Federico Malek has always believed in the power of e-commerce. Through Wonder Brands, he is building profitable brands across LATAM and the United States.
The Influence of Rising Stars
Federico was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina to a family of retail business owners. At 15 years old, Federico saw the rise of massive online businesses like Mercado Libre (Amazon for Latin America) and Patagon paving the way for massive digital channels across Latin America. Inspired by the entrepreneurs leading these revolutionary companies, Federico knew that he wanted to follow in their footsteps with a venture of his own.
With his sights set high, Federico attended the University of San Andres in Buenos Aires where he met the future co-founder of his first business, Alan Kraus. The newly formed team was determined to make their first venture a success:
“We really didn’t want to start our own company just out of university. He [Alan] was at McKinsey, I was in banking. We called [these jobs] ‘the military service’ that we needed to do before we started our own business.”
Federico viewed e-commerce as the natural progression of the retail business models he grew up seeing his family run. With this in mind Federico and his co-founder started Walooz, a hard discount website on services like restaurants and beauty salons. While the team expected their business to be a success, they could not imagine the company would be acquired in less than a year by North America-based Groupon. They became Groupon LATAM’s first “acqui-hires,” a term that was uncommon in the early 2010s. At 23 years old, Federico had sold his first business and was now running a team of 300+ full-time employees.
Developing as a Serial E-commerce Entrepreneur
Post-acquisition, Federico became the CEO of Groupon LATAM. However, as an entrepreneur at heart, he returned to the startup world in 2014 with his second e-commerce company Avenida. This would also be the company under which Federico would join Endeavor through in 2015.
“At first, I didn’t know why I wanted to join Endeavor. I just knew that all high-impact entrepreneurs were at Endeavor. The first thing that I found there were other people facing the same challenges as we were facing. It’s the peer-to-peer connection that actually helped.”
He was a young 26-year-old founder at the time, yet he was already standing on the same stage as the giants like Patagon and Mercado Libre that he had grown up watching. That being said, he had plenty to learn from founders that had many more years of experience and who were eager to pay their knowledge forward.
Avenida was the first company Federico would raise money for and was new to speaking with international venture capital firms. Heavy market fluctuations decreased investors’ appetite for risk, obligating Federico and his team to restructure the company for financial sustainability. Fortunately, Federico had the opportunity to connect with Guibert Englebienne, Endeavor Entrepreneur & co-founder of Globant, a Latin American unicorn company working in the enterprise software space, as well as other Endeavor Entrepreneurs that guided Federico and the team through a complex restructuring process.
Avenida was then acquired in late 2016. Without missing a beat, in early 2017 Federico started iúnigo, one of the first online insurance companies in Latin America. He would lead the company as CEO until August 2020, when he found his way back into e-commerce through his most recent venture: Wonder Brands.
Experiences Compounding into Growth
Federico has always been a big believer in the potential of the Latin American markets. However, his previous experience with Avenida taught him that focusing on a single market brings too much risk and would scare away investors in the event of market fluctuations. As such, he decided that Wonder Brands would be headquartered in the fastest-growing e-commerce market in the world, Mexico. The company quickly expanded to Colombia, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay.
Federico co-founded Wonder Brands in 2020 alongside Matias Casoy and Nicolas Gonzalez Luna. Matias is the former Director of Rappi — a Latin American unicorn company started by two Endeavor Entrepreneurs. Nicolas came in as a seasoned M&A investor with experience across many firms including Goldman Sachs and Oaktree Capital. The three founders decided that the company needed to be profitable from the outset and used their complementary skill sets to launch the business into what it is today.
Wonder Brands acquires and develops digital brands spanning a wide range of categories including home goods, CPG, power tools, and fitness equipment. It leverages technology to scale their operations and grow sales by taking care of the marketing, analytics, supply chain management and working capital needs of the individual brands.
“The acquisition of companies was just the ignition to get us started. We soon realized that M&A is just a tool to build something. It can never be the end itself. It’s how you create something.”
With this idea in mind, Wonder Brands leverages technology to test products across several markets and fine-tunes them to refine the brands under their name. These brands born for digital channels outpace traditional retailers as they have the flexibility to adapt to new consumer trends, offer dynamic pricing, and are not limited by physical storefronts. In the near future, Wonder Brands hopes to add its own credit solutions, warranties, and other financial products to end consumers in order to stay ahead as a well-diversified online retailer.
What the Future Holds for a Serial Founder
Wonder Brands is filling 10,000 orders per day with 25 brands under the Wonder Brands banner. Making this the largest company Federico has built in his successful history as a serial entrepreneur. The team will be expanding the company to the U.S. this year and is looking to expand to Brazil in 2024.