South American Adventures

Taking flying leaps into the unknown


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Brazil’s Big Opportunity Attracts Tech Dreamers

“Brazilians are very welcoming to foreigners, it’s a rich cultural country and it’s easy to feel at home here. In meetings, people are very open…..” see more:

http://www.idgconnect.com/abstract/8654/brazil-big-opportunity-attracts-tech-dreamers

 

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And then I got a visa for life in Brazil…

It is incredible that my last post was 2 months ago. The last 2-3 month were incredibly busy and focused time. As I mentioned in my post Coming to Brazil: 3 weeks from idea to completion we decided to relocate to Brazil. This decision was a response to the very tough time we were going through in Jan/Feb. We had trouble with former employees and an investor walking away last minute from an investment round we were closing. Team moral took a big hit. For the first time since founding Fundacity my vision of the company was destabilized albeit for a brief moment. The move to Brazil was meant to boost team moral and help catapult Fundacity onto the world stage away from off-the radar and somewhat uneventful Chile.

Since that decision things have raced into motion. In fact, 3 weeks after our decision, when I was battling on thinking of a way to finance the move, I received a ton of notifications on Facebook. ‘Congratulations”. Logging into Facebook I realized Fundacity was selected for the SEED Minas program in Brazil. I barely remembered applying. I learned about the application round 5 hours before deadline. It was 7pm. Most of the guys were leaving home. I got a coffee and sat down to fill out the 50+ question form. Diego began editing and cutting videos that were also required . It was the most rushed application I have ever undertaken. In fact i submitted the application 3 minutes past midnight. Thankfully it still went through. Lesson: always go for it even if it seems impossible.

1435 startups applied from 34 countries.  We were one of the selected 40. The offer: USD33,000 and 2 year visas for the program participants in return for NO equity or need to repay. That is right, free money to come and launch our company in Brazil and full-time staff to help guide us in the new market. BOOM. The lucky break we absolutely needed. Our move to Brazil was financially and administratively secured (I was originally planning on moving to Brazil on a student visa).

We relocated to Brazil, launched Fundacity Portfolio Manager, closed a round with Primary Ventures and NXTPlabs Venture Fund and this week the government of Mina Gerais announced that they granted visas for life for all SEED participants! Damn I love Brazil.

 


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Coming to Brazil: 3 weeks from idea to completion

I moved to Brazil. The idea arose whilst doing idea validation for the next phase of Fundacity. I noticed I was speaking all day with prospective clients (angel investors and HNWIs) and they were predominantly from Brazil. From the 200 targets I reached out to 100+ were Brazilian and 10 were from Chile. In addition the 10 Chileans were completely uninterested in speaking with me. Chileans can often be unenthusiastic to the new and unknown. It is easier to reach out to a high powered and successful New Yorker or Silicon Valley angel investor than a Chilean angel investor.

Early morning on 5 Feb whilst Skyping to an angel from the Harvard Business Angels club from Rio it occurred to me that we had move to Brazil to get them using Fundacity. We had absolutely nothing more to benefit from a physical presence in Chile. I was all day on Skype speaking to people abroad. I jumped on my bike and made my daily 6km treck to the office mulling over this sudden idea to relocate the team. Pros and Cons?

Pros

  • Big market where there is almost 10.000 buyers for anything you may want to sell;
  • Several active angel groups and VCs;
  • Exploding startup ecosystem growth;
  • Supportive pro startup government;
  • Global attention and connectivity (further heightened by World Cup and Olympics);
  • Huge financial center;
  • People – Brazilians (in my experience) are open and welcoming to foreigners which is partly due to their own very racially mixed nation;
  • We have several clients there and our user base is increasingly Brazilian; and
  • Will inject new energy and drive into the mainly non-Chilean team that is getting bored of life in Chile.

Cons

  • Expensive to move and live in Brazil and we are running dangerously out of runway;
  • Different language and whilst we speak 6 languages amongst the team none of us speak Portuguese;
  • Brazil is notoriously bureaucratic (not to say that Chile isn’t);
  • we need visas and they are hard to get; and
  • Public safety is an issue.

