Business Director at Trinity Capital International

"We would rather bet on an A team with a B idea, rather than a B team with an A idea."

- Juan Camilo Gonzalez

Juan outlines what he looks for in a start-up

Talk Takeaways

Juan Camilo Gonzalez takes us through the process they take as a Family Office and what sets them apart from VCs and angel investors. He also shares his perception on a successful investment, succession plan, and the importance of team culture as key driver to a startup’s success.

About

Juan is an accomplished Economist graduated from the Javeriana University in Colombia, and with studies in Venture Capital from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Juan leads the Trinity Capital International (TCI) operation in Canada where he has expanded the investment portfolio internationally. He is a leading private actor promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in Niagara and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), working hand in hand with start-up incubators, such as Innovate Niagara and Spark Niagara. Additionally, he is an active member of Equation Angels and Niagara Angel Network. His abilities represent the Trinity Capital corporate governance, by discovering business opportunities based on our core values of transparency, trust, and profitability.

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery:
All right! So welcome, everybody! Today, we are at Ask An Angel and we are with Juan. Thank you very much for joining us today. We’re right into it already. We record, we just go right at it, so welcome! Thank you very much for taking the time to join us, and be part of our podcast and you know, at OPN, and during all the things that we like to do to help early stage companies, we like to find great people that also have the same passion, and help to move early stage companies through on to their series A and what so, wherever they’re going. We love that and Juan, you’re a big player in that market, and we’re glad that we got to touch base. So maybe to start off, you can give us a little bit of a background of yourself, where you’ve come from, maybe functionally business all that great stuff, where you’ve been, where you’re going, and what the future looks like, and one thing about you that nobody will know.

Juan:
Absolutely. Well, first of all, thank you very much, Jeffrey for your invitation to participate. Since our very first conversation, I really fell in love with what you do at OPN and of course, the podcast is a huge element of what you do because I know your passion is also to teach your knowledge and share everything you’ve learned over the years. So as you said my name is Juan Gonzalez. I am born and raised in Colombia. I am from the Southwestern part of Colombia, where it is 35 degrees every day of the year. Every day of the year is 6 a.m the sun comes up and 6 pm the sun goes down but for some reason in 2008, I decided to immigrate to Canada. Thanks for an opportunity to work here and you know, a lot of things happened. I come from a big family, and my father was in the banking industry his whole life. One day he decided that he wanted to fund the family office to start investing. Then one day, he came to Canada. Maybe something, almost nobody knows is that he pretty much locked me in a room in at Blue Mountain in Northern Ontario, Collingwood and with a jar of sangria. We had the conversation and we had the dream of what we wanted to do here in Canada. We started in 2017. We founded trinity Capital International here in Canada but the family group and the family office has been active in Colombia since 2005.

Jeffery:
It’s amazing!

Juan:
Yes.

Jeffery:
Something about you we won’t know?

Juan:
Well, I have a very very open book kind of life. I went to school for economics. I met my wife in university and something, maybe only her and I know is that we used to hate each other when we were back in university, and then these crazy guys just shows up with an offer to not only leave Colombia, get married, everything, when we were very very young. Today, we’re still together, we have a family. We’ve raised a family here in Canada. We’re both now proud Canadians. We’re also part of the Canadian community. We like to participate in community events and give back and do all kinds of things.

Jeffery:
Oh, that’s amazing!

Juan:
Yeah.

Jeffery:
Well, congratulations on all of that because that all sounds amazing!

Juan:
Thank you very much, Jeff!

Jeffery:
So one of the things that always kind of interests me is that when you went through a process to immigrate into Canada but that you decided that you wanted to create a family office and start investing in early stage companies. What kind of- what was the catalyst to all of that? You said your father kind of played a big part but what drove you to saying, “You know what, I really like the space. I want to dive into it more,” is there a background that you really drove from? What was the driver for us to get in behind what you’re doing?

Juan:
Yes, so when I immigrated to Canada, I worked for a Dutch company, a technology company for a specific industry, and I fell in love with the tech world. The problem that I had was I was in-charge of all the accounts in Latin America. So my business knowledge of Canada per se was very low. When we decided to start the family office here in Canada, I knew about the potential of the startup world in Canada, and we wanted to diversify. In Colombia, we’re very involved in very traditional businesses. A real estate, metallurgical cost, mining, manufacturing, packaging, logistics. So very traditional sectors, and we wanted to diversify our portfolio by going into the tech startup world. Also, it was a dream of mine to help my family business to become now a multinational family business. So a lot of things came together and that’s when we decided that we wanted to go first of all, that I will drop everything, and leave my job, and jump into the family business. That was a dream to work with my father of course, but also to go into a space that was sort of unknown for us, and we’ve been relatively successful, and I will say very successful but, and we’ve had a lot of fun in this space.

Jeffery:
Oh, that’s awesome! Can you- can we kind of share a bit more of but what that success looks for you? Because I think there’s a lot of today and age, in the world of tech, and big tech, and investment, it’s kind of a lot of people are saying, “Hey, I want to invest in tech.” And there’s this real big interest in it, and I don’t think people really understand the risk side of it, and what it takes to be being able to to invest in early stage companies but also what the leg work is, and what you need to do to get in front of deal flow. So there’s a lot of components that get built into that. Maybe you can share a little bit about how you started and where you’ve kind of moved your way through to today.

