What a Masters Degree Really Teaches You (With Sigo Seguros' Nestor Solari)

Media Thumbnail
  • 0.5
  • 1
  • 1.25
  • 1.5
  • 1.75
  • 2
This is a podcast episode titled, What a Masters Degree Really Teaches You (With Sigo Seguros' Nestor Solari). The summary for this episode is: <p>"I met my cofounder on the first day. A year later we started working together. We graduated and worked together. That alone was the price of admission."</p><p><br></p><p>Nestor Solari, Co-Founder and CEO of Sigo Seguros, an insurance technology company providing affordable access to auto insurance through its bilingual, mobile-first platform, is no stranger to schooling. With a bachelor's degree, MA in International Studies, and MBA in his back pocket, Nestor felt well-equipped to start his own company -- or so he thought. </p><p><br></p><p>In this episode of the American Dream podcast, Nestor reflects on what a Master's degree really taught him, how living abroad altered his United States experience, and he shares the resources that help him succeed as an entrepreneur today.</p><p><br></p><p>Be sure to hit the subscribe button to get new episodes when they drop every other Tuesday.</p><p><br></p><p>In the meantime, be sure to leave a ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ review and share the pod with your friends. You can connect with Elias and Nestor on Twitter at @eliast, @nestorsolari, and @DriftPodcasts.</p><p><br></p><p>For more learnings from Elias, check out his quarterly newsletter, The American Dream. You can subscribe at https://www.drift.com/insider/learn/newsletters/american-dream/</p>

Elias: Hola. I'm Elias Torres, co- founder and CTO of Drift. You are listening to the American Dream Podcast. Did you know that Drift is part of just 2 percent of VC back startups led by Latin American founders. Well, I'm on a mission to change that. On this show, you will hear from leaders who have achieved their own version of the American dream. We'll talk about what the process looked like to get there, the obstacles they face along the way, and the work we still have to do to build the new face of a diverse corporate America. Bienvenidos a todos. To another episode of the American Dream Podcast. Today we have Nestor Solari on the show. Nestor is the co- founder and CEO of Sigo Seguros, an insurance technology company focused on serving the Spanish speaking community with fair insurance. The son of Uruguayan immigrants, Nestor witnessed his own family's struggle to get insurance in the United States. And it's largely why he's dedicated his career to helping underserved communities. Today we're going to learn more about his mission. Nestor, thank you so much for joining me on the show.

Nestor: Thanks for having me Elias. I'm excited to be here.

Elias: What was the story, this pivotal moment that triggered you to start this company and go into this mission? I want to talk about that.

Nestor: Yeah, let's start there. I mean, triggered is the right word. And so, I'm not an insurance guy by training. I spent my whole career in finance. I had a kind of tangential knowledge of insurance, but my first kind of encounter with how difficult it was for some people in our community to get access to auto insurance was when my Tia Sylvia, my aunt, asked me for help with their budget. She said, hey, looking to cut some expenses, can you take a look and see if anything jumps out? And what jumped out at me was that there were several charges that month for her auto insurance. And I asked, are you paying late or why? And she's like, no, that's just what happens every month. And that kind of sparked it for me. And I started digging and realized she was getting charged a fee for automatic payment every month, which sounds weird, right? Because automatic payment's the cheapest way to pay, yet she was getting charged an extra 10 bucks every month unexpectedly. And so that's kind of where I started digging and digging and kind of once you see it, you can't unsee it, right? And it wasn't just my aunt Sylvia, who despite having a US driver's license still struggled to go online to your traditional insurers. And then I started asking around. My cousins who didn't have US driver's licenses had an even harder time. And at that point it just seemed like there was something we could fix here. And so, that's where it all started.

Elias: Wow. That is awesome. I mean, that is so special because I feel like many of us will see problems right in our noses and not do something about it. But you felt something unique, right? That propelled you to say, let me go and look into this problem and do something for this community, for my community, right?

Nestor: I think there was a little naivete also mixed in there, but I was fortunate to have that because it allowed me to jump in head first. If I knew everything I knew now maybe it would've been a little more difficult, but yeah. I mean, honestly, it was one of the first times in my life I can really feel like I came across a problem and I said, you know what? I think I can fix this.

