8 key entrepreneurial leaders from Brazil’s startup scene
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Rio De Janeiro, Courtesy of Anna Gibiskys / Shutterstock. Top 10 startups in Brazil. Top leaders in Brazil's startup scene

Main image: Rio De Janeiro, Courtesy of Anna Gibiskys / Shutterstock. Photo credit for other images: Courtesy

Recently we had the opportunity to speak with eight of the key startup leaders from Brazil, including prominent founders and investors. Here’s what they had to say about the best companies in Brazil’s ecosystem and what the country needs to do to get to the next level

Brazil is known for many things: having beautiful beaches (and people), housing the 2014 World Cup, and managing one of the strongest economies in the world. What most people don’t know, however, is how diverse and plentiful their startup scene is. From companies like Nubank, ContaAzul, and Resultados Digitais, to Pipefy, Cortex Intelligence, and Descomplica, Brazil’s startup ecosystem is increasingly alluring investors from all over the world.

Recently we had the opportunity to speak with eight of the key startup leaders from Brazil, including prominent founders and investors. Here’s what they had to say about the best companies in Brazil’s ecosystem and what the country needs to do to get to the next level.

1) Patrick Arippol, Managing Director at DGF Investimentos

Patrick Arippol

Photo Credit: Courtesy

1. What do you think makes the Brazil startup scene special?

In 1999 I started a company in Brazil and from 2002-2010 I was in Silicon Valley. I worked for a few U.S. based companies, one of which IPOed in 2005.

The Brazil startup scene, before going away for 10 years, had a lot of delusions. People didn’t really know what they were doing. Brazil had a phenomenal last 10 years while I was abroad, and I was so surprised once returning to Brazil.

Brazil has a large local market, which is good in that you have a good test bed for expanding solutions in the market. A company can grow and do extremely well just in Brazil, and can even go abroad if they want.

2. What advice would you give someone who is just starting out and wishes to enter this scene?

There’s really not that much competition in a lot of places. If you put your team and strategy together, you could really have a blue ocean growth. It’s an easier market to work.

3. What are the biggest challenges facing the Brazil startup scene, and what do you think needs to be done to overcome them?

There have been a lot of pro-active efforts and recognition that wasn’t there before on behalf of government and startups. There have been a lot of accelerators being started by banks which would have never done that before. DGF Investimentos is very active with venture capital and private capital to try and change some things. The President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, actually rescheduled visiting President Obama to spend time in Silicon Valley to show how much they’re looking for what could be done to improve the Brazil ecosystem.

4. What are the most important startups in Brazil?

I’d have to say Resultados Digitais (Digital Results), which is in the marketing cyberspace. It’s a segment in the U.S. that has had multi-billion dollar exits. Innovation is really shaping up the dynamics of marketing and such technologies. I believe this is the most innovative marketing cyberspace company located outside of the U.S.

2) Marcel Cazado, Managing Director at Floripa Angels

Marcel Cazado

Photo Credit: Courtesy

1. What do you think makes the Brazilian startup scene special?

The energy the new-coming players are putting in the ecosystem. Recently many accelerators, angels, VCs, government initiatives, etc, have shown up to support the innovative companies. That’s the first time in history that the venture capital chain is complete in Brazil.

2. What do you think will be the most important trends in the Brazil tech & startup scene in the coming years?

The partnership between university and the entrepreneurs to create objective competitive advantages for the new companies. The university needs to play their role in the coming years, which is embrace entrepreneurship as a source of development for the country.

3. What are the biggest challenges facing the Brazilian startup scene, and what do you think needs to be done to overcome them?

Government support to foster angel investment. We investors need to make some lobbying to persuade the politicians to approve more flexible regulations and incentives to angel investing.

4. What are the most important startups in this scene at the moment?

I would say RDStation, Chaordic, Engaged, and Pipefy.

3) Fabrice Grinda, Co-Founder, OLX

Fabrice Grinda

Photo Credit: Courtesy

1. What do you think makes the Brazilian startup scene special?

Brazil has a large domestic Internet market that supports a reasonably robust ecosystem.

2. What do you think will be the most important trends in the Brazil tech & startup scene in the coming years?

As Brazil matures, the next generation of Internet startups will start to emerge. You won’t just have “basic” travel and classified sites like Hotel Urbano and OLX, but vertical transactional marketplaces. You should see the equivalent of Postmates, Zeel, Zirx, Instacart and all the vertical on demand apps emerge in Brazil.

3. What are the biggest challenges facing the Brazilian startup scene, and what do you think needs to be done to overcome them?

Brazil has made a few macro economically unsound decisions over the last few years. At the same time, they have not addressed the “Custo Brazil.” It’s still way too complicated and expensive to operate there. Taxes are high, complex and confusing. Likewise with labor laws. They should drastically simplify the tax code and the labor market laws. These issues have scared a number of American VCs over the last few years and there is a real Series A / B crunch right now. It’s easy to get seed money and late stage money, but very hard in the middle.

