In sailing, much like in entrepreneurship, one must have the ability to shift with the winds. As an avid sailor in his native Rosario, Argentina, Maximiliano A. Isa Pavia, a recent Darden School of Business graduate (2017) and founder of TuMejorCredito.com.ar ("BestCredit.com"), is accustomed to pivoting. A diligent worker bursting with ideas, he recalls the moment – at age 13 – that he realized he might have entrepreneurial inclinations. He needed a replacement piece for his sailboat, but the particular instrument he required was an annoying combination of attributes – simple but expensive. So he decided to make his own, and once he did, the quality construction started attracting attention from his fellow sailors. Pretty soon, as a young teenager, he was selling several of these pieces to members of his sailing community. While his passion for sailing continues to this day, he ultimately went on to work in the finance space – procuring a job in finance consulting after undergrad and eventually pursuing a master’s degree in the subject.
“I worked in finance, but I discovered [along the way] that I like to build things,” he tells me. So he began considering how he could build something in the finance world that would make people’s lives easier, just as he had found a means to do so in sailing. Since his younger-year realization that he enjoyed bringing ideas to fruition, he’d taken his tinkering to new levels and worked on his first startup business in 2012, which had taught him both how challenging and rewarding entrepreneurship could be. Then, in January 2015, he conceived of what is now TuMejorCredito.com.ar ("BestCredit.com"), a platform to help Argentinians compare financial programs and credit options.
“I discovered that in Argentina, when people need credit, they usually go to their own bank. If they want to change [or want other options], it’s not easy to compare offers from different banks.” Additionally, the concept of a credit score isn’t a prominent one in Argentina, so would-be customers have no real gauge to anticipate whether or not they’ll qualify for different lines of credit.
After coming to the States to begin business school in the late summer of 2015, Isa Pavia came across a few American sites for comparing and evaluating personal borrowing options – uncharted territory for the Argentinian market. While he knew that e-commerce was relatively new in Argentina, and that Argentinians placed a lot of weight on cultivating personal relationships alongside business transactions, he believed that if he could transcend those barriers – through more personalized features such as an online chat function – he could bring an incredibly valuable tool to his home country.
Another hard-won lesson, in both sailing and business, is that sometimes the path to success requires “all hands on deck.” As Isa Pavia further explored his idea, he began to discover that two-sided marketplaces present a constant juggling act of maintaining happiness/satisfaction for all stakeholders. After some solid signals that real interest existed from the consumer side, Isa Pavia had to find a way to determine whether this service also presented a useful opportunity for banks looking to lend to consumers. Proving that personal relationships are paramount, a classmate from his undergraduate studies, Maria Gabriela Roberto Baro, served as a needed introduction to her workplace, a bank in Argentina. Through this connection, Maximiliano was able to gain invaluable insights and iterate his product based on the bank’s needs.
After many in-depth customer interviews on both sides of his product’s market, a practice he honed through Darden classes and a summer internship with a startup in New York City, Isa Pavia discovered several pain points that he believes his product can solve. “Right now it’s not beneficial for the users or for the banks because the selling process is very archaic – it is hard for people (not only wealthy people but especially low-income people who don’t have the same access to credit) to find a good product and it’s hard for a bank to find good customers. I thought if I could close that gap, that would be a success.”
As his time in the i.Lab has continued, Isa Pavia has drawn upon his ability to nimbly pivot -- honed from his years of sailing -- once again, and he's gearing up to launch a new version of his product that allows him to more directly impact the financial lives of his customers in the coming weeks. In this new iteration, his site will be giving small loans directly to consumers who don't have access to traditional banks. He believes that, with the use of new technologies to assess the risk profile of the applicants, TuMejorCredito will be able to offer them a solution that banks and online credit companies don't seem to be offering, according to Isa Pavia. Following the completion of the incubator, Maximiliano looks forward to heading home to Argentina, where his family and girlfriend still reside. “I find it very exciting – the huge difference in technology and the access to tech that people have in the US and not in Argentina. I would like to close that gap and I think closing that gap is a huge opportunity.” Plus, while he’s loved his time in Charlottesville, for Isa Pavia, nothing can quite compare to setting sail in Argentina.