Elias: Yeah, no, no. I think it's important. I have my father. I've only spent like two years of my life with him, but I lived with him for a couple of years in LA and he was an entrepreneur. He is an entrepreneur. He had this little businesses that were specific for our community in LA right. And he had an insurance. One of the businesses was an insurance company where he had a desk, him and his brother, and then people would come. And so, Latinos could come to his desk, right, and get help from him on setting up an insurance. Right. Whether it was car insurance, mostly I think probably it was car insurance. And that was his business, right?

Nestor: Yeah.

Elias: He did taxes and insurance. And so I'm assuming that this is similar to what you do, but at scale with technology.

Nestor: Yeah. Yeah. That's exactly right. So, it sounds like the type of business your father had is the type of business where a lot of people in our community get access to auto insurance. I'd say over 70 percent of auto insurance today is still sold offline. So, people on the phone or in person.

Elias: Wow.

Nestor: And for our community, that number jumps to over 90 percent. And so, you'd still think of...

Elias: Wow.

Nestor: What do you mean everyone's going? What do you mean not everyone's going to Geico and Progressive online? And that's really not the case. And the challenge I saw there is that... And so, we became a broker, which I imagine is kind of your father's business. So, we were actually selling insurance for other companies at first. I think there what we learned was there's a lot of technology challenges and a lot of operational efficiencies operating in that structure. And so, that's when we took the next step and decided to launch our own insurance product. And so that's kind of the transformation or the pivot if you will. We started as a broker and then decided to take that next step and try to fix the problems we saw while we were operating. Ultimately, I think the issue with a lot of those brick and mortar businesses is they're also very expensive to run. And so, it's a challenging business for even people in our community that are looking to help to maintain profitably.

Elias: Right. Yeah, I agree. It's like a brick and mortar, right. It's like a building in South Gate, California. Huntington Park, I think. It was moved after, but it's... So, you... That's great. Like so you're like verticalizing, you're completely owning top to bottom and you have your own insurance. And how do you give this service? Like how do you provide it?

Nestor: Yeah. And so, just to maybe one caveat, the insurance value chain is pretty long. And so, we're starting that process of becoming completely vertically integrated, but we still have a lot of partners that we're working with that have been very kind of helpful as we complete that vision. But today, it's all direct to consumer from your phone, fully bilingual platform. Sigo Seguros is the only insurance company in the United States that digitally on boards Spanish speakers. That's to say a Spanish speaker can land on our website from click through purchase and receive proof of insurance within five to 10 minutes. And so, that's how we're serving customers today. And the vast majority of our customers today are coming through without any agent interactions.

Elias: That's amazing. I need to try that out. The UX on that must be incredible, right? I mean, it has to be super simple, right?

Nestor: It's funny you mention it. I mean, it's been built little by little in response to what our customers need and where they have challenges. Me and my co- founder started literally with a WordPress form, your name, zip code, and phone number, and email. Those were the four questions and type of car. Five questions. And we would start calling people and selling them... And once we sold our first policy, we were like, oh wow, we can sell insurance this way. And then we started automating it. Then we started automating the quoting. And then when we realized we need to launch our own product, we started building out that tech. And so, it's been a journey to build out the experience. But today I think what we have is an experience for our community that's second to none really. And I think there's still a lot more to build, because right now the onboarding experience is pleasant. But there's still a lot of tools that we want to build to help our customers manage their insurance and their financial wellbeing.

Elias: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. The work is never done. 1000 percent. But it's still like you have something, right. I love what you just said. Right. Like people always ask me like, well, how do I start a company? Right. It's like, well, you just start it. That's what you did, right. It's like, you put up a WordPress form, you asked for four things and you called them. Right. And so, that is the essence of entrepreneurship, right. That's scrappiness to be like, okay. I'm just going to start with this. Instead of being like, well, I need a lot of money. I need to solve this whole problem. I need to have a lot of teams. I advise companies right now. There's a company I'm advising that is like about 25 people, has so many engineers, zero revenue, right. And it's been around for a couple of years, right.

Nestor: Right.

Elias: And it's like, you got to get to it.

Nestor: Right.