Juan:
Absolutely! So I think nowadays, with this whole viral situation and a global pandemic, success can be measured in you know, if you’re the companies in your portfolio have navigated this crisis, and they’re on the other side, and for that we have to be very very thankful because thankfully over all the companies where we’re involved, they are in a healthy place at the moment. It takes a lot of work to find good deals. You know, everybody at some point in their life has a really good idea. That doesn’t mean that they’re going to have a really good business. So you know, when we first started the very first step we took was to try to join people that were like-minded, that were investing in the tech world, and we went to the angel networks pretty quickly because we thought “Okay, you know they get the deals and we’re gonna be exposed to what a presentation looks, like what a pitch deck looks like, sort of the structure,” at the same time, I went to Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania, and I took the program on venture capital, so that simultaneous step also helped me a lot to understand the space at a global stage and also the opportunities. So that exposure, and a lot of networking allowed us to have a healthy flow of deals. Not only through the angel networks, no but through funds, through you know private equity firms, consultants, accountants, you name it. I think there is a lot and you mentioned it, there is a lot of leg work that has to be done to find good deals to invest in, and then be very disciplined. We decided to build a mandate very quickly in the process. We built our investment criteria, our thesis, and we’ve tried as much as possible to stay within the limits of that mandate. Of course, there’s a level of flexibility but you know, that investor discipline that you know, you like a vehicle or you like a stage of a business, you try to stick to it. I think that that helps you a lot too to be successful.

Jeffery:
And I can totally, 100 Percent see and hear where you’re coming from and I love it. I like what you’ve done is that you’ve taken a really good programmatic approach to it. It’s that you just didn’t come in and say, “Hey, everybody. I’m an investor. Here’s my Money,” you took a learning curve to it. So you went through, and learned, and took a course on it, a program if you will, to learn and that program is very highly sought after because it does everything from the financial side, the breakdown, how to invest, everything. I’ve read up on it many times of looking at just doing it, just so I could meet other people in the space that were interested. I have a colleague that went through for the same thing because there’s a couple of programs. There’s one in San Francisco, there’s a couple of ones that are really well sought after I guess, and I have considered it but timing, I have not been able to get there but I still love what you’ve done there. And then you joined all these different angel groups, so you start to figure out what is the deal filter getting, and what can I jump into and does that bring enough value to me? And I think where the similarities are between both of our roles, if you will, is that we took, I took 20 years of working with startups, didn’t even know I was doing it, and then compound those into, “Hey, I can make this into a business. I see a huge opportunity here. It may not be a money maker but man I could get to invest in a lot of great companies, especially if I understand the space.” And you coming in from a different approach was, “Hey, I’m going to come in there. I know there’s an opportunity here. Can we use family money but learn what the industry’s looking for, and then figure out how we can plug that hole,” and I think that that’s a brilliant approach and I love that you educated yourself. Got yourself around the people that were doing it, and then from there you start to build your own direction, and where do we really want to go, what have we learned, what do we see that failed, what we see that’s going to work better, but it’s a long-term plan. So how have you guys structured that? You said you started this back in 2017, before that you were already looking at it and making investments in other areas, maybe not in Canada, but how is that long-term plan shifted for you guys? How have you looked at it now? Is this you know, family office. “We’re gonna be here for a long time, so we’ve gotta be strategic, refine our investments,” or how have you kind of looked at it from that perspective?

Juan:
I think the future you know, 2020 was supposed to be the year when we were going to double our portfolio and that was the original plan. So back in 2019, when we looked at 2020, we said, “You know, we are this number of investments. We want to double the portfolio or double the amount of cash deployed,” and that of course didn’t happen. We between March and June, we were sort of hiding under the sand like pretty much everybody else. So for 2021, we’ve been working on a plan to be even more aggressive. So we want to get involved in bigger transactions, and we’ve even thought about going the route of acquiring a business or multiple businesses in a sector that we have some expertise, or that we feel that we can add value. In Columbia, you know, the investing has been very traditional always. We have no idea about mining, if you ask me five years ago, we thought that coal was for barbecues. And today, my family owns a large operation, a mining operation in Columbia, and I think they are authorities when it comes to metallurgical coal in the country. We think that there is a set of principles that you can apply to pretty much any business and make it work. I am the son of a banker, and there is nothing more corporate, and more structured than a bank. So we operate like pretty much any business is sort of a bank in terms of governance, reporting, transparency, responsibility, avoiding silo companies, applying new technologies, et cetera, et cetera. So we want to bring those, that way of thinking, and our mindset into the Canadian ecosystem. For us, 2021 should be a very important year. We don’t know exactly which route we’re gonna take because it really depends on the opportunities that we’re going to be presented with. We are already building that pipeline to see what we’re gonna work on, so it’s either we’re gonna double our portfolio of tech startups companies or we’re gonna go the route of a potential acquisition, or maybe a little bit of both, who knows. But definitely our 2021 looks like a challenging but fun year.

Jeffery:
I like it! So in that process that you guys are building out your plans, and directions, and where you want to go, and going either m&a, or going to keep investing in the tech startup side of things, is there a mandate around the things that you’re looking for? Are you- do you dive into and say, “You know what, if we’re going to acquire a company..,” you mentioned it before it’s got to fit in your background. If you’re going to invest in a company, is there a certain structure? You said you have a box that you kind of stay in, so is that Fintech? Is it- what’s the areas that you really try to hone in on and again does it follow back under your back experience?

