My favorite quote is: “Never, never, never give up.” My favorite food is: Cake
Growing opportunities for independent workers in Latin America
OWNING YOUR AMBITION. Sebastian Monroy has never been afraid to think big. His company, Zubale, connects gig workers with major retailers in Latin America to help fulfill their online orders. With the e-commerce market in the region expected to be valued at $100 billion by 2025, Zubale (translation: 'Jump on Board') is building the future of work in Latin America.
Reflecting on his founder journey, Sebastian concedes that when he decided to pursue a career as an entrepreneur, "I had no idea in what. My decision was driven by wanting to work in a place where I had less ceilings, more liberty to create, and to have an impact on Latin America. I remember one investor's advice early on: huge companies can only be built in huge markets."
Sebastian's entrepreneurial spirit, global outlook, and determination to succeed can be traced back to his childhood. He was born and raised in Medellín, Colombia, a place where "on the one hand, starting businesses is part of our cultural identity, and on the other, there's a lot of religion and strict thinking around what's right and wrong, particularly with regards to sexuality."
After his family briefly relocated to Princeton, New Jersey, at 18, Sebastian moved to Mexico after gaining a scholarship to study at the Technológico de Monterrey. To support himself, he also applied for a job at Procter & Gamble, persuading them to override their company policy by allowing him to join despite being in his first semester. "One of my personality traits, for good and bad, is that I don't accept no."
Sebastian credits his perseverance to his late aunt Sofía, who, despite being diagnosed with terminal cancer in her late sixties, continued to work until the day before she died. "She never stopped working, not because of the money, but because of the message it sent to her family. That will always stay with me and it gave me my mantra: 'never, never, never give up'."
Sebastian remained at Procter & Gamble for eight years, during which he met his partner and came out as gay to his family, friends, and colleagues. He left to pursue an MBA at Harvard, where he met his co-founder Allison Campbell, who had spent eight years working at Walmart as a Merchandise Manager and Director of International Strategic Initiatives in India and China.
Both keen to pursue an entrepreneurial path, they came up with the idea for Zubale and pitched it to their professor, who became the first investor. "We wanted to found a company that gave access to dignified work to millions of Latin Americans through their mobile phones. Here we are five years later with 600 employees spanning six countries and crossing $70m in annual revenue; it's crazy."
A POSITIVE PERSPECTIVE. Since launching Zubale in 2018, Sebastian's outlook on his life and career has shifted significantly. Early on, he admits he felt the pressure to succeed in a life other people wanted for him, but now he has learned to accept and even welcome failure. "I've realized failures are part of the path to success. As an entrepreneur, you must learn to live with failure, deal with it, heal fast, and move on to the next thing."
Similarly, Sebastian now embraces a culture of transparency and vulnerability in his company, having previously shied away from discussing his sexuality with potential investors and employees. "Being part of the LGBTQIA+ community has definitely helped me be a different leader and person. Because I've experienced discrimination at different moments, I don't want people in my company ever to feel it. Ultimately, you have to be yourself, because your company is you."