one. And then everything else we do is with that mindset. We’re super data driven and we’re opinionated.

Sebastian Rivas:

We’re scouring the market. We have algorithms that are constantly looking at different … At the state of the market. What are the properties that are in the market right now? What will be the returns, the equivalent returns on Airbnb, on VRBO, in different markets and with different platforms? Then even when we are furnishing the places, we are data-driven, so we have models that tell us what’s the best layout, the best furniture that we can put in the place, even to a local extent, right?

Sebastian Rivas:

So if it’s, for instance, a house in Austin, the kind of decoration that you will use, the number of pictures on the walls, for instance, is going to be different than a lake house in the middle of the US. So we’re data-driven. We’re fully integrated and fully turnkey and we also bring … This is one thing that we found a lot of success with, which is we try to bring the institutional investor experience as a user experience to the retail customer. And that comes with a level of professionalism and level of due diligence, the marketing materials, everything, right? So we treat our customers, everyone, as if they were a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate trying to make an investment.

Mark Tebbe:

Wow. It’s clear how you got your avocados and your knives to be able to be sold. Where did this idea even come from? This is such a different kind of idea from what you were doing.

Sebastian Rivas:

When I was working in Toronto, I had quite a few co-workers that invested with us, almost all of them. Then out of them, at least half either wanted to invest in properties for short-term rentals or had, at least half of them. All of them had the same problem, which is they did not know who could manage the property for them, right? They tried people — little known facts, but in the short-term rental property management industry, upwards of 70% of players out there like the property managers, manage fewer than 20 properties.

Sebastian Rivas:

So most property managers out there and in this sector are just mom and pop shops. They’re not that sophisticated. And for the most part, they’re not that reliable. And that’s a problem. Because when you’re talking about a property, for most people, it’s the biggest asset they’ll own. So you want to make sure that the people that are running that know what they’re doing very well, they’re responsible and responsive. And they couldn’t find that. So I started asking around and I bought myself one to try it first to see if this thing is as good as people say in terms of returns.

Sebastian Rivas:

In terms of returns, it definitely was, but then I lived through that problem. I could not find a reliable property manager. The sudden charges and fees, magic charges and fees appeared in my bill every day, and then they would call me with issues, that there was partying in my apartment and something was broken and they were not screening people. It was a nightmare. It was really annoying. I remember one day getting a call at 2:00 a.m. from the cops, saying that there was an issue in my apartment. That’s not a call you want to have, right?

Sebastian Rivas:

So that was one, and then the other one was they did not know, also, how to invest in these things. Because if you’re investing on a property for just tenants, like a long-term rental property, you know the cap rates, you know the rent you can get. It’s not that hard. You just ask your real estate agent and this is their bread and butter. But there’s not really a real estate agent for short-term rentals. That thing doesn’t exist yet.

Sebastian Rivas:

So when you go and but a property for a short-term rental, unless you’re talking very specific niche markets like ski resorts for instance, things like that, in the rest of America, or in the world for that matter, most people do not know how much money you can get from a specific property. It’s very hard to get. It’s very, very hard to get. So then the first problem I saw was that one. I did my own model. I started raising the data and all this stuff and then I did my first purchase and it worked. So I figured that I solved a big problem.

Sebastian Rivas:

And then, since I was having that problem with the unreliable property managers, I decided you know what? Screw it. I’m not going to have this problem. I’m going to make my own company and I’m going to solve this problem. I’m going to make money along the way. So I created this company for myself in the beginning because I was having the issue, but knowing that there was some validation for the problem. Because from the 20 people that I spoke to about this problem, the 20 agreed that was a problem and that they would happily pay for a resolution.

Mark Tebbe:

So you waited for the day before the NVC to turn in your feasibility study that got you into NVC, but it sounds like you started this business long before that.

Sebastian Rivas:

Yes.

Mark Tebbe:

So when did you really start the business?

Sebastian Rivas:

March 2019.

Mark Tebbe:

Oh wow.

Sebastian Rivas:

Yes.

Mark Tebbe:

So almost two years before you actually applied to the NVC.

Sebastian Rivas:

That’s correct.

Mark Tebbe:

And so you say we, you had customers. So besides yourself, how many houses and how many properties did you manage and the like?