Juan:
Coincidentally, we’ve been investing more and more in the Fintech space. Not for any particular reason, more than just that the opportunities that came to us in those spaces were attractive enough. That Fintech and also health technology. Now, we’re not close to any space. There are a number of spaces where we think we cannot add as much value. If you think about for example the restaurant industry, or food service, maybe hospitality, those are not spaces where we have a lot of expertise, but everything else we’re extremely open. For an m&a play, what we do know is we don’t want to turn around. We don’t want to have a business that is in financial distress or going down, and we have to save the business. We would rather use in our favor a situation that is happening currently not only in Ontario but in Canada in general, and there’s two things you know an aging population of founders of the past, the baby boomers, and many of them don’t have a succession plan, and that lack of succession plan allows for you know, a new generation with a new mindset to take over these businesses that you know, maybe they have a lot of new avenues of growth, but they’re not being used or explored because you know the founders are tired. So we want to to explore that route of you know, former entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs that funded many years ago, and they don’t have a succession plan, and we would love to take over, and then you know through multiple acquisitions we can even grow inorganically by just merging and growing companies with similarities in terms of target market, etc.

Jeffery:
That’s great and m&a works in different styles but I love the idea of going after businesses that are mature, have great cash flow, you can look at them having a million two million ebitda, and utilizing that as your investment strategy. You’re going to go in, you’re going to clean it up a little bit, make some changes, find some unrealized revenue, cut some cost, and then help them grow merge some other companies in, and now you’ve got a bigger larger entity, and hopefully there’s some tech there or you merge tech into the business to help them sort things out as well.

Juan:
Absolutely. I think the Canadian landscape allows for many opportunities to be presented to us in both fronts, both the startup, and both the mature companies. We’re trying to work strategically with a number of people to try to navigate that search because in the end, it’s going to be a key decision when we say, “Okay, you bet on this horse. You’re committed and you have to make it work. Maybe sometimes the horse is not as good as you thought, and you have to still work, and rely, and believe in that horse.” So we’re trying to be very strategic in terms of what we look at and at the same time, be very optimistic and show these entrepreneurs that we are not trying to take over, take their business from them but actually to help them grow, and continue their legacy. In the end, it’s their baby, right? And I think there’s a lot of sentimental value to the founders. When they give it away, they think that they’re just giving a child and that’s not the case. We, the way we operate as a family, we try to maintain you know everything: the structure, the name, and the values, and build on top of what is already being built.

Jeffery:
It’s interesting because when you talk about the ‘believe in the horse,’ I like that concept because at the end of the day, you’re betting on the race or betting on the horse that’s going to come in and finish. And one thing that just popped in my head was that when you’re believing in that horse, and you’re hoping that that one’s gonna win, there’s still unique ways to find out what that opportunity is that that horse is going to be able to win, and I think in horse racing there was you know it was sought after by the size, the breed, the age, the weight, all of these things. And there was one factor that a trainer found and you see, this a lot now in other athletes in sports, is that they found that in certain horses they had a different nose capacity. Nose- inside of it it actually would funnel the oxygen in faster and more effective, that which allow the horse to actually breathe quicker which would be able to take more air into its lungs, so this was a way for it to expand and rate win races. So it would always be seconds faster than the rest of the horses. So in this ‘believing in the horse mentality,’ it’s always great to be able to believe in the horse, but there’s always still ways that there’s a unique value opportunity and position that you have to always look for in order to believe in that horse, you got to find out what’s the mechanism that makes it work and can it still win at its age, or its speed, or whatever it might be. So I think that goes all the way through to anything you work with investment wise and whatnot, is there something unique about that that’s going to make them be better than the rest?

Juan:
Absolutely.

Jeffery:
No one wants to spend and spin their wheels, right?

Juan:
Yes, absolutely. We look at the financials as the starting point. When you look at healthy financials with good amount of money in the bank, you can fix pretty much any problem, right? If the margins are good, if the financial statements are healthy, I think you can do pretty much anything. If you find it a completely financially distressed business, that’s a different ballgame, and that’s why we want to focus on the healthy ones that we can help grow, and not just have to rescue, and spend tons of time, and energy, and resources of course, to turn them around.

Jeffery:
Now, that’s great! And how much have you found that in this shift as the family office has been growing and making investments, how much do you find that the financial end that you guys have come from that experience really benefits your mandate for investments?

Juan:
Absolutely. I think it’s key, we do a lot of the due diligence ourselves and we pay very close attention, as I mentioned, to the numbers, but also we pay a lot of attention to the people. Yeah, we’re- I always say you know, we’re a family office but we’re a family first, and then we’re a family office, so we try to connect with the people. The financial background really helps us. We’re very strict when it comes to that but just as we are strict with the financials restrict with the people. At Wharton, I learned this phrase in one of the presentations, and I kept it, and I use it all the time. We were rather bet on a B team with an A- I- sorry, with A team with a B idea, rather than down on an A- oh my goodness, unbelievable! We were rather bet, I said better in Spanish of course, we would rather bet on an A team with a B idea, rather than a B team with an A idea. We will take A team that maybe you know, they don’t have the best of ideas but they have the best energy, the best approach, they’re honest, open, transparent, and they’re willing to pivot you know, because a good team is going to be able to pivot. So we would rather bet on that A team with a B idea, rather than finding a B team with the best of ideas because that B team might not perform and that great idea, that a idea can go to waste.

Jeffery:
I love it! Yeah, that’s fantastic.

Juan:
Sometimes it’s difficult to explain some things in English but this one got me.

Jeffery:
Oh man that’s good! I- I’m gonna quote that, that’s brilliant because at the end of the day, you’re right. It comes down to the team. In a team once they’re cohesive, and understand things they’re gonna fix it, ..

