Our community is as diverse as it can get. With that in mind, we created this section to get to know professionals from Brazil who work abroad and professionals from all over the world who have connections with Brazil, whether through business, education or culture. We like to call them BayBrazilians.
On August 15, 2012, BayBrazil had a conversation with Fernando Gouveia, International Relations Manager at Plug and Play Tech Center
BayBrazil: What is your role at PlugandPlay?
Fernando: My role at Plug and Play is two fold. I am in touch with and reach out to agencies, both in the public and private sector, that have an interest to fuel ICT innovation and entrepreneurship in their country. Once a partnership is in place, our team will jointly and proactively seek entrepreneurs that have an interest in potentially expanding their business to Silicon Valley. This can be for investment, business development and/or strategic purposes. Once selected, these entrepreneurs participate in a 3 month acceleration program in Silicon Valley. In a nutshell I serve as their point of contact and person they can bounce off ideas from product positioning and market landscape to how to improve their presentation materials.
The benefit of this program is that it allows entrepreneurs to explore Silicon Valley and leverage Plug and Play’s network while spending the least amount of resources. The program costs are covered by the partner agency and it is on a non-equity basis. So far we have accelerated over 220 international startups and receive between 25-30 teams every 3 months.
BayBrazil: From your trips around the world what can you tell us about the most vibrant entrepreneurship clusters you’ve seen?
Fernando: We host many visits at our center where people ask how they can recreate Silicon Valley in their country. This is quite a difficult task considering the availability of venture funding in the area, workers in tech, headquarters of large tech companies within a 30km radius and entrepreneurship culture, among other reasons. However, we do see a number of different countries that are developing entrepreneurship clusters with their own local flair.
In my opinion, for these to be successful there must be a group of players that understand the extent they should be involved. For example, in the successful cases we’ve seen governments participate in providing grants for R&D, serving as investors in emerging venture funds and supporting incubators. Incubators provide services and administrative resources to structure a company. Accelerators and investors provide the money, connections to customers/partners and strategic know-how. They understand that at the end of the day it’s about investing in the founding team, not just acquiring a share in a company. So in addition to all of these, a country must invest in educating these individuals through business plan competitions, hackathons and networking. These not only provide an opportunity to exchange ideas but also serve as a benchmarking tool against other local and international players in their sector or industry. Even though it’s difficult to quantify the takeaways from networking sessions, the value of creating a community goes a long way.
BayBrazil: What advice would you give to international startups leaders looking to expand their companies/products globally?
Fernando: There are a lot of international founders that romanticize with the idea of building a company in Silicon Valley and raising funds from a local venture capitalist. Because of this, we see a number of companies that arrive here at too early of a stage to get any significant US traction. At arrival they realize that their markets are highly saturated with competitors, hiring engineers is extremely difficult and the cost of living in the Bay Area is very high. My advice is that you should do as much as you can in your home country before considering coming here. This means that you should have a core team in place, a product to show and third party validation in the form of a growing user base or increasing revenues (and other relevant metrics that compare you to the industry norm).
BayBrazil: What is your impression of the startup ecosystem in Brazil?
Fernando: The Brazilian startup ecosystem is seeing unprecedented growth that we did not have 2-3 years ago. I believe they have all the right ingredients to create one of the most powerful clusters in the world. On the startup front we already have examples of successful entrepreneurs we can look up to such as Mike Krieger from Instagram, Eduardo Saverin from Facebook and Julio Vasconellos & Alex Tabor from Peixe Urbano. On the community side we are seeing a number of state and nationwide competitions including Desafio Brasil and Campus Party. There are a number of accelerators run by highly successful and experienced individuals including Aceleradora, Startup Farm and 21212. A large number of corporations are stepping up to fund startups such as the Wayra Accelerator by Telefonica. US venture capitalists are raising funds focused on the region. Finally, there is an emerging group of creative and curious individuals that are beginning to realize they can build a career through entrepreneurship and startups. If I may say so myself I feel pretty good about the ecosystem we are building.
BayBrazil: Which segments will grow the most in Brazil in the next five years?
Fernando: By far I would say E-commerce is the fastest growing segment for startups in Brazil. I believe this is a natural move considering the growth in the Brazilian middle class (which brings more disposable income per person), education and trust in online security (which leads to more people providing their credit card details to a website) and growth in broadband and internet subscribers. Other growing segments that I believe are yet to reach their true potential in Brazil include education and curation/discovery.
BayBrazil: How did you end up in the Silicon Valley?
Fernando: I am originally from Sao Paulo but through my father’s job at a multinational company have been moving around the world since I was six years old. I had the opportunity to live in Mexico, Greece, Taiwan, China and Barcelona and typically spent between 3-4 years in each country. By the time I finished high school in Taiwan I knew I would end up attending university in the US. It was during a tour of California during my summer vacation that I fell in love with Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. I ended up attending Santa Clara University and have remained here ever since.
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