Making great early stage venture investments is first and foremost about finding great people. So, when people whom I respect tell me there is someone I should meet, I always take the meeting. Such was the case when Ariel Poler, an entrepreneur, angel investor, and good friend, introduced me to Oskar Hjertonsson in 2013. Ariel originally hails from Venezuela and consequently is sought out by many high-quality LATAM entrepreneurs. Oskar co-founded a company called Needish in Santiago, Chile with Daniel Undurraga and Juan Pablo Cuevas. In Q1, 2010 Needish launched ClanDescuento - a Groupon-like service. Needish was acquired by Groupon less than 6 months later and was generating more than $10m per month in revenue by 2011.
When Oskar and I first met he had moved from Santiago to right across the street from me in San Francisco and was launching a new group-photo service with Dani Undurraga called Seahorse. I was skeptical of this direction given the competitive nature of the category and how much it diverged from the area in which they were previously successful. It wasn’t that I thought great entrepreneurs can’t be successful in different markets – they can. It was more my belief that these particular entrepreneurs had a unique set of knowledge and experience that could be applied very successfully to something closer to their original success.
Seahorse ran it’s course and although the team could have pursued a sale at the end of 2014, such a sale would have come at the expense of indentured servitude for the team, which, given their ambitions, they weren’t willing to do. At the same time Seahorse was winding down, Oskar and Dani’s third partner from Needish, Juan Pablo Cuevas, was leaving Groupon after having successfully run Groupon Latin America for several years. The Needish band was back together and this time with an idea more in line with their prior success. In January 2015 Cornershop was born.
Having spent nearly two years living in San Francisco, Oskar and his wife Alessandra had become regular customers of many of the venture-backed on-demand startups. The one they liked and patronized the most was Instacart. While the demand for such services has proven to be strong, much has been written about some of the challenges with their business models, specifically bad unit economics driven by labor costs. Cornershop provides a service similar to Instacart that benefits from the same demand and loyalty, while operating in a market where labor costs are ¼ of what they are in the US.
In very rare cases where I know the founders well, I will make a personal angel investment. Given my ~2 years of getting to know Oskar and understanding how he and his partners worked, Cornershop represented one of those rare cases. My personal investment in 2015 gave me the opportunity to work even more closely with Oskar and the other Cornershop founders – to see how they thought, how they solved problems, and how they executed. By the time Cornershop had reached the point of raising a Series A, I’d had almost a year of being able to evaluate both the opportunity and this team executing on that opportunity. It is clear to me why they were so successful last time and I’m very happy to be a part of this journey with them as they look to do it again -- this time even bigger.