Juan:
Absolutely.

Jeffery:
.. and they’re gonna you know, if they’ve got a B product, they’re gonna make an A product because they’re an A team. If you have an A product and a B team, they might not solve problems as quick, they may not understand things, they might not take information in, and a team is highly impactful in the business, and you know, what it- I think a lot of people talk about it, but really at the end of the day, that is where a lot of these Silicon Valley investments and everybody else the way they invest is they’re investing in the people. And they want, that’s why the valuations are so high, that’s why there’s so much dollars flowing in because they’re stealing all the right people to make that business work, and they’re using brain power as the driver, and if you don’t have, that’s where you start to suffer

Juan:
Absolutely, and a good founder has to be aware that the product the way they see it today, they’re going to have two or three major changes to the product or the service that they’re offering, and a B team is not going to be able to detect that or if they do, they don’t do it in time. I think also a founder that is humble enough to change you know, their dream product to make it fit into the market, that’s also a key element. So yeah, the team is just as important as the financials.

Jeffery:
And in that same context, how much do you see culture? How much does that really help? And is if you got an A culture, is that what’s going to drive the- sorry, an A team is going to drive the a culture? Or how do you see that?

Juan:
I think everything is very connected. I think a good CEO shouldn’t be running the business all the time. I think a good CEO is also creating the culture of the business and that’s very important to have everybody pointing in the same direction. There’s gonna be disagreements. Sometimes everybody has to wear a different hat on a daily basis you know but to stay focused and to continue to build a team for success. Many CEOs you know or founders, they try to keep information for themselves because you know what if they- if I tell them everything and they leave you know. Yeah, what if you don’t tell them everything and they stay. That’s- it’s so- if they’re humble enough, and driven enough, and they know that their business is going to work, they’re going to create a team to succeed.

Jeffery:
And it kind of gets- it becomes a good thing for you to early on to- and love to get your thoughts on this, to share information readily with your team, and how much information do you think you should share? Because do they take ownership, do they drive it better, so what is that guard, if you will, what things are you putting up that say, “You know what, this is only for investors,” or is it open up everything? And at the old people network, we try to get that openness as much as we can. I think I looked at it and took all of the things that I was not so efficient at and said, “Look, I got to do the reverse of me. Let’s build something that gets everybody else to do the opposite of how I would look at something, and say that if I’m not going to share a lot of information,” but I got to get other people to do it because I know how impactful that is and you know, we push that and I think that’s that openness really does help build cohesiveness, and are you feeling than finding the same thing?

Juan:
Absolutely. I think when you’re creating a team and especially when you’re leading a team, there has to be that element of trust. I can’t work with someone that I don’t trust, especially in an early stage company where everything is new, we have to wear many hats on a daily basis, there’s got to be that element of trust, and if you don’t trust your employees that in the end, they’re not even your employees. They’re your partners, they’re there right there, sweating with you, rolling their sleeves up, and getting their hands dirty. You have to trust them, and I think sharing, I’m not saying you know make it super public, but if you’re gonna hire someone to be your CFO, and you’re gonna- you’re not gonna share information with them, what’s the purpose? Just be the CFO yourself and share the information with yourself. If you’re not open, I totally connect with what you say, there’s- there has to be that openness to make a business successful.

Jeffery:
I agree, I like that. And because Juan you’re like the first family office that we’ve had the opportunity to bring on our podcast today. We’ve done lots of a couple of VCs but mostly it’s just specifically angel investors, can you share a little bit more about how the world sees a family office versus a VC versus an angel? How do you guys feel you fit into this mix? So you kind of like, “Oh, you’re a family office? You go over here. We’ll talk to you maybe because you guys are too difficult,” or is it family offices? You guys are amazing how do we work together? Like how does that work and how do you feel you’re being added into the market?

Juan:
I think that the term, and it is the first time I actually think about this. This is a really good question. I think the term family office, per se, I think generates a certain level of respect because you know, it has the word ‘family’ in it, and I think the family component you know, it puts you in a good place. Maybe not at the VC place because when you’re venture capital, but I think it puts you in a good spot. The conversation with the family offices, generally or my perception, is that they think you’re ready to deploy millions of dollars. That has been my impression and that’s not necessarily what we do. In the end, we as family office, we can co-invest, we can bring co-investors, but generally we invest our own resources, and we want to be really smart about what we do with the amounts that we invest, and where we allocate that capital. But yeah my initial perception is you know, “Oh, you’re a family office? Okay, come in,” they put you in a good spot, and then they ask you how many millions of dollars you are going to write a check for that. That has it’s also, yeah, it’s my first answer to a question that I’ve never answered before. Now, it depends on us where we put ourselves in the conversation, and also to show what we do, what we like to do, what we don’t like to do, and where we fit. I think it also plays a big part and we’re good communicators. We very quickly create the right expectations about what we do, and where we want to to go with each conversation, so yeah. It’s- we have to be responsible to make ourselves be placed in the right spot very quickly. It’s very easy to generate false expectations and then you know, people are disappointed, and we don’t want to create that.

