The inspiring story of David Vélez, the richest man in Colombia
David Vélez, the richest Colombian in the world, started his journey to success selling a cow. At the age of nine, he purchased a cow with the savings he had accumulated from working in his father’s button factory. Over time, he increased his herd, and his wealth grew exponentially. Today, he is the CEO of Nubank, the largest digital bank outside of Asia, with a net worth of 6,500 million dollars, according to Forbes.
From entrepreneurship to Stanford University
Born in Medellín, Vélez’s family moved to Costa Rica when he was young to escape social violence. He convinced his father to sell him a cow, which became the foundation for a business, which he later sold to fund his engineering studies at Stanford University in the United States.
After graduation, Vélez began working in Silicon Valley, where he quickly rose to become an analyst at Morgan Stanley and later directed General Atlantic’s Latin American investment program. After obtaining his MBA, he moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil, attracted by a job offer from Sequoia Capitals.
A revolutionary digital bank
Vélez had a nightmarish experience trying to open a bank account in Brazil, which inspired him to start his own digital bank, Nubank. The bank offers low-cost credit cards and customer service channels through the internet, revolutionizing the sector by breaking the behavior of banks that charged more than 400% of overdrafts. In just two years, Nubank achieved more than one million customers, received several rounds of independent investment, and became a Unicorn company with a valuation of over $1 billion.
Philanthropy and social impact
Vélez’s success has motivated him to give back to the Latin American community. In 2021, he and his wife, Mariel Reyes, joined the Giving Pledge, a philanthropic club founded by billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in 2009. The couple’s contributions will be made through their family platform, VelezReyes+, focused on leadership and education, with some initial donations already made in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru.
David Vélez’s life story is a true testament to the potential for entrepreneurship in Latin America and the possibilities that can arise from a little bit of ingenuity and hard work.