Think of a few networking sites you have registered for – whether for dating, professional, or entertainment purposes. The accessibility to join any e-group is beyond comprehension, and for as popular as this trend has become just among your circle of friends alone, think about how many more people around the world are jumping at this phenomenon too. As millions of internet users prop themselves up in front of the screen at home and millions more pour into internet cafes, many people are choosing with great selectivity which networking site – specifically which social networking site – suits them best. For Daniel Kafie, Chief Executive Officer of Vostu.com, he made the selection process easy by designing Vostu specifically for Latin Americans both local and abroad. In 2006, this 24-year-old Harvard MBA found a market relatively untapped and leapt forward to create one of the strongest Latino-centered websites with mounting numbers of hits and registered users daily. Working to expand the user base, Daniel leads a 30 person team to keep up with his speed of light successes and continual opportunities to enhance client services. For more information on Daniel and Vostu.com, read more in this week’s The LatinConnect to learn about your newest social networking site.
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
Palo Alto, California
Harvard Business School
Polaris Venture Partners
Credit Suisse First Boston
Latin American: Honduran
About the company
Vostu is a social network that connects existing communities in Latin America through a single media and content platform. It is the first network built by Latin Americans for Latin Americans.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
Improving the product, building the community (marketing), and managing the company on a macro level.
Most notable milestones
We launched a few months back and have been growing our presence in the largest countries in the region (i.e. Mexico, Argentina, Peru). Today, we have 30+ people on the ground who are helping us build the online community.
What’s the niche?
The niche is specifically Latin American youth, i.e. high school and college students who spend just as much time online as do those in the U.S. With broadband penetration rates skyrocketing in the region, we hope this niche expands not only in age but also socio-economic breadth.
What’s the biggest challenge?
Evangelizing on a new concept – a Pan-Latin American media platform. Most people identify more readily with their immediate communities – i.e. People in Monterrey see themselves as “norteños” and would rather connect with people within their own community rather than someone in Buenos Aires. The real challenge for us is in striking a balance between having very localized networks but that have enough of a continental appeal for anyone else in the region – i.e. I can be part of a high school social network but if I want to connect with someone in another country I can do so. Anyone can launch a social network – few can understand the cultural and national subtleties that make this region so unique and important in the years to come from a consumer internet standpoint.
What’s in store for the future?
An exciting new platform launch. Expect a Vostu 3.0 sometime around the middle of July.
Best way to keep a competitive edge
Always think locally but act globally. We’re not another Facebook clone (i.e. Estudiln.net, Nosuni), we’re actually trying to build a Latin American media company. At the end of the day, it’s all about the people. Our team understands the market, the local needs, and is agile enough to respond to any changing conditions that might affect our overall strategy.
Guiding principle in life
Being passionate about what you’re doing and being able to drive value by harnessing that kind of energy is really powerful. I’m inspired by my work as CEO of Vostu because building a media and communications platform for Latin America has always been a dream of mine. If I can have an impact, even at a minuscule level, then it will have all been worthwhile.
Yardstick of success
A lot of what I’ve already mentioned – in a nutshell – having an impact on the region through thought-leadership. When Vostu and “Che” are seen as Latin American icons.
Goal yet to be achieved
Improved product (to be launched soon), aggressive market penetration, getting to scale.
Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture
“You’re not here because you want to be cash or king, you’re here to follow a dream.”
My parents have been supporting me since the beginning, Mario (Vostu’s CTO): he and I both complement and challenge each other in a very powerful way. HBS Professors have really been instrumental in advising us and driving value, Professor Sahlman in particular.
What motivated you to get started?
I saw the market opportunity, the challenge, and coupled that with a desire to build something.
Like best about what you do?
Working with people that inspire me
Like least about what you do?
Startup life can be taxing on your personal life.
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
What was your first job?
Store clerk for a Hallmark shop in Honduras.
Biggest pastime outside of work
DJ, I’m a big fan of house music.
Person most interested in meeting?
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in my opinion, he understands the Latin American dream better than anyone else in the region.
Leader in business most interested in meeting and why?
Carlos Slim, he is most successful entrepreneur in Latin America.
Three interesting facts about yourself
- I speak five languages.
- I played the piano for seven years.
- I started my own youth-focused humanitarian organization when I was 16.
Three characteristics that describe you
Three greatest passions
- The environment (renewable energy)
- Helping people
“The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway
The environment, I want to become more involved with renewable energy projects.
Who would you like to be contacted by?
Latin American PR agencies, media companies, local web designers, high school and college students in Latin American who want to be our campus reps!