Jeffery:
No, I like that and you’re right. There is this a really nice value ad that sits for, you know, venture capitalists, and then the family offices, and I think the family offices really do fit almost, I would say almost equal with a VC. They have the capital but they have the resources, and that family touch just makes it a bit different of an experience. But at the end of the day, I think there’s very equal and opportunity with the VC or family office, and I think that there’s probably like maybe when it comes to family offices, people are thinking of like Thompson Reuters, and Nike, and all these big family offices that are you know, billions of dollars and whatnot. But family offices are really just- they are expanding into so many different areas. Whereas, the VP has a focus just on this bucket, family options have opportunities in banks, they have opportunities in other countries, so the family ops is actually more expandable, and I think it just brings more opportunities to an opera- to that startup or to that business sector that’s looking for funding. I think that’s a real big difference versus if you see that may not carry that global exposure, or that opportunity to work with other family offices on making different types of investments.

Juan:
Yeah, I think also a family office is perceived as a more friendly than a VC, and a little bit less friendly than an angel. So somewhere in between.

Jeffery:
Yeah.

Juan:
But again, we are family people, we’re we- and we’re people’s persons, so we tend to connect with the with the founders fairly quickly if their idea makes sense and if they’re you know, if they show what they are all about.

Jeffery:
No, that’s great! And what’s one of the I guess outside of just putting in the capital, how do you guys find yourselves working with these companies? Are you providing, you mentioned obviously, resourcing, is the resource income in different factors? Are you guys offering people on the team, people in the office, and saying, “Hey, you know what these guys can help you shift around some marketing. You guys got to talk to these guys,” are you helping them find ways to grow to make sure that these companies survive? How do you guys operate in and out of the companies you’re working with?

Juan:
It really depends on the size of the investment. You know for the small investments on the angel side, we have no role. We’re quiet investors and we get the quarterly reports but there have been cases where we have large investments, and we have appointed CFO, or we have appointed the chairman of the company, the chair of the board. So it really depends on the size of the investment. We’ve done everything from no involvement at all to almost full control, and that has given us the ability to learn all the like how to navigate these various scenarios. So yeah, we’re very open but it generally depends on the check size. We always like to offer our expertise. We are very well connected internationally for example, and we offer that network if necessary, we offer our expertise in terms of, you know, the commercial approach, or there are some things that we believe that we can add value with, and we always put that on the table. Now our founder is going to take it, not necessarily but it’s always going to be there available. Even if it’s a 50, 000 dollar investment or a million dollar investment, I think we always like to communicate and tell them, “Listen, whenever you’re in Columbia, give us a call or whenever you need anything where we think we can help. Feel free to give me a call.”

Jeffery:
Oh, that’s brilliant. What- well, my- I’m a big fan of columbia. I have traveled through half of it, and I need to go back, and travel through the other half when this pandemic is over and allows me to be more flexible on going through there. But big fan, I enjoyed it a lot. I have lots of friends that are- that have- in Canada that are from Columbia as well, and what I liked about kind of what you shared is that, you have an opportunity to help them in that environment. So in- there’s other groups in Canada that we’re bringing in startups from other countries into Canada, then there’s other ones that are pushing them into China, so are you guys- do you bring- also being a family office, do you bring that element of opening up? If say it’s a product that you guys can help set up sales channels, manufacturing channels, like is there opportunities for your investments or even outside your company to help with those types of things?

Juan:
So we- just this year, we started collaborating with one of the incubators it’s called Spark Niagara. They are an accelerator program based out of Niagara Falls, and they give access to founders from different countries to access the startup visa program. So we started on this sort of diplomatic mission, we were in a conference with the trade office of Columbia, so this is a national agency. They have an office in Toronto and we started just this year, a couple months ago promoting Canada as a destination. We’re not even promoting Ontario or Niagara Falls or Toronto. We’re promoting Canada. For the first year in 2017, for the first year ever Canada, was the biggest foreign investor in Colombia, and through energy, oil, and gas projects, and a lot of Cannabis projects happening in Columbia. The diplomatic and commercial relations between Columbia and Canada, I think they haven’t been in a better place than they are today. So we sort of took that little flag and started waving it, and you wouldn’t believe the amount of interest that we got from Columbian startups to move to Canada. Canada has a very healthy platform to help innovation and entrepreneurship to be built here regardless of where you’re from, and we plan to continue to share that message with our Columbian ecosystem, so we can have more and more opportunities. In the end, we’re all about the deal flow just like you are, so the more opportunities we get to see, the more chances we get to see the real good ones that are going to give us a good return in the future. So short answer is, yes. We’re strongly participating and promoting those startups to use the programs to come and start being international in Canada, and the second thing just to finalize that thought, Canada is the perfect lab when you want to jump into the american market. It’s a mature market with a lot of appetite for new technologies and for new companies, but small enough in population that will allow you to pivot, and make the changes on the product or service very quickly without failing in the market. So it’s the perfect if you can call it trampoline to continue to build and finalize your product, and then jump into the big pool which is the US, Europe, and everywhere in the world.

Jeffery:
Oh, that’s a great analogy and you’re right. We’re kind of like the cooking pot I guess, to help you come in, figure it all out, and then start land, and expand, if you will.

Juan:
Absolutely. Absolutely, with the added value that Canada you know, has so many friendly immigration programs, and visas, and all kinds of things that help people immigrate relatively easy.

Jeffery:
Well, that’s great, and the only thing I remember is that when I was in Columbia, I think was two years ago or three years ago, they had to go into Columbia, the Canadians had to pay, I don’t know a hundred bucks or something like that for the visas.

Juan:
Not anymore, not anymore.

Jeffery:
Yay!

Juan:
So our former ambassador to Columbia, Federico Ojos, very nice guy. I got to meet him personally. He got rid of that fee and it was like a reciprocal fee, whatever Canadians charge to Columbians for a visa, you have to pay right at the airport before you can enter the country that has been eliminated completely. So it’s an incentive that you can continue to travel to Columbia, yes.

