Brazil in the next 10 years will likely become the third or fourth largest economy in the world: These 10 Brazilian startups may become very famous, very soon.
Put Brazil’s growing middle class and its increasing purchasing power together with vastly improved Internet access, and what you get is booming e-commerce in Latin America’s largest and most populous country, worth an estimated $12 billion annually.
According to e-commerce intelligence firm E-bit, of the 51.5 million unique consumers who bought items online in Brazil in 2014, 10 million were e-commerce virgins making their first online purchases. Also in 2014, online purchasing in Brazil grew by 24% compared with the previous year, with 103.4 million orders processed.
“The Brazil economy in the next 10 years will be one of the third or fourth largest economies in the world,” says Aaron Gershenberg, a managing partner at California-based SVB Capital. “If you’re going to look at some diversification in your portfolio, in the innovation economy Brazil is a very natural geography to have exposure to.”
Ranging from personal finance and e-commerce to agriculture and education sectors, here are 10 Brazilian startups to keep an eye on:
This Sao Paulo-based digital financial services startup, which provides a digital credit card (currently a Platinum MasterCard) for smartphones and payment monitoring, is the first Brazilian company to secure investment from Silicon Valley VC Sequoia – namely, $14.3 million in Series A financing, which was reported in September.
Brazil’s single largest market is financial services, a market that is ripe for disruption given that, as Nubank CEO David Velez points out, half of the top 10 public companies are big banks. Velez founded the startup in 2013 after working as Sequoia’s partner in charge of Latin America – and yes, his connection to Sequoia made that investment possible.
Nubank is also poised to benefit from increased broadband penetration and a growing credit card market, which accounted for $121 billion in transactions in the first half of 2014, a 13.5 percent increase from the same period the year before, according to the Brazilian Association of Credit Card and Services Companies. Getting a credit card the traditional way is also arduous in Brazil, amounting to a weeks-long process that requires a lot of forms to be filled out and multiple visits to a bricks-and-mortar bank.
This personal financial management platform, whose name means “PocketGuide” in Portuguese, has been touted as Brazil’s Mint. Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Sao Paulo, GuiaBolso helps track and control expenses and automates the process of importing and categorizing financial transactions.
GuiaBolso was co-founded by Benjamin Gleason, a former managing director of Groupon Brazil who, like co-founder Thiago Alvarez, worked as an engagement manager at McKinsey. It is intended to help the 82 percent of Brazilians who say they don’t know how to control their monthly budget, letting users set up their account and configure their monthly budgets in less than two minutes.
Their solution became the No. 5 most downloaded app in Brazil in August, a month after joining the App Store and with no marketing nor official launch announcement. Kaszek Ventures led a multimillion dollar Series A round in May, but the exact investment has not been disclosed.
3. Hotel Urbano
This online travel agency launched in 2011 – in time to capitalize on the tourist boom accompanying last summer’s World Cup in Brazil and the upcoming Summer Olympics, to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 – and has rapidly grown, becoming what one tech publication called “one of the most successful startup cases in Brazil.”
The Rio-based Hotel Urbano, which provides information on tourist destinations in Brazil and the rest of Latin America, has received $75 million in four rounds from Insight Venture Partners and Tiger Global Management, most recently in March.
The tourism site, which has over 11 million fans on Facebook, is tapping into the fact that unlike the U.S. market, which is led by a few national brands, 85% of the 14,000 hotels operating in Brazil are individually owned, as co-founder Joao Ricardo Mendes told TechCrunch in March. (The other founder, and co-CEO, is Jose Eduardo Mendes.) Hotel Urbano’s revenues hit roughly $427.4 million by the end of last year, up from $38.5 million in 2011, and the number of employees jumped from five when it first started to more than 500.
Another e-commerce site benefiting from Brazil’s global sporting events, Kanui is a Rocket Internet-incubated online sporting goods company that was rated the fastest-growing Latin American e-tailer less than two years after its 2011 launch. The Web-only retailer of action sports equipment and apparel saw sales increase an impressive 9,000 percent in 2012 to about $120 million.
The Sao Paulo-based Kanui was born after its founders, CEO Bruno Henriques and chief marketing officer Bruno Nardon Felici, noticed that larger online sporting goods merchants were not carrying inventory for all sports, leaving skateboarders and outdoor adventurers out in the cold, reports Internet Retailer. It adds that in addition to providing athletic gear in the run-up to two of the world’s biggest sporting events, Kanui uses social media to educate sports-minded consumers on how to use skateboards and surfboards, how to ride mountain bikes and how to dress for the sport.
E-furniture retailer Mobly is another successful Rocket Internet startup, attracting up to $20 million from Latin American media conglomerate Cisneros Group in April 2013. Launched in 2011 in Jundiai Do Sul by Victor Noda, Marcelo Marques and Mario Fernandes, Mobly sells home furnishings, garden and leisure equipment and electrical items. Other investors include Kinnevik, J.P. Morgan Securities.