Sebastian Rivas:

In the first six months … I started the company literally the day I … I mean I started doing the business plan the day I was accepted into Booth. Right? So I got into Booth and I was set. I said, “All right. Screw it. Even though it’s two months until I get my bonus, I said all right, I’m going to be here long-term, so I’m going to start up.” Right? So that’s when we got started. And then in the first six months, we got something like 40-something customers and 56 properties.

Mark Tebbe:

So before you ever came to Booth, you already had 46 customers and 56 properties before you started. Then you finally came to Booth.

Sebastian Rivas:

That’s is correct.

Mark Tebbe:

You did that in six months.

Sebastian Rivas:

That’s correct. I was not expecting that, by the way. I started this as a business business in a sense on a whim because, as I was saying, I had the problem and then I had seven months of runway before Booth started. So I didn’t know it was going to be a big company, right? I just knew there was a problem and I knew there was at least 20 people with the same problem. With 20 people, I could hire enough people to do this thing full-time and they would solve my problem. So that’s how I saw it.

Sebastian Rivas:

I saw it as a way to make some money, solve my issue, and then since I’m big into real estate, I could buy more properties and they would keep my stuff running. I just didn’t want to run properties myself. So it was like that. And then the thing really picked up. It really picked up in the first month. We were profitable. The one, first month, we got five customers, the second month we got 20. It was really fast. Much faster than I expected.

Mark Tebbe:

So if you had this run-up in the first six months, did you think maybe I should defer Booth and keep building this business? Or what was the trigger that said, “This business is doing very well, I’ll keep it a little on the side while I go and get my MBA?”

Sebastian Rivas:

Yeah. I never thought about delaying Booth for a second. It was always part of the plan and you just make due. You make it work however you can. It’s fine. It’s not a business I dreamt of starting when I was little. I’m very happy I did, but it was not my end goal in a sense. Then it started growing. Then I started really liking it, not because of the growth, but because it’s a new asset class. It’s very interesting. It’s an intellectual challenge that is super rewarding to solve. And the thing really sells itself.

Sebastian Rivas:

So then I started really liking it, and then I went to Booth, right? So even then, I thought to myself, all right, we’ve got 50 customers. Maybe we’re going to get 200 or something. I think I can do it while I go to Booth. I have co-founders, so I had support there. So that was that. Then COVID happened and COVID is particularly tough on hospitality and tourism and travel and all that stuff. So that actually is a very good thing that I didn’t postpone because that would have been awful.

Mark Tebbe:

Yeah because short-term rentals just went through the floor.

Sebastian Rivas:

Yeah. Especially in the beginning and especially in Canada. Our headquarters were in Canada at the time, right? Most of our operations were there. It’s interesting, the whole thing changed, the whole market, the whole landscape changed dramatically. People flocked away from urban areas, and most of our apartments and properties were in urban areas. And they went towards mountain towns or cities and lakes and things like that. Didn’t have that much fun. So that was pretty hard on our business, but we survived.

Sebastian Rivas:

Instead of focusing on growth, we focused on profitability. So we had to fire a couple of people, reduce cost. The upside was that meant that the company was much more profitable than before and it could pay for my tuition. So that was very good.

Mark Tebbe:

So you running the business. COVID hits. This gives you time to reevaluate the business, rethink it, apply to the NVC. So having gone through the NVC, what’s the current state of Andes STR? You’re just getting ready to graduate tomorrow. Where does it stand today versus when you first got into Booth?

Sebastian Rivas:

Oh, worlds apart. That’s the thing about NVC. It’s just a really great experience. It’s really mind blowing. For everybody who’s listening, if you can, go to NVC. Seriously. If you’re thinking about going to Booth, do NVC. It’s the best experience of your life. Having said that, quick plug, when we started, we didn’t have a grand vision for it. And that’s one of the big things that we got out of NVC.

Sebastian Rivas:

By talking to so many knowledgeable, smart, interesting advisors and coaches and investors and everything in between, we got to see their vision, in a sense, for our business. It’s funny, sometimes you are so close the problem, so close to the company, in a sense, to the business, that you don’t see its full potential, right? And that’s what we were lacking.

