Torre Access: El futuro de la educación y la búsqueda de empleo
Dear friends of Interesante, welcome to the interviews with founders and investors from Latin America. The brightest minds are here with us discussing ideas to change the region through technology. My name is Osvaldo Torres. I have a guest who does not require an introduction, but we are going to speak with Mr. Alexander Torrenegra, the CEO of Torre. Alexander, how are you? Very well, fortunately. Thanks for the invitation, Osvaldo. I'm really delighted, but let me talk a little bit about you, nothing more, and about your company.
Alexander is called a serial entrepreneur and we at Interesante believe that he is, because what he has founded has been successful. In the past he founded companies like Tribe, Bunny Studio, Voice123 and right now he is the CEO of Torre. Torre is a professional network that reinvents selection and job search services. You have Torre right now, Torre Access is coming. You have great events, you have a strong team that I want to talk about, form teams in Latin America. But tell me one thing, what does Latin America require to grow in this knowledge economy? The knowledge economy. What does Latin America require?
We know that we employ more developers, we know that we employ more people making technology, but what does the region occupy for this to happen? I think that first and foremost, we have to have a much better penetration of the English language. Just as jobs become global, English, for better or worse, is the lingua franca of what's happening in business today. If you even see the recent Latin American technology companies that have grown the most, I assure you that the conversation that the entrepreneur had with the investors was not in Spanish, it was in English. The deck is not in Spanish, the deck was in English. And much of the knowledge, the learning that these entrepreneurs receive is in the English language. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Most of today's state-of-the-art, state-of-the-art knowledge is in English and is only eventually translated into Spanish. That implies that we must transfer all our learning to the English language. There are many things that are only in Spanish and where we can communicate and learn much better in Spanish, but bilingualism is definitely something that is extremely important.
And one of the problems is that Latin America has one of the lowest per capita rates of bilingualism in the world, even though we are so close here to gringoland. Incredible. And if I agree with you on this part, of course, the language and penetration, and the cultural issue. Let's go to a topic that is very new for everyone, for you and for Torre. Access is this accelerator for people who want to get into the tech industry.
Do you expect to serve 10 thousand people? Is it so? And right now you start on the 14th, the 15th of October. Now you will give me more clarity. Do you think that these types of accelerators, Alexander, of personal knowledge are going to be maintained in the future? Are we living, writing the future with this type of initiatives like Access? Definitely. I believe that it is the future of education and look, what happens is that for a very long time... Well, a couple of hundred years the universities dominated what was not only knowledge, but also networking and to a certain extent access to jobs.
Because the university when you... When you went to a university you were not only learning, but the university was certifying you and finally making you part of a network that gave you access to that type of job. If you ask about a person who did a master 's degree, in most cases what they say is that they value the network they created much more than what they learned in the master's degree. And what happens? Internet changes things and one of the things that helps to visualize is oh, you don't have to learn exclusively in universities because they are very expensive.
And platforms like Platfina, what a disclaimer I am an investor. Platforms like Coursera, disclaimer, I have quite a few friends there, etc. They are platforms that have revolutionized learning and have allowed many more people to reach it. But there are a number of things that these platforms have failed to do and probably won't have to do. The fact that the universities combined it does not imply that these platforms have to do it and it is coaching and networking.
That is a huge gap today, because you can learn a lot from any subject. You can become the most expert person in developing some kind of language and if it is obscure, you are still going to be unique in that aspect, but as it turns out later you have access to work. How do you meet people? You are potentially going to end up getting hired. How do you know how to get a job to start with? Where to go? What doors knock? That's what we're trying to do with Access. I believe it is the future of education. We are not the only ones experimenting with that. And it's not just about revolutionizing the way people learn, but even business models.
Fred Wilson, an investor famous because he was one of the first investors in Twitter and Etsy, among others, said that sometimes there are more possibilities to innovate when new business models are invented than when innovating with technology. Bitcoin is one example of that, but many others. The companies that I have created have tried to bring that and here at Torre Access we are also trying to innovate with a business model. It is not the Harvard-type university model or any of these that charge you, even in Latin America, that charges you thousands of dollars in advance so that after a couple of years you may get a job, maybe not. Here, the main way in which we are going to be able to monetize, which is ultimately a service that has resources to make it self-sustaining, is going to be when we get you that job, when we help you get the first job or a better job than you have right now If you pay what they call an ISA, an Income Shared Agreement. You pay a little bit of the salary from that new job you happened to get.
