After over two years at the helm of Wayra’s operations in Mexico City, Marcus Dantus has parted ways with the Telefónica accelerator. The decision for his departure was made at the beginning of October, though no official announcement was released by either party.
So what happened? “Nothing weird,” Mariano Amartino assured us in a phone afternoon today. The Director of Wayra for Latin America said that the decision on Dantus’ exit was mutual:
Sometimes, you have to consider both challenges, if his personal challenges, and the challenges that Wayra is facing, are aligned. If not, that’s OK. He did an excellent job, and I think we were fair with him, and we are friends.
Dantus had been with Wayra Mexico from the start, leading the way in setting up the accelerator’s local chapter in Mexico City. Since its 2011 launch, Dantus oversaw the acceleration of 30 companies, helping over half raise funding in later rounds.
One of the particularities of Wayra is that its local chapters can take on very different identities, much of which has to do with who’s in charge. Dantus comes from a purely entrepreneurial background, having founded Simitel, Mexico.com and Innovamédica. He employed a more hands-off approach to the program and sent entrepreneurs to work straight away, thus omitting the hours of theoretical training and education that other accelerators embrace. A possible point of contention with Wayra? Certainly.
Another major friction point for Dantus: bureaucracy. “Telefónica is a very bureaucratic corporation,” he said in an interview with PulsoSocial. “Increasingly, I was getting very frustrated with trying to incubate startups in such a bureaucratic, corporate environment.”
One example he pointed to as a possible tipping point in the situation was an incident in which his administrative manager’s laptop was stolen from his car. Dantus was told that replacing the equipment required the approval of an internal committee, which after weeks of discussions between Wayra and Telefónica entities in Spain and Mexico, deemed that it was not the correct body to deal with the issue.
“I talked to the head of Wayra, and we had a discussion about this issue, becoming more corporate or less corporate. Their opinion is that it has to become more corporate, and my opinion is that I don’t fit in with that environment,” he said. “So we made an agreement. I’ll keep on helping Wayra, and I still think Wayra’s a great idea, that these guys are cool and everything. But I need to do something else.”
What’s Next – and Who
Following his Wayra exit, Marcus Dantus has moved over to Startup Labs, which he now directs. Notably, his work will still be tied to Wayra, as the entities announced a partnership at the start of the year. His Startup Labs involvement forms part of what he referred to as a greater “macro project” and “super hub” to connect Latin America’s ecosystem with the rest of the globe. Details on the endeavor will likely be revealed at the start of next year.
And who’s handling Mexico? Gabriel Charles Cavazos. With 10 years of experience in digital products, Cavazos comes straight from the Telefónica family. Amartino has also been heavily involved throughout the transition process. He said that he traveled to Mexico twice last month because he didn’t “want people to feel that we are not taking care of our startups.”
With a 15-year entrepreneurial trajectory and as the founder Hipertextual, Amartino is a unique fit for Wayra considering that he’s not “part of the corporate culture that you’d expect from Telefónica.” He’s currently embarking on a whirlwind tour of Wayra’s regional academies and events, and this is likely the first of more than a few changes that will come with his arrival. He outlined his plans:
In Latin America, we have the challenge of not only accelerating startups, as you can expect in the United States, but we also have to do a lot of training, coaching and mentoring with the entrepreneurs. One of our biggest assets, besides the fact that we are well-known within the entrepreneurial ecosystem, is that we have a lot of people in Telefónica that have a lot of expertise in defining products, in finding markets, in all that traditional company structure. We can use that to help startups and define products. This will be emphasized more, because I think that this is one of our biggest assets and differentiates Wayra from other companies.