Florence Frech, Leal: Using Data to Engage with Customers in Latin America, Ep 114

Despite coming from a family of entrepreneurs in El Salvador, Florence Frech hadn’t considered being one herself until she met her current co-founder while completing an MBA in Chicago. Up until that point, she had been building a stable career working at banks in the US and El Salvador. One startup competition later, Florence was hooked.

In Latin America, where 50% of credit card consumers are completely inactive, engaging with and retaining customers can be a challenge. That’s why Florence and her co-founder, Camilo Martinez, decided to start Leal, a customer engagement platform that helps B2C customers truly understand who their customers are through loyalty programs.

I sat down with Florence to talk about her upbringing in El Salvador and learning about entrepreneurship over the dinner table with her family, and how her first failure as a startup turned into a valuable life lesson. We also discuss why customer engagement is a huge opportunity in Latin America and Florence gives advice to entrepreneurs raising money as a seed-stage startup.

“Retailers in Latam have failed to prioritize understanding consumer needs”

Florence did have one condition before fully diving into the entrepreneurial world. If she was going to take the big leap, it had to be in an industry she really understood. During her time working as an advisor for the retail industry at the bank, Florence had noticed that companies were splurging money on massive marketing campaigns that were not necessarily measurable or effective. This lack of focus on data-driven decisions inspired Florence to start Leal. 

Listen to this episode of Crossing Borders to gain more of Florence’s insights on customer engagement in Latin America.

Falling in love with a problem

Florence and Camilo were firm on truly understanding the industry and the market they were getting themselves into. In the beginning, they didn’t hire developers or make an MVP. Instead, they spent three months in Bogota talking to over 200 retailers to learn everything they could about the pain points of customer engagement in Colombia. They realized that the opportunity was way bigger than they had imagined.

Learn more about how seeing the problem firsthand was an inflection point for Florence and her co-founder in this episode of Crossing Borders.

A two-way street

Seeking investment in Latin America as a seed-stage startup can be more challenging than in the US. From the investor perspective, it’s often seen as a riskier venture, therefore expectations are higher. In order to grab their attention, Florence explains that you need to show you have traction. However, she also strongly advises that interests from both parties be aligned from the very start to avoid long-term damage.

Check out this episode of Crossing Borders to hear more advice from Florence on raising money in Latin America.

Florence Frech is changing the way businesses in Latin America engage with their customers. Leal’s data-driven approach helps businesses learn how to better allocate their resources and make the best decisions that truly reflect their clients’ needs.

Outline of this episode:

  • [1:37] – About Leal
  • [3:11] – Customer engagement in LatAm
  • [6:33] – Growing up in El Salvador
  • [9:05] – Becoming an entrepreneur
  • [13:12] – Leaving a stable job
  • [15:04] – Florence’s inflection point
  • [17:52] – Understanding the problem first
  • [20:04] – The initial product
  • [22:25] – Leal’s use cases
  • [25:17] – Raising money 
  • [26:37] – Advice to other entrepreneurs
  • [29:31] – Books, blogs, & podcast recommendations
  • [32:00] – Advice to Florence’s younger self
  • [33:23] – What’s next for Leal?

Resources & people mentioned:

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