Written by Rhys Albrecht/Accelerate Okanagan
July 22, 2013
Last we checked in with Ivan Gonzalez and Alejandro Valcarcel, they were planning a trip to Colombia, laying the groundwork to launch MiTaxi, an application intended to mitigate the risks of riding in a taxi in Latin America. Alejandro has recently returned to Canada after visiting the cities of Cali, Bogota, Cartagena and Medellin, and sat down us to discuss how the trip went.
Q – MiTaxi aims to reduce taxi-related crimes in Latin America. Why did you decide to tackle this problem?
A – Countries in Latin America have many political, social and health-related problems to be solved. Many large trans-national companies will bring in their solutions, but these solutions will often benefit the companies more than the people. We see an opportunity to improve public transport that, despite being a highly local industry, can project a bad image internationally. This challenge, along with our own personal experiences, led to the decision that we had to tackle this problem somehow.
A – Like any new entrepreneur, understanding of what steps to take as a company and where to direct our time and efforts without prior experience was a challenge. Funding is also a common challenge for startups, but especially for us; as college students, we did not have a lot of income for ourselves, let alone our startup. The biggest challenge we continue to face is when pitching our idea to investors and mentors, most do not have experience in Latin American markets and may not quite understand the problem and viable solutions.
Q – What successes did you experience while in Colombia?
A – We had a lot of great insights towards our product. We received a lot of positive attention from local citizens and government agencies that see this as a great opportunity to boost city image, security and address a long standing problem. We also proved a lot of our hypothesis towards our market needs and how our application will serve them. Not only have we redefined and consolidated our valued proposition, we were also able to identify new potential customers.
Q – Did you experience any taxi crimes while down there that reinforced the need for your app?
A – Our research into taxi crime has made us pretty savvy when traveling, but while in Colombia we met with a recent victim. Hearing their personal story was heartbreaking, and definitely reinforced the need for MiTaxi. Before we left Colombia, a DEA agent was assassinated in Bogota while in a taxi, which took the country by surprise and made taxi security a national topic once again.
A – No question, the Venture Acceleration Program has been the best thing that has happened to MiTaxi. Without it, MiTaxi would have gone no further than simply a good idea. As mentioned before, as young entrepreneurs we did not have a clear idea of what steps we had to take for our startup, but entering this program and receiving top mentorship has allowed us to turn our idea into a company with concrete steps towards a bright future.
Q – What’s next for MiTaxi?
A – The visit to our target market has given MiTaxi has renewed spirits and more gas in the tank than ever. With more great people helping out and more opportunities appearing in the horizon, it will only be time until we see complete cities with the MiTaxi verification system up and working. We will be consolidating our business in Canada, opening offices in Colombia and looking forward to moving into Mexico.
To learn more about MiTaxi, visit their website here: www.mitaxicolombia.co
As a member of the Venture Acceleration Program, MiTaxi has access to coaching, mentorship, services and networking designed specifically to help startup and early stage technology companies accelerate their growth and maximize their opportunity. Learn more about VAP here.