In mid-February, SoftBank announced that it would to continue to invest in its $5 billion dollar Latin America Fund, pledging $1 billion just in the year 2020. SoftBank’s renewed commitment to the Fund, which was launched in 2019, is further proof that the Latin American market is ripe with potential, particularly in the e-commerce, health tech, and fintech industries.
It’s likely that this investment wave is following another trend in the region, the rapid adoption of mobile technology. According to a survey published by Statista, the share of the population in Latin America who has access to a mobile phone will increase from 67 to 73 percent from 2018 to 2025.
Despite the economic gridlock that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak on investors and expanding markets, we wanted to speak with someone who still has their sights on Latin America in an industry that is predicted to grow over the next few years. Jen Laloup is CEO of the Mobile Growth Summit (MGS), which is supported by the Mobile Growth Association. Laloup and her team are responsible for hosting the world’s largest mobile growth conference where entrepreneurs can connect and learn from online app and marketing professionals. Laloup spoke with Latin America Reports to discuss how MGS is adapting to COVID-19 reality and continues to set its sights on the Latin American market.
How have things changed for you since the COVID-19 pandemic?
As we watched the COVID-19 pandemic spread, we realized that we would have to make significant changes in order to thrive in our new reality. Our Conference and Events division has seen the most change during this time. We went from hosting events globally to pivoting into hosting global events virtually. We are new to the virtual event space so we have been learning, and developing new ways to help our community connect while everyone is apart.
What are some of the biggest challenges that your organization and your clients are facing right now?
Many of our speakers, sponsors, and attendees have been impacted economically in some way from the pandemic. So one of the challenges we are facing is how to do more with less. Also, we find that adapting to virtual events has been difficult for some in our community, so we have had to do more on educating them about the benefits of this new format than we have had to do with our live events.
How is Mobile Growth Association (MGA) hoping to meet the needs of clients during this time?
We are still trying to help our community by providing opportunities to connect, learn and grow during a time where people are more isolated than normal.
We hope virtual events will broaden people’s reach beyond a typical event would because attendees will be able to connect with companies and network with and learn from people they may normally never have gotten the chance to meet. We are also providing more educational content to help people learn and engage through free or greatly discounted support. For example, we realize that during this time many people may be stressed and uncertain about their career, so we teamed up with an Executive Coach to provide mobile app marketers with free group session webinars, or discounted one-on-one coaching.
According to your blog, there seems to be a major push for MGS to extend into Latin America. Why Latin America? Why now?
We have always been interested in expanding into Latin America, but wanted to jump in when the timing was right. We had our first event for this [region] in Miami seven years ago, and it was a very successful conference but we didn’t feel the markets in LATAM had enough region specific mobile app publishers. We know Latin America is a mobile-first region, with over 73% of the population owning a smartphone, and we having been watching closely and discussing our go-to-market strategy with local partners. At the same time we were were seeing a lot of VC funding going to LATAM companies building apps. In addition, this geo is influenced by American and European tech companies and many of our partners have become very interested in the market. We are also seeing the rise of Latin American apps changing the region’s ecosystem, especially in the food delivery, finance and ride-sharing industries. With the rise of more regional apps, we recognize there is an emerging community that we can support by offering them opportunities to meet and learn from each other, and from other countries. COVID-19 has made it impossible for us to be in LATAM physically this year, but we are including the region in our upcoming MGS Global Virtual Conference in June as away to extend into, and showcase, the talent in the area.
What’s the launch strategy there? All at once or will you be testing any markets first?
We are planning to start small and will be focusing on Mexico and Brasil. We expect to expand into other LATAM countries once we are able to establish ourselves in conjunction with strategic partners.
What advantages and challenges do you foresee in expanding to Latin America?
One of the challenges is that we are starting from scratch. We have a well recognized brand in other countries, but will need to introduce ourselves to this community. With challenge comes opportunity. While starting from scratch is challenging, it gives us freedom to try new things with format, timing, topic focus, and types of networking opportunities available. Some advantages we foresee are being adaptable and being able to tailor an experience unique to the region. There’s a need for various apps in all app categories to service these markets and we are seeing new publishers come online to do so. Our association has an advantage because we are able to bring a wealth of quality content, networking opportunities, and exposure to different companies to this community.
Could you talk a little about the MGS Global Virtual Conference and how that fits into MGA’s desire to expand into Latin America?
MGS Global Virtual Conference is our first foray using a digital format for a whole event. This is a new experience for us and we felt it was a great way to showcase LATAM talent in a world-wide event as our newest region. MGS GVC covers four geos over three days and provides a platform for industry leaders to share their knowledge and expertise with an international audience. LATAM is part of our Americas track which features speakers from North America and is one of our most established geos. By pairing these geos together we believe it will help broaden visibility for our LATAM content and fuel more interest in future LATAM events. Because any pass purchased is valid for all three days and provides access to the content post show; someone who is in Asia who was able to see the Asia track but couldn’t see the LATAM track is able to access this content post-show. This enables more people to view LATAM content than if the event were only held on location.
Any last comments on upcoming projects or events
We are very excited to enter LATAM, and look forward to hosting future events and partnering with the community. We are currently in the process of developing Mobile Growth University which we plan to unveil at a future event. MGU will be offered in any geo that we have an event, so we are looking forward to bringing MGU to LATAM once it is launched.