How do you turn the cultural theme around so that this works and explodes? I think that this is one of the cultural issues that is potentially going to change the easiest, fortunately. I'll explain why. Although there are other cultural issues, which I think are deeper, which surprisingly speaking is one of the benefits that the pandemic has had. As terrible as it has been, it has had some benefits.
People have become more punctual. People have become more punctual in the pandemic, because if I was going to meet someone in person, well, if the person was half an hour late, an hour late, in Latin America they put up with it. Here in the United States they get boars, yes? But in Latin America one puts up with it. But when you're in a virtual meeting, if you don't show up in 10 minutes, I'm not going to stand in front of the screen and see when it shows up. So that has helped. But punctuality is one of those issues that is more difficult to change so that one can better interact with people from other countries when doing business, when working.
In reference to what you mention in particular, of the software development machines, it is a challenge at the moment. In fact... And there are many. In Torre today there are a lot of companies in the northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere, in English and in Spanish, that are looking for software developers for machines. And it makes sense because arbitration is great.
I can come here to the United States and sell a software developer for $100 an hour. Then I go to Latin America and hire him for 30, 40, 50. I'm earning a lot of money. That has bad issues and it has good issues.
The bad news is that, on the one hand, that arbitration is going to die at some point. Yes? It is arbitrage and arbitrages are always ready to die when there are many people who realize that there is an opportunity. Second, is that we return to mercenary people, not missionaries. What is the difference between the mercenary and the missionary? The mercenary is the person who is willing to fight a battle not based on the principles of the man he is fighting, but on how much money he is paid. Yes?
I don't care, give me the weapons I'll go and kill. Yes? Those are mercenaries. The missionary is the one who sometimes fights, not even because they are giving him money, but for the principles, for the objective, for the mission of the team for which he is fighting.
The maquilas are the most mercenary thing in software development. As long as you pay me, I don't care if I'm creating a video game app for you that makes children spend their parents' money, or if I'm creating an app for a non-profit, or if I'm creating a video game app for you. pornography. Have nothing against pornography. Excellent business, etc. But it's the one who pays the best.
And so one does not create a Google, so one does not create an Apple, so one does not create a Tesla. You need missionary founders, but missionary teams, teams that say "I'm going to get into this company because I know that this company's mission...". Beware, not all companies in Silicon Valley are missionaries. Facebook is one of the most mercenary there is, but the ones that have had the best impact in the world are companies full of a missionary team. Now, those are the bad things about this makeup model, but it has a couple of good things. One of them... Well, a good thing.
not two. One is that it motivates people to work more and more on it, yes? Why? Because for many people... I mean, today in Torre and in many other companies, people... There are people who are earning three, four times more, having four years of professional experience than their parents ever did. they came to win.
And the maquilas have made this popular in software development in Latin America. The other benefit is something that happened with South Korea. South Korea. The miracle of Korea.
Basically what happened is that they became maquiladoras of technology... Not of technology, but maquiladoras of low-complexity factories. It's more or less in the 60's, as they were coming out of the Korean war. In the 70's, they say "Ok, we're going to start maquiladora technology". In the 80's they say "OK, we're going to start copying technology from there and we're going to make it". And in the 90's they say "Let's create our own technology" and today they have Samsung, they have KIA, they have a lot of companies.
So, that maquila mentality, but that was in a way planned by the government, helped to create knowledge and the market so that eventually people said "I'm going to stop being the machine of the world. I'm going to start having my own companies, to create my own products. But it is a multigenerational issue. Today's generation of maquiladoras are not going to be the ones to do that. Potentially the new generation, the one that is just beginning to train or that is just in elementary school, is the one that will one day get there.
And with the issue of the pandemic, which you were just saying, the part of remote work has been reinforced. Torre was born with that approach, I think so, but you tell me. With the return to the new normal, will Torre focus more on talent development and acceleration? Or what's in the wizard's hat? Look, I'll tell you a little bit about why Torre so that it's easier to understand where we're going. The Internet has improved many things. We are having a conversation in high definition in real time.