4. What are the most important startups in this scene at the moment?

The companies I like the most right now are OLX, Vivareal, Enjoei and Recarga. Obviously I am biased as I co-founded OLX and am an investor in the next three.

4) Rodrigo Baer, Principal of Redpoint eventures

Rodrigo Baer

Photo Credit: Courtesy

1. What do you think makes the Brazil startup scene special?

The Brazilian startup scene is changing quite quickly. We are seeing more and more experienced and technical entrepreneurs replacing the MBA/Mckinsey types that kicked off the ecosystem a few years ago. A large chunk is due to the maturing of the first cycle of companies, some of those founders coming back to do it again, as well as the educational component that the first generation had on the people that were on the fringes. They showed those entrepreneurs that stage financing is a viable option for quick growth. But besides the quick maturing, the Brazilian scene is special in a few aspects:

A) It is sizeable but with significant growth perspectives. We have 100M people online, enough critical mass for any business, but still have another 100M to get online over the next few years, ensuring growth potential.

B) Leapfrogging – some of our services and infrastructure is so bad that we will simply use technology to skip developmental stages. For example, the trucking industry in the U.S. went from independent truckers to fleets, to GPS guided fleets, to Uber-like models. Brazil is going directly from independent truckers to Uber.

C) Hard to start, better to thrive – the Brazilian business ecosystem is knowingly hard to start a business. While that is clearly a hurdle in the beginning, once you overcome it, you will have fewer competitors than you would in the U.S., hence healthier businesses.

2. What do you think will be the most important trends in the Brazilian tech & startup scene in the coming years?

Less focus on B2C opportunities (which were already exploited by the MBA/McKinsey types) and more focus on problems that require domain expertise to be identified, typically B2B. Also focus on applying technology to BIG offline world problems (logistics, home improvement, health providers, etc).

3. What are the biggest challenges facing the Brazilian startup scene, and what do you think needs to be done to overcome them?

The biggest issue today is availability of large rounds ($10-15M+). We have enough people writing the smaller checks but the bigger ones are key to maintain growth speeds and achieve breakeven.

We will also need to develop talent in sales and tech to the global standards.

4. What are the most important startups in this scene at the moment?

Nubank, Psafe, Viva Real, and Movile.

5) Manoel Lemos, Partner at Redpoint eventures and Founder of Fazedores

Manoel Lemos

Photo Credit: Courtesy

1. What do you think makes the Brazilian startup scene special?

A few things: First the kind of problems we have, some are really big and deep, and that generates lots of opportunities for entrepreneurs to address. Some basic things in Brazil didn’t work at all and a fresh approach to them is a huge opportunity.

We also have the passion of Brazilians for technology and social media, which position us among the top users of social media in the planet. Again, lots of opportunity.

2. What are the biggest challenges facing the Brazilian startup scene, and what do you think needs to be done to overcome them?

Exits! Actually … bigger exits. There is this myth that there are no exits in Brazil. It is not true. There are a lot mid-size exits (100s of millions USD). But they are not publicized. This is in part from cultural aspects (not very nice to say you’re rich, successful, etc) and fear (you don’t want everybody to know you made multiple millions and be a target for bad guys). But we have very few really big exits (billions+). In part, our theory (not proved, but we are working on that), because we are not funding companies in a way to allow them to pursuit this size of exits. I mean, we are not seeing 10, 20, 50M rounds happening a lot.

3. What are the most important startups in this scene at the moment?

I believe there are a lot of great ones (in all stages)…. such as:

  • Resultados Digitais
  • PSafe
  • Minuto Seguros
  • NuBank
  • ContaAzul
  • RockContent
  • Nibo
  • Memed
  • Pipefy
  • BankFacil
  • 99Taxis
  • Hotel Urbano
  • Movile
  • Olist
  • Cortex Intelligence
  • Descomplica
  • GymPass
  • Passei Direto
  • iFoo

6) Diego Gomes, Co-Founder at Rock Content

Rock Content's Facebook page

Photo Credit: Courtesy

1. What do you think makes the Brazilian startup scene special?

I think it is early stage: People are excited and starting new businesses, but they are not experienced and there are not a lot of experienced founders. When I started the dealbook with Luciano Tavares there were barely no deals to put in there. No VCs. Now it’s in its first moment, we’re having a lot of local innovation and great new businesses coming along. New investments every other day. Founders are learning fast and going towards profitability early.

2. What do you think will be the most important trends in the Brazilian tech & startup scene in the coming years?

B2B is growing extremely fast. Local companies are starting to master lead generation, scaling sales teams, enterprise sales and the market is evolving fast. The VC money is shifting from e-commerce (2008-2013) to B2B, growth and revenue oriented companies.

