Mentored episode 3: Ramón Cacho

Ramón Cacho

Ramón Cacho is a digital marketer focused on growth. He has been a founder and one of the first employees at an e-commerce startup. Currently, he’s a consultant and mentor for P18.

On his road to the startup world

I grew up in Puerto Rico, finished high school here and then I decided to go for mechanical engineering thinking that I loved creating and thought it was a good career choice. While in college, I had some friends in Miami, and we decided to create a Puerto Rican company, which we named Quenepa.

We sold Puerto Rican products and accessories online, basically an ecommerce. The idea came from HBO’s How To Make it in America. Quenepa is also known as Spanish Lime, and I assume it has other names, it is not native, but the name is. That’s where branding comes in, how we can the Puerto Rican market with a local product. It was a good experience. The company is still running, I’m not involved. It was a good introduction to marketing, sales, R&D. It was my first initiative the one that made me say “this is what I want to do.” So, I graduate, but I’m not working as an engineer.

I move to NYC. My plan was to work with a Y Combinator company. I found the team.I was there for four years. Went from a 3, 4 person team to 20 people. It was one of the best experiences of my life. In four years I learned the same as 8–10 years in a corporation.

On his first official startup

The first year the initial ideal was a B2C marketplace. We didn’t want to touch the product. The first 7–8 months were focused on helping the team created the company processes: customer support. We’d call people everyday. Everyone was involved in the company operations.

There are some process that need to be developed before you reach a level that allows you to invest money in expansion.

The idea evolved. You can change and adapt to what the customer needs.

Use the product market fit to accelerate the company’s growth and create a marketing strategy. Organically, we became a company that does not touches the product to one that does. It was a new product market. We were being asked for deliveries. It was completely different from the what we wanted, so for the following website version it was a process I could talk about forever. but the short version is we started working using uber. While it worked, we were not able to scale with it.

There are some process that need to be developed before you reach a level that allows you to invest money in expansion.

On their product evolution and growth

We thought about outsourcing but they couldn’t supply to our demand. Plus the consumer didn’t have a wow effect. Our second iteration, we hired small moving companies and started to have more control over logistics. But they had no training and we couldn’t legally training. We didn’t have control over the customer experience. Users didn’t enjoy the experience and would comment on Yelp. We needed to improve the product. Our third evolution is the business model. We hired people, with the option of contractor or employee and leased vehicles.

On presenting a well-informed united front

Our company was hyperlocal and we invested in this services because short-term it’d help us with the long-term by attracting customer organically. At first it was insane, the investors were against us. But the founders met up, discussed pros and cons and reached the decision. We presented it the the investors. We were then able to grow so much more and have control over the entire customer experience.

On their customer strategy

We were small team, we had to be methodical. We had limited resources, money, human capital, capital, everything was limited. Each time we’d sit down to discuss growth strategies, we decided we didn’t need more than three strategies at the time. You have 40 hours and you need to know how to divide those hours. How are you going to move a company forward with limited resources

When we improved our services, 50% of our sales came from word of mouth. We had limited capital, so that was a metric we didn’t want to change. 20–30% came from paid marketing, 20–30% came from new platforms, newsletters…but we saw that as retention. We also had a referral, but that comes at a cost.

For those companies starting out

Initially, you have to focus on making your product a good one. At the early stages, a company has limited resources. It is important to focus on what you do well. Create a product that can run on its own, then you can focus on other things. Protect your product form any other person going into the market, that they’d have a difficult time trying to get your spot.

We tried to understand the metrics of what we did, like how people utilized our product. Seeing how people were spending their money on the platform, the money we were spending. Having all that date allow you to make the right decisions. From the very beginning, you have to take time to understand the metrics, measure everything you do.

Acquisition cost is so important. Sometimes, people don’t know how much each cliente is costing them. IT could be a year before they realize that they were over spending in customer acquisition. More companies shut down because they run out of money than for bankruptcy. Watch your numbers and performance, day by day, week by week, month by month.

Initially, you have to focus on making your product a good one. At the early stages, a company has limited resources. It is important to focus on what you do well. Create a product that can run on its own, then you can focus on other things.

Recommendations on Books to Read, Podcasts to Listen

Podcast: Jason Calacanis This Week in Startups. He’s a bit controversial, but he goes straight to the point and gets great info for every entrepreneur.

Podcast: China Tech Talk. I’m obsessed with emerging campaigns and the strategy they’re using. It’s very cool because today we’re focused on the west, then suddenly you look at other markets and it gives you so many growth strategy ideas. They’re so fast in growing companies. It has valuable .

Book: Meditations

Book: Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World by Ron Fi He talks about his experience as an entrepreneur growing a company that had no users to millions in revenue. He also gives you the details of the bad things, those bad moments that sometimes happen, that you can really learn from.

Re-watch this episode here. Don’t miss P18’s Mentored every Friday at 10 a.m. on Facebook Live

*Answers have been edited for clarity.

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Parallel18 is a startup accelerator that represents a unique gateway for global startups to scale from Puerto Rico.