From Zero to having 31 schools implementing her financial education platform for kids – with Maritza Lanas of Agent Piggy

This interview is part of a new series called Startup Stories where Miguel Hernandez uncovers remarkable entrepreneurial stories behind some of Grumo’s past clients.

In this interview you’ll learn how Agent Piggy is helping thousands of kids develop invaluable financial skills, why Maritza became an entrepreneur, how she got capital for her startup, what is it like to have your spouse as a co-founder, why they had to fire all their employees last year, and how they are growing leaps and bounds since their changed their business model from B2C to B2B.

But what is Agent Piggy? Click [video_lightbox_youtube video_id=8fJsLfMG5SY&rel=0 width=640 height=480 anchor=HERE] to watch the demo video Grumo produced for Maritza to find out.

Watch the Full Interview

About Maritza Lanas

Maritza-Lanas-AgentPiggy Maritza Lanas is the co-founder of Agent Piggy a financial education platform for kids. She and her husband Pablo moved from Ecuador to Chile in 2010 to start Agent Piggy after being accepted to the Startup Chile accelerator program.
Now their program is available in 31 schools and over 5000 students have graduated from it.

Interview Highlights

1:01 – Maritza explains how Agent Piggy works.
2:13 – How did you come up with the idea? – The original idea came from Maritza and Pablo, her co-founder (and husband) in 2010 during the world financial crisis.
At that time many people were struggling financially because they had mismanaged their money by over spending in assets they couldn’t afford and by not having a cushion of savings.
It’s then they thought the world could use an educational tool to help avoid financial stress.
3:16 – How many students are taking the program and how it works? – They chose to focus on financial education for kids and now their program is available in 31 schools and 5000 kids have already graduated from their program.
3:53 – The program for schools consists of 10 lessons where they learn concepts like saving, responsible spending, donating, reaching financial goals.
4:19 – The program has also challenges. If the kids pass the challenge they get rewarded with virtual money which they can save, donate, or spend buying buy virtual goods within the Agent Piggy platform.
5:02 – The goal of Agent Piggy is to create good financial habits early so when kids grow up they are smarter handling their money.
5:56 – Agent Piggy helps kids understand the value of money. To earn money they must do chores like washing the family car.
8:02 – How did you validate your idea? Before they spent a cent building the platform, they pitched their idea to everyone they knew and they created a Facebook fan page where they collected feedback.
With this feedback they were able to determine who was their client (parents) and then what were their needs.
With this info they built a simple MVP (minimum viable product) to proof there was an actual need for their idea.
9:31 – How did you collect feedback on your Facebook Page? they promoted it to their network and collected feedback via likes and comments. They also tried to get reviewed and get interviews on blogs.
10:29 – Why did you become an entrepreneur? Maritza worked 10 years for big enterprises in Ecuador (where she was born, now lives in Chile). She always wanted to have more time for herself.
“When you work for an enterprise they own your time and decide when you can go for lunch or take vacation time.”
Maritza wanted to have ownership of her time which and now that she just became a mom this freedom is more important than ever.
12:27 – Miguel comments how lucky Maritza is her co-founder is her husband. A previous interviewee compared a co-founder like being married without the sex benefits. But Maritza has both 🙂
13:24 – Their relationship as co-founders works well because they have complimentary skills. Pablo is an economist and the tech guy and Maritza is in charge of business development and marketing.
13:45 – How do you manage business disagreements and ensure they don’t affect your relationship as husband and wife?
Maritza says Pablo is the CEO at the office and she is the CEO at home. Kidding aside, they respect each other’s decisions because they have well defined roles and areas of expertise that don’t overlap.
For big decisions they always try to do what is best for the company.
14:58 – The only drawback from having her husband as co-founder is she can be a bit bossy.
15:58 – Miguel explains how she tried to hire his wife to do his accounting but had to let her go because it felt awkward to act as her boss.
17:30 – How did you fund your startup? They started using their own credit cards and personal savings. Then they got accepted into Startup Chile which is a government sponsored accelerator program which provided them with $40K USD.
18:22 – It was very difficulty to move from Ecuador to Chile. One of the reasons is because the $40K investment could only be spent in building the company not for personal use like rent or food.
18:56 – It was very difficult to leave their families and start from zero in Chile. But thanks to Startup Chile $40K it was possible to make their dream happen.
19:36 – Did you raise more money later on? Maritza explains after Startup Chile they applied to other startup programs and got $50K in additional funding from Wayra an initiative by Movistar-Telefonica in Spain, and some private funding from another entity in Spain. (Miguel: Go Spain!)
21:04 – To succeed as a startup you need to have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish.
21:39 – Previous experience working for a big company can help develop skills that can be useful as an entrepreneur later on. Like being disciplined, managing budgets, setting and achieving goals.
22:27 – Share a difficult moment when building your startup – One of the most difficult moment was when they had to fire everyone when they decided to change their strategy from B2C to B2B.
Originally their platform was going to be free and they had trouble figuring out how to monetize it without using ads.
They did not want to contaminate kids with ads.
23:09 – Before they pivoted everyone was a full time employee which meant they had to pay them for 12 months/year which included a lot of time where employees where not working.
This was financially unsustainable so they made the decision to fire everyone.
24:55 – Why did you pivot into B2C? – They figured out it was a lot more cost effective to target schools with thousands of students each than parents one by one.
25:19 – Now they sell Agent Piggy on a per school basis. Now they hire people on a project by project basis.
26:05 – It was very emotionally difficult to let go of all their employees because they were very close to them and considered them like extended family.
27:03 – How do you maintain a sense of culture when you hire contractors part time? 1. Hire top quality people and 2. They must believe in what you are doing. In their case they are building tools to be used by kids so they look for people that like kids.
28:39 – What made things even more difficult for Maritza was that at that time she was 9 months pregnant with her first baby.
28:52 – Miguel explains how difficult is to let go of wrong hires and the importance of hiring slowing and firing fast.
29:56 – Maritza says that they delayed the decision to let go of everyone for 5 months and they shouldn’t have waited that long.
30:30 – Share a positive moment on your startup journey – Maritza says that the most rewarding moment was when the first batch of kids graduated from the Agent Piggy program and have proof that their platform had indeed help these kids learn invaluable financial skills.
Some parents wrote them emails asking for ways to keep their kids in the program.
32:33 – They feel that some kids that took their program grow up they will look back at this experience very fondly and hopefully as one of the moments in life where they learned very valuable concepts.
33:39 – Share one piece of advice to upcoming entrepreneurs – Be persevering. Don’t be afraid of knocking on as many doors as possible for help. They may say no today but maybe tomorrow they may say yes.
You need to be dating your clients for a long time before they marry you.
35:45 – Share an entrepreneurial role model – Maritza doesn’t have a specific role model but has admiration for specific attributes in different people.
36:33 – For instance, Maritza admires Miguel’s ability to explain complex concepts in a way anyone can easily understand (well thanks!)
37:36 – Miguel’s role model is Elon Musk.
39:07 – Share a productivity hack – She never procrastinates. She is very stubborn and always does what she commits to doing.
40:47 – How did you find Grumo Media? Maritza found Grumo while Googling for the most amazing demo videos. Then she begged Miguel to do a video but could not afford it. After insisting (being stubborn helped) Miguel agreed and Grumo produced their demo video.
People love their video. It is like their business card.

Related links:
Agent Piggy demo video by Grumo
Watch more interviews from the Startup Series

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