Sebastian Rivas:

Now COVID, interestingly enough, even though it was very awful for our company in the short run, now what’s happening is that there’s a big wave to ride here and it’s compressing the timelines for a trend that we saw a long time ago. So short-term rentals are here to stay. They’re a growing asset class. It’s growing super rapidly and there’s a huge shortage of supply. So that means that basically we’re in the business of making that supply, right? So that for us means that we have a multimillion dollar opportunity right now to make it happen.

Mark Tebbe:

Looking at it in a macro point of view, having the business started, getting that six months of quick feedback of a quick ramp, starting school and then COVID hitting after your second quarter at school, and now being able to not have a lot of demand, take a step back, apply what you learned in school and then the NVC process. One couldn’t have written a better script.

Mark Tebbe:

So it still surprises me that you had this business and the day before NVC, you were like, “You know? I think I will submit my feasibility study.” And you wrote it and you put it in. What did it feel like? It sounds like you were shocked when you said, “Oh my God. People wanted us in the NVC.”

Sebastian Rivas:

Yeah. It was exactly that. It was a little bit of a shock, especially because seeing all the people apply and they have really good ideas, really, really good ideas. I was like, “Wow. You are going to make it big. That’s impressive. You are an NVC company.” So then when we got picked up, it was very surprising. I can safely talk for everybody on my team. We were not expecting it.

Mark Tebbe:

Let’s talk about your team. How did you pick your team?

Sebastian Rivas:

That’s a good one. I picked my team in two rounds, okay? The first round is people that I already knew or that were already part of my team. So Matias is one of my co-founders. He was there from the beginning, right? So he was an easy pick. Christina, she’s also … We both love real estate and we always talked about real estate. We always talked about doing something together, so that was a very easy pick, as well. She knew about my company. She already voiced that she wanted to do something, so then I just applied and after I got in, then I told her, “Oh by the way, do you want in?” And she said, “Yes.” So that was an easy one.

Sebastian Rivas:

And then everybody else, it was after getting into NVC, I started talking to people and I put a message on Slack, asking, “By the way, this company was accepted to NVC. Is anybody interested?” And then I started interviewing people. So that was it.

Mark Tebbe:

Okay. So what did you look for on your team? Did you round up for just skills or what?

Sebastian Rivas:

Skills were definitely a big part, but we filtered for three things. And this was a hypothesis, an experiment in a sense, and I would argue it worked out. So the first thing we filtered for was commitment, right? We wanted to have committed people and we defined commitment as … This was literally part of the interview, right? We would tell them thi:. What do you want to get out of NVC and what are you willing to do to get it? Because I cannot get those things for you. You’ve got to be true.

Sebastian Rivas:

The second one was value fit, and we defined that as: will you do the right thing, can we trust you and will we want to work with you? Very important, right? Because in between I had started other service before, right? That was a big one. It’s a dealbreaker.

Mark Tebbe:

I said sounds like it’s something where you learned by getting burned before.

Sebastian Rivas:

Yes. Absolutely and boy, I have some stories about that, but for another time. And the third one was skillset, which is: can you add value day one? and can we trust the quality of your work? Out of those three, the skillset fit was the least important to me because I am a strong believer in that if you have the other two, you can teach the third.

Mark Tebbe:

Wow. And obviously, it worked out. So we talk about NVC, Professor Kaplan and I always say, “We will teach you nothing during this class, but you’ll learn an amazing amount.” And part of it is because of the experience, the coaches, the judges and everything else like that. What was your classroom experience like?

Sebastian Rivas:

Amazing. It was really good. I’m not kidding. It was the best thing ever. It’s kind of chaotic in a sense, because if you see from a perspective of an MBA student, most classes are very well-structured. You have your syllabus. You know exactly what you’re going to do each time. You can actually miss a class and it’s no biggie, right? Because you know you can just open up the book, and chapter 11 and whatever it is, right? This is not the case.

Sebastian Rivas:

This is not a class where you want to miss a single class because everything’s going on. It’s like missing a big game when you’re the player. You don’t want to miss that game. You want to be there. So I think we started first week with an introduction and learning how to pitch, right? That was super useful. I believe it was taught by Waverly. She’s world class, really good. Whenever we spoke with her, in a matter of seconds she would analyze this thing and tell us exactly what to do. She was impressive. And then it’s off to the races. Then, enough, “Now go and do your thing. Just go and pitch, figure it out and let’s see where you are.”

