This month's Entrepreneur is Cristina Palacios Goddard, co-founder and director of Aventones. After only three years in business, Aventones has been rewarded in 15 innovation and start-up competitions, including TIC Americas 2011. Moreover, her business is now serving more than 80 clients in Mexico, Chile, Colombia, and Peru. Aventones is a private network that promotes and facilitates the carpooling culture within trusted communities, such as private enterprises, government agencies, and universities. More specifically, it consists of an online system where members can organize and coordinate common routes, manage schedules and fill their cars' empty seats for their daily commuting, and hence use resources in a more sustainable way while decreasing the traffic jams in their cities.
Aventones was first conceived in Mexico, one of the cities who had stood out for developing one of the most complex public transportation systems in Latin America – this goes from the Mexico City Metro Bus System to the pink buses exclusively for women– but still considered as one of the top 10 worst commuting cities in the world. Despite increasing infrastructure and highways, traffic jams are ubiquitous in the Mexican capital. According to Cristina, this phenomenon can be explained due to the fact that 70 percent of the circulating cars travel with only one person. Although Cristina had been working over two years in her dream company, one of the top banks in Mexico, she realized that she was not satisfied as a person nor as a citizen. She wanted to reach out her community and do something about it to make it better. One day, she just decided to quit and start to mole over possible ways to improve her city while running her own business. Few months later her high school friend Nacho quit his job at an upcoming engineering company to join Cristina and set up Aventones. During an interview with Cristina, we asked her if she ever regretted quitting her job and start all over again from scratch, she answered "becoming an entrepreneur is a big challenge but as of now I don't have many responsibilities and I also count with my family's support. The most difficult challenge was my first client".
As a matter of fact before Cristina and Nacho decided to develop Aventones, they decided to first find a client who would afford the first prototype. After few months, they reached out Cotsco and three months later they launched the online platform of Aventones aimed at the employees of Costco. Aventones works as a private online platform, in which its members are usually employees or students of a hiring company or university respectively; and can reach other members by logging in with their institutional email. Aventones works with companies and institutions from the private and public sector as well as universities – i.e. Bayer, Danone, Anahuác University, Mexico City Government, DuPont, KPMG, the Comisión Nacional Bancaria y de Valores, and more. Recently, Aventonces launched its new platform Rides, an open platform, in which any person can do carpooling throughout the Mexican territory. In only few months, Rides has reached 9,000 users and 900 new entries per month. Cristina forecasted that Aventones has already become the biggest carpooling business in Latin America. She also confessed that she felt flattered when acknowledging that a copycat business of Aventones has been launched in the United States.
Since the beginning of 2014, Aventones started doing business remotely in Colombia and established a partnership with B-Green to operate in Peru. Similarly, Cristina is now talking to a TIC Americas former colleague to set up a branch in Argentina by the end of this year. When YABT acknowledged this possible partnership between two TIC Americas alumni, we asked her what made different TIC Americas from the other competitions she has participated, Cristina confessed that "TIC Americas was actually my first international competition and the fact that the evaluating committee was made up of international judges allowed me to equip myself with the necessary skills to later deal with future investors. Also, it helped me immensely to create a network with participants that have become partners of Aventones".
Finally, we seized the opportunity to ask Cristina to give a piece of advice to all TIC Americas 2014's participants, she was very straight forward and stated the following: "First of all, becoming an entrepreneur is fashionable and I dare to say that is perceived by many as a cool lifestyle: casual clothing, your own schedules and holidays. The truth is that you actually dedicate more hours than being an employee in a corporation, [you end up] being your own messenger, lawyer, and forget about weekends. Generally speaking, you have to make sacrifices since it is the only way you make your business bare fruit. Moreover, [I suggest you] to focus [primarily] all your energies in selling and not in earning profit. Besides validating your business model, you will be able to fund your business's operations. Lastly, don't give up when it turns out unsuccessful, you need to able to get back on your feet quickly and move forward".