What I Learned at WeXchange 2019

I attended WeXchange, a conference to support women in STEM in Latin America and the Caribbean, organized by the InterAmerican Development Bank and founded by Susana Garcia Robles, in Asunción, Paraguay last week.

WeXchange features a 500+ startup pitch competition that culminates in six finalists pitching for the top prize. It featured one-on-one mentorship sessions, group mentorships and top-notch speakers. I really enjoyed getting to know the founders from the 31 countries represented, and it was fun to spend time with many of the finalists to do a deep dive into their businesses.

I have been invited to attend conferences in several Latin American countries, San Francisco, New York, and other US cities, and WeXchange stands out as one of the most enjoyable. It was a different kind of tech conference, with a different kind of energy. WeXchange was 90% women, so I got a small taste of what it must be like to be a woman, and therefore in the minority, at nearly all other tech conferences. 

There were more entrepreneurs than investors and very few service providers (no offense lawyers and accountants!), so it was much more collaborative than typical 95% male tech conferences. Founders seemed to be helping each other more.

It was a welcome relief that most of the founders I talked to had a more direct and open approach to conversations than many of the male-dominated conferences I have attended. A much higher percentage of attendees seemed to actually want feedback, rather than treating our conversations as transactions.

The event left me thinking about how much better mainstream tech conferences would be if there were many more women involved. As Susana said during the closing statement, “I hope one day we don’t need WeXchange.” I hope we can all work together to make it happen, supporting women entrepreneurs in Latin America.

Here were some of the most interesting companies at WeXchange:

Panal Fresh: A daily fresh grocery delivery service built to support Bolivian agriculture.

Llamando al Doctor: A startup that helps patients contact a doctor 24/7 through video-calls. 

Cuentame: An online psychology service to help people maneuver tough times through conversations with real psychologists and online treatment tracks.

Rebaja Tus Cuentas: An online comparing service to help people find the lowest-cost housing mortgage for their needs. 

Bricksave: A platform for international real-estate investment starting at just $1000. 

Arukay: An online learning laboratory to teach STEM to students in Colombia. 

These six startups were chosen to pitch during the competition and it was great to get to know them personally during mentorship sessions, as well. 

Congratulations to Vicky Ricuarte, Founder and CEO of Arukay, for winning the WeXchange Pitch Competition! And thank you to the IDB for the kind invitation. WeXchange 2019 was an eye-opening and refreshing tech event and I hope we see more like it in the future. 

Nathan Lustig is the Managing Partner of Magma Partners, a Latin American venture capital firm with over 60 investments in 13 countries across the region.

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