Want to launch your business in Brazil? A Guide to Brazilian Startup Events

startup weekend feeling

Have you heard about the Brazilian Start-up community and its events? Their popularity is ever increasing – especially amongst Venture Capitalists (VC) and Private Equity (PE) firms from Silicon Valley. By reading this post you will understand the reasons why startup events (on the left) have been virtually untapped by investors and why it’s starting to boom. I will also introduce you to the best practices and potential obstacles to look out for.

Why are Silicon Valley Investors considering Brazilian Startups?

Brazil has over 210 million mobile phone lines, 200 million inhabitants and 80 million Internet users who usually spend more time on the web than Americans and Europeans. Moreover, Brazilians are naturally early adopters and they love social media. That is not all! Brazil has been indulging over the past decade with a strong and favourable macro-economic environment. Everybody is rushing to participate in the bonanza of the largest Latin American e-commerce market- worth $11bn and growing at 25% yearly. Finally, the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics are two other good reasons why investors want to put their money in Brazil.

Despite all the scarcity in funding, high tax and burocracy challenges, some Brazilian entrepreneurs have overcome them all by building very successful companies like Buscape, Netshoes, Apontador and Videolog.

6 people you need to meet at the Sao Paulo Startup Scene

There are some important people you should be looking for in Sao Paulo when searching for support or funding for your startup:

Accelerator Program from 500 Startups
  1. Diego Remus – Editor and Chief of Startupi.
  2. Diego Gomes – Editor at ReadWriteWeb Brasil.
  3. In Hsieh – Entrepreneur and co-founder of baby.com.
  4. Michael Nicklas – Investor and Managing Director at SocialSmart Ventures (VC and PE company).
  5. Yuri Gitahy – Serial entrepreneur, founder of Aceloeradora and Angel Investor.
  6. Bedy Yang – Founder of Brazil Innovators and works for 500 Startups as international Hunter-Gatherer.

The origins of the startup scene boom in Brazil

Let’s break this down shall we? From the Macro side the key points are:

a) The deteriorating economic situation of the developed economies,

b) Sound economic environment in Brazil and

c) Availability of cheaper credit

On the micro level, there has been a lot of support from some key organizations in the start-up community. Here are some examples worth mentioning:

  • Aceleradora is a network which gives support to start-ups in early stages of product development and funding.
  • Brazil Innovators maintains the strong link between Silicon Valley and Brazilian founders through their events. They are the main organizer of the Startup Weekend in Brazil.
  • Endeavor is known is the rest of world as the Kauffman Foundation and they support entrepreneurs from the developing economies.
  • FGV is a top university for business and economic related studies. Most of the top executives in Brazil graduate there. The university also regularly organizes events with local Angels Investors.
  • Sebra is a national institution, which gives support to all types of entrepreneurs. They are also known for having one of the most exhilarating entrepreneur courses in Brazil called EMPRETEC.

Three Events you cannot miss in Sao Paulo!!

If you want to either test your idea, get some funding, meet talented people or just have some interesting experiences these are the events you must attend:

  1. Campus Party brings together over 6000 tech people to work to have fun.
  2. Startup Meetup is an event which takes places in major cities where one famous founder speaks to young entrepreneurs.
  3. Startup Weekend is a 54 hour event starting on Friday evening with start-up enthusiasts meet up in order to present their ideas and the best ones are select to be presented to potential angels investor on Sunday evening. The next Startup Weekend will take place in Porto Alegre from 3 – 5 February 2012.

Most common pitfalls!

Me at the Beijing Startup Weekend

I would like to start with the most common problems during Startup Weekend events. While attending the Beijing Startup Weekend between 13 to 15 January. I experienced some challenges. Hopefully this list will help you to better prepare the obstacles in a Startup:

  1. Prepare your pitch well! It might be obvious, but I have seen so many people coming to these events who have not practiced once in front of the mirror.
  2. Know your competitors, even if they are indirect competitors. During my final presentation I did not know my competitors and the judge named them for me. Since all my mentors told me that my idea was a business model they have never seen before, I fell into the trap of not looking for them. Present your competitors during the final and tell the judges why you are better and how you will deal with them.
  3. Make sure you have all the tools, software and accounts working for the event.
  4. Over-sized groups are counter-productive and very time consuming. Make sure you have all the people with the set of skills and competences you need.
  5. Present a profit model: the judges are also experienced entrepreneurs and/or investors. They would like to see your assumptions on it. If you have no idea about the market, present three different scenarios with sales revenues, an increase in number of customers and if possible an approximation of your bottom line.
  6. Test the demo product before the presentation and the projector (our projector had problems during the final presentation ).
  7. Know your weaknesses! Know them well and how to improve them during the Q&A session.
  8. For investors, the personality and competences of  an entrepreneur is more important than the idea. The business idea will change radically and rapidly. The entrepreneur will not!
  9. Make sure the message is clear who the leader of the project is. Investors understand that teams overly democratic tend to fail.
  10. Do not be afraid to ask for an exact amount of funding. Just make sure that you have a simple cash flow model showing how you will spend it.

The Best Practices

After having learned many lessons with my experience during the Startup Weekend in Beijing, I started to search on the net which were the most used models for start-ups. I stumbled upon some very interesting things we normally do not learn in business schools.

On the macro level it is good to know the Startup Pyramid and the AARRR metric model (Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral and Revenue). These two frameworks will guide though the first steps of putting together your idea and transforming it into a business model.

On a more granular level, I came across a highly interesting framework, “Milestones to Startup Success”:

  • Validate Need for Minimum Viable Product (MVP) – For more visit Steve Blank’s blog.
  • Where is the love? – Think of your early users as flocks of sheep because the flock always finds the best grass.
  • Expose the Core Gratifying Experience – Be as simple as possible and eliminate features that are not giving a good experience to users.
  • Metrics - They are critical to your success when you have a product/market fit.
  • Start charging – before you start growing rapidly and make sure you have a business model
  • Extreme customer support – Once you have a business model, spend your first dollar in expanding the customer support team.
  • Brand experience over Brand Awareness – during the “dotcom bubble” days billions were spent in brand awareness with little result. Entrepreneurs understand today is much cheaper and effective to invest in brand experience and make sure the customer has a fantastic brand experience.
  • Drive Growth – CEOs must participate actively and bring in a strong marketing leader. Start with free channels and then paid channels to acquire customers. Focus on channels showing strong potential for scale.
  • Business Building – A fast growing business is not easy to manage. Therefore it makes sense to bring some experienced professionals.

Please share some of your experiences in startups and let me know if these pieces of advice were helpful to you. Maybe one day we will meet in “Brasilicon Valley” :)

About Thiago Gomes de Lima

My Name is Thiago Gomes. I am Brazilian Swiss, based in Shanghai. I hold a trilingual and tri-national bachelor degree in International Business Management from the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland. My working experience ranges from commercial to supply chain in different parts of the world such as: Europe, Brazil, SEA and China.

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