A Harvard MBA Student Shares His Experience Working with Mexico’s Arbol Financiero

Paul Yarabe, Harvard Business School MBA, Class of 2018

As part of Harvard Business School’s semester-long FIELD program, teams of MBA students work with consumer companies in select cities around the world (Global Partners) to apply innovation and human-centered design to a business challenge. Through Endeavor, HBS FIELD matched 10 Endeavor Entrepreneurs as Global Partners in 2016-7. The teams travel on-site for the final week of the program to meet the company’s’ leadership, spend time with local consumers testing and developing ideas, and present their final findings. For more information, please contact [email protected]

HBS FIELD students presenting to the Arbol Financiero team

As a first year MBA itching to use what I’d learned in the classroom, I truly lucked out when my six-person team had a chance to work on a project with the startup Arbol Financiero (Arbol).  Coming from a variety of backgrounds and work experiences, my team bonded during our preparation period in Boston and in Mexico City, where our project took place.  Even though none of us had been too interested initially in auto financing when we found out about our project, as we did more research on the industry and Arbol’s goals, we became more knowledgeable.  

However, it was during the in-person experience, where we learned about the difficulties of getting a car loan from our interpreter and when we were able to meet the CEO, Joaquin Rivera, and his amazing and dedicated team, that we were able to develop the sense of empathy, curiosity, and determination that helped us complete our project successfully.

Arbol Financiero is an online marketplace for loans, serving a diverse customer base that includes borrowers, car dealership and lenders. Specifically tasked to focus on the B2B portion of Arbol’s business strategy, we spoke with six finance and insurance teams (at major dealerships) and four financial lenders, representing over 18 hours of interview research.  

Working with Joaquin, who was always encouraging as we communicated our daily reports, was an amazing experience, and my biggest takeaway was how important it is to prototype rapidly and get feedback from actual potential customers.  Joaquin told us on a car ride to Banorte how lucky he felt that his startup was one of two chosen, and one of around ten firms in Mexico that Harvard Business School worked with during the Field Global Immersion program.  As a budding software developer looking to solve problems I see around me, I know that I was more lucky to work with him, his team, and my amazing team of MBAs.  

“I would strongly recommend the HBS FIELD program to every entrepreneur,” Joaquin Rivera added, reflecting on working with Paul. “If you are fully committed you will get fresh views on your business model and the opportunity to validate your thoughts with a highly qualified third party at nearly no cost.”