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Arriving in the office for our 10am daily team meeting I shared my thought “ok guys, i’ve been thinking that perhaps to really blow this up we need to move to Brazil for business development, what do you think?”. The uproar was unanimous, but nonetheless we agreed to reflect on the pros and cons and debate it over lunch. The decision was unanimously made.

We were to move to Rio for some months. I began the visa process and  attempted to move  mountains and decipher the bureaucratic hurdles of the Brazilian consulate, Chilean ministries and Brazilian universities.  15 days later I had a 7 month visa in hand. Within 3 weeks of the decision I arrived in Brazil. The guys are to follow shortly.

I think this bore testament to a saying we have in the team about how much we do in a single day and why

“1 day feels like a week, 1 week like a month and 1 month like a year and months….well we can’t even think that far because everything is possible.”

Thus, part 2 of the South American adventures begins: the conquest of Brazil.


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JWEF, Brazil and Clients!

Lots of positive things happened in the last 5 days. Firstly we (Planet Expats and Fundacity ) held the first Junior World Entrepreneurship in Chile. It was great. Workshops, panels, speeches by leaders in the Chilean entrepreneurship ecosystem.

As part of the event we also organized a startup pitch contest for 15 teams from 6 universities. The panel, made up of investors, used Fundacity to evaluate the projects in the cloud real time! We invited some experienced investors as judges.  However there was no internet! So the Fundacity team sat right behind the judges sharing internet using their phones. Look at the photo…their faces reveal the nervousness :D.

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Judges left to right: Paul O’Tool (UDD Ventures), Sebastian Vidal and Horacio Melo (Startup Chile), Diego Torres Aguirre (Emprende FCH) and Eduardo Amadeo (Nazca Ventures)…with nervous Fundacity team right behind them hoping Fundacity won’t crash

Anyway it was great marketing for us that also won us Startup Chile as a client!

As I haven’t seen Gabi for 3 months I wasted no time. Straight from the 2 day event to the airport, sharing a cab with Eduardo Amadeo Nazca Ventures partner who was a judge at the event. My flight. Horrible. Santiago 10pm to Sao Palo Guarulhos 2am. Then commute to Sao Paolo Campinhas airport at 3am and wait for airport to open. Followed by 2 hour flight to Port Alegre where I landed at 9am to encounter Gabi and enjoy our Sunday! Landed rather exhausted.

After a bit of rest and food we went to the park in the center. As you would expect in Brazil we encountered a Samba party in a clearing in the park. These Brazilians….no fun at all 😀

Yesterday we reached an agreement to supply Claro and Startup Chile with the Fundacity DealFlow. Startup Chile is interested in Fundacity because it gives them the ability to do evaluation real time at their demo days and Claro is drawn by how Fundacity is one tool that replaces the need for email, excel and notepads in their mentoring/incubation process. Both love the design of Fundacity and how it is customizable to their unique deal flow process. These clients are really important for us as in Chile and in the region they are very well known.

In my opinion, to go global you need to have support from your hometown and we are on the right track. I hope we continue to impress and deliver value…if that happens the rest will take care of itself.


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6 months later – How is Fundacity doing?

So what exactly have we been doing these months and how are we?

With Fundacity we are focused on making the fundraising process easier for startups and investors. We realized that there is a lot of pain in the proces when my co-founder, Diego and I started building a social network for startups and investors called Fundacity.com. Since then we applied our thinking and innovation to make startup investing easier. We are now few weeks away from unveiling the Fundacity Deal Flow Tool that helps angel investors, incubators, accelerators and VCs source, screen, do due diligence and close deals. Also, we are  thinking of innovative ways to improve the fundraising experience for startups.

The platform is a web based SAAS platform using Kanban principles and state of the art UX/UI to make the process easier for both sides of the table. We are involving our clients and listening to their pains from the very first line of code. We want to become experts in the process our clients do so we can understand and help solve their problems.

