Nov. 19, 2007 SDF Margarita Quihuis

SDForum copy.jpgQuihuis Margarita copy.jpg

On Monday, November 19, 2007 at SAP in Palo Alto, SDForum’s Startup SIG hosted Margarita Quihuis, Founder of Indigo Financiera.

Quihuis is a Yaqui or Hiakim tribal name pronounced “kiwi”. She can always tell when a telemarketer calls because they can’t pronounce her name.

Earning a Petroleum Engineering degree from Stanford, Quihuis moved into finance and founded a network for women in venture capital called 1st Wednesdays. She also worked with Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and Springboard 2000. Her latest venture, Indigo Financiera continues her work as a social entrepreneur and mentor capitalist. She wants to increase access to development capital remittances from unbanked transnational workers both in the United States and in developing countries.

How did she get into private equity? A lot of life is just pure dumb luck, but if you are in Silicon Valley, the likelihood of luck increases. In Silicon Valley, if you throw a rock in any direction you were likely to hit a valedictorian of some small town. Everyone is brilliant or different in some way. The point is to make the connections between them and build something new.

When she interviewed with her first private equity firm, she described the other candidates as looking like comedian John Hodge, who plays the PC Guy on the Apple Macintosh commercials. She stood out and got the job. It was more money than she had ever seen in her life. She automated a report that took three months to put together and got it down to just one day, dramatically speeding up the investing process.

She discovered that people with lots of money are ordinary people. Their skills can be learned by millions of people. Venture capitalists still fail most of the time, but when you win you become an attractor. More successful deals win the more business deals and you get more times at bat.

To do the deal you have to meet with lots of people. She drinks lots of coffee and is shaking by the end of the day. It is a lot like speed dating. If you meet enough people one of them will have great idea. Sometimes the same idea will occur to several people in a form of zeitgeist. The trick is knowing which of these people can work together to build a profitable company.

Building a network of long-term relationships is key. VCs like to invest in people they like. If you are jerk, you may not get funding, because nobody wants to spend several years drinking coffee with you. I think this sorting process is why I have met so many smart funny entrepreneurs and investors in Silicon Valley. No matter how professional you are it comes down to personal chemistry to resolve a crisis in a board meeting. Once you have invested in a company, you are essentially married to it until you get your money out.

Ideally you will get operational VCs who have experience running a business versus spreadsheet VCs who have MBA’s who just run the numbers. They may not know that building a business takes longer than you think. Find VCs you are comfortable with by practicing due diligence and learn as much about people before closing the deal. Build your brand by having positive experiences with the people you meet.

Quihuis looks for people who are attractors. She talked about Native American mythology stories of the Raven, a trickster god that makes things happen. Attractors can make things happen out of thin air. Channel your efforts on getting your company moving rather than getting money. In many ways it is easier to get money from customers than investors. VCs are more likely to invest in companies that are already making money. Google was built on social capital drawn from their Stanford connections more than venture capital.

A strong believer in karma, she believes the more you give into a system, the more likely you are to receive when you really need something. I call this Karma Capitalism.

Whenever Quihuis is stuck with a problem, she thinks there are six billion people on the planet and statistically there is bound to be someone who can help. There is enormous growth potential in the developing world. That is why she continues to reach out to the people at the bottom of the pyramid (BOP). Technology now gives us the chance to reach out and help each other and make some money along the way.

Copyright 2007 DJ Cline All rights reserved.