2015-2016 Startup Internship Award winner, supported by the Sutton Entrepreneurial Intern Fellowship fund
Alvar Nelson Ortiz WG’16 Summer Reflection: My Internship at Nexu This past summer I had the unique opportunity of interning at Nexu, a startup cofounded by two Wharton grads. Nexu is trying to innovate the auto loan sector in Mexico by building an online platform that connects clients seeking financing to buy a car with financial institutions that can provide this liquidity. My specific role was in Business Development where I had to first conduct an analysis of different types of loans offered in Mexico and make a recommendation for Nexu to expand to one of these sectors. I was able to determine there was a lot of opportunity in the personal loans segment and spent the rest of my summer developing a strategy so that Nexu could offer this product in a short time span.
There are many reasons I was interested in working in Nexu. I want to one day start my own business and wanted to learn more about the challenges that may arise during this process. My background was in Finance and although I acquired important tools during this time it was hard to get a sense of what it takes to be an entrepreneur from within a large investment bank. Furthermore, I am interested in working in Latin America someday yet I had never had this experience until this summer. I wanted to understand the differences in the work environment between Mexico and the US and figure out if this was something I could potentially adapt to. Finally, I felt great chemistry from the start with Abdon and Fernando, the cofounders. They are very passionate about what they are doing and were willing to support me in any way they could. This was the type of environment where I wanted to learn more about entrepreneurship. I found out about Nexu through a posting in Careerpath. I applied to the position at the end of March by sending my resume to the cofounders and quickly got a reply to schedule the first of two interviews with each cofounder (one hour on the phone with each). The types of questions were mainly behavioral yet there were challenging in a way that forced you to think about your answers. Said questions were designed to identify a candidate that was motivated and truly interested in contributing to Nexu. Two weeks later I received a call from Abdon, one of the cofounders, letting me know they wanted me to work for them. I was very excited and accepted shortly after. The dates for the internship were flexible so I was able to negotiate to start on June 1st (for a period of ten weeks) along with another intern which was a friend of mine at Wharton. Day 1 I hit the ground running on the first day. The cofounders had prepared a presentation where they explained in detail the history and the operational structure of the company and later went on to discuss their expectations for the MBA interns and the goals they wanted us to achieve before we left. The first part of our summer entailed figuring out which loan market Nexu should expand to next. They were already fully operational in the auto loan sector and were now deciding if they should grow to the personal loan or mortgage industry. Each intern took a different product and we proceeded to do an in depth analysis with the purpose of presenting a recommendation weeks after. The analysis included studying market size, competition, profitability, among other things.
Both of us were able to finish our research one day before presenting our findings. We got together before the meeting so we could present one recommendation as a team. After much debate we decided that there were greater opportunities to expand to the personal loan sector given the lack of competition, the shortness of the process, and the large volumes in the industry. We proceeded to create one presentation and received many challenging questions but ultimately got the cofounders to agree that personal loans was were Nexu would expand next. Starting a new business The rest of the internship was devoted to helping Nexu launch personal loans. One of the things that I liked the most about my experience was that the cofounders gave us a lot of independence but were there if we needed guidance. It felt like we were starting our own company. Like any young company there were many issues we did not foresee. First, it took us more than expected to get organized and structure our roles given there was so much to do in so many different areas. Once we did that we encountered our biggest challenge of the summer: creating alliances with financial institutions. Nexu’s business model cannot work without solid partners that are willing to provide loans to its clients. We reached out to a couple of potential institutions we wanted to work with but were either rejected or found out that there was a big bureaucratic process involved and it would take months before an institution would agree to work with us. This discouraged us and made us feel “stuck” for a few days. We eventually called a meeting with the cofounders and explained our struggles to them. They acknowledged it was a very difficult industry, particularly in Mexico where there is less of an innovative culture than in the US. However they motivated us to be more aggressive in order to succeed. We went back to square one and created a large list of every institution we could think of. Instead of emailing we began calling and even showing up in person to talk to different executives who had the power to approve an alliance with Nexu. We were rejected many times but by the end of the summer we were able to open communication lines with 6 institutions. Simultaneously, we created marketing campaigns in different social media outlets like Facebook which brought in a lot of potential clients and helped us understand better their profiles. Finally we mapped out a process to give the banks an idea of how we would work together and paired up with a programmer to create a website that would give our product more legitimacy. In the end The summer went by in such a fast way as I enjoyed not only Nexu but living in Mexico. I must admit that by the end of the internship I did not accomplish all that I had set out to do, but I realize this is something that was out of my hands. I had very unrealistic expectations as to how business was conducted in Mexico and thought alliances would be forged in a matter of weeks when it actually takes months. This really slowed our progress. That said, I still feel very satisfied with what I left behind in Nexu. I positioned the personal loans product in such a way that it will only be a matter of weeks before the first of these is closed. Furthermore, I believe the lessons that I learned about entrepreneurship are invaluable. They are lessons one cannot learn by working for a large company. Abdon and Fernando gave us access to the entire company and often sought our opinion of major decisions they had to face daily which gave us a great sense of the pulse of the organization. I truly felt like our opinion mattered as much as theirs. They were not only always there for any question we had but they made an effort to bond with us which paid off by the end of the summer as I no longer saw them as my employers but as my friends. They were very aware of what I wanted to gain from my time there and did everything in their power to accommodate that and gave me feedback so I could improve. I would recommend this internship to anyone who is interested in the startup world in Latin America without hesitation. I enjoyed living in Mexico and observing how this economy is really growing and becoming a place of innovation in the region. Furthermore Nexu is a very well structured startup that will give anyone interested in being an entrepreneur an insight into what it is truly like to build your own company from the ground up and what it truly takes to succeed.