Mark Tebbe:

So the race has started. You made your first-round presentation pitch in front of a bunch of in-class judges. And what was the feedback? What did you do with the feedback?

Sebastian Rivas:

It was almost funny. Our feedback was awful. It was good from the perspective that we knew what to do. The people were great in that sense. But first round, we did worse than average, to put it bluntly. We were told that there was no differentiation, that scalability would be an issue, that the team is not well-rounded. Many things. And they were right. I think, for the first version of our business plan and what we wanted to do. It was just not well thought out.

Sebastian Rivas:

We thought it was well thought out. We put in a lot of effort. But we were babies learning how to walk when we needed to run, right? And there’s a process. We got that feedback and then we very practically reached out to every single person we could and that was the first thing we did very well. So we talked to a lot of people many times and we listened. We really listened. We listened with conviction.

Sebastian Rivas:

So we didn’t listen just for listening sake. We had our vision. We had our perspective. We had an opinion. But we listened. And more often than not, we were wrong. Our opinion was not the right one in a sense or the most productive one and the people with more experience had the right answer.

Mark Tebbe:

So you came back into the second-round presentation with a new approach to this business and a new way of explaining it.

Sebastian Rivas:

Yes.

Mark Tebbe:

How did it change?

Sebastian Rivas:

To start, the value proposition on our customer changed. So we started seeing how the value in this thing is different than we thought it was in the beginning. At the beginning, we thought it was just profit in a sense. People would like to go and get more profit. Then we learned that it’s not just that, it’s that people are already investing in short-term, well not in just short-term rentals, but in real estate. And you’re saving them time, you’re giving them a good user experience, and you’re giving them significant profits, right? You’re helping them achieve their financial goals, long-term goals.

Sebastian Rivas:

So that was a big one. It made us really focus on our customer. We learned so much more who’s really our customer and what’s really driving value for them. That was the one. Second: scale. At the beginning, we were very conservative about how we would scale in the future. We thought that this should be this way and there’s just no way you can get 200 properties in two years, whatever.

Mark Tebbe:

You had 60 properties in six months. Let me tell you, never be conservative.

Sebastian Rivas:

Yeah. And that’s true. Everybody that’s listening, they are right. Don’t fight it. They are right. Don’t be conservative.

Mark Tebbe:

And so you went from arguably one of the worst in your day of presentation, to, second round, seemingly one of the best. And more than that, we announced the finalists. Were you surprised by getting into the finals?

Sebastian Rivas:

Yes. Yes, we were. We were surprised because we were a little bit down from the first round. And even though we did well in the second round, we were not sure because there were teams that were really strong. That’s the thing. It’s a competition. We never doubted that we were going to do well as a business, not a shadow of a doubt. But other businesses are really good. So that’s the thing.

Mark Tebbe:

This was the most competitive NVC we’ve ever had in the history of the NVC. It is just amazing how many great teams there were. But you came out, and so you had a week from when you found out that you made the finals to presenting in the finals.

Sebastian Rivas:

Yeah.

Mark Tebbe:

What did you do in that week? That was over, what, Memorial Day weekend.

Sebastian Rivas:

Not much, actually. We met with Waverly. She gave us a few tips on how to change the presentation itself to make it more impactful. The message didn’t change that much.

Mark Tebbe:

That’s good.

Sebastian Rivas:

Yes. Because basically, the feedback we got from second round was mostly positive. And by talking to many coaches, once we got into the finals, they said, “You know, what you have is what got you into the finals. So make sure you’re not breaking everything to add just a little bit more value.” So we focused on really making sure, extra sure that we understood very well what we were doing and nailing Q&A. That’s very important.

Sebastian Rivas:

Being experts. We actually started getting customers. We started focusing more on the business rather than the competition itself. And the thing we did the most about the competition was the Q&A, but that was a byproduct of doing the business.

Mark Tebbe:

Right. So you go into the finalis. You were in the morning. You were one of the opening acts. What was that experience like pitching? We had 27 world class entrepreneurs that had been through the NVC, but also VCs from around the world. As a matter of fact, we had two of the newest three on the Midas 100 list. We had amazing VCs sitting in the audience. What was it like pitching to them?