Elias: And so, that's the thing that I love about a Latino that understands the hustle like you. So, were you born here or you were born in Uruguay?

Nestor: No. I was born and raised here in Northern New Jersey. Som I'm calling in from Jersey city. I was born and raised not too far from here. I moved to Uruguay basically as almost an adult. And that's maybe a longer story, but moved back with my family after graduating high school. But both my parents are Uruguay and both of them are immigrated to the US.

Elias: Perfect. Perfect. And so, what was your path to entrepreneurship? Right. That's something I feel like I hear or I see in your record a lot of schooling. Tell us all the schooling that you got.

Nestor: Yeah. It's funny. I look back and you look at your resume and LinkedIn, and it's so well presented. And it looks like a straight line, but everything is kind of a series of very fortunate and mixed with some unfortunate events. Just to start at the beginning, I mentioned moving to Uruguay. My father immigrated to the US, sixth grade education. My mother graduated high school. They met here. They're both immigrated from Uruguay. I was fortunate to have my mother for my entire life, pounded in my head the importance of education, right. And not to sound cliche, but obviously one of the things that can't be taken away is what you learn in your education. And so, I think that's something from early on that my mom convinced me that I was going to do was go to college. I think there was a short stint in high school where I was considering going to vocational technology school to cut hair. I wanted to be a barber. Before I started cutting my own hair, the barber shop was one of the more...

Elias: You cut all your hair? You cut it all off?

Nestor: I mean, whatever's not left on top I cut off. Yeah. But no. It wouldn't look as clean if I let it grow out. But anyway, so I was planning on going to college. It turns out when I was graduating, my father got laid off from his job. After 30 years working for this company, he was one of the first employees. He left without a pension, without any ownership in the company and with kind of a pat on the back and good luck in your retirement and hope social security's enough for you to live. And at that point, my family decided, and my parents decided, hey, we're moving to Uruguay. We think this is... We can... My father wanted to move back after retiring and they could make the money stretch a little further. And so, kind of ended up going to Uruguay maybe unexpectedly a year before going to college. Got to Uruguay, enrolled in school, realized the same opportunities weren't available to me as they were here in the US. And that's kind of when I decided to come back to Penn State against my parents' wishes. And fortunately they were supportive despite being kind of unhappy with me moving away. Penn State was the only school I got into. I applied to three or four. I didn't really know what I was doing. I was fortunate to get into Penn state, which was a great school. And from there, I went into finance, worked in finance. And at the time I was applying for business school as a result of working with... So, a lot of my mentors and people, my colleagues that I respected a lot were applying for graduate school. And I think that was the impetus for me to apply to grad school is a lot of people I respected went there. I think there was a lot of personal growth and experience, which I really appreciated it. But I went to business school with the idea for Sigo. I didn't explore anything else. I never considered starting any other companies. I never considered getting another job. I went there with the sole purpose of starting Sigo because this kind of right before I got to business school, I stumbled across the process with my aunt. And so, maybe a little zigzag. Yeah.

Elias: No, that's awesome. Yeah. People want to hear the story, right. And everybody thinks like this direct path of how you became something, but so your family, because of retirement moves to Uruguay. You enroll over there. It's not what you think it is. You realize that it might not work out. You come to Penn State. Then you work, and then you go to your master's program, but you already decided you're going to start a business.

Nestor: Yes.

Elias: That sole purpose, right?

Nestor: So, I wouldn't say that's the sole purpose I went to school, but that was my sole purpose while at school was starting Sigo.

Elias: Got it. Got it. No, absolutely. And that's great. Because I feel like you're so lucky. You're so fortunate, right. That you had that and I don't know. You're making me... I don't even know how to frame all these things, but it's like this dilemma, right, about education, opportunity. Like, for example, how vital, how crucial do you think was your masters at UPENN before starting this business?

Nestor: Good question. Vital. I would say it was not vital. I have a strong opinion that entrepreneurship is best learned through doing and that I would've learned maybe faster and how to be a better entrepreneur had I started two years before. With that said, it was a fantastic experience. I learned a lot. I grew a lot personally, professionally. I think I grew a lot as a manager. I think it made me a better manager of people, which might have been a little more difficult to understand, to do in a small company.