20 years ago, at best, we could use audio. 25 years ago this was not possible, yes? In other words, it was time to take a phone and pay a lot of money. It is not only in communication, it is also in, for example, finding information. Before the Internet, learning a lot about a subject, just finding out what to read took several trips to the library, potentially buying expensive magazines, and that was information that was already somewhat outdated. Just a couple of seconds for any topic. Knowing which book you have to buy, which article you have to read, which video you have to watch; what online class do you have to take, what influencer do you have to follow, what teacher, what expert do you have to follow, etcetera, etcetera.
The same if you are going to buy a flight. Which agency, which travel agent or which travel agent. In minutes you know which is the best flight for you for the future. If you want to buy a strange product over there, the little piece of Lego that you lost, yes? Well, from the toilet you can get the piece in a matter of a couple of minutes. But if I ask you Osvaldo, tomorrow you are going to hire an engineer for your new startup, or you are going to hire a piano tutor for your nephew, or you are going to get a video production editor for what we are recording. Who is the best person in the world for that? First, you are not going to be able to answer that for me, because in the best of cases you are going to be able to answer from the few people with whom you were able to interact who found out about that opportunity, which one was the best.
And second, it will not take you minutes, or hours, or days. In the best of cases, it will take you weeks or months to be able to generate that answer. That is an impressive information asymmetry that means that most of the talent of the human race has been wasted, because it has never been exposed to the best job opportunities that it can have. That is what we want to solve with Torre.
We envision a future where it is only a couple of clicks, maximum minutes, ideally seconds, for a person to identify what their next job will be. Be it flexible work, remote work, office work, work whatever. And for anyone who's hiring or any company that's hiring, who might as well forget all about interviews, certifications, et cetera, et cetera. They are my requirements. Here are the people. Click to receive an offer
and in a couple of minutes the person tells you "ready" and we tell you when the person starts. It's that simple. It sounds like science fiction, but Google sounded like science fiction 25 years ago. In other words, this is only a matter of time. We started with remote work, because our goal is to eventually have all the jobs and have all the talent in the world. But we started with remote work because first it's something we're super passionate about. There are global liquidity dynamics in that sector and we started before the pandemic.
With the pandemic it accelerated and that has allowed us to grow quite quickly. However, we are already starting to test local talent and I am not talking about local software developers. Good luck getting a software developer nowadays who wants to go to an office. I am referring to the fact that we are already beginning to locate local vendors, local waiters and waitresses, etc.
And we're starting to see the impact of the automation we've created, which is still a long way off, is already helping a lot of people, in part because we're also obsessed with transparency. Those are the things that we are improving more and more, that the person can see when something is postulated. How do you compare to other candidates, what are all the factors you have in mind, what can you do to better compete with those candidates, etcetera, etcetera. And not the black box, the black hole that today is applying for a job where they never call you and you didn't find out because you weren't good enough. About Bootstrapping, I'll explain. So we were seeing that these two companies Voice123 and Bunny Studio, you know, with Bootstrapping in a very organic way, grew and then you already had the acquisitions or the exits. Whatever.
So, in a way, you are a master of Bootstrapping, of the organic theme. Tell us a bit. I'll tell you why. Because 99.9% of entrepreneurs who come to this podcast want money. I want money, I want a round, I want it now, but, but, but...
The issue is sometimes you don't even know what you want for. And that there are other ways to finance your company to the point that you use Venture Capital or any other. Tell me a little about this topic. Yes, look, I think that unfortunately TechCrunch, for better and for worse, has popularized the idea of raising capital. The movie Social Network also popularized that too much and not just any kind of capital, venture capital, Venture Capital they call it. And that has led many people to consider that being an entrepreneur is raising capital and I think that's a mistake.
Statistically speaking, most startups never raise capital. The successful ones. More than 99% do not raise risk capital, they raise capital, do you know who? From the best person who can't raise capital: from their clients. Yes? They give you money because they are buying you something.
