Aspiria Co-Founder On Successful Funding in Mexican SME Space: Still Lots of Room to Grow
After 38 years, Guillermo Hernandez has seen the boom and busts of the Mexican financial markets, weathering seven recessions in all, he said. But until 2020, he had never led a company through a pandemic.
Aspria, Hernandez’s online lending firm, had planned on completing a Series A from international investor Oikocredit, but the deal went into the icebox as the cases came.
“In the beginning of the year, things were doing very well in Mexico, the whole economy was booming,” Hernandez said. “Out of nowhere, we got hit by the pandemic. And the transaction that we were supposed to be closing in March 2020, our investor said, ‘you guys are fantastic, but there are too many unknowns.'”
But due to Aspiria’s resilience and the fact that they went into 2020 with a rock-solid business, Hernandez said Oikocredit decided to complete the investment deal. Aspiria was growing and profitable, and though it was unclear if the markets were going to fall apart, Hernandez said he and his team put the nose to the grindstone and worked through it.
Oikocredit is a worldwide cooperative that provides loans and investments to promote financial inclusion while empowering people by improving livelihoods. That vision is what Aspiria aims to accomplish as an SME lender, Hernandez said, helping businesses access funds to grow.
The Mexican financial space has ample room for growth, and Hernandez said Aspiria is one of the first alternative business lending firms to capture the market.
Hernandez said the banking world in Mexico is twenty years or more behind the US, and he founded Aspiria to bring some change to the financing space.
“The whole financial services industry, I mean it’s light-years behind the US,” Hernandez said. “I saw that the way that people would do the underwriting, the way that people provided financing for small businesses was just so outdated; it was more of an old school market here. I decided there was this huge opportunity for the market.”
For example, Mexico has a third of the US population, but only 30 banks to the 7,000-10,000 the US has. That population is also a younger demographic than up north. In Mexico, the average age is 27 (It’s 38 in the US); Hernandez said: the Average Mexican is trying to establish themselves and reach the middle class, young, educated, and ready to start a business.
Hernandez has been working in finance all his life, starting in Mexico as a banker and consultant for new financial companies before leaving to get his MBA on an HSBC scholarship in Manchester, England. He worked for a time in financial services there before joining a payment startup in the US, where he found his love of startup tech culture.
“It was my first exposure to technology, and I was completely amazed. I fell in love with it,” Hernandez said. “At that moment, I was actually thinking about changing careers. I was completely fed up with financial services because it’s boring sometimes. I thought it was not sexy anymore.”
Co-founding Aspiria, Hernandez went on to become the major funder in the space. He said there is so much demand for capital in a standard year that his firm can see 100% year-over-year growth. Even in a pandemic, his firm received a confident investment that will go directly toward building the shop, scaling up funding, hiring, and aiming toward a firm that will one day put it on par with the rest of North America’s leading alternative finance firms.Last modified: June 18, 2021
Kevin Travers was a Reporter at deBanked.