We’ve done Entrepreneur Journeys stories on a few Latin American entrepreneurs like Marcos Galperin (MercadoLibre), Ricardo Villadiego (Easy Solutions), Rodrigo Teijeiro (Sonico), and Martin Migoya (Globant). In this story, we bring you Brian Requarth, whose scrappy maneuvering has resulted in a $10M+ business with $30M+ in financing – a tough act in Latin America.
Sramana: Brian, let’s start with the very beginning of your story. Tell us where you were born, raised, in what kind of circumstances?
Brian Requarth: I was born in a small town in California called Sebastopol in Northern California. I was raised in a middle-upper class environment. My dad was an entrepreneur and had a small business.
Sramana: What kind of business did your dad have?
Brian Requarth: It was a small paving business of paving and striping parking lots. Both my parents were psychologists and then my dad started that business when he was very young and later sold it. My mom had a private practice as a therapist and then later on, got into more voluntary work. Today, she works at hospice where she helps kids who had a parent or a loved one pass away.
Sramana: The upbringing is definitely in a self-employed household?
Brian Requarth: For sure, yes! Both of my parents were in a way entrepreneurs. My mom had her own private practice.
Sramana: Where did you study?
Brian Requarth: I did my undergraduate degree in San Diego at San Diego State where I studied Spanish Language and Spanish Literature and minored in Portuguese.
Sramana: What did you do after college?
Brian Requarth: After graduating, I spent six months working in my father’s company to save some money. Then at the end of 2003, I went on a long trip with a friend driving down South. We spent six months in Mexico and Central America just camping and stopping at different places through Mexico. I planned on making my way all the way down South to the South of Argentina and Patagonia. But I stopped in Colombia to visit a girl I had dated. I then ended up getting married and staying there for seven years.
Sramana: What did you do in Colombia for seven years?
Brian Requarth: I did many thing,s but the first thing I did to make ends meet was teach English.
Sramana: You were bilingual in English?
Brian Requarth: Yes. Everyone always thought that I was going to become a Spanish teacher because I got a Spanish degree but I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I just didn’t really like the business courses. So I started this little company in Bogota where I started teaching English. I then got a few teachers to work for me because I was a pretty bad teacher. A year later, I got married.
I then met my co-founder who’s from Germany. We met at the immigration office in Bogota where we were both paying visa fines. I had overstayed my visa and he had entered the country without the proper stamps. At that time, an executive at my firm wanted to learn German. I saw Thomas’ German passport when we were in the waiting area and asked him if he wanted to teach German classes to make some money. He said “Sure, why not?”. He didn’t end up teaching any classes but we got talking about entrepreneurship technology. He had more of a technology background and I had more of a sales and marketing background, that’s when our partnership started.
Sramana: What year was it when you met your German friend?
Brian Requarth: I met Thomas in 2004 and then we started talking about technology. We both realized that we wanted to stay in Colombia. I couldn’t get a job. I applied for different jobs, none of which I liked or were fitting. I always knew I wanted to start a business. So we started working together. We started thinking about what we could do together. We started discussing ideas.
When we initially started, we did two things to survive. I still had the English classes but my savings were dwindling. Our first business was building websites for companies in Colombia. It was very difficult because it was 2004 and no one saw really much value in the Internet, and no one wanted to pay anything. It was really a very trying time.