What the three founders did was fill in the gap between the online retail stores that were not prioritizing items like couches, beds or closets, and furniture stores, which were not paying much attention to their online presence, explains Emerging Markets Insight Magazine. That gap has proved profitable for Mobly, which made $50.4 million in 2013, twice as much as the previous year, and sells furniture worth $6.3 million per month.
This private business school in the center of Sao Paulo offers free online classes that teach Brazilians professional development through entrepreneurial values. It was founded in 2013 by Bel Pesce, a 26-year-old entrepreneur and Massachusetts Institute of Technology grad who won last year’s Cartier Women’s Initiative Award for Latin America because of FazINOVA, which means DoINNOVATE.
The project (“as much a startup as a college”) will be funded by sources other than tuition, such as advertising and data mining, since Pesce, the CEO, is intent on keeping the online classes free. Nearly 70,000 students have taken the classes, and almost 2,000 more have paid to attend six-month-long courses.
Pesce was something of a celebrity in Brazil even before she founded FazINOVA. Her experience in the U.S. as an MIT student who interned at Microsoft, Google and Deutsche Bank, and then worked as a product manager at online video company Oooyala and became head of business development at the mobile wallet app Lemon, formed the basis of her hugely popular free Portuguese-language e-book, A Menina do Vale (“The Girl from Silicon Valley: How Entrepreneurship Can Change Lives”). The e-book was downloaded over 1 million times within three months and topped Brazil’s bestseller list in 2012. It seems she launched FazINOVA after realizing that Brazilians were nearly as passionate about hearing what she had to say as she was about spreading her message.
Education is the 10th largest sector in the Brazilian economy, generating about $75 billion annually – $12.5 billion of that from private institutions like FazINOVA.
This Sao Paulo-based publisher of digital educational content, including media-rich interactive textbooks and tablet book apps, was voted the best startup in Brazil in 2014 by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, and it was the only Brazilian startup to compete in the Startup Nations Summit in November.
Accelerated by Outsource Brazil and a participant in the federal government’s Start-Up Brasil program, EvoBooks, which was founded in 2011, offers book apps of 3-D interactive lessons that bring biology, chemistry, physics, history and geography to life. The apps are compatible with PCs, Android and iOS devices.
EvoBooks, which is led by CEO Felipe Rezende, a former management consultant for Bain & Company and former equity analyst for Morgan Stanley, is used by more than 500,000 students in over 1,100 schools. It became profitable in 2014, and expects to see double to triple the growth this year.
Students using EvoBooks increased their performance 30 percent more than a control group. Almost 75% of teachers use the BooksApp as a lesson preparation aid.
There are an estimated 205 million cows in Brazil, the second largest beef producer in the world. With slightly more cows than people (its human population is about 202 million), how are cattle ranchers supposed to keep track of all the things that go moo?
With the help of mobile app BovControl, farmers take control of cattle data so they can better understand the origins of food from suppliers. The “Google analytics of cattle” also has both McDonald’s and Wal-Mart interested so they can better understand the supply side of their food.
The mobile app for cattle management helps with vaccine management, nutrition, organization and tax management, and provides reports, graphics and cattle analysis. Bovcontrol, founded in Sao Paulo by co-founders Alecsey Fernandes, Marcella Santana, and CEO Danilo Leao in 2012, has received $251,700 in seed funding.
What BovControl does for cows, Strider does for pest control. The agro-tech startup, which was co-founded in 2013 by Luiz Tangari, is a mobile application and geo-based big-data engine that cuts down on pesticide use by helping farmers monitor pests, diseases and weeds and determine when, where and how much to spray for maximum efficiency.
Headquartered in Belo Horizonte, Strider raised about $2 million from Brazilian private equity and VC firm Barn Investimentos in October, and serves agricultural cooperatives, agricultural product dealers and farming consultants as well as individual farmers.
Agriculture is big business in Brazil, the world’s largest producer of coffee, oranges and sugar cane, and one of the largest growers of soy and corn. It also has the most arable land in the world and is the fifth largest country by geographical area, with an abundant supply of natural resources and diverse export markets, putting Brazil in a unique position to lead the global agriculture sector in the medium- to long-term, an Economist Intelligence Unit research report has found.
Brazil, like other developing countries, has a long history of blackouts. With millions of people sporadically left without power across Brazil’s 26 states, some experts have wondered whether the country has a large enough supply of energy to keep up with surging demand.
Sensorbox has a solution. The startup, which is backed by government accelerator Start-Up Brasil, is helping reduce business losses caused by blackouts through cloud-based monitoring that predicts and reports problems with power sources. It serves companies such as Internet providers, hospitals, data centers, butchers and ice cream shops.
Founded in Vitoria in 2012 by three engineers – Jan Jensen, Robert Mota and Carlos Sarcinelli, the CEO – Sensorbox also provides technology that works with solar power and can monitor meteorological stations for earthquakes and tsunamis.