Oswaldo Trava Albarrán, a graduate of Stanford Business School, lost his finance job in the heat of the 2008 financial crisis before he had secured an H-1B visa. Passionate about entrepreneurship, he decided to return to his native Mexico, where he has since founded two successful companies, Lo Mio Es TUYO and InstaFit.
Originally from Mexico, Oswaldo Trava Albarrán came to the United States to earn an MBA from the country’s leading business program at Stanford University, where he graduated in 2008. Oswaldo had focused on finance throughout his MBA program, so accepting a job with UBS—a global financial services firm—and moving to New York after graduation appeared to be a natural fit.
Caught in the midst of the financial crisis, however, Oswaldo lost his job after just a few months with the firm. Complicating his situation was the fact that he was still on Optional Practical Training (OPT) status under his F-1 student visa, a short-term visa that allows international graduates of U.S. schools to remain and do work related to their training for up to a year after graduation. Absent a large firm or company sponsoring him, he realized it would be nearly impossible to obtain a more long-term visa, especially in the current economic climate.
With his hopes of staying in the financial sector waning, Oswaldo discovered he had a passion for entrepreneurship, and he began turning his attention to starting his own company. “I was always more excited about chasing new ideas, developing a product, and starting new ventures,” Oswaldo explains. Seeing as the U.S. lacks a dedicated entrepreneurship visa, Oswaldo had no choice but to start his company elsewhere, and in 2009, he returned home to Mexico.
That year, he co-founded Lo Mio Es TUYO (“What’s Mine is Yours”), a retail-store concept that specializes in the purchase and re-sale of used household goods and electronics, providing Mexico’s lower and middle income shoppers with a reliable source for gently used goods. Lo Mio Es TUYO grew quickly, expanding to 20 stores and over $5 million in sales in its first three years. In 2012, Lo Mio Es TUYO’s board approved EZ Corp’s (a leading U.S. specialty consumer finance conglomerate) majority share purchase of the company.
Last year, Oswaldo sold his shares of the company and launched his latest venture, InstaFit, which he describes as a “perfect fit” between his entrepreneurial spirit and his passion for fitness. InstaFit is an online fitness platform that creates customized workout and nutrition plans for users. The company has successfully raised funds from angel investors and venture capitalists and is currently based in Mexico and Colombia. Oswaldo is hoping to expand to Peru and Chile in the near future.
When asked if he plans to expand InstaFit to the United States, Oswaldo says that there is so much opportunity in the U.S. for any health-related product. “It is more competitive, but it is much easier to create a business. The market is a huge one, and there are so many people willing to buy,” he says. “Moving into the U.S. will be a decision we will eventually need to make.”
Although Oswaldo sees a promising future in the United States, he is pleased with the growth and success of his company thus far. He even has three interns from Stanford Business School working with InstaFit this summer.
As he reflects back on business school, he says, “Starting a company in the U.S. wasn’t even an option [for me]. Everyone around me was dealing with visa issues. A lot of my friends went back home after the MBA to start their own companies.” It is a loss for the United States, he says, but has been good for creating opportunities in Latin America and elsewhere.