We feel we owe this to our English speaking friends, the people that have backed us, and their companies…
First of all, we’re a small Startup out of Cancun Mexico, far away from the lifestyle found in the larger cities. Cancun is not precisely what you’d call a hotbed for tech startups, yet that wasn’t going to stop us from launching. You see, when you think you really have a great idea, you don’t stop until you make it happen. And it happens in Latin America too, it’s just that sometimes it’s a little bit harder…
To explain what we are doing and why we’re doing it we have to give a bit of background. Here we go…
PymeFree is the result of an idea that had to be different in order to compete in a market filled with options.
The market for electronic invoicing tools in Mexico is like a maze that taxpayers must navigate in order to find a suitable option they can use to issue their invoices. To make matters worse, the taxpayer must deal with difficulties involving the paperwork process with the SAT (the fiscal authority in Mexico, similar to the IRS in the U.S.), as well as understanding the new terminology used and software tools required to comply.
We saw an opportunity here. We put ourselves in the shoes of the taxpayer… and PymeFree was born. (our Startup is named after PYME, short for “small and medium sized business” aka SME in Spanish, and our software is free, hence the name Pyme+Free)
But why electronic invoicing? Why did we get into this?
Electronic invoicing in Mexico involves a market of end-users split between individuals, small businesses and larger companies. Roughly 1.6 million of them are split between medium and large companies which require more complex billing systems, each of them processing dozens, hundreds or even thousands of bills per day. Most of the established players in the invoicing tools industry already “sell” invoice processing services to this segment, as their earnings are based on the volume of transactions. Whereas there is not much appeal for them in the low volume invoicing segment (individuals and small businesses), except this is a market of 12 million people and growing. This caught our eye early in 2013, when electronic invoicing was announced as a mandatory requirement for this segment (prior to that, electronic invoicing was already mandatory for the larger sized companies).
This seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to get to these users/consumers and launch the perfect advertising and communications platform (because they need to use these tools). If only we could find a way, we asked ourselves. After much debating on the possible outcomes, PymeFree was born.
We knew we needed to be different, but with a purpose. Our PymeFree desktop app now provides access to all of the free billing options that the SAT and over 70 authorized providers (PACs) operating in the country currently offer. In addition, we complement this with video-tutorials that help users in getting started with their electronic invoicing, and we provide them with access to tools and open source productivity applications that they can implement freely into their businesses.
In effect, PymeFree acts like a productivity suite for independent professionals, entrepreneurs and small/medium sized businesses (SMEs), empowering them with tools that are essential for their businesses, electronic invoicing being only one of them.
The challenge of launching a startup in Latin America – Overcoming adversity in order to realize our project.
Launching a Tech Startup in Mexico is not an easy feat, and ours was no exception. We seeked alliances with tech companies and government institutions, and we reached out to potential investors within our country but we found that the landscape was increasingly complex. The slowness of bureaucracy both at the corporate and government levels as well as the failure to quickly embrace change, and the adversity toward risk being the most common problems.
Time was passing by and we were running out of options. We desperately needed to find the right support in order to launch our software platform which involved having massive scalability in order to support thousands of users (if not more). It was then that we explored the possibility of seeking support abroad. We found it.
We got in touch with IBM SoftLayer in the U.S., who supported us right from the beginning.
They say good things come to those who wait… Turns out we didn’t wait because we wanted to, it’s just that there was no other way to go. We had a limited budget to start with, and after running out of options within our country we knew we had to look abroad. Now that we are within Catalyst (the acceleration program for Tech startups from SoftLayer), we’re ready for the big leagues. The process has been rewarding and we are glad we got to be a part of that. A special thanks to those who helped make this happen!