CityTroops is a highly innovative company founded in the USA, with technical operations in Latin America, and now has its commercial and strategic head office in Spain. CityTroops helps organisations all over the world implement technology to manage their field operations better, whether related to personnel management, assets and information collected outside the office.
By combining mobile, web and hardware (IoT) technologies, the company helps customers save millions with improved business productivity, efficiency of the field staff and the means by which information is collected and processed on the street. The core of CityTroops is a software solution backed by powerful technology that is intended to make field work easier and give peace of mind to people managing information and making decisions based on it.
The company’s founders, Mauro Trigo (CTO) and Daniel Ponce (CEO) have known each other for over 20 years. They began working together 14 years ago, since when they have had different ventures in the world of technology and the internet.
After creating two other companies, and gained experience and worked in different markets such as the United States and Latin America, they decided to start a company whose fundamental premise was to have a tremendous impact on society. Which brings us to CityTroops, whose main objective, “is to improve the quality of our cities and our companies, by connecting the players in our society, be they people, private companies and the public sector”, as they say.
In their recent establishment in Madrid, CityTroops has had support from ICEX-Invest in Spain’s Rising UP in Spain programme, which specifically focuses on attracting foreign entrepreneurs who want to set up and grow in Spain. The selected start-ups receive resources to develop their business in Spain.
What differences have you found between the USA, Latin America and Spain?
There are notable differences between all three regions, particularly with regard to culture. The USA, at a market and entrepreneurial level, is a country that is truly accustomed to a pace that few places can imitate or imagine. The speed with which things happen, the pragmatism with which companies are run, and the pace with which you close off or reject businesses makes it unique.
In Silicon Valley there is a saying that the currency – or the secret currency – is not actually the dollar, but the connections and the ability to connect talent to money. This is formidable, as it removes potential bottlenecks from the equation that elsewhere would hold business culture back. In the USA, it is normal to see a 65-year-old investor having coffee with an 18-year-old from another part of the world. They both know that each has something the other needs, and together they move ahead.
In Latin America there is a lot of potential and great talent. It may not have the credentials of Stanford or Berkeley, but offers empirical results, with great vision and huge resilience. I definitely believe that Latin America is a land of opportunity, unknown in most markets, but definitely a region of uncertainty. The big problem in Latin America is that it cannot be viewed without its socio-political conflicts, corruption and the lack of access to markets and capital. This is why successful entrepreneurs are generally backed by funds in the USA or, in some cases, even Europe.
Spain is a region where I am still learning the business culture. Having arrived during Covid makes it more difficult to gauge the temperature of the market. It is evident that the pandemic has awakened many companies to the need to implement technology, to be more dynamic in decision-making and to encourage them to close deals remotely.
I feel that Spain has great market and innovation potential, but perhaps is still very similar to Latin America in the sense that connections close deals. While this will always be the case, which I don’t think is wrong, companies may miss out on many opportunities by not changing their way of thinking.
How has your foray into this last market been?
We knew that penetrating the market during Covid was not going to be easy. We had strategies to face a downtrodden market and to start up with a favourable impetus. But what we hadn’t imagined was the bureaucracy in the country being so burdensome and time-consuming. The times for registrations, appointments, certifications and other things were going to take much longer than estimated. This meant that a lot of our time was spent on incorporation and soft-landing tasks rather than effective market opening tasks.
Then, with a clearer vision and with the size of the market measured, we redefined our market strategies and began applying them in Q4 this year.
Why can Spain be a strategic market for you?
For many reasons, Spain is a strategic place for us. First, it is the gateway to the European market. It doesn’t present a language barrier, which allows us to enter immediately with a product that is ready. Additionally, cultural differences at a business level, although present, are a mix between the North American and Latin American markets. The country as a whole has a great reputation for technology and innovation, so doing business on behalf of a Spanish company is dependable. Finally, from a geographical standpoint, it will allow us to manage operations in America, Europe and eventually Asia.
How has your experience with Rising UP in Spain assisted you in setting up in Spain?
ICEX and Rising UP offered great support in setting up the company in the country. The help with management prior to arriving was crucial so that we could start the local soft landing process as soon as possible after landing in Madrid.
Unfortunately, in our case, due to the restrictions brought about by the pandemic, we couldn’t have much contact with other participants of our generation beyond the online workshops or training that they gave us together with The Venture City and Cink Ventures.
Up until now we have relied heavily on the support and expertise of the people running Rising UP and ICEX. This has given us peace of mind in times of high uncertainty.
Why did you decide to ask for their help?
Based on our experience, we know the best way to penetrate new markets is by linking with local partners or through institutions that support internationalisation, such as ICEX. In that sense, the decision to request their support made complete sense. We knew about the work they do, from opening networks and training and knowledge support, to their experience in dealing with start-ups.
