Helping immigrants send essentials directly to international loved ones.
Company: Coco Mercado
Role: Co-founder, CFO
What drew you to this particular problem?
As immigrants, our founding team has a firsthand understanding of how important remittances are and how awful the traditional system of both sending and receiving them is. 80% of remittances are put towards essential things like food and medicine but the transactional fees end up taking a significant chunk out of the money that gets to family internationally.
My brother and I have experience in crypto so that was the basis of our original solution to this massive problem… but after our first YC interview, actually, we pivoted to a marketplace system that would send goods directly to recipients. We officially launched Coco in January of 2019.
What is it like to be co-founders with your brother, Kevin?
It’s amazing haha, I love it. We moved to NYC together in 2013 and have been working together ever since. We complement each other really well. He’s a visionary – always thinking of our long term direction. Meanwhile, I’m much more grounded, down-to-earth, rooted in the day-to-day operations of the company.
We actually have a few other family members working for the company – one of our other brothers is a software engineer. Our sister is actually one of the original co-founders who went through YC with us. She’s now building a platform that connects parents to musicians to tutor their children in various instruments, Nabi Music.
How do you feel you've grown personally in building this company?
Jeez, I’ve grown so much! Our team is over 50 employees right now so we’re in a much different phase than when we first started. It’s been a shift in the level of responsibility I feel – my decisions carry much more weight now.
I think I’ve also become more invested in creating a real impact with Coco over time. When we started, we wanted to help people but also we wanted to become a massive tech company. After tons of messages and emails from users calling our platform life-changing, telling us they’re crying from happiness that they’re able to better support their families – I see Coco’s purpose much differently. I’ve shifted to seeing us as much more mission-driven. We’re currently forming a partnership with an organization supporting refugees directly, including those from Venezuela.
What’s been the most exciting milestone you’ve hit as a team?
Reaching profitability within 2 years was extremely exciting. It was reassurance that we’re doing something well – that we’re on the right track.
What was it like to get into YC & what were the biggest takeaways?
We originally applied with our crypto idea, actually. At the end of the 10 minutes interview, we offhandedly mentioned an MVP of what would become Coco. We weren’t accepted that first time around but, in their email, they mentioned that they really liked our marketplace idea. In that sense, YC has been helping us truly from the ground up – they changed the course of the company completely.
YC itself, though, was a game changer. We were the last in-person cohort so we got to actually go to San Francisco. It was really inspiring to meet so many smart people – the founders of Airbnb, of Y Combinator.
What has been your biggest misstep so far and what did you learn from that moment?
We hired a product manager a while ago who was very smart but he was working on his own project when we hired him. In that experience, we realized that we had to hire people who were all in on the startup.
What’s a song or album that’s gotten you through 2020?
I like all types of music; I wouldn’t say I have a favorite artist or song. It definitely depends on my mood. But I’ll say Bad Bunny’s new album.