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Alegra CEO Jorge Soto (left); CTO Santiago Villegas (right) Alegra CEO Jorge Soto (left); CTO Santiago Villegas (right) Source: Alegra

Medellin Software Startup ‘Alegra’ Wins ‘Endeavor’ Recognition; Expands Internationally

Published in Companies Written by  May 14 2018 font size decrease font size increase font size 0
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Medellin-based software whiz-kids Jorge Soto and Santiago Villegas just won recognition in the prestigious “Endeavor Entrepreneurs” competition at Endeavor’s 79th “International Selection Panel” (ISP) in Louisville, Kentucky.

Soto, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Medellin accounting software pioneer Alegra, and Villegas, the chief technology officer (CTO) of the company, competed globally against dozens of start-ups to join 13 other companies in the Endeavor winners circle this month.

“’Endeavor Entrepreneurs’ gain access to comprehensive customized services, including introductions to local and international business mentors and volunteers from Fortune 500 consulting firms who will help them address key needs,” according to global startup-promotion organization Endeavor.

“Endeavor Entrepreneurs have had a significant track record of creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, generating billions of dollars in revenues, and building sustainable growth models in their home countries,” the organization added in a May 10 announcement.

Explaining the award announcement, Endeavor cited Alegra’s clever niche: “Small businesses should not have big bookkeeping problems, and yet, 95% of the US$6 billion Latin American micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) market still manages invoices and administration by hand.

“In 2017, Colombian and Costa Rican governments followed the lead of seven other Latin American governments including Mexico, Brazil, and Peru, by mandating that all businesses, irrespective of industry and size, must issue 100% of their invoices electronically by 2019. In January 2018, Panama followed suit with a pilot program; in April 2018, the Dominican Republic did the same.”

Responding to these challenges, “Alegra is alleviating a major pain point for 25,000 daily active users in nine countries by providing an easy-to-use, cloud-based software for Latin American MSMEs to efficiently manage their businesses under these new regulatory standards,” Endeavor noted.

Alegra History, Expansion Plans

Asked to elaborate on the company’s origins and evolution, Alegra told Medellin Herald that CEO Soto is an administrative-engineering graduate from Medellin’s Escuela de Ingenieria Antioquia (EIA) University, as well as a political science student.

“In his career as an entrepreneur, Soto created five companies -- and in some of these he failed, but he knew how to get up and take advantage of the experience gained. Thus, he discovered the needs of companies and created his sixth venture, Alegra.com, a software in the cloud for small-business administration.

“Soto realized from experience that one problem that small business owners have in common is how to invoice and keep accounts. Thus, he was given the task of finding a solution:

“First he tried Excel, but found that the margins are unbalanced, the invoice numbers are duplicated and in general it becomes chaotic. Then he used a traditional accounting software and found that these are complicated, expensive systems, made for the [professional] accountant and most are more than 20 years old.

“The third option was to use foreign software, but since it was not adapted to the legislation and requirements of the local [Colombia] tax authority, this generated inconveniences and more work. These options did not solve the needs of administration of the micro and small companies.

“With this idea, the team of Alegra got together to start working on the project, and after a year of development they went on the market in January 2013. The reception was very good from the first month -- and since then they have not stopped growing.

“After one year of the launch in Colombia -- and already with a number of important users who had validated the product -- they thought of scaling up to other countries. So, in 2014, they released versions for Panama, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, where they found very similar situations, and where Alegra solved the same problems.

“Today, five years after going on the market, Alegra has 120,000 registered companies on its platform, a presence in 16 countries, and a team that makes the platform and service better every day.

“Unlike other startup ventures, Alegra has not been part of any incubator or accompaniment process, which has enabled them to grow autonomously without having to resort to funds or venture capital to leverage growth.

“The next objectives of the company are to launch versions for the countries that are missing from the Latin American region, such as Argentina, then continue with countries in Africa and Southeast Asia, as Alegra seeks to be the first and best option for small businesses in developing countries,” according to the company.

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