Margarise Correa moved to the Bay Area in the late nineties and founded BayBrazil in 2010. This week she was named 2017 Women of Influence by the Silicon Valley Business Journal, the only Brazilian woman ever nominated. She has a B.A. in Journalism and worked several years as news reporter in Brazil.
BayBrazil: Why did you start BayBrazil?
Margarise: After working almost eight years in Brazil as journalist, I got married to an American engineer and moved to the Bay Area. It was a difficult career transition but one thing I was sure of: I wanted to continue engaged with Brazil professionally. So, I looked for opportunities to work on programs, companies in the region that had ties with Brazil or were looking to develop them. Slowly, I started building new relationships and, in 2010, I realized I knew a lot of Brazilian engineers, entrepreneurs, program managers, UX, sales and marketing executives in various tech companies in Silicon Valley and San Francisco who didn’t know one another. Also, it struck me that I knew Americans and people from all over the world working in companies that had business with Brazil but who didn’t know the tech Brazilians in the region.
At that time, Brazil had become the fifth largest online market in the world and got on the radar of prominent Silicon Valley companies. Moreover, I noticed:
1- an increasing influx of Brazilians moving to the Bay Area both to study or work who ended up staying and building careers in the region.
2- A number of Bay Area-based companies launched operations in Brazil in the last four, five years (Airbnb, Salesforce, Spofity, Uber, Zendesk to name a few). Also, Brazilian companies started expanding to the region: Movile, EBANX, Totvs Labs.
I saw an opportunity to introduce these companies and individuals, connect them and do what I love the most: promote communication, nourish dialogues.
BayBrazil: How did you leverage your career as journalist to found BayBrazil?
Margarise: I simply loved my career as journalist. I had the opportunity to work with and learn from distinguished professionals such as Carlos Nascimento, who became the first anchor in Brazilian broadcast journalism, at TV Cultura. Throughout my career I’d cover a broad range of topics, from sports to politics and daily news. Appreciating information and being in touch with people from all walks of life certainly helped along with the realization that I was in one of the most innovative places in the planet. All I had to do was start building.
BayBrazil: What was your strategy to build the organization and gather the community?
Margarise: BayBrazil’s vision is very simple: bridging Silicon Valley & Brazil. So, I started sharing it with friends. Some of them identified strongly with that vision and became advisors, mentors who are helping me to shape the organization. Today we have eight very active Board of Directors, a cross section of Brazilian-American executives residing in the Bay Area and representing entrepreneurs, corporations, investment firms, academia and non-profit agencies. We also have a staff formed by committed individuals who started at BayBrazil as volunteers and are engaged with us for over four years.
One of the instruments we use to build our community is events. Through monthly events we accomplish three important tasks:
1- provide critical information to help leaders in Silicon Valley & Brazil to get up-to-date on their industry sector and meet their peers
2- create an environment for in-depth discussions and ideas exchange
3- facilitate introductions, connections and new business opportunities. In our events entrepreneurs have found partners, mentors, investors; tech professionals found colleagues – I often introduce people who work in the same company! Others got new jobs; companies got visibility, new leaders, insights to advance their goals or improve their offerings.
In these past seven years we’ve organized over 100 events, hosted dozens of startups and large corporations and are continuously promoting meaningful dialogues and unique connections among tech players from both Brazil & the U.S. – all essential to a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Today we are over eight thousand and growing. More important than the quantity it’s the quality of our hub, from entrepreneurs, investors, scholars to tech professionals of various industry sectors who are working in disruptive companies, models and/or cutting-edge technologies.
Our work is just starting, there is so much to be done but, together with our members and partners, we are carving space for Brazilian entrepreneurs in the mecca of innovation and expanding opportunities for American enterprises in Brazil.
BayBrazil: Tell us about the annual conference.
Margarise: Our main event is the annual conference Brazil in the 21st Century, the largest tech-related event focused on Brazil in the United States. For the past five years, BayBrazil has organized this conference to bring together entrepreneurs, investors, scholars, government representatives and private-sector leaders to discuss science, technology, entrepreneurship and the country’s role in the global economy.
The conference had been held at Stanford University. As the event got greater traction each year, we needed a larger auditorium so the latest 2016 edition was kindly held at Google headquarters in Mountain View featuring 23 speakers and 300 attendees from various U.S. and Brazil regions. I’m excited that Google joined us as corporate member and will also be hosting the 2017 edition on Sep 21st.
BayBrazil: What is BayBrazil’s impact in the ecosystem?
Margarise: I like how our members describe it.
In my view, BayBrazil has benefited our community both on individual and institutional levels.
Individuals have been interacting with new colleagues, finding new opportunities, employers, partners. Business leaders have been accessing hands-on tools to build or enhance management skills, gaining exposure to thought leaders from the U.S., Brazil & abroad.
Here a few cases:
1- BayBrazil has been mapping the Brazilian diaspora in Silicon Valley and encouraging these professionals to interact among themselves as well as with Brazilian entrepreneurs looking for guidance and connections to expand their companies. These efforts resulted in a mentoring program, which was expanded through BayBrazil partnership with Google Developers Launchpad. The partnership is aimed at helping startups scale and positively impacting local and global entrepreneurial ecosystems.
Among the activities is a series of workshops designed to help Brazilian startups with training and mentorship. The first of such series was held on Sep 14 & 15, 2016, at the Googleplex and Silicon Valley Bank. The next has been planned now.
2- Another case is Brazilian company Movile. We worked closely with Movile’s leadership to accelerate its goals in the region and provide the company with instrumental access to resources, talent that contributed for a successful expansion to the U.S.. The company has become a tech leader, acquiring others in the past few years, and we are happy to be part of its journey.
3- We’ve been helping a corporation to fight fraud, identity theft and other cybercrime through an exclusive connection with a top tech security partner
4- We are assisting Grupo SEB, the largest educational group of Brazil, to expand and bring its innovative Concept school to Silicon Valley
BayBrazil: What is BayBrazil’s model?
Margarise: Very simple: individual and corporate membership. Individuals can become a member for as little as $100 per year. They participate in exclusive activities, get discounts to events, access to panels recording.
We started the membership program in 2012. Our first individual member is Steve Ciesinski, President da SRI International, professor de Stanford Business School. He’s been our member ever since.
Our main revenue source comes from corporate membership. We work with American and Brazilian enterprises providing a series of services that can vary from educational and bus dev meetings to support to the company’s teams or programs. I’m very proud to work with organizations that identify with our vision and contribute to our continued growth.
BayBrazil: Where do you find inspiration?
Margarise: My parents. They gave me everything. Their abundant faith in me and my siblings inspired us to follow our dreams.
BayBrazil: What motivates you to start each day?
Margarise: The amazing people I’ll meet and communicate with.
There has been many challenges in the process of building BayBrazil. I know I have a lot to learn and improve as a leader. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to bridge my favorite regions.