DiegoI started Fundacity with Diego, my co-founder, in late 2012. Diego and I have a perfectly synergetic business relationship. Our skills sets are completely complimentary as we have have our fortes where the other does not. Diego is a full stack developer with 13+ years experience who additionally is a very gifted designer. I on the other hand have global experience in finance and accounting and acted as a financial consultant for 2 startups of VC firm Aurus. Between us we speak 4 languages fluently, believe in transparency and honesty and are complete workaholics :). A good fit that makes even our girlfriends jealous. 😀

 

With Fundacity we won Geek Camp Chile and consequently got incubated by IncubaUC and received CORFO funding (USD120k). IncubaUC took us for a 1 month product testing and idea validation mentorship program to Silicon Valley. We pitched the valley’s best angel groups and incubators and some very talented serial entrepreneurs. The 1 month trip catapulted our development in an incredible manner.

Our team has now grown to 4 fulltime members and several volunteers that love our product and energy. NicolasNicolas joined us fulltime in May adding further exceptional technical skills to the team and many new ways to approach challenges. He is software engineer with expertise in cloud computing and a complete champion of task management such as Kanban and Scrum. He previously worked for LAN and the ministry of education. He is an expert Asado guy so I look forward to regular barbecues :). In some weeks Guim is arriving from Barcelona where he completed a business degree in prestigious ESADE business school. With his previous experience in sales and biz dev I think we will hit the ground running in August when we will be market launching. The team rocks and I am very excited to test what boundaries we can push.

We are weeks away from having our version 1 commercially viable product for which we have signed letter of interest from some of the best startups incubators and VCs in Chile, Argentina, Brazil and USA.

We received great support from our mentors which includes 500 Startups mentor Sam Zebarjadi, venture capitalist Humberto Matsuda partner of Performa Investimentos (Brazil), venture capitalist Hiroshi Wald managing partner of Austral Capital and angel investor and incubator partner Arturo Torres from NXTPlabs, (Argentina). Marcelo Diaz head of IncubaUC has been pivotal in nurturing our business development over the last 6 months. Our angel investor Donatas Dailide not only supports us financially but is helping us win clients in the baltics and the UK.

The next few months will be very exciting for Fundacity. We hope to disrupt the startup investing process in a very profound and meaningful way.


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Startup scene of Porto Alegre – Brazil

I was working in the cafe of PUC unviersity in Porto Alegre waiting for Gabi to finish work when someone approached me to ask if I was involved with a startup…he noticed the Startup Chile sticker on my laptop…that is when I realized my stay in Porto Alegre can be much more productive then I thought.

In this brief encounter I learnt that Porto Alegre is hosting the most significant Free Software (and culture!) community meeting in Latin America called FISL! Nice!

This discovery prompted me to research the startup ecosystem Porto Alegre has….I typed http://www.LinkedIn.com and after a few location targeted searches aimed at tags such as ‘startup’, ‘investor’, ‘venture’ and ‘entrepreneur’ and some IT and Venture Capital related industry filters Porto Alegre appeared to me in a whole new light. HELLOOO OPPORTUNITY. I drafted a short message and set out to connect with every player in this ecosystem and followed new connections with longer emails asking for a meeting.

Within 24 hours I had meetings with Guapo, CRP, Engage, WOW and Paradoxa. Yesterday I had 1-2 hour meetings with all with the exception of Paradoxa as the founder is in San Fran (meeting is scheduled for next week). My head is spining with everything I learnt and the interesting contacts I made here.

Guapo is a VC fund now also focusing on early stage startups but previously mainly did M&A and later stage investing. The co-founder and partner Fernando is a very knowledgable and open person that is very passionate about what he does. He said with Guapo they are now also investing into early stage startups even ones without business plans. Feedback on Fundacity was great and I feel it is a start of a very fruitful relationship. During the meeting he picked up his phone and recommended accelerator WOW to meet me and test our deal flow platform. I overheard him say Fundacity was “muito legal” 😀

From Guapo I rushed to Engage. The meeting with Guapo overran and I was late. I apologised prefusely to Felipe the co-founder of Engage. He comically said,

“You are not late. A wizzard is never late!”

LOL. I entered another world. I was surrounded by 20 and 30 something guys and girls that were currently eating and chatting away about life pursuits. I was given plate and free grub (entrepreneur dream :)) and joined them and they explained to me the concept of Engage. They are an incubator of people. They hold workshops and nurture individuals and help them explore and realize their potential. It is certainly very interesting. Felipe is very keen on alternative education and philosophy in various form. An inspirational fellow.