Jeffery:
Ah good! That’s good, yeah it makes a big difference, right? I think at the time, I was coming from Panama and I was out by sandblast. I was gonna take a boat in, backpacking, and I ended up taking a small army-based plane into Columbia because they didn’t have any other way for me to get across, ..

Juan:
Wow!

Jeffery:
..and so, I did that. It was actually pretty cool and then yeah, I remember sitting at the border, and they’re like, “This is a hundred dollars.” I’m like, “What?! What for?” I’m like, “Oh, we love Columbians! Canadians are friendly! What the hell?” and they were like, “Well, you know it’s not us. It’s this thing,” and we had a great chat. It was quite funny and then we- I made my way through but that’s awesome. I’m glad they got rid of that because any-

Juan:
The next time you go to Columbia, we can go together, and we can explore different parts that you haven’t seen. It’s a beautiful country!

Jeffery:
Oh, I love it!

Juan:
A lot of challenges but have- we have improved a lot as a country, and I think you know, it’s not what they show in Netflix, and whatever. It’s a different reality, what you live when you go there especially because of the people. People in Columbia are really amazing. That’s why we get along so well with Canadians because Canadians are just as nice. So we have a lot of things in common.

Jeffery:
Oh for sure! I was a big fan! Climbing through the mountains, I was in doing some deep sea or not deep sea but cave diving, cave climbing. There’s so much ecosystems there that are amazing natural ecosystems. Big fan like huge thumbs up everywhere, Columbia rocks! I can’t wait to do their other part and we will have to meet up, and do that because I think that would be pretty cool, so..

Juan:
Absolutely.

Jeffery:
Lots to see there and a lot of amazing people, too. Very helpful, even when I- my Spanish is half in, half out. I’m terrible at speaking but I understand a lot of it. People would go the extra length just to help me out, just so that I got where I needed to be.

Juan:
So in fact they’ll help you even more than you need. They will do everything in their power to make you feel welcome because we Columbians, we struggled with the stigma for many many years, and when people really take the time and you know, the courage to come to our country, and they find out that it’s not what they thought it was for us. We even had to show them even more you know, convince them that they not only made a good decision by coming but they should stay and plan vacations in the future. So yeah Columbian people are absolutely amazing for that and yeah we, a country with lots of challenges but also lots of beautiful things to see.

Jeffery:
Agreed! Every country has its challenges, right? That’s what makes us all great. If everything was easy, we’d be bored, I guess.

Juan:
Absolutely.

Jeffery:
Well, that’s been great one. I think you took us through a great little piece of what a family office is really about, and how you guys operate, and I really enjoyed that flow, and I got some great quotes from you, and I think that there’s a lot of great components that you guys are bringing into the ecosystem. I love that you’re bringing in and you’re pushing Columbia to come in here as well. I think there’s some great synergies. We actually had at our last skip the line event, we did have a company that Canadian but came in on visa program, and they were awesome, so love it! I think there’s a lot of big opportunities there. So now I think just based on timing, I think you and I could talk for hours or maybe days on all of this which is very exciting. We’re gonna jump into the rapid fire questions and then we got a couple of other kind of questions that we’ll ask but we’ll jump right into that, if that’s cool?

Juan:
Excellent.

Jeffery:
All right, what’s your favorite part of investing?

Juan:
Finding new technologies, new trends, cool stuff that I didn’t even know existed.

Jeffery:
I like that. I can get behind that for sure. How many companies do you invest in per year?

Juan:
We try to do eight to ten. So once a month.

Jeffery:
Perfect! You mentioned some verticals, but is there anything outside of like the two that you mentioned Healthtech and Fintech? Anything else that you’d be willing to explore?

Juan:
Everything data. I think consumer insights, everything regarding the marketplace, whatever it is, online shopping, everything in those spaces we like.

Jeffery:
Okay, any due diligence requirements that you look for?

Juan:
Have the financials ready, don’t talk about the global market, talk about the market you’re going to achieve. Sometimes the founders say you know, we are attacking a market of 17, 000 trillion dollars and that’s not the case, be realistic with the expectations, especially about the total addressable market.

Jeffery:
Okay, what’s your timeline for investment like from the first meeting to the last meeting?

Juan:
We tend to move relatively quicker because we do a lot of the work ourselves. I’m gonna say less than a month.

Jeffery:
Okay, outside of DD you mentioned, you’re all about the team. Is there anything else that you really focus in on when you’re looking at companies to make an investment?

Juan:
The idea has to be interesting for us. You know we have to find that spark. There’s got to be something that we find interesting about the idea. Is this a product that I will use myself or that I will have my kids use? Or something like that has to be interesting at a personal level.

Jeffery:
Okay, do you guys like to lead rounds?

Juan:
We have led rounds in the past. It’s not the easiest job. It’s like hurting bunnies or whatever, but we’ve done it. We prefer to take the back seat but with an active role.

Jeffery:
Okay, yeah I agree with you man. It’s hurting cats and bunnies, everybody. It takes forever.

Juan:
Too much.

Jeffery:
Do you prefer, is there any preferred terms you have, do you like prep shares?

Juan:
I think the equity. Every investor likes the equity play but I’ve come to terms with the idea that an equity play does not guarantee that the business is going to be successful. We’ve done saves, we’ve done convertible notes, and we’ve done equity, and you know in the end, if we get an exit, we get an exit through any of those vehicles. What we like is a safe with a cap, for example. We don’t like those open safes with a very open terms, ..

