Learning Never Stops
With one bachelor’s and two postgraduate degrees in the legal practice prior to pursuing the MSc TIP, Felipe certainly lives by his own mantra: ‘Always be learning’. In his quest for new ideas, he eventually chose to leave his corporate law career in Colombia behind and went on to co-found two companies – Lexter.co and Broota.
Felipe shares more about how by aligning one’s life goals with passion and vision, anyone can overcome all challenges.
What led you to a life of entrepreneurship?
JFT: I was a regular lawyer doing litigation, but I had started to feel a vacuum in whatever I was doing. Even though my work was fun and challenging, it did not make me feel satisfied or fulfilled. I started reading up, seeking out trends and happenings, and that was when I got my hands on the book ‘What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20’ by Tina Seelig. I read it through and what piqued my curiosity were her words on entrepreneurship, the development of new ideas and how we can explore and seek opportunities. I started looking around for ideas, and it was then I realised that there is a great world out there, and completely different from what I was used to.
I’m not completely cut off from the legal industry though. Lexter.co, one of the companies I co-founded, provides tools for entrepreneurs to develop and execute daily legal documents. Most startups in Colombia do not seek advice from law firms because of the high cost. Over 40% of them fail due to not having good legal advice. I hope that with my interest in both legal matters and innovation, I will be able to simplify the understanding and democratise access to legal services.
What is the most important aspect of an enterprising mindset to you?
JFT: To always be learning. I’ve learnt that whenever you think you know something, you’re wrong. There is always the need to adapt, and to keep learning how to improve your products and your pitch.
Things move so fast – I have to constantly be aware of and learn what else is developing in each country, city, neighbourhood, even each incubator and competitor! There is so much to learn, and everything will turn out completely different from what you expect it to be.
I’m now also a professor in one of the top business universities in Colombia. When I revisited and reviewed these teaching materials, I realised that there are now so many new methodologies and frameworks in place which had not been around during my undergraduate days. Things change fast and we have to keep up with the pace.
You’re now in two startups playing pivotal roles – how have you exhibited this approach to learning?
JFT: The main way I exhibit learning is to go out – and I feel that this is key. By heading out and not confining yourself to your desk, you always have the opportunity to talk to new people. I make it a point to meet at least one new person every day; these are people who could eventually open the doors for me to keep thriving.
By meeting new people, you also learn how to work with different personalities and entities. Here in Colombia, crowdfunding is still a big regulatory problem. Though there have been some advances in the US, Europe and Asian regions, Latin America is still a little behind in terms of laws and regulations. Each day, I have to constantly educate people that Broota, Latin America’s first equity crowdfunding platform and a company I’m involved with, is compliant with government requirements.
There isn’t one singular pitch, and there’s a constant need to customise your messaging and product depending on your audience. This process is challenging yet fun, and something that I wouldn’t be able to do well unless I step out and speak to new people every day.
Was this also what led you to the MSc TIP?
JFT: I had initially wanted to head to the US or Europe to do a Master’s programme. But I thought to myself that if I wanted to learn more, I had to leave my comfort zone – and the furthest I could possibly turn to as a destination was Asia. This was also where I found the MSc TIP.
Asia is a completely new experience for me. Besides what we see and hear from the news, we Latin Americans do not get a lot of information or cultural exchange from Asia. Even with globalisation, there are still not a lot of Latins in Asia, or the other way round. Singapore is also an interesting case for me; there have been so many amazing developments over the past 50 years. I thought to myself that there MUST be something good and something right happening there, and that is something I have to learn. I took a leap of faith, and here I am today, a proud graduate of MSc TIP.
How has further education in technopreneurship given you an edge over fellow peers, and in your industry?
JFT: I believe that entrepreneurship is something that can be learnt, though not every aspect can be taught – you can’t teach passion, for example. But for someone with the vision and the passion, he can learn the necessary skills for management, marketing, sales and finance management. Education can come in and guide him along with the right directions. It boils down to the alignment between the things you are passionate about, and the vision in your life.
One of my partners in Lexter.co first started out thinking she didn’t have the strength to get used to life in a startup. She was relatively more traditional, and wanted to settle down in a larger law firm. But now, she’s really passionate and motivated, and fully vested into the company – something even she herself did not anticipate.
You just need to seek the things you are passionate about, align it with your life goals and visions – and the learning will then be better put in place.
What is an important lesson you’ve learnt on your entrepreneurial journey so far?
JFT: Whenever you come across a difficulty, never be afraid to challenge it. When I encounter something, the first thought that comes to me is how I can overcome it.
There will always be people who doubt you – people with negative critics. They may put you down, but you never give up on yourself. Always see problem as just a new challenge waiting to be overcome.
Broota is the first equity crowdfunding platform in Latin America that allows anyone to be a startup angel investor and implement online investment diversification. Additionally, it provides a free social networking website that allows registered startups and users to connect with a valuable network of suppliers, clients, mentors or potential investors, and to learn more about the business trends in Central and South America.
With the Colombian economy booming over the last decade and the startup scene seeing constant growth, demand for legal services continues to increase steadily. This is where Lexter comes in – as the first legal tech startup in Colombia, Lexter seeks to efficiently provide affordable legal documents to individuals, startups and small businesses in Colombia.