Victor Hugo Flores
Partner & Head
Fintual México
Startup Contributor

Building a Startup, More than Wearing a T-shirt

By Victor Hugo Flores | Tue, 08/18/2020 - 14:22

I decided to stop wearing a dark suit, a white shirt, and a brand tie. Today, I sometimes wear a T-shirt. I quit as CEO in a financial institution, to join a Fintech company. And I have to say that I’m eager and excited to be cracking the system.

At Fintual, we are building an asset manager for LATAM.  Any investor should be able to get access to low-cost funds and professional portfolios, no matter how much money they have. We are democratizing investments. Currently, we are operating in Chile and working on our landing in Mexico.

Our investor base has grown 5 times in the last 12-month period, reaching 16,500 investors in Chile. We have one clear milestone: double-digit growth per month.

When we share our experience as a YC company,  questions are focused on the scalability of our model, technology, user experience, so on.  However, we would rather talk about our real trigger:  Our team and culture. How we are building strong engagement with our team as this team has been a key driver of our business growth.

Let me share with you 5 strategies we applied to connect with our team, which makes them love Fintual: 


1. X Men and Superheroes WANTED! 

Some time ago, I read the phrase that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with: So I am proud to be at Fintual.  Our team is a mix of talent in different specialties.  (Some kind of  X-men or  Justice League) 
Our hiring process starts with a 100% technical test, at the second step we focus on the cultural fit and his or her sagacity. In the end, the requester performs a presentation to the whole company. Must be a total consensus to be admitted. 
We like to pick up people with natural sagacity, we do not necessarily care about where they studied. The criteria are to select clever people rather than doctorates at Yale or Harvard. We always pick up people who we admire, who are constantly raising the standard of the team. We are looking for special people, funny and perceptive. In this aim, when someone starts our selection interview the first question could be: Tell us something special about yourself.


2. Something called love ownership  

We believe in our team. They are trustable and reliable, and they know how to achieve their goals. This is why we picked them. We like them to take their own time to lunch, extra activities,  holidays, etc.  I mean, they should have a balanced life that helps to control their stress and avoid getting burnout.   

A successful practice has been to persuade them to unplug from their computers when we recognize that someone is working more hours than necessary without any true emergency, so we invite them to disconnect and rest. Also, we have established a “no-meeting day”, that is, one day a week is free of meetings to allow people to proceed with their assignments and fully concentrate on their projects.  

Remote stations have been a common standard for us for a long time.  Before COVID-times,  we used a large number of apps, APIs, and other software that allow us not only to increase our productivity but also to work anywhere. For example, one of our colleagues was on a 6-month-trip around Europe and he was able to carry on with his work with just a laptop and WiFi. His engagement with the company goes to the moon.


3. The company's values ​​reflect who we are. 

Diversity in one of our greatest values. We live it every day in society and we like that our company reflects it. Currently, 48% of employees are women and even more importantly, within core areas and not just in staff. Many female developers. 
We are also hiring persons with disabilities for several positions. Regarding the LGBTQIA+ community, we take these matters very seriously instead of just raising a rainbow flag for fashion.  Currently, some employees are working on suggestions to incorporate concrete actions on the values we want to imprint on the daily life of the company.  Also, we have encouraged the full team to get deep talks about what we can do to avoid harassment, sexist microaggressions, biased attitudes, and the like. 

So, we have created an instance where everyone can freely discuss these issues. We named it “Citizens”, a place where everyone participates to create policies, define values, etc. All these principles are being created because we have a strong conviction that every employee deserves a healthy labor environment and an enterprise of which anyone is proud to be part of. Diversity makes us better. 


4. Decentralized company. 

People have decision-making capacity, with total control over their decision areas. Not everything revolves around partners. Communication is the key to this empowerment. There is full transparency of all matters throughout the organization. On many occasions, we have applied surveys or open discussions to make decisions that concern us all. These processes are transparent and public in such a way that we all understand the decision. Once a week we perform a Town Hall meeting named “Parliament”, where we discuss what has been done and where the company is going. We have embraced Holacracy as a form of organization.


5. Evolving by COVID-19 

For us, adapting to the home office was not a technological challenge, but a human one. How to keep 100% of your team out of the office and work isolated for months? How to avoid frustration? People need a social and mental activity to avoid fatigue and despair of being locked up. To do this, we organize the "cafecitos" (coffee virtual talks): half an hour where we all connect to talk topics not related to the office. On Thursday nights we do virtual parties, with music, games, etc. 

We are a company that has not stopped growing during COVID-19, so none of us have personally met many people we have hired in these months. Therefore, in addition to designing detailed manuals on what to do on the first days and make a friendly induction, we have implemented the “donuts” program, which are one-on-one virtual meetings to link up and connect on a more personal level.  Donuts are on us and are sent to their homes. 

In the same fashion, we are currently implementing a plan for people to rest more and stay away from burnout.  Being isolated by the COVID-19 quarantine, employees do not ask for time off even if they need it, perhaps a thought comes to them:  “why spend my vacation days if there is nowhere to go? For this reason, we are going to give people Monday and Friday to rest and recover mentally and physically.

I have no doubt that being an entrepreneur involves raising capital, developing technology,  growing clients, etc.,  but if you really want to crack it,  the company culture is the key. Trust me, building a Startup is more than wearing a T-Shirt.

Photo by:   Victor Hugo Flores