3 essential tips for entrepreneurs in emerging markets, according to FDV’s Shaun Di Gregorio

Sabine Brix

January 19, 2017

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The best entrepreneurs are in it for the long-haul, says Frontier Digital Ventures’ CEO, Shaun di Gregorio.

If you’re an entrepreneur trying to crack the online classifieds business in an emerging market, the competition is tough. Frontier Digital Ventures‘  CEO Shaun Di Gregorio tells us what the top 3 qualities successful entrepreneurs he’s worked with all possess.

Be exposed to developed markets

Di Gregorio says the entrepreneurs he’s worked with, such as the Ali Khan brothers from Pakistani property portal Zameen.com, have all worked abroad and gained experience from more established businesses.

“The entrepreneurs that we find that are really effective tend to have followed a similar path,” Di Gregorio tells PPW.

“They’ve grown up in their local countries and they’ve left to go to Singapore or the UK or the US for education. They’ve then been exposed to companies that are very large such as Rightmove or realestate.com.au, for example.

They think to themselves; ‘well I’ve got a bit of an entrepreneurial bent and my country doesn’t have one of those businesses – I’ll go start one.’ Quite often that’s where the idea is seeded. Quite often they’ll start the business while they’re still away.’”

Keep the plan simple

Di Gregorio says a mistake which many entrepreneurs make early on is misaligning their goals.

“Too often we see aspiration getting ahead of execution,” Di Gregorio explains.

“In these emerging markets, execution is just everything. It’s not a complicated business – the model has been around a long time. We’re not trying to deliver people’s lunch via a drone, it’s a really simple technology.”

Be in it for the long haul

Although the name of the game for many startups may be to disrupt the market with the biggest and best new thing, Di Gregorio says this end-goal shouldn’t be a key focus.

“It’s more about enabling commerce than disrupting it. In that sense we just say, ‘stay focused on that, don’t overcomplicate it – understand that it’s a long game.’”

The thing that makes the best entrepreneurs a cut above the rest, is an inherent passion to work hard and an interest in longevity within the market, says Di Gregorio.

“The sorts of qualities that we think help entrepreneurs achieve that is; conscientiousness, that’s what we look for. We’re looking for someone who understands that it’s hard work and they understand that it’s a long game. You’ve got to be very passionate of course. And you’ve got to be very focused and you have to have sacrificed something and have some skin in the game.”

The best people for the job aren’t necessecarily the high-level executives either, he explains.

“We’ve certainly had experiences over the years, whether it was iProperty or REA ,where we’ve gone and bought 100% of the business in a new market and then found it extremely difficult to find the right people to run it,” he tells PPW.

“We’ve seen a lot of examples where the 100% C-level-run property portal has been out-executed by local entrepreneurs who are more desperate, have more skin in the game and are all about building long-term value. We just find that that dynamic works really well for us. We’re seeing that succeed more and more.”

Sabine Brix

January 19, 2017

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Acerca de Lucas Vargas:

  • Empezó en Grupo ZAP como el VP de Sales y en 2016 cuando la empresa tenía 60 empleados. Fue nombrado COO de VivaReal tomando el mando de Brian Requarth el Co-Fundador. VivaReal lanzó en Colombia y se trasladó a Brasil. En 2017 se hizo CEO del Grupo ZAP.
  • Ha trabajado en Mexico en PWC y en el Banco Santander
  • Tiene un Master de Business Administration de Harvard
  • En noviembre este año después de la fusión de OLX Brasil y Grupo ZAP fue nombrado el CEO del OLX Business Unit. Lidera la empresa junto con Andries Oudshoorn y Marcos Leite
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Simon Baker is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Online Marketplaces and Property Portal Watch. Involved with property portals for 15 years, he’s a well-recognized expert and industry consultant.
As former CEO/MD of the REA Group for 8 years, Simon led the group to its current market-leading position. When he joined REA Group in 2001, it had $4m in revenues, $6m in losses and an $8m market cap.
By 2008, the company presided over $155m in revenues, $35m in EBITDA and enjoyed a peak market cap of $1b. Simon is currently Chairman of the Mitula Group and Real Estate Investar and a serial portal founder and, investor.