There’s not a lot of money on the market for B2C mobile and social apps and VCs tend to go to marketplaces (which are huge) and e-commerce.

3. What are the biggest challenges facing the Brazilian startup scene, and what do you think needs to be done to overcome them?

First, lack of product, sales and marketing knowledge by local founders. We have great developers, but not that many salespeople, marketers and product/ux people;

Second, inexperienced angel investors and VCs;

The way to overcome it is time. We’re on the right direction, companies are growing and I feel that in the future these issues will fix themselves with the first exits, second time founders, and so on.

4. What are the most important startups in this scene at the moment?

7) Daniel Heise, Manager at Sprinklr and Scup

Daniel Heise

Photo Credit: Courtesy

1. What do you think makes the Brazilian startup scene special?

Competition is not anywhere close to the level in more developed markets as the U.S. or Europe. With most sectors lagging the developed markets by a couple of years, there are a lot of opportunities to see what’s working in these markets and adapting them to the specifics of the country. Creativity, fast adaptation and resilience are local traits that are very beneficial for startups too.

2. What do you think will be the most important trends in the Brazilian tech & startup scene in the coming years?

Focusing more on problems and pains of the local market, solving for real issues and not simply “tropicalizing” successful apps and services from the U.S. Continued lack of ample funding alternatives and liquidity for exits. Entrepreneurs should seize the opportunities that are surfacing in this moment of deep crisis. It is at times like these that really big opportunities are available and almost no one believes in them.

3. What are the biggest challenges facing the Brazilian startup scene, and what do you think needs to be done to overcome them?

The biggest by far is the talent pool. Brazil doesn’t have enough engineers, product people, sales and marketing professionals that can bring solutions to market with the quality that is needed to compete and scale globally.

The way to solve for this is to create an environment for foreign entrepreneurs to want to come to Brazil and the best entrepreneurs we have to not want to leave the country in such a terrible economic and political time. Unfortunately we’re not doing a good job at this, after a great period between 2010-2013.

4. What are the most important startups in this scene at the moment?

To name some high potential ones: Resultados Digitais, Conta Azul, 99 taxis, Scup, and Descomplica. These are companies that have the talent, ambition and means to make a difference.

8) Alexandre Petry, FDI coordinator of ApexBrasil

Alexandre Petry

Photo Credit: Courtesy

1. What do you think makes the Brazilian startup scene special?

Brazilians are one of the most creative and innovative people on the globe, mainly because of its diversity. And this has a positive impact on our startup scene. Brazilian entrepreneurs adapt quick, learn fast and can develop new solutions for complex problems with very simple approaches; simple for clients and simple for investors. Moreover, Brazil’s startup ecosystem is highlighted by its strong cooperative approach; entrepreneurs, investors, companies, and policy makers are embedded into an intricate innovation network where the gains of one can benefit all.

2. What are the biggest challenges facing the Brazilian startup scene, and what do you think needs to be done to overcome them?

There are a few.

Although Brazilians are naturally creative and innovative, many of our entrepreneurs still do not think global, even those who are developing disruptive and competitive solutions. This might be because of our country’s huge domestic market.

Moreover, the Brazilian startup ecosystem still lacks the right avenues to fund their business, meaning accessing and approaching domestic and international investors (angels, accelerators, venture capitalists and corporates). From the investor’s side, there is still limited knowledge on the Brazil startup scene in global markets; many investors still do not see Brazil in their ‘investment thesis’ because they do not know much about what we have to offer. We believe initiatives from both public and private sectors, or combined efforts that can lead to a more “born to be global” culture are positive.

3. What do you think will be the most important trends in the Brazilian tech & startup scene in the coming years?

There are a few sectors that are glowing in the Brazilian startup scene, such as agritech, bio & cleantech and fintech, basically based on Brazil’s competitive advantages as it is the largest agriculture exporter in the world, a global leader on sustainability and clean energy solutions and a sophisticated financial technology provider. Other bright sectors are life sciences, education and the creative economy, reflecting the potential of Brazil’s domestic market.

With those sectors booming, I think we will naturally see ‘open innovation’ initiatives flourishing around our country, with more Brazilian and multinational companies seeking investments in Brazilian startups as prominent sources of innovation, competitiveness and access to new markets. We have been recently approached by large global corporations willing to know more about Brazil’s startup ecosystem. They are already thinking about exploring this path in our country on those and other sectors, thus we believe this will be the trend in the coming years.

Want to learn more about Brazil’s startup ecosystem? Then check out our “10 hot startups in Brazil” and Brazilian open source guide

Featured Image Credit: Anna Gibiskys / Shutterstock

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Jamie Warfield

About Jamie Warfield


Summer researcher at Geektime. NY-bred. UAlbany student. Travel Maniac. TV-binger. Video game lover. Avid reader. Just an awesome person.

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