Mike Packer, QED Investors: The Trailblazing US VC Investing in Latin American Fintech, Ep 78

In 2014, nearly all US-based VCs were reticent to invest in Latin America. But that didn’t stop Washington, DC based QED from building one of Latin America’s most impressive startup portfolios. Before becoming a Partner at QED Investors, Mike’s path into the finance world was not obvious. Mike’s first foray into finance was his job at Capital One where he pursued his passion for using data to solve problems.

Today, Mike lives in Tampa, Florida, and is a Partner at QED Investors, a venture fund that has made over 100 mostly fintech investments in the US, UK, and Latin America. QED has been involved in some of Latin America’s top fintech deals including Nubank, Creditas, Credijusto, Guia Bolso, Loft, and Quinto Andar, and many more.

On this episode of Crossing Borders, I sit down with Mike Packer to talk about his journey from working in banking at Capital One to joining QED as Principal and then making his way up to Partner. We also learn about how startups should approach venture capital firms for funding and what to expect in fintech in the next coming waves within the region.

Lessons learned from ten years at Capital One

When Mike was working at Capital One, it was one of the biggest data and information companies in the world. As an analyst, his decisions were heavily data driven: translating raw data into business models, and modeling supply and demand to figure out pricing, who to market to, and at what time.

Working at Capital One not only taught him about the power of data, but also about how to use it both creatively and in disciplined decision making during the 2008 recession. Check out this episode of Crossing Borders to find out what lessons Mike learned while navigating the financial crisis at one of the US’ major financial institutions.

Data can’t always tell the full story.

Venture Capital is an industry that requires risk taking to reach an exceptional return. When Mike transitioned from Capital One to QED, he went from a world where he had to use data to tell the story, to one where data might only tell a small part of a startup’s story. This meant taking more risks when evaluating entrepreneurs and deciding who and what to invest in. Find out how Mike decides when to take risks with QED Investors on this episode of Crossing Borders.

QED: Investing in Latin America almost by accident

Over the past eighteen months, Latin America has gained significant momentum as international VC firms have entered the region. Mike explains that QED’s first foray into Latin America was more good luck rather than initial strategy. David Velez, the founder of Nubank (valued today at $4B), talked to the QED team about their experience with Capital One, leading to their first Latin American investment. As they saw more opportunities, Latin America became a central part of QED’s thesis.

Check out this episode of Crossing Borders to learn how QED has invested in Latin America’s underserved populations and chose to invest in the region’s fintech ecosystem.

Mike Packer and QED will soon close their sixteenth investment in Latin America. Although Mike’s job is still in part tied to data, Mike has embraced the value of risk taking (even without the hard data to back it) through his work at QED. His team’s prior experience in finance gives them the ability to get deep in the details of financial services, allowing them to continue growing their portfolio within Latin America’s fintech ecosystem.

Show notes:

  • [1:25] – About QED
  • [3:00] – How QED lives up to its value proposition
  • [4:41] – Growing up in between states
  • [6:20] – Mike’s passion for systems engineering and economics
  • [7:42] – A career in finance
  • [9:10] – Working at Capital One
  • [10:40] – Lessons learned: from Capital One to VCs and startups
  • [13:01] – Learning to take risks as a VC
  • [16:28] – How to contact QED as a founder
  • [19:29] – Questions to ask a VC
  • [21:20] – QED’s strategies and reasons for choosing Latin America’s ecosystem
  • [27:20] – On building better fundamentals for the ecosystem.
  • [29:25] – QED portfolio companies to look out for
  • [33:40] – A soft spot for underserved markets.
  • [36:16] – On fintech deals in Latin America
  • [39:40] – Mike’s advice to his younger self

Resources mentioned:

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