Jeffery:
Yep.

Juan:
.. but for the rest we’ve done pretty much everything.

Jeffery:
I second that motion, agreed. Do you take board seats?

Juan:
Yes, depending on the size of the check. Yes.

Jeffery:
Okay and follow-up investments?

Juan:
Yes, we’ve done it, but at the same time we’ve decided just recently, that you know, doing those follow-up investments will stop us from investing in new ideas and new opportunities, and they will stop us from diversifying. So if we’re going to be successful, we’re already on that train, and we’re going to fail well, we already lost. We- let’s not lose anymore.

Jeffery:
Okay. I like that you mentioned, what you do outside of finances, so you do other things to kind of help those companies, can you highlight a few things other than just the funds?

Juan:
I think networking, and whatever added value that we can bring based on our experience in banking, relations with banks. Yeah, there’s a number of things that we can support with.

Jeffery:
Perfect! Okay, so we have a coup- two more questions. The big question is, in the time that you guys have been working with early stage companies, investing, I’m always looking for a great, fun, crazy, open-ended story of something that you went through with a startup, and it could be anything from you invested in this company. The CEO she was awesome but you know, they hit some turbulent waters. They started to fall apart and they were able to save it and now, they’re running a series A. is there any kind of heartfelt story that you can share that’s just kind of gets everybody really into what’s going on in this world of early stage investing?

Juan:
I’ll tell you a short one and a longer one but it will be quick. A company prior to COVID, they didn’t have money to make payroll and COVID saved them, and that was a really cool story because you know co-investors, we were all like, “Okay, this is gonna die eventually,” and COVID actually saved this company, and the founder was really smart on how to pivot and use COVID to their advantage. So that’s one and the second one was, our very, our biggest investment that we’ve done so far in the VC side. Almost fell apart like 17 times and thanks to a really good middleman, broker that you know introduced us to the company, introduced them to us, the deal actually happened but it was because I said, “You know what, this conversation is done,” and the middleman will not say that to the counterpart. So we broke up many many times but we never knew we broke up, and that was really cool to find out later on when we actually you know fired the check and everything was done and done. The middleman opened up and said, “You wouldn’t believe how many times I had to stop them from getting out of the table or getting up from the table, or you guys to get up from the table. You guys were ready to break up so many times, and it’s been a very successful relation.” So we’re happy to find people that are willing to do all that work in between for a small fee. It’s a lot of tension, a lot of strong conversations. So yeah it was a cool story and we expect that that company to give us a very good return in the future.

Jeffery:
Wow! That’s amazing! See, those are the stories that I like. They’re excited beyond your seat.

Juan:
One day, I’ll tell you with more detail but what I just told you is exactly how it was. It was three or four weeks of this person just with a burning cell phone in their ear. Listening to one person scream, and then call the other person, and listen to the same one, and just remain calm and said, “No, they’re waiting for your response. No they’re doing this, not everything is okay,” so we’re moving forward with the deal.

Jeffery:
Oh good, that’s awesome! Very exciting, is there any notable companies that you want to share? Brought up now, I guess, that you want to share, talk about that you really like or you excited about?

Juan:
We’re really excited about this Australian company. We ended up investing all the way in Australia. They’re called Elanation. And Elanation has created an app that allows kids, especially now with COVID to remain active through professional athletes teaching them skills in various sports. I think it’s over 30 Sports, while they’re wearing a wearable that is also sold by this company. So they’ve been very successful. They are in fact currently fundraising again. We participated in an early round with them. A very cool company with already a lot of interest from the Silicon Valley. So if you have the time, go check out their Elanation website

Jeffery:
I will.

Juan:
Very cool company with a really good mission, great founders. It’s two Australian women. Very very cool products, so it’s great. I would love to highlight that company, definitely.

Jeffery:
Okay, done! Some reason I remember seeing something or hearing something but there’s been a cool bunch of companies I’ve seen come out of Australia, so that’s pretty cool.

Juan:
Again, another excellent lab to test out a product, small in population but good mature market with appetite for technologies.

Jeffery:
I love it! Okay, so the next one, we’re kind of shifting into this more personal side of things, so that people can connect more and you shared a little bit about something that people wouldn’t know about yourself, and lots of stuff like you said open-ended. So the first question is, what is your favorite sports team?

Juan:
Soccer is my sport and Real Madrid is my team for life. And my son is even crazier about soccer and even crazier about Real Madrid.

Jeffery:
Really? Hmm..

Juan:
Yes.

Jeffery:
Well, they are a pretty good team.

Juan:
Please don’t tell me that you’re a Barcelona fan because then we have to delete the whole recording.

