Every month, we highlight one of the international startups that went through HACKT Mission program to share their experience, feedback, and perhaps a hack or two with you. This time, our guest is Bontix, a startup from Dominican Republic.
Bontix is a marketplace for digital signage. They facilitate digital content distribution on physical environments (such as outdoor displays, screens in buses, cars, etc).
Lu Medina and Marizeth Beato founded the company in 2015.
Before HACKT Mission
By September 2016, when the team joined HACKT Mission program, Bontix was running a private beta of their product with their first partner, Caribe Tours, the largest transportation company in Dominican Republic.
Securing the deal with Caribe Tours helped them get funding from CREE Banreservas, one of the leading VC investors in Dominican Republic.
And that was when Lu Medina learned about HACK Temple.
“It was an incredible opportunity, like a light at the end of the tunnel,” Lu said.
He loved the concept of HACK Temple, the focus on international startup founders and idea of a soft landing for them.
“International founders don’t know how to surf these waters.”
Lu wanted to validate Bontix product potential on a global / international market, so he signed up for HACKT Mission.
Three Biggest Takeaways
Bontix joined HACKT Mission in September 2016. One of the co-founders, Lu Medina, was able to come to San Francisco for two months (even though the program doesn’t require physical presence), and as he said, “it transformed” his life.
For Lu, the highlight of HACKT Mission was the sessions with his mentor, Josh Bradshaw.
Among many other things, Josh helped Lu identify problems with Bontix so he can improve upon them. He also taught him to think and act like a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, and have essential assets, such as an executive summary with information architecture in Silicon Valley style.
Lu also learned how to pitch Bontix to people much better. “Josh really helped me simplify it for normal people,” Lu laughed.
During the program, Lu validated the need for the product in the U.S. and learned that while in Dominican Republic they started with a bus company, here the easiest way to start here will be transportation companies like Uber and Lyft.
“After HACKT Mission, I’m much better equipped with selling Bontix product both in Dominican Republic and in the U.S.”
Silicon Valley Culture & Rules of The Game
“The rules are completely different in Silicon Valley,” Lu said.
“Now I feel like a kid here, I don’t know anything. In Dominican Republic, I was one of the best entrepreneurs.”
Silicon Valley experience elevates and helps achieve in a couple of months what you would have in a year somewhere else. Lu’s mentor Josh helped him to navigate the waters by addressing small, but important details. For example, he explained that the speed of responding to emails is important here, showed how to find connections and people who can contribute to your success through tools like Eventbrite and Meetup, and much more.
“I realized that I lost time in Dominican Republic creating tech stuff,” Lu said. “You need to travel here and test it here, find partners first. You can then go and do tech stuff with strong validation on your hands.”
At some point during his stay in San Francisco, Lu was searching for a GitHub office on Google Maps, and he realized that he was surrounded by the world’s biggest companies. “The opportunities here are immense — it’s a bit overwhelming even.”
The opportunities are big also because people are open to share their experience and open to test beta products. There is so much you could pursue, that it’s important to have a good orientation system and know what to prioritize.
“HACKT Mission is like a GPS,” Lu said. “When I have questions or need an intro, I go to HACKT team and know they’ll point me in the right direction. When you’re alone, it’s a completely different adventure.”
One of the most valuable things Lu took away with him were new connections. “Everybody tries to connect you with somebody who can help you. It’s so different from other cultures, where people reserve and protect their contacts,” he said.
Lu was able to connect with lots of new people who did not only help him improve Bontix, but also were full of knowledge and open to share it.
Advice to Future HACKT Mission Founders
Here are a few pieces of advice from Lu to future international founders joining HACKT Mission program:
- Have a list of goals / tasks you want to achieve.
- When you come to San Francisco, create activities out of the Temple — it’s an incredible resource and you should use it.
- Go out to events and meetups by yourself and meet more new people.
- Run a challenge with yourself: how many business cards of people in your industry did you collect? How many people have you re-connected with?