The Ideas Exchange brings together Argentine-Spanish telecoms leader Martin Varsavsky and Ecuadorian entrepreneur Carlos Moncayo
I undertake what for other people are crazy business risks, but because of what I went through in my childhood, growing up not knowing if you would make it to the next day, after seeing relatives being killed and buildings blown up, I just have a different idea of what a business risk is."Martin Varsavsky, Founder of Fon
The third episode travels to Madrid to discover what Argentine-Spanish entrepreneur, Martin Varsavsky - a self-made millionaire by 27, who has founded seven companies, including Fon - can learn from 31 year old Carlos Moncayo, founder of Asiam, a Shanghai-based offshore-manufacturing management company specialising in the garment industry.
Martin Varsavsky was born in Argentina, but fled to the US with his family aged 16, after a military junta seized power. This experience had a huge impact on his attitude towards business. He said: “I undertake what for other people are crazy business risks, but because of what I went through in my childhood, growing up not knowing if you would make it to the next day, after seeing relatives being killed and buildings blown up, I just have a different idea of what a business risk is.”
Varsavsky made his first million dollars with a company set up to pay his way through college, converting disused industrial space into fashionable “loft” apartments. He then gave up thoughts of an academic career and built seven companies – four growing in value to over half a billion dollars each. His current venture is Fon, a communal Wi-Fi network, in which members share their private routers and as a result are able to access the internet free across the world.
Varsavsky also reveals a rather surprising ingredient in his recipe for success: “I take a 12 week vacation every year and I only work until 2pm, so I don’t work in the afternoons. In Spain you have lunch at 2pm, so I work until lunch!”
At just 23, Carlos Moncayo devised a grand plan to build a career negotiating and supervising deals between firms in his native Latin America and Chinese suppliers. Moncayo said: “I could see that there was a problem with the way the whole thing was managed. I could see an interesting opportunity to take advantage and create a service to the market.”
Moncayo did not speak a Chinese language and knew very little about manufacturing processes, but he says: “If you’re ignorant about some points it really allows you to dream big and you don’t see the barriers. If I had evaluated the actual situation with the knowledge that I have now, I maybe wouldn’t have started the company.”
Just eight years later, Carlos Moncayo is CEO of Asiam Business Group, handling orders from shipped Asia worth $35m per year– mainly on behalf of Latin American fashion houses.
The Ideas Exchange, sponsored by HSBC, airs weekly on BBC World News on Saturdays at 02.30 and 15.30 GMT and Sundays at 09.30 and 21.30 GMT. Visit: bbc.com/exchangingideas.
For more information contact: Jessica Culshaw, BBC World News on +44 7718 696 636 or email: Jessica.Culshaw@bbc.co.uk
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