Technology has enabled a growing community of makers in Brazil. A fierce advocate of this movement is Manoel Lemos, Managing Director at Redpoint e.ventures, who created a small maker lab at home to encourage his daughters to learn and build new things!
Before RPEV, Manoel was the Chief Digital Officer of Abril Media. An entrepreneur, he founded and developed BlogBlogs, the world’s largest indexer of blogs in Portuguese, acquired by Abril/Naspers and originated WebCo, the first Brazilian start-up focused on the development of Web 2.0 products with a strong Silicon Valley inspired culture.
BayBrazil: How access to technology has enabled the new maker movement in Brazil?
Manoel: Brazilians have a natural vocation to make things and we love technology. Since very early in our lives, we learn the art of “gambiarra”, which is a kind of DIY culture where we use whatever we have at hand to solve problems and fix things. When we add to this trait our passion for technology, we can easily see the emergence of a maker nation. As technical knowledge and technology became more accessible through the Internet and other means, the movement flourishes all over the country in the form of a vibrant community of makers.
BayBrazil: What are the leading Brazilian hardware companies and the most interesting products you’ve seen?
Manoel: We are only in the beginning of the wave of hardware startups in Brazil and we can already see very interesting companies such as Virtual Avionics, AgroSmart, TrackAge and BovControl with their Internet of Cows initiative. Also, more entrenched in the roots of the Maker Movement we find very interesting and impactful projects like the One Dollar Board project aiming to develop a super accessible electronics and programming learning platform.
BayBrazil: Internet of Things is a growing sector around the world. However, the amount invested in such companies in Brazil is still a fraction of what is invested in developed countries. Do you see this scenario changing and more resources pouring in for the sector in coming years?
Manoel: Of course that we would love to see more investments in all areas connected to startups and innovation in Brazil. And that is changing in a very positive way across all sectors and stages. I believe that with IoT it won’t be different, we’ll see more and more companies developing applications on that space as the whole ecosystem matures. Some sectors such as farming and agribusiness where Brazil has a unique positioning may be the source of lots of startups with innovative ideas and products. However, there are lots of challenges to be surpassed towards a more prolific ecosystem of hardware and IoT startups as access to parts, tools, service providers, and talent are not that easy.
BayBrazil: What does it take to be a “maker”? Is it a male-predominant sector? How parents can encourage daughters interests on the sector?
Manoel: It only takes curiosity and the desire to get your hands dirty. It can begin with baby steps fixing broken things at home and evolve to creating an IoT startup to enhance productivity in huge Brazilian farms. I started taking my toys and my mom’s appliances apart to understand how they worked and to fix them when they were broken.
Unfortunately, it is a male-predominant sector, but we are seeing more and more girls and woman involved in the Maker Movement here in Brazil. Actually, the Maker Movement is very open in terms of sex, age, and subjects you can work with. You have to find your thing and start playing with it, it can be wearables fashion, woodworking, knitting, electronics, robotics, etc.
I have two daughters and the way I’m encouraging them is providing them access to all that technology, tools and knowledge. We created a small maker laboratory at home where we spend time building projects and experimenting with many different things. Also, I’m always taking them to visit makerspaces and events related to the maker culture. What I want is for them to know that if they want they can play with all those cool things. I’m taking the “NOs” out of the way.
BayBrazil: You are passionate about entrepreneurship. Is this the best time to be an entrepreneur in Brazil?
Manoel: Every time I answer that question, my answer is “YES, THIS IS THE BEST TIME”. Since my first startup in 1999 to today, the ecosystem is evolving and maturing a lot. Despite all the cyclicality of the crisis that affects our economy, the opportunities are here for entrepreneurs to chase. In a country like Brazil, there are opportunities everywhere in literally every sector.
BayBrazil: As Managing Director at Redpoint e.ventures, what is your advice to founders on how to better approach an investor?
Manoel: I believe that the most important thing is to work hard on your company and your product. To find a real problem and to solve it in a meaningful way. Then you can start a relationship with potential investors. We want to know the entrepreneurs better before doing an investment: how they think, how they work, what they value and how they plan to develop their company. I’d have that in mind!