Elias: How so?

Nestor: So, you're put into a lot of situations that are intentionally designed to breed challenging situations with diverse people. And so, for however much work there still need to be for getting people with more diverse people into these Ivy League programs. I think the schools do a pretty good job about building a class that challenges each other and has a wide range of experiences and viewpoints and kind of world views, if you will. And so, I think you're forced to work with other very smart people that might disagree with you on kind of fundamentally how you view the world, but you're still working towards the same thing. And so, I think that really helped me step outside of myself a little bit and think about kind of what these interactions with other people, kind of what the goal of our interactions are. And I'd say all that was a lot of it kind of forced a lot of personal growth as well, which I appreciated. And so, while I wouldn't say it was vital, I would say it was helpful. And beyond that, obviously opportunities to get some grant funding, opportunities to pitch your, your story over and over to a lot of smart people, get in front of investors. I think hands down business school would've been worth it just because I met my co- founder there.

Elias: Got it.

Nestor: I met my co- founder there on the first day. We worked together on there. So, a year later we decided to start working together and we graduated and worked together. That alone was worth the price of admission as well.

Elias: It's priceless.

Nestor: Exactly.

Elias: Yeah. Yeah. I mean...

Nestor: Priceless.

Elias: Meeting a great business partner that you can trust is... I have one of those, David can from Drift. Like we worked over 13 years together. So it's...

Nestor: Incredible.

Elias: That's very important. I think, yeah. I agree a hundred percent with you and I really like how great of a balance you using to describe school. And so, it's good, right. I don't want a hundred percent knock it, but it's important that you... I like the way you said it, right. So one, I think, I don't know. I'm going to put words in your mouth, but I feel like as Latinos we need confidence, right, to be in the workplace. Right? Even though luckily you are... I would think you might be... You can create an environment that is more Latino, right, because of the community that you serve. But what you were getting was confidence that if you would've gone to a college that was more predominant Latino or something like that. And you go into New York city to work and you're dealing with this diverse, smart people, right. You might not feel as confident in dealing with all these kinds of ego situations, politic situations, authority, instructional performance measurement, and that kind of stuff. So, you were getting a practice of dealing with, handling conflict, right? I don't know.

Nestor: Yeah. I think that's spot on. And I think a little bit of what you're saying maybe, also not to put words in your mouth, but I think plays along with just the culture of humility across kind of Latinos. And you're kind of... I mean, one thing I obviously admire my father very much and appreciate everything he did. But one thing that he taught me was keep your head down and work hard and you'll get rewarded. And I think as I've grown up, I strongly disagree. I think the squeaky wheel gets the grease. And I think it's important for other people in our community to see our success. And I know you feel a certain way about being called an influencer and being out there, but I think having to put ourselves out there is or putting ourselves out there is essential.

Elias: Yeah.

Nestor: So, again, so other people see us and know, oh, there's not one way to do this. There's a million different ways to skin the cat. And maybe they can hear a similar story because for how diverse our experiences are... It's funny. I was listening to your podcast with Samara and with Anita and it's funny. I think Samara was talking about being a hairdresser at one point. It's funny. I was like, oh, I wanted to be a barber. And Anita's telling her story about her parents and we share a lot of those experiences regardless how diverse it is. And I think putting ourselves out there and putting our stories out there is important. And only something I've recently really started getting comfortable with. And I think part of it might have been that confidence built from going to a Ivy League MBA program.

Elias: Yeah. I mean, I think there's something huge here. I actually have my brother- in- law staying with me right now and he surprised me the other day and said that he listens to my podcast. Right. And so, I was like, and I was really humbled by that. And we were having a discussion around the table with my in- laws and talking about the advice that Latino parents give. Right. And I think that is something that we have to work on as a community. I'm going to just put it out there right now, right. Because you just disagreed, right. And I think that we have to... I want to be respectful. I want to respect wisdom, right. Because there's a lot of things that we don't know, that I didn't know at 22, right. That my mother is to this day right. But at the same time, we live in a different world where we have to catch up and we have to give more updated advice, right, and wisdom on how do we go about these things. And, in the same way I struggle about being an influencer and being out there, I think that I do respect a lot people and workers that... Because there are going to... Not everybody's going to be a founder, right. But it doesn't mean that everybody has to be there arguing everything. I'm a big believer. I played this role today as a founder where there are moments where I just shut up and I just do. I don't... I have a partner, right. And it's like, I'm a soldier. You need me to do this? I will go do this. I will go handle this problem. I'm not going to be a squeaky wheel, right. I think you have to learn how to be both, right. When you want to be an impact player, you want to deliver the work, you want people to say, this person gets the job done. This person is scrappy, right. And then there's moments where you have to be the squeaky wheel. You're not going to sit there for 30 years and just saying, well, take care of me, right. That's never going to... That should stop, right.