Nestlé and Manpower work with you. What does your solution improve for them? What data do you use to increase their efficiency?
We work with Nestlé and Manpower on a regular basis and also on specific projects, depending on their needs.
In the case of Manpower, they became local partners or associates for certain regions of Central and North America. There the objective is to support the implementation of technology to manage information in the field with their end users.
With Nestlé we work as technology providers. Essentially for tasks collecting and processing information in the field, in different areas such as Trade Marketing, logistics, management of third-party distributors and others.
One of the notable success stories we had with Nestlé was using the platform for the point of sale census in the traditional channel and modern channel for their Purina brand (pet food). Their big problem was that their points of sale database (stores, supermarkets, kiosks, etc.) was obsolete and expensive. If I remember correctly, they spent more than 150,000 USD in database purchases every so often. And the information they got was practically worthless.
CityTroops helped with the point of sale census process. We implement technology such as QR codes for monitoring, real-time reporting of points and activities, asset control and trade marketing, etc. In addition, we make it possible for the company’s management to have updated and geolocated information from the primary source.
What do they value the most about CityTroops?
Customers are very satisfied with the technological product in itself, but what they value the most is the service and personalised attention. We always comment that as we are a company with an SaaS model, we focus on the two S’s: software and service, whereas other companies only concentrate on being good at the first.
Why is applying technology to information collected outside the office and gathering it important?
Companies dedicate significant resources to optimising processes within the company or office (financial management systems, CRMs, etc.). But when their staff work on the streets, they are blind to what is happening out there.
Often, companies are not aware of the quantity of resources they lose due to what we call micro inefficiencies. These losses may result from poorly planned routes, manual information records, use of obsolete or pointless technology (e.g. WhatsApp, Excel and pen and paper) and mechanical data processing such as manual transcripts. This all means that the loss and cost of missed opportunities from not implementing technology is huge.
For example, our studies show that in the Retail, Logistics and Trade Marketing industry, companies can lose up to 6.5 hours a day for each employee working in the field. This comes from imperceptible micro inefficiencies such as necessary visits to points of sale, making notes on paper and then transcribing them, to mention just a couple. This could mean a company of 1,000 promoters or supervisors losing more than 6,500 hours a day or more than 130,000 a month if they do not implement technology to improve their field operations. When costs and loss of opportunities are translated into monetary terms, they are truly massive sums.
Are brands aware of this importance or have you had to “convince them”? How?
Brands are increasingly aware that they need to implement technology throughout their company to prevent bottlenecks harming their productivity. Anyway, speaking of technology to manage field operations, companies still need to learn about the benefits and advantages associated with implementing it.
Which sectors could your tools be applied in? What are your next steps in this regard? Who do you want to target?
CityTroops is used by companies involved in different areas or industries around the world. While our main verticals are Retail, Trade Marketing, Pharmaceuticals, Safety and Services, it is used in other industries such as OOH, insurance, hospitality, oil services, security and public agencies, governments and many others.
At least to begin with, our main focus in Spain is to attack the Retail and Trade Marketing industry. This is one of the largest and most advanced in the world.
Why do you use funding rounds as a means of growth?
The funding rounds are our second source of funding and we try not to depend on them. Of course, the first is from sales.
Although we have always had the philosophy of creating an Always in Profit company, independent of funding rounds and the volatility of the investment markets, we are aware there will be stages where the scalability and exponential growth of the company are linked to bringing in partners and third parties, whether for financial investments or strategic resources.
We are clearly coming to that stage. Our challenges today are how to achieve sustained scalability and generate value for all our stakeholders, including our customers.
What support have you had for this?
Although the company has mostly been bootstrapped or running using its own sales-generated resources until now, we have received support from grants in the past. This was the case for the support received from Startup Chile and Seed Brazil.
We also received a small investment through convertible notes from a private fund in the USA.
What would you like to use the following funding rounds for? How do you work on negotiating these operations?
In growth, growth and growth. The investment from the following funding rounds will be wholly put towards growing technology and sales teams, to renewing and continually innovating the product and reaching all potential customers that we maybe cannot do now due to lack of sales volume.
What goals do you have in the medium to long term? Who do you want to become? How will you continue to do things well as you grow more?
Our medium-term goals are to become the benchmark company in terms of field operations and information management. We want every medium and large-sized company with more than 50 employees in the field to benefit from our service and technology.
Likewise, we intend to fully conquer the Latin American markets, expand quickly in the Spanish market and gain a greater share of the American market. We know that we cannot do this alone, so part of the plan is to bring new partners and investors into the equation who share our vision and will accompany us on the journey.
Our philosophy is always do things well. We have a great responsibility to grow but always with respect for the rules of the game, by condemning and punishing corruption and empowering those who are willing to join us in this fight. Being a large company is not the only thing that is important to us, we want to be good, truly good.