Sebastian Rivas:

It’s a bit unreal, to be frank. I remember when I was doing it, I was nervous. I was super nervous, super, super nervous. I’m really blessed in the sense that Christina has amazing presentation skills, really good. Even just after the first pitch we did, we were joking, we had this inside joke that if this doesn’t work out for us, then at least she could do the [inaudible 00:47:44] or something. She’s really good. She’s really easy to listen to.

Sebastian Rivas:

So I was lucky in that sense because she went first. She did our first half and she’s a professional and she nailed it, and then it was me. I was super nervous and it felt a little bit like an out-of-body experience. It’s interesting because you’re trying to be professional. You’re trying to do your thing. We prepared a lot. We were practicing for four days straight. We didn’t change much, but we practiced, right?

Sebastian Rivas:

And then you’re there, and you see everybody, and you’re in the green room first. And you’re talking and you know it’s coming. It felt a little bit at the time, I remember having this image, like, talk me out a little bit. Have you watched the Gladiator movie? Before the main guy goes out to the stadium, or coliseum, in preparation, just, you know, you’re mentally preparing. That’s how it felt in the beginning.

Sebastian Rivas:

And then you go there. They present you. You start talking and people are listening. And it’s not that scary anymore. You’re still nervous, but now you, as you’re saying, really, really good VCs are paying attention. And you see their faces and they like what you’re saying. It’s really impressive. It’s something that, it doesn’t happen. It just doesn’t happen in real life in a sense. It’s impressive.

Mark Tebbe:

You were the opening act. You had not seen anyone else present. You had not interacted with the judges and you were the opening act to see what was happening. And so you presented, you did very well in the presentation, you did very, very well in the Q&A. What was the toughest question you think you got in Q&A?

Sebastian Rivas:

I think a very tough one was around competition. Very, very tough one. I can’t recall exactly what was it, but it’s something like, “You know there’s other players out there that are really good, so how do you think about that?” That was the end of the question. And that was tough because there are big players out there. We’re here to disrupt this space, of course, and add more value and do it better, but there are big players. It’s like the elephant in the room. It’s the kind of thing that you don’t want to get a question about.

Sebastian Rivas:

And that was hard because that was one of those things that we’ve been talking about for a long time and remember, besides the NVC itself, we were decided that we wanted to do this business.

Mark Tebbe:

So you’re doing it no matter what happened then.

Sebastian Rivas:

No matter what. No matter what we were doing. The format may change, but no matter what, we were doing it. So the competition aspect is something that’s looming over us every day. Every day. It’s a major thing. It’s a major component of every decision. So when you get asked that, you can either talk a lot, and that’s a bad thing. You can say good things, you can say bad things. You can screw that up very easily.

Sebastian Rivas:

You always want to instill confidence in investors. You don’t want to BS. But you want to make sure that people see why is it that you are convinced that you can do well. And competition is one of those things that no matter what, there always is, and it’s not necessarily ever a good thing. So that was very tricky. I just wasn’t sure we were going to nail that question.

Mark Tebbe:

It seems that not only did you nail the question, you nailed the whole session. So you were the opening act, we had 11 others follow you. So for those not familiar with the format. We had the judges score every presentation afterward and then at the end of the day, we asked them of the 12 companies that they saw on the NVC finalists, which one did they think was the most deserving to win? Which one came in second? Which one came in third?

Mark Tebbe:

Interestingly enough, while you were the first presentation and scored well on the score, at the end of the day, you still were seen as doing very well in the presentation, scored very well on that, too. So it was clear to everyone you were going to win. But it seemed like it wasn’t clear to you because it was always so soft-spoken. And for the announcement, we actually started with the finalists and then worked our way up. At what point did you think, wow, we might actually do well here?

Sebastian Rivas:

That’s so funny because again, every team was very strong. We really thought, at least we made it to the finals. It’s a really good thing. Thank you very much. That’s what we were thinking. That was the … We had this WhatsApp group, the internal chat, and that’s the sentiment that was going on. And that’s fine. We had our favorites. We thought, you know what? These two, we think they are going to win. I’m not going to say exactly which ones.

Mark Tebbe:

You just took a question.

Sebastian Rivas:

So we had these sentiments and then they say, “Eighth,” or whatever, the first ones, and one of those two were there. I was like, “All right. We may have a shot.” Then “seventh” and well, we’re better than seventh. That’s unexpected, that’s very good. “Sixth” and I think either sixth or fifth that was the other one. Wow. We actually did make it. “Fourth” and I was like, “Nah.” And then my other co-founders started DM-ing me directly. “Is this true? Maybe they forgot about us.” We were really not expecting it.