Nestor: Yeah. Yeah, no. I couldn't agree more. And it is a little taboo in our community, right. You have a lot of respect for your parents and family and the importance of family. And I think, I mean, for whatever it's worth, I think I've gone against that a couple times. And when I moved away from my family in Uruguay, I think it was a very un- Latino move of me. I lived away from my parents for almost 20 years. They only recently moved back. And I guess, and also as I was mentioning, obviously there's a lot of advice that now I go back to my dad. It's like that thing you told me a few years ago, you know you were right. You were right about that.

Elias: Yeah.

Nestor: Maybe I should have listened to that sooner. And so, obviously not to paint the advice in a negative light because I would say the overwhelming majority has been great advice and I'm very fortunate to have had it. But there are things that you need to figure out for yourself. And I think part of that is being an entrepreneur as well. And if you want to be an entrepreneur, part of it is figuring it out, that problem solving skill set, which I think has a lot to do with questioning and learning kind of this new environment that we're kind of exploring as a community.

Elias: Yeah. I think it's fantastic advice. I had similar thing, right, where to this day out of my wife's family, we moved away. My wife and I met in high school and we were in Florida in Tampa. And we moved in 1998, right after I graduated from college to the Northeast and it's been 20 something years, right. It's been 24 years. And my life changed because of that move, right, because I took that risk. And everybody was like, what are you doing? Why are you moving? It's so expensive up there. It's so cold. To this day people have this criticism, right. But they don't understand what we are able to accomplish here. I think, hot take here. I felt it in your voice. Your father worked for 30 years and he just got sent home nothing, right? Just maybe a pat in the back, right? And what's the path for the future? Should we all become entrepreneurs? What do you want to tell the Latino community?

Nestor: Yeah. I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to speak up, because I think it isn't about all of us becoming entrepreneurs. Although Latinos are the most entrepreneurial community. We're starting businesses at a rate faster than anyone else. And so, I think that's encouraging and something we should continue, but I don't think everyone needs to feel like they need to be an entrepreneur. I think part of it is building opportunities and jobs for our community, companies for our community where we take care of each other, but also kind of bringing these issues to light, right. I think if my father at that time had a mentor, maybe he could have found another startup building janitorial services company to go join and spend 20 years out at. There where he might have gotten 1 percent and gotten paid out at the multimillion dollar exit that they had, right. And I think maybe it comes down to maybe just more information for our community, more mentorship of each other, and more real mentorship, right. More telling people how it is, which I found that in terms of entrepreneurship it tends to be only other founders that tell founders how it is really. And it's really tough to get a straight answer. I think that's something we owe to each other, but kind of understanding that there's these opportunities to invest in yourself long term and you don't have to be an entrepreneur. You can go work at a startup where you get equity in exchange for your time. Or you can save money and build that side hustle and build that nest egg and that savings or invest in different things. I think there's a lot of challenges that... And now, as a 35 year old reflecting on some of the challenges my parents had, it's almost like I wish I knew what I knew now to maybe have helped them a little bit more on this investment or this financial decision. And I think that's what it comes down to. So, while I encourage entrepreneurship, I think it's fantastic that our community is starting business at such a fast rate. I don't want to put out there that everyone has to become an entrepreneur because I think there's a lot of different ways to build security for yourself and your family. And I think it's just about knowing that those opportunities are out there and working for them.

Elias: I love what you're saying about the wide range of entrepreneurship and advice that we can give to Latinos, right. That it might not be entrepreneurship, but it might be owning their own home. It might be even having a little rental home, right, rental unit. It could be a small side hustle that compliments their income. And those are all forms of entrepreneurship, right, but...

