Sandra Arévalo was fascinated by the potential of individuals to identify challenges and develop innovative solutions. She embarked on a mission to create a center of resources to empower freelance careers online, and her vision gave birth to Wisar, a company that matches talents with the best opportunities from the most relevant freelancing platforms. Today, Sandra is not just leading Wisar but she is also part of our Desafía Immersion Program Alumni network. Last year, she received invaluable mentoring through the program, which has played a pivotal role in Wisar’s growth and personal development.
Here is a short interview sharing her story and inspirations.
What attracted you to entrepreneurship?
I touched the entrepreneurial ecosystem first as a business angel investor. I was fascinated by the power entrepreneurs have to transform the world generating solutions for the challenges they identify. As soon as I identified a problem worth working on (rigid work schemes making work/life balance so difficult), I decided to dedicate myself to proposing solutions. That’s the seed from which Wisar is born.
Who are some of your female mentors/inspirations?
I am inspired every day by women in my investor groups (such as Women Angels for STEAM – WA4STEAM) and in the entrepreneur networks I’m part of. It’s really challenging to select a small group that inspires me the most, but some I can mention that have been particularly relevant during these years with Wisar:
– Regina Llopis, honorary president and co-founder of WA4STEAM
– Leila Janah (RIP), CEO and founder of Samasource
– Diana Trujillo, Engineering Team Lead at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
What was the hardest moment you have had as a founder?
The moment when we realized our initial business model was not working and we had to pivot the company (not once, but twice) with very limited resources, having to practically build the product and the team from scratch.
What was the proudest moment you have had as a founder?
Wisar has received many prizes and recognitions for its innovative approaches to building a better future of work, and with every prize I’ve felt prouder and deeply grateful to my team. Nonetheless, if I have to select one moment, I’d be the closure of our year 3 (2020!), when despite the most challenging conditions we reached the breakeven point demonstrating both product market fit and profitability.
What value did you gain from the MTB program?
Breathing the Silicon Valley ecosystem while learning how things work there directly from investors, entrepreneurs and key stakeholders in San Francisco was very enlightening and inspiring. One of our main objectives in joining the mission was to deeply assess our fit to raise funds in Silicon Valley and to determine if relocating the business to US grounds could boost our growth. After the 2 weeks there, our vision of both aspects got clearer (and confirmed to be very different from the one we had when looking with the eyes of the Spanish market). Gaining such clarity was fundamental for us to establish our growth strategy (although we discarded for the moment moving to the US or raising funds there). This experience was enriched by sharing our strategic reflections with CEOs of other Spanish startups in different stages, even identifying in some cases synergies and collaboration opportunities.
How can accelerators and VCs better support women founders?
The access to funds is still pretty limited to female founders. I see many initiatives around educating and providing tools and support, but my feeling is that female entrepreneurs (particularly in the tech sector) are highly educated, have access to many tools and are well-equipped to build a supporting network by themselves. I’d value accelerators and VCs putting all their focus into helping them to get the economic resources they need to build their products from the early stages so we can see their companies grow. Specific female-focused funds with LPs incorporating a gender lens into their investment decisions would be very beneficial, which requires ensuring women are participating in bigger numbers in the investing ecosystem as well.
Other successes of your company you would like to share?
We are very proud of our strong collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank that allowed us to launch this year two new programs in México and Haiti (plus a third one coming next week in collaboration with Google also in Mexico).
Within our partnership with Quotanda, we are preparing the launch of programs financed by Income Share Agreements so we can expand the benefits of Wisar Academy beyond our work through IDB, coming in 2024.