Benji Moreira – CEO Interview

by | Oct 7, 2020

Benji Moreira

Director of Mundo Lingo

When did you know you wanted to start your own company?

I was a classic case of ‘identify problem, solve it’. I had just moved from Madrid to Buenos Aires. I didn’t know even one person, and saw that foreigners and Argentines were living in parallel worlds with no reason to interact with each other. I didn’t understand why it was so difficult to socialise and integrate with locals.

What was your original idea for this company, and are you still doing that (or did you pivot, if so, what is the new focus and why)?

Originally I was just a lost and lonely immigrant in a new country and wanted to integrate. I passed that goal within weeks. 9 years later I still have those friends, plus many new ones, and we’re open in 25-30 cities. However, Covid lockdowns have destroyed this project spectacularly over the past 6 months and so now 9 years in, we’re pivoting. We will have the same focus as before; fostering local community, but we’re adding tools to our website to empower our community to self-organise way beyond our events. I fondly refer to this as our “2nd project” in lieu of a formalised name.

How long did it take you to finally take the leap, and what was it that pushed you over the fence?

I didn’t hesitate for the 1st project, I was in a nothing-to-lose situation.

Who inspired you to pursue your dream, and why do you think they believed in you?

My landlord Juan was encouraging. I don’t come from social circles/family of entrepreneurs. The best inspiration can be found from the normal people around you doing their thing. They’re genuine and that’s all you need. If they’re negative about it, just don’t ask them again.

Who is your favorite mentor and why?

I’m a bit of a lone wolf. I’m open to being mentored if I’m fortunate to meet someone of a genuinely similar philosophy to mine, who can and is willing to teach, but that didn’t happen yet.

What was the hardest thing about starting your company, and what did you do to make it through the first stage?

At first, to believe I was ‘allowed’ to do it. I’m from a working class background with no university education. It took a while for me to realise these things are pretty much meaningless.

What has been the hardest lesson to learn?

I’m unrealistically optimistic. I fall prey to optimism over and over; that x action will boost results and end all problems or x person is 100% trustworthy because they said so. The lesson: Pragmatism and cynicism are forces for good when used wisely.

What has been the most amazing thing you have experience while running this company?

The feedback. Even if we close tomorrow I know we’ve made 100,000s of friendships, 100s of marriages and at least a few dozen babies. We brought together Koreans and Japanese, Indians and Pakistanis, British and …everyone. We helped MENA immigrants integrate in Europe and North America. We helped people with social insecurities and/or mental conditions find their social butterfly wings. We get Emails from people saying Mundo Lingo has changed their lives, that’s an amazingly humbling experience. Those Emails often catch me off-guard when I’m feeling down and obliterate my negativity.

What is the weirdest thing you have experienced while running this company, and how did you react to it?

I got punched by a participant once because I told him I didn’t want to do business with him. That was weird.

What is the best decision you’ve ever made while running this company?

Automating our interview and hiring processes.

What is the biggest mistake you made while running this company, and why do you think it happened?

A couple of years ago I contracted a website development company. I thought they were the amazing, real pros, I swallowed their dazzle hook, line and sinker. Months later they sent me an utterly none-working website, I spent hours, days and weeks going through the endless 100’s of bugs until finally they told me to send payment immediately because I was “finding too many bugs”. Then began a campaign of personal attacks and gas lighting, their masks slipped and I realised I was in a den of wolves. Later they faked the transfer of the website, my tech guy told me not to accept, and indeed he was right. All kinds of lies and deceit. I had no contract and had already sent them a huge deposit. I was an idiot to put myself in that situation, and I really paid for my mistake big time. Always hire in-house if you can.

How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your company?

The same way frozen water affected the Titanic.

What keeps you passionate about your company?

The idea of proving you don’t have to be a cold-hearted, cut-throat opportunist to be a business person, and that there are higher goals in life than just making a shit-ton of money.

What daily routine have you developed to help you take care of your mind, body, and soul?

A cappuccino every morning takes care of all 3 of these.

What one thing would you like people to take away from this interview?

Don’t just say you’re doing ‘good’ because you provide a service to humans. Actually think about what humanity needs and try to take us there.

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On the podcast, Sean talks with entrepreneurs about the reality of their struggle to succeed, as well as answering questions from the community, and sharing nuggets of wisdom from his own life.

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Sean Weisbrot

Sean Weisbrot

Sean is an entrepreneur, investor, and advisor based in SE Asia for over 12 years. He is passionate about Psychology and helping others improve themselves.