Marcela Torres became an entrepreneur in 2016 when she co-founded Hola Code, a Mexican social enterprise teaching software engineering to refugees and migrants deported or returned from the U.S. She went on to lead growth at Platzi, Latin America’s most popular edtech, and at Vest. Recently, she switched sides and is enjoying a new role as chief of growth and community at Joystick Ventures, a VC fund for indie video game developers. Though the fund is yet to invest in any video games from Latin America – where the market is expected to be worth almost $6.3 billion by 2023 – as the only Mexican woman on her team, Torres is always looking to support new ventures from her home region.
What lessons are you learning after switching to a venture fund after many years fundraising for startups?
It’s like literally changing seats at the table, but all of a sudden you have a panoramic view. When you’re pitching as an entrepreneur, you think you know what [investors] are looking for. But sometimes I think if I could do my time again, I would do way more research on the fund before even pitching, because I’d think to myself, maybe this is not a match.
What are you looking for from video game developers as an investor?
When it comes to how games are chosen for the portfolio, there’s a lot of hard work that goes into it, like playtesting and market analysis. Lots of venture capitalists focus on proof of concept – making sure that your idea has a place in the world. You want to make sure that an idea has the potential to return the investment.
What trends are you excited about in the gaming sector at the moment?
I think there’s a lot being said about the metaverse – things that shock or wow people. This has already been happening in the video game world for many years and people have been purchasing things online all the time. They’re just digital assets. So I think it’s bringing a little bit of that into the mainstream. It’s a very interesting transition to observe.
How do you go about building a community for indie video game developers?
It’s already a sector that is used to community, which is very different when you’re building a startup, positioning a product and looking for your community. People in the video game industry have been building communities for many years. So it’s about just ensuring that people feel safe, well-respected or trusted in spaces, that’s the biggest challenge. But the great thing is there’s loads of tools for that already, such as Discord, Reddit, and Twitch.
Why do you think it is particularly important to make people feel safe in gaming communities?
Before, digital spaces were just an addition to life. Throughout the pandemic, it became really evident that digital spaces are also proper spaces and that gave a sense of responsibility to those holding them to make sure to accommodate for people. And the more we get on the Internet and do more activities together, there are more diverse people coming in. The first thing to provide is safety – some basic rules which state things that should not be tolerated, like hate speech and discrimination, or harassment.
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