Nestor: Absolutely.

Elias: We just did not know what we could do, right, when we first came to this country.

Nestor: It's so true. And it reminds me a lot of my kind of education journey, right. I think if I had someone who had gone to college to maybe hold my hand throughout this application process in undergrad, I think it could've gone very differently. And I'm so fortunate how it played out that the one school that accepted me, that was able to meet my needs and give me the opportunities I was looking for. But if someone could have told me, hey, maybe you should apply to more than three schools. And I had a guidance counselor whose best advice was make sure you check the Latino box when you're applying for school. And so, I think just having that open communication in our community. And now that there's kind of this generation of entrepreneurs and professionals out here like yourself and like the community we're building, I think it's what we need to do right. At Sigo, what we're doing is a podcast called Cafe Con Sigo, very much focused on our community and not just on insurance. But things like, hey, your kids applying to school, let me give you some of the advice and some of the challenges I had. And I think just by putting that information out there, we can make a big difference.

Elias: There's a desire of coaching and helping and mentoring others, right. And I think that our community needs more of that, right. And the range of topics that we need to share and communicate on it's so vast. It's huge, right? Because we have to help from like raising children, access to healthcare. There's a lot of startups in this space, in the Latino community, like Sockolov Health, right, that is starting to provide access into the right communities, to education, high school, entrepreneurship in high school, to like applying for college. I'm working with USF where I went to school. We're discussing, how do we help the Latinos in school, in the engineering computer science school, get guidance for career placement, right. Because they don't have it, right. There is none being provided and they don't end up with the best jobs that they could get, right.

Nestor: Absolutely.

Elias: And so, we need advice and information throughout the entire life cycle, right?

Nestor: Yeah. I think that's right. And there's organizations out there that can provide a lot of this help and that honestly most of our community just don't know about. And it's funny. I remember when I came across sponsors for education opportunity SEO, which was a program I did in undergrad which was super helpful for getting me ready for the professional world. That's a game changer. That was a... That was a clear before and after moment in my life, in terms of kind of how eye opening the opportunities in front of us were. And similar, MLT management leadership for tomorrow, and the preparation for business school applications. I think there's a lot of opportunities that we can take advantage of and just talking to each other and telling each other is a big part of it.

Elias: It's funny because I never heard about SEO until recently, right. And I think I've interviewed three SEO people already, right. And what a great organization, right, because what I can see is the fruit of it, right. Is that they've been inspired to educate, to get the right jobs, and to become entrepreneurs, right. And it's fascinating. I used one called Inroads.

Nestor: Yeah.

Elias: I was... You've heard about it?

Nestor: I'm familiar with Inroads. Great program. Yeah. I couldn't get a job. I couldn't get into it, but I'm a fan as well.

Elias: But you got into SEO. So, that is wonderful. So, I think that'd be another piece of advice that people need to catch on, right? Tell others, tell young people that you know if you're listening to the podcast, about this organizations like Inroads, SEO, MLT. What is MLT? Tell me about that one.

Nestor: So, MLTs a organization called Management Leadership for Tomorrow, similar to SEO. It has a couple different programs. One of their main programs is their career prep program, which helps diverse individuals find jobs and corporate America, similar to SEO and Inroads. They also have a graduate school program, which is a program I actually went through in preparation for applying for business school. And there you get mentorship and guidance and you research the different schools and you visit different schools and you speak to people that have gone through their MBA. And I think that guidance was also invaluable. And so, that's kind of the MLT program. And a lot of my network from New York, a lot of the diverse, Latino and black professionals that I've still kept in touch with, I've met through those programs. I actually learned of Drift through Terrance who's been a good friend of mine since SEO days. So, over a decade now.