[Laughter]

Jeffery:
iIt is kind of funny but I am more of a Barcelona fan than I am a Real Madrid fan but it’s not because I don’t like Real Madrid. I like a good match, and I like it to be not even but even enough where you’ve got some two great teams battling it out and at the point of watching it, I don’t care who wins it anymore after watching it. I just want to see an amazing soccer match. My favorite team, if we will, on the English premiere is I’m an Arsenal fan. So and I’ve actually been, when I travel and have been all over the world, I will always try and find a soccer match, so I’ve watched the division like I don’t even know D, but I’ve watched soccer matches in Israel to Chile to everywhere, anywhere I go I try to watch a match. So I tried to watch one, I guess, the most fascinating one was I tried to watch a Match, and it only now makes complete context for this story is that when I was in Egypt. I went to watch a match and now the names are going to totally elude me. I can remember their jerseys and everything but the names just because they’re not as popular, if you will, but I did watch matches all the way through up to get to there but in Egypt, in Cairo, their league professional league is it’s had some problems in the past. So the top two teams were playing and I kept asking people, “How do I see this game? I want to go watch the match,” et cetera. But people are telling me, ”You’re not allowed to see this match. You can’t go,” and I was like, “Well, why can’t I? It’s a soccer match,” like “No,” and I had seen before through other showings where I watched it and there was never fans in the stands, and I never understood. I just thought maybe people didn’t care or they didn’t want to be there or the tickets were too expensive. So I pursued this and pursued it finally, I decided just to go. I show up at the game and there’s armed security all the way around the entire perimeter of the sports match. So I go up and I talked to somebody, and I said, “Hey, can I come to this game?” and they pull out this list, “What’s your name? You’re not on here.” Another guy comes up and I’m like, “No, no, I am. I’m right there.” They’re like, “Oh okay,” and the other guy’s like, “All right man, we can’t let you in. You’re not allowed to have anybody in the game,” so I said, “Well, why not? I’m a foreigner” “And why do you want to watch a game?” I’m like, “Well, because it’s soccer, man. It’s awesome! I travel all the way here. I want to see them play.” So eventually, we decide, we can’t get me in. then I try and find another person on a horse. They try to get me in but they still can’t. So I ended up walking back, watching the game on TV, it was televised, and what I found out after was that because of what happened six years ago, they blocked anybody from going to the matches because someone tried to bomb one of the games or there was an explosion, and they decided they just wouldn’t let anybody else in. So since then, they’ve never let anybody in which is exactly how COVID is now played out across the world in all matches.

Juan:
Yeah, so that was a year ago?

Jeffery:
Yeah, that was the last time I tried to get into a soccer match which happened to be in January, and just as COVID was hitting, and now ever since then these guys have been doing the right thing. No one’s else is going to see a game and it’s been struck the same way.

Juan:
Yeah, absolutely. You should go and check out a game in Columbia. In Columbia and in South America, soccer is life.

Jeffery:
Yeah.

Juan:
And yeah, so it’s fun to watch. I tend to like the European soccer a little bit more than the South American one. It’s more competitive and a little bit tougher. I like the English premier league a lot, and we were able to go, and have my son you know, make his dream come true to go to Santiago Bernabeu back in May of last year and watch a game and watch them win, and it was very cool.

Jeffery:
Oh, that’s amazing!

Juan:
Yes.

Jeffery:
Big fan, big fan. I didn’t- I couldn’t get into a game when I was in Columbia. They didn’t have any playing when I was- during the cities I was in. What I missed by a day which really sucked, so but either way big fan. So big fan, kudos to that. All right, your favorite movie and what character would represent you?

Juan:
Oh my goodness, my favorite movie… I love “Catch Me If You Can,” yeah Leonardo Dicaprio but I’m not the thief, so I might be the cop chasing and being resilient until he caught the guy. But yeah I remember that movie, and I love it.

Jeffery:
Oh, that’s awesome! That’s a good choice. I like that, I gotta write that down. Maybe this is a whole every time I ask this question, maybe I’m just trying to find what people like so that I can go watch those movies. I’m just looking for a way of indexing.

Juan:
It’s a good movie. It’s old but I like it. It’s always still with me.

Jeffery:
That’s good! No, I’ve seen it but a long time ago and Dicaprio is pretty good. So well, I thank you very much for that one. Fantastic! The conversation went in a few directions but I think at the end, family offices are really cool. I’m glad that I got to dive in and especially with you to learn a little bit more about it, and share that with our audience, and I think the way we like to end off all of our talks, is that we want to give you the last word. So if you can share any feedback, any thoughts around which to startups or to investors, any recommendations, any information, and then how people can get a hold of you.

Juan:
Absolutely. I want to thank you again for the invitation, Jeff and I think the last word is an important one. We, as the private sector, we have a big responsibility based on the situation that we’re going through and the future looks very dark for a lot of people, and I think our responsibility is not only to make money for ourselves, for our investors, and you know to go and spend it, but we also have a social responsibility to help others. And we, as the private sector, should you know, get together, and be responsible, and help out these businesses that are going to be struggling in the future. Canada has that particularly. You know, you come together as a country and you like to help. So yeah I want to close this talk with that message and if you want to learn more about trinity capital, you can go on our website, it’s www.trinitytci.ca.

Jeffery:
I love it! Well, once again, as I’ve said many times, you’re awesome! Thank you very much. I took lots of notes. I’m all cool, but big fan. Thank you very much for sharing everything, and we’ll keep you posted when we’re ready to launch, and thank you again.

Juan:
Thank you, Jeff!

Jeffery:
Okay, that was awesome! Our first family office, I can’t go wrong. I thought there was a lot of great insights, lots of great information that was in there. I love the idea that he’s doing some m&a work and maybe going into success planning and figuring out if that’s going to work. A lot of stuff from Columbia coming into Canada. Man, these guys are workhorses. Great family office. You know, they’re big fans of the early stage companies, and I think that that really showed, and how to start and how to dive in a lot about the teamwork you know, having a great team, an A team with a B product. That’s all they can ask for because they know that team is going to turn that product into an A product, so I think that was kind of the biggest thing that I took out of that, and of course, it was great to to learn more about Juan and the family office. So thanks for listening and lots more great people to come!

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