Sebastian Rivas:

And then “three,” “two.” And I’m like, “Nah.” This is not a thing. This is unreal. And then “one” and we… even when they said number one, even then, at least me, I didn’t think it was us. I genuinely thought there’s an error here. There’s a glitch. They forgot or something. And that was us and we were not prepared. We just did not expect that.

Mark Tebbe:

Oh being in the COVID environment it was hard because everyone was so remote, we weren’t able to see it, but I could feel the palpable energy from when you guys won. And you also received investments so far of $681,250. Game changing, life changing investment, but the beginning of the investment. But more than that, really is validation that this is real business that a lot of professional investors saw opportunity in. And to really go out and make that happen.

Mark Tebbe:

So now what? So you’ve received the indications of the 680, and your ask was … How much did you ask for in the investment?

Sebastian Rivas:

$600,000.

Mark Tebbe:

So you’ve exceeded your original ask because you were a little conservative. We’ll talk about that another time. And so you basically got what you need to start this business. Now what’s going on with the business?

Sebastian Rivas:

Now we’re off to the races. That’s the thing. Now we’re laser focused making this thing go. That’s what it is. So everyone in the team has different roles to play, right? I am leading the fundraising efforts because sure, we have that, but I now have to go and meet with investors and make sure everything’s well-aligned and we’re poised for growth. Matias and Christina are figuring out the specifics, reaching out for partners, looking at doing due diligence on specific deals. So we’re literally just focused.

Sebastian Rivas:

We’re laser focused. It’s business and customers first, everything else second. So as I was saying, this was a thing that the company knew was going to happen no matter what. Now this is the catalyst. It’s a game changer, life changing thing, but it fits the same story and the story is the company, not us. So basically, we just have to make it happen now.

Mark Tebbe:

Yeah. You were talking about Pippin Technology and how well they did last year. And they received $450,000. So you’re 30% above what they were and this is by far the largest NVC we’ve ever had, but more importantly, it’s the largest business plan accelerator in any university environment in the world. So now that you’ve received these investments, are you done fundraising or have you thought maybe I feel a little bit more … I mean you have a lot of people seemingly want to talk to you now.

Sebastian Rivas:

Yeah. And that is one thing for people at home listening. It doesn’t stop right there. If you do well and as Mark is saying, if you get that validation, it’s for a reason, right? It might be that it’s a good idea, that it’s good business, that it’s something. And when you have that, other people want in and other people want to see what’s up and talk to you. And if you do well in those conversations, more people want to invest.

Sebastian Rivas:

So now we have over 20 extra investors that are interested in jumping on board, different locations. So now we have to talk to them. We’re looking for value, right? We’re looking to have people on board that we’re partners. We really look at this as partnerships. We want to have fun with them, working with them and we want to build a business with them. It’s going to be part of their business, as well. So we want to make sure that people we invite to our home are the people we want to have in our home.

Mark Tebbe:

That’s great. So in 2019, you started the business, you get into Booth, you say, quit my old job, I’m going to start this business before I get going at Booth and in six months, you get this amazing validation. You start taking some Booth classes and applying them back to see the business grow a little bit. COVID hits, takes the business near zero, but still alive. Get into the NVC, rush and crush it through the NVC process, come out number one winning it and now ready to roll off the business and show the world what the new Andes STR is going to be.

Mark Tebbe:

So help us understand. Five years from now, what should we expect of Andes STR or whatever you and up renaming it?

Sebastian Rivas:

Yeah. Branding is important. That’s a big one. We envision ourselves as being the number one, go-to, number one solution for short-term rentals. So if you ever think about buying a vacation rental, a short-term rental or even just a property, I want people to think about us. That’s the first thing that pops in mind. So we’re going to have an app where people can buy in real time in a matter of seconds. We want to make it a super liquid market. We want to make it great.

Sebastian Rivas:

We want to have at the very least 3,000 properties under management. We want to be in several markets. Not to many. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin, but you want to allow …

Mark Tebbe:

Don’t be conservative.