Elias: Oh, wow. Yeah. Terrance. You see? We have a very small network and the goal is that we need to expand it, right, and create. And going in fact, and create a network. So, I think that's an important thing. I was just having a conversation this morning at breakfast with my brother- in- law about this need for this fellowship, for these communities, for this small groups of people, right. That we can come together because once you are out there on your own building a business, you do not have time to build a network, right. And you need that strong, closed knit, circle of people that are going to help you through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, right. And so, there's a lot of things you kind of have to be piecing together as you go along the way, right. And I'm realizing now sometimes like the journey for me as an entrepreneur, it was mostly David and I, right, in many ways. And luckily we had each other. Sometimes you have a solo founder and that's 10 times harder, right, to do it.

Nestor: Is it?

Elias: But you met your partner at school. So, tell us how old is Sigo Seguros and what... How old is it?

Nestor: Yeah. So, January 2018 is when kind of I got licensed and we kind of really kicked off. We actually sold our... We started generating revenue as an agency the next year when we graduated. And so, that's kind of when we went full time and kind of the official launch, if you will, as an agency. And then last year's when we launched our own product. So, last year was the launch of Sigo Seguros insurance product. I'd call 2019 the launch of our insurance brokerage business.

Elias: Congrats, well done. I love how long you've been at it, right. That success is not come, it's not like a one year, two years. Sometimes I see a business plan that says they're going to IPO in five years. And I'm like, no, it doesn't work that way. But you're putting, you're grinding, right. You're putting in the work. But I think what's most important for you is that I think so many people go in it and they're like, oh, it's about the money. It's about the money. It's about the money. And they don't realize that the money is really rare to come by, right. It's not as easy as it looks because we only hear the great stories, but what you're doing is you're serving your community, right. And so, you have a purpose, right. And that your day in day out... Any great stories you want to share from that about?

Nestor: Well...

Elias: How you impacted people?

Nestor: Yeah. I think that's something that culturally we all share at Sigo. And I think that's something that bonded me and my co- founder early on, is that search, maybe not search for purpose, but search for meaning in our work I would say, I think while we're all motivated by money and see the opportunity to build a giant, very profitable, successful business, I don't think any of us at Sigo and particularly myself, would be here without the positive social impact that we see that we're having in the community. And I think that's something that as an entrepreneur really helps you drive through the darkest lows of the lows that you're going to experience as an entrepreneur, right? The money isn't going to do it for you. It's very, very difficult to really be motivated by money in some of these situations. Because if you are, I mean, coming out of business school, I probably could have made three, four, five times, but I was paying myself coming out of school, right. And so, that's something that I think is important to call out. Look, I think it's tough to call one thing out because I think it's, in terms of the impact and the purpose we have at Sigo, because it's something that permeates everything we're doing. We're thinking about our customer. We're thinking about doing right by our customer. And we're thinking about how to best serve our customer. That's our purpose, right? Our foreign language, right? Our reason for existence is to be here for our community, for our customer, and if we're not doing that, then I don't think any of us would be interested in doing this.

Elias: Yeah. I love that. I think that people they need to come up with... People need to do their own Venn diagram of what they want, right. What lifestyle? How much money? What purpose, right? What do they work on? What are their strengths, right? What is their passion? Because you could be so satisfied and passionate as a teacher, right? And you make the teacher income, but you're impacting people's lives. Or you could be community person that just volunteers, social worker, right. Again, or you could be right now where you are, where you're like, you're making an impact to your community and you're have enough whether it's investment or revenue to staff your team and to grow at the pace that you're trying to grow right now without feeling stressed or anxious about it, right. It's like you have a responsibility, but just being able to provide for the community would be enough versus other... In my case, where I was in like venture capital, like grow, breaking it, hyper growth, right. Speed. It's just there's different levels, right for entrepreneurship. And people need to know that you have to, what I call like in the American dream, attain your own version of success, right.

Nestor: Absolutely.

Elias: But people shouldn't just settle, right. People should be trying to achieve the best that they can be, right. And not just sit there, right. That's an important caveat. Right?

Nestor: Absolutely. I think that's for all the challenges we have here in the United States, I think living abroad as an adult and exploring my opportunity has really made me appreciate and fall in love with how special the opportunity each of us can have here and take advantage of, right. I think it's almost the sky's the limit for whoever's willing to put in the work and take it.

