January 7, 2014
Meet Franco Breciano, the founder and CEO of Zupcat, a mobile games startup based in Argentina. Zupcat was incubated out of Chile’s Chile-Startup program before raising a series A round from Kaszek Ventures.
Franco, please introduce yourself…
I am originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. At 22 I finished my studies at University of Buenos Aires and became a Software Engineer. I worked for Indra Systems for 1 year and then decided to work abroad. I lived in Miami, Madrid and Santiago de Chile.
When I was 26 I returned to Buenos Aires and founded my first company, Mindset Studio, which was basically a software factory. In 2 years we grew from 2 employees to 30. It was fun and we did pretty well, but we wanted to go for a bigger opportunity.
What’s the story behind creating Zupcat?
Two years after creating our first company, a friend of ours, Mariano Suarez Battan, did pretty well with his company, Three Melons (sold to Playdom in 2010, and 6 months later Playdom was sold to Disney).
Inspired by them, we decided to create a social gaming company as well, and this is how ZupCat was born.
In September 2010 we closed a seed round with 2 local angel investors, and in September 2011 we closed a Series A round with Kaszek Ventures, the leading VC firm of Latin America. We count with more than 10 million downloads to date.
What were your experiences raising capital with Kaszek Ventures like?
I had to think about every aspect of the company, show how big the market was and that we had the right experience to become a relevant player.
I learnt that raising capital is a selling process. Every startup must have at least one founder with selling skills.
We pitched several VCs in Latin America and in the US. We realized that it’s essential to find those who have fit with the sector and/or market to maximize chances of being funded. Like any other process, practice makes the master.
As advice I can share with other entrepreneurs who are considering raising financing, do your homework: identify those angels or VCs that will be interested in your company because
a) one of the partners knows the sector well
b) they are interested in your target market
c) there is synergy between your company and others in their portfolio
What are the primary challenges of running a mobile development company in Argentina?
I would say the main challenges for a development company in Argentina are:
– We are far away from North America and Europe, where the main conferences and big companies are. It’s complicated to travel and stay in touch with the industry.
– There are very good government programs to support startups. Chile on the other side, has a great program called StartUp Chile, which supports entrepreneurs.
– There are very few professionals in the gaming industry with real experience launching and operating social or mobile games.
– Looking for talent in the software industry is complicated, big companies raise salaries and it’s hard for startups to compete.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the local work force (developers) in Argentina?
– The attitude: professionals in Argentina are used to accomplish a lot with scarce resources. We are taught this since we are small.
– Salaries in Argentina are 1/3rd of salaries in the US and the quality of professionals in the art or software fields is pretty much the same.
– The time zone is very friendly with the US.
– Employees don’t usually understand the value of stock options. There are very few success stories in the country and therefore they don’t see the value.
What’s the best way to find and hire exceptionally smart developers in Argentina?
We have had good results by hiring developers from:
a) Universities (one of the co-founders of the company is a teacher)
b) Referrals of our current employees (they know who the good guys are)
What advice can you share with entrepreneurs wanting to start or expand their business into Argentina?
– Define a clear vision of the company. Then, focus, focus, focus.
– Understand which are hypothesis you need to validate. The earlier, the better.
– Define the core values of your company. I really recommend the book “Delivering Happiness” from Tony Hsieh.
Beside mobile applications, what business opportunities do you see emerging in Argentina right now?
eCommerce and smartphone adoption are booming in the Latin American region, specially in Brazil. I see good opportunities for new companies focusing in this sectors.
What’s next for Zupcat?
We are publishing a mobile game with Square Enix Latin America in February 2014, and a 3D soccer game with Fox Sports for the Brazil World Cup in April 2014.
We’ll publish 2 more mobile games between Q3 and Q4 to continue our growth as one of the leading mobile game developer of Latin America.