Sebastian Rivas:

You are right. I learned my lesson by now. But yes, we do want to offer customer diversification in terms of markets, right? We want to start working with bigger projects, as well. We are already talking, having very good conversations in that way. I don’t want to give that away for now, but institutional investors are interested as well. So that’s how we see it. We want to be the number one on short-term rentals.

Mark Tebbe:

That’s great. And you’ve got an amazing foundation to build from. The business that you’ve created and explained and clarified and retooled has really got great potential. So let’s go back to the beginning here. You knew about the entrepreneurship opportunities at Booth, but didn’t know that much about the NVC until you had gotten here. But here you are on a podcast that’s going around the world. For any future Booth students or even entrepreneurs like you who are thinking of coming to Booth, tell them what they should think of the NVC.

Sebastian Rivas:

Probably the best experience of your life. It’s amazing. So if you’re even toying with the idea of being an entrepreneur, do an NVC. Do it twice, actually, if you can. If there’s one regret I have it’s that I didn’t do NVC with another team year one. Because if I could have two servings of this, I would. It’s an impressive thing.  I remember telling Professor Steve Kaplan that my impression about NVC, if I had to summarize it, it’s like having Einstein as your physics tutor. You have literally the best of the best in terms of entrepreneurship or venture capital in every other aspect really guiding you and basically holding your hand throughout this three-month process.

Sebastian Rivas:

There is nothing better than this if you want to be an entrepreneur. If you want to do something else, it could be an interesting academic experience or exercise. I believe it’s the number one class in Booth by a margin?

Mark Tebbe:

In my opinion it is. I don’t know what the stats are, but in my opinion it is.

Sebastian Rivas:

I’m actually pretty sure because one of those things I did … I’m a huge nerd so I built my own little machine learning program to do my bidding for classes. I’m not kidding. I had it automated in the first quarter so I knew exactly what to take. And I remember seeing that consistently NVC … It has a large title, right, but the NVC in terms of when they ask students would you recommend this class to somebody else, that’s by far the number one. By far. And it’s so true. It’s really the best class you can take. There’s nothing like this.

Mark Tebbe:

So you knew the entrepreneurship focus at Booth before you came to Booth from growing up in Chile. Why should someone that’s interested in entrepreneurship come to Booth beyond NVC?

Sebastian Rivas:

NVC by itself … Seriously. If it’s just NVC, I think that’s worth it. By the way, I’ll put it out there, just by itself if there’s nothing else. At Booth, you want to be an entrepreneur and you have the option of going to NVC, that would be enough. But besides NVC, I honestly think this is the ideal environment for entrepreneurs. It’s ideal because you have a flexible curriculum. There’s no two stories that are alike. So my story having come from more of a finance an a little bit of entrepreneurial background, it’s different than somebody who maybe came from a marketing background then wants to do entrepreneurship.

Sebastian Rivas:

So you need to strengthen different skillsets, right? And you want to make it more complementary or whatever, right? So the flexible system is really powerful for an entrepreneur. If you want to do consulting, then a more fixed curriculum could be good for you. But for entrepreneur, I think flexible is the way to go. That’s number one.

Sebastian Rivas:

Number two it’s the professors, seriously. You Mark, for instance, profess the entrepreneurship curriculum in a sense. All the classes are really remarkably good. I don’t want to say anything bad about other schools, but many other schools don’t have professors or entrepreneurship as good, but that also have been practitioners at the caliber and level that we have here.

Sebastian Rivas:

For the people at home, I’m sitting across the table with a world-renowned entrepreneur and someone that’s very, very smart and a very good professor. That doesn’t happen in many other schools. It just doesn’t happen. As I was saying, I applied to many of the top ones. I did my due diligence. This was the way to go. It’s just a flexible curriculum. The professors are amazing, and the people. Those three things, entrepreneurs come here, right?

Sebastian Rivas:

My impression of other schools is that’s not a breeding ground for entrepreneurs and that’s not where entrepreneurs are flocking. It was just not my crowd in a sense. Here, they want. I could see it. I actually talked to a few people. I asked them what do you want to do post entrepreneurship? They didn’t take a beat. So for me, it was those three things.