And fortunately I have had the opportunity to create successful companies with money from our clients. Business models that from early on allowed us to monetize. Not all companies can grow like this. Torre, for example, requires such sophisticated technology that it doesn't matter if I put all my savings into it, I'm not going to be able to get it off the ground and I'm going to benefit a lot from attracting investors who are going to support us with their networks, etc.
But the vast majority of companies don't require that. And it is very important as entrepreneurs that we get rid of that idea in our heads that if I don't raise capital I am failing. If I do not raise capital, I am not undertaking. Actually, because of that, I don't know if you knew, but I co-founded an accelerator.
Let's go to another quick topic, dear Alexander. A few months ago you acquired Travail. Travail is pronounced? One company, one hourly job vacancy app. Are you going to embed this to the tower model? That is question 1.
And question 2, are you looking for more companies like this in Latin America or not necessarily? The answer is yes to both. Especially the methodology and knowledge, or the way these companies work. Work, for now in Mexico and the United States is quite popular, but in southern Mexico and in the rest of Latin America, hourly work, in fact, is almost illegal.
There is a great opportunity to allow companies to hire temporary talent, hire talent by the hour. And it's one of the things that we in the long term consider to be highly strategic, because the future of work is not full time. The future of work is hybrid. There are people who want to work full time. You know that 70%, 70% of all Torre users, which is more than a million, are interested in full-time work, but also, besides that full-time work, in also doing flexible work.
From driving cars to consultancies and boards of directors. And it is one of the areas in which Torre is working hard. Regardless of what kind of talent you're looking for and what kind of job you're looking for, we'll be able to help you make that match. No, and on the generational issue, Alexander, you should know.
The centennial from 20 to 30 is going to dedicate himself to something, from 30 to 40 to something else, from 40 to 50. He is not like my father who dedicated himself all his life to the same thing, or me who more or except around there I flirted with the same thing all my life. No. Things are extremely changeable. Let's go to the final stretch. Hey, I have a topic that is super important, the topic of technologies.
What are you doing? What are you developing? Is there artificial intelligence? What are we not seeing? Because we see the front part, the front. But tell me about your engineers and the technology that is there putting together, moving. Look, it's super interesting because a good analogy is that cars drive themselves. The self-driving cars. At first one imagines that relatively easy and if someone hasn't done it it's because of regulations, or something like that.
But when you start to investigate and visualize that there are many details, many rules, and what happens? It's not just knowing how fast you're going and how close other cars are, but what you have to do in unconventional conditions. What do you have to do when you suddenly come across an animal lying on the ground that has died, or when hail begins to fall and it turns out that the algorithm had never previously visualized that it was hail, etc. Questions that as human beings we do intuitively, but the car cannot do it and that has meant that it takes a long time. Tower, the technology is relatively the same, but when it comes to automatically matching talent with job opportunities. There are many factors. We've identified hundreds of factors to keep in mind: the person's chemistry, personality type, skills the person wants to develop, skills the person doesn't want to develop, skills they developed; different ways to develop skills, speed of career growth, geographic location, personality inventory, professional culture, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
And each of these factors we have to be able to measure, capture, clean the information and then compare it not only with the job, but with the team with which the person is going to work, because that is the holy grail of recruitment. It's being able to tie with a team where I tell you: "Look, you're not only going to make a good fit for this team, that team is going to be a good fit for you. That team is going to lead you to grow professionally, you will do very well, etc."
That is what we are working on. So there is mathematics, there are statistical models, there is artificial intelligence or what they call artificial intelligence. That is, recommendation models. Each of those factors is a node in a huge collection of nodes that we eventually use.
And each person has different projections or preferences, so we have to determine for each person what weighs more and how what weighs more correlates with other things. It is very complicated, but definitely the impact that we know that we are going to be able to have positively on many people is very high and it is what keeps us behind the keyboard every day making code. Dear Alejandro Torrenegra... Alexander Torrenegra, I really enjoyed the conversation. I tell you, there were many things left in the pipeline. Then we'll have a chance to greet each other again, do you think? So be it, please, Osvaldo.
Come on, then there it is for all of you, friends of Interesting. Remember the October 15 Torre Access theme. Please don't forget them. Alexander, thank you very much. Until next time. Thank you very, very much. Have a good day, afternoon and night. Thanks friends of Interesante, and until next time.