Elias: I think that is, yeah, that is another twist in people's journeys. Right. Me, I came and I saw what the opportunities were in my country, right. So, I came in like this appreciating, going to USF, getting a scholarship, getting 200 dollars extra a semester. I was like, wow, I'm getting paid. I get like 200 dollars extra. And for me, 200 dollars was a lot because I worked at the grocery store. And so, I making five dollars and 10 cents at Albertson. And so, 200 dollars net on a check was like a big deal. And so, you went somewhere else, right. You went to Uruguay and you might not have not appreciated university, right, and the options you had here had you not gone, right. And see...

Nestor: Yeah. I can't imagine. Look, I took a year and a half living in Uruguay before I came back to school to go to Penn State. I can't imagine how different my experience would've been, if I just landed directly out of high school at Penn State, separated from my family. I mean, I think that year and a half or whatever, or maybe it was just the time to think and kind of see what my friends and other people I knew were doing. But I know I got to Penn state and it was, I want to get a job on Wall Street. And I got two jobs my first month, and I got a third job the next month. And I worked three jobs for three for most of my time at, at Penn State. And I said, this isn't going to get squandered. I felt very fortunate after that experience.

Elias: I think that's... Oh, I love that. I love that saying it's like, when I was in Nicaragua, I was kind of locked in, because I had no visa, no green card in a communist country and no money. As a teenager, I was like, what. There's no way out for me. And all I could do is dream whenever I would see like a movie or something that somebody would bring in a Beta Mac, Beta Max. I don't know if you know about that stuff, but it's like from the eighties. And it would be like, but you said something amazing, right? You lived so close. You could see Wall Street from the street in Jersey, right. And you had that in there and you didn't appreciate it until you went to the other side of the world, right. And be like, well, now I'm coming back. I know that place. I know where it is. I can walk there and get a job if I need to, right. And to be able to appreciate those opportunities is something that people just take for granted, right. And so, I love that. I love that you saw it, you saw the need, you saw the lack of opportunities and you took it. And you took everything that you were given, that you already had.

Nestor: Yeah. Yeah. No, thank you. And I'm, I'm very fortunate. Like you said, it's priceless. It's a mindset shift that I didn't pay for and didn't look for, but was very fortunate to get.

Elias: Yeah. And now, you're telling the story here. Hopefully others, listen. They share that with others. And they say, look, send your kids to Latin America for a stint, so they can appreciate. I need to send my kids that they've been to Ecuador, but I need to send them for more, right. Because they'll never understand what I saw growing up, right. And so, they need to make their own journey. They need to learn their own lessons.

Nestor: Yeah.

Elias: And I appreciate what we all Latinos have in common here. So, thank you so much for being on the show Nestor.

Nestor: Thank you for having me. And yes, I really enjoyed it. Thanks for listening to the American Dream Podcast. Make sure to hit subscribe so you never miss when a new episode drops. If you like this episode, please leave a six star review wherever you listen to your podcast. And if you're interested in learning more about my American dream mission, subscribe to my newsletter link in the show notes.


"I met my cofounder on the first day. A year later we started working together. We graduated and worked together. That alone was the price of admission."

Nestor Solari, Co-Founder and CEO of Sigo Seguros, an insurance technology company providing affordable access to auto insurance through its bilingual, mobile-first platform, is no stranger to schooling. With a bachelor's degree, MA in International Studies, and MBA in his back pocket, Nestor felt well-equipped to start his own company -- or so he thought.

In this episode of the American Dream podcast, Nestor reflects on what a Master's degree really taught him, how living abroad altered his United States experience, and he shares the resources that help him succeed as an entrepreneur today.

Key Moments:

  • (1:24) What triggered Nestor to start Sigo Siguros
  • (5:55) How Sigo Siguros provides insurance to its customers
  • (8:41) Nestor’s background & journey through education
  • (13:39) Is a master’s degree necessary for being a good entrepreneur?
  • (17:44) The importance of diverse advice for Latinos
  • (23:00) What is the future for Latinos in the American workforce?
  • (27:39) Resources for education throughout an entire career lifecycle
  • (30:11) The need to expand the Latinx-in-tech network 
  • (31:25) The early history of Sigo Siguros
  • (32:55) How do we define success? 
  • (36:28) How living in Latin America can shift your perspective when you move to America

Like this episode? Leave a review!