Mark Tebbe:

And for your classmates, three out of every four of the students now have a concentration in entrepreneurship, so it’s become extremely popular. All right. So you’ve now proven yourself through Booth, through the NVC, through the creation and redefinition of Andes as a world-class entrepreneur. So for other entrepreneurs who are looking for insights and advice and the like. What advice do you have for someone who’s in your position, thinking about starting a business or starting to grow the business? What should they be thinking about from your experience and background?

Sebastian Rivas:

Once they come to Booth or in general?

Mark Tebbe:

No. Let’s say it’s an entrepreneur, someone listening to this podcast that’s not going to go to Booth for a variety of reasons, but they’ve got a dream. Maybe they want to sell avocados. Maybe they want to sell knives. Or maybe they want to build a business that can help people buy short-term rentals and manage them. You seem to have a formula through all these different businesses that you started that’s proven to be successful, cash flow. Not many students can say I started a little side business that paid my way to get through college, but you did it not once, but twice. What lessons do you have for someone who is a new entrepreneur and would say, “Oh my God, you’ve got to do this?”

Sebastian Rivas:

Keep your eyes open. Walk through life looking for problems. That’s something that I just used to do when I was little, and you’ve got to nurture it because it’s not easy. But go, whenever you take a walk, just walk and look for problems that you can solve. Don’t ever think that you cannot solve them because if there’s one thing I’ve learned is that no matter what your background is, no matter what you know now, if there’s a problem that you’re passionate about solving, you can figure it out. If it’s a technical thing, maybe you’re not going to be the technical guy, but that’s not the spirit of an entrepreneur.

Sebastian Rivas:

The spirit of an entrepreneur is not being the guy that does it necessarily, not always. It’s solving a problem, and you’re going to have to find the tools to solve the problem, or the resources, whatever it is. And then perhaps after those two things, perhaps more importantly, validate the problem because it’s very easy when you’re discovering, is this a problem or not, validate the problem and just start doing it.

Sebastian Rivas:

So don’t be stupid. Have a plan for sure. So don’t throw everything away, at least not until you’re ready, that’s my opinion. Most people, I think that’s the biggest mistake. Most people when they think of entrepreneurship, they think about it as an intellectual exercise, right? They think about it as a case study or something that’s done on paper. Entrepreneurship is done out in the real life and the real world.

Sebastian Rivas:

So when you’re thinking about maybe I should do this, do a plan, canvas, whatever. Jot down your assumptions, what do you think is going on. But then go out and talk to people, see what’s going on, ask their opinion, start dabbling into the thing. You are going to learn for sure and start just doing something. It doesn’t have to be the full thing. It doesn’t have to be the full vision that you have accompanied this. Because most likely, that vision is wrong and it’s going to change for the better. It’s going to be a good thing, it’s always better.

Sebastian Rivas:

But go and do something. Go and do it a little bit and then see how it goes and then enter it quickly and do a little bit more, talk to more people, see how it can improve. And then focus. Once you find that thing and once you’re ready and once you’re convinced, just focus and do it and keep pushing forward. Everything else aligns. Things align and if you’re an entrepreneurial guy or gal, if you just have a little bit of resourcefulness, you’re going to make it happen. Don’t worry too much about the details. Focus on that thing, that great thing that you want to solve and that great solution that you’re building and everything else aligns.

Mark Tebbe:

Well, given what you’ve shown in NVC, given what you’ve shown with Andes STR, and with the ability of graduating tomorrow to be able to pull up and focus on this great aspiration of where Andes STR is going to be. You are in rarefied air having won the NVC, but more importantly to have the funding behind you that you can now roll out this business. It looks like the opportunity is yours to take. I hope you do very well with it.

Mark Tebbe:

I am confident you’ve got a solid foundation for you to do well with it. But most importantly, keep in touch, let us know what’s going on. I’d love to have future podcast marketing and everything else, where we talk about where you are because I want to see that your aspiration where you think it’s going to be is truly conservative. I expect it to be even better than what your anticipations are.

Mark Tebbe:

And thank you very much for taking the time today to talk to us on this podcast about the whole NVC experience, but more importantly, for everyone to learn more about Andes STR. Thank you.

Sebastian Rivas:

Thank you very much.

Colin Keeley:

All right. That is it for this episode. If you could do me a huge favor really quick, please go to your favorite podcasting app, often Apple podcast, and rate and review our show. This gets the show recommended to more folks and also helps us to get bigger and better guests for you to listen to. Take care.

 

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