Since starting PayMongo, a lot of folks have asked me what kind of a co-founder they should look for. I have been told over the years that the co-founders we pick can mean the difference between success and failure of a startup. Still, it wasn’t until PayMongo that I had indeed seen first hand how the grit and passion of a person drive a company.
Every great startup would have at least one person who will push the energy and the drive to make things happen in the company. For me, I’m more than privileged to work with my co-founder and friend: Luis Sia.
I have known Luis since 2014, but I have never worked with him as closely as I do now. Seeing how he can rally everyone even in the most challenging times of building a startup, I am confident that PayMongo would not have been possible without Luis.
He is formidable and committed. I pitched him the idea of PayMongo early in 2019 over sushi and sashimi. He asked me a few questions during that dinner then decided he was in. At the time, we had zero code, no funding and unsure of most of the next steps to take. He started planning logistics and committed to tangible milestones we could achieve. Since then he has been entirely in, from relentlessly gathering all the possible partnerships to obsessively recruiting the best people to add in the founding team.
He is open to new ideas and feedback. As the person in charge of the growth team in the company, Luis is incredibly effective in working across different groups. He is always willing to hear out new ideas and can quickly process them. While he would come in meetings with strong opinions and narratives, Luis is always open-minded and thoughtful in working out something to push our vision forward. I am comfortable providing him feedback on managing teams and setting expectations, without getting offended, just as much as he offers candid advice to me.
He is an incredibly fast learner. Jaime and I were both busy designing and writing code at the beginning. At the same time, Edwin focused on figuring out our compliance and regulatory obligations. Luis made sure that the business was running smoothly even with limited information and a product that was clunky at times. With little background in fintech, he stepped up to learn the inner workings of how a payment platform works, both in the technical and business sense.
Luis played the role of the non-technical technical co-founder, which is impressive and rare to find around here. He is an engineer by training and a great entrepreneur in practice. His understanding of technology allowed him to effectively execute on many of the non-technical roles: pursuing partnerships, selling the product, acquiring the right customers, letting everyone work out of his house, getting the contractor for our new office, among others. In a small startup, many people would gloss over the importance of having someone great in this role.
Founding teams need influential leaders who can drive the vision of the company and keep everyone motivated despite the challenges that will eventually come along the way. While it is indeed also necessary to have an excellent technical team to build a tech startup, I cannot underscore the importance of having a co-founder like Luis. You will have hit the jackpot if you find someone like him because we surely have been.
Thanks to Abi Valte, CB Ablan and Coby Lim for reading drafts of this.