Engage and WOW co-work space

Engage and WOW co-work space

In the same building I stumbled upon WOW and I had a quick meeting with Bruno the COO. They are currently shortlisting their first batch of startups to accelerate. Not a bad timing for us 🙂

Journey to CRP

Journey to CRP

From their quick cab ride dropped me at CRP. They are a serious VC and M&A firm. I was greeted by 3 sharp banker types. A quick reminder of a previous life…They are looking for a serious deal flow platform but are not sure about the expensive European and US firms that include Efront, Relevant, ilevel, Navatar, Analytx, Sanguard andVantage. For about an hour we discussed Fundacity and whether it could provide a MVP product for them and an enormous cost saving.

In each meeting I learnt a great deal about how these very different investors in ventures manages their deal from sourcing to closing. At a superficial level it sounds very different but at the core the principles are all driven by a need to manage internal communication, information (files and comments) and progressing deals through stages.

Fundacity is looking to make deal flow management easier for the startup investors using Kanban principles and clever UX/UI. We are involving our clients and listening to their pains from the very first line of code. We want to become experts in the process our clients do so we can understand and help solve their problems. I think every startup should do the same.

The message of my experience is that opportunities are everywhere. It pays to keep your eyes open. Never lose your passion to pitch and learn from clients. That is what will make the difference between success and a silent demise. Everyone in the organization needs to understand the target user and be able to see through their eyes and visualize the user stories.

Porto Alegre from the office of CRP

Porto Alegre from the office of CRP


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Caught in the Brazilian Riots

I recently helped Gabi relocate to her new flat in the center of Porto Alegre from the suburbs. It seemed great at first but last night we experienced first hand the violence of the hooligans that are using the Brazilian demonstrations as an excuse to loot and cause senseless destruction. Last night we arrived home and the bank next to Gabi’s 23 floor apartment block had all its shopfront windows shattered. We quickly entered our flat seeing several gang types roaming around us. Fortunately, we did that. See the video

Within 15 mins a group of hoodlum assholes entered the street and began breaking everything breakable and started turning on the residential appartment blocks. House inhabitants were screaming violently and calling the lost and violent kids vagabundas (vegabonds). Our builidng was not spared. The glass entrance windows were completely shattered.

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When someone threw a mini molotov cocktail at our building I got very agitated (obviously). Seeing a group of 4 gather behind a large trash container and approach our building like castle invaders I decided to respond. Thus I joined the 100s of other inhabitants in throwing objects at the scumbags. I filled a 2 litre bottle with water  and aimed carefully and hurled the object from 22nd floor at the approaching invaders. My bottle and many other objects (glasses, water bombs, other filled bottles, food) landed all over the place. Within seconds the boys scattered and took refuge under trees and rooftops. From there they continue hurling things at surrounding inhabitants and shops.

Where were the police? Telephone line of all emergency numbers was engaged and the police were occupied in the presumably 100s of other scenes where similar outbreaks were occurring  Eventually, a convoy of 2 police cars and motorcop approached. The 100 or so bandits ran in all directions….building inhabitants applauded and the police made their magnificent entrance….and drove past…. :/. Bandits continued to circle in the neighborhood and continued their stupidity. Gabi soon got the idea and hurled a rotten tangerine at the crowd and did an impressive job at almost hitting one on the head (it landed 30 cm from him). The guy got quick scared. The hooligans, having things chucked at them from both apartment blocks soon realized that not only is there behavior not heroic they will likely get very hurt. Fortuantely, things eased up in an hour or so….not because of police but because the kids got bored and tired.

So what is the reason for this madness? It started some months ago during my last visit to Porto Alegre. There was a huge successful and largely peaceful demonstration against the extortionary bus fares. The demonstation lead to a 20 cent reduction in bus fares. Now whole Brazil got the idea and Sao Paolo, Rio and Brasilia are all having huge demonstations. This turned into a more widespread upheaval against the poor state of eduction, health and high corruption the country is facing. Brazil has had enough and the people now say

“Now that I got my 20 cents I want my millions that the corrupt officials stole!”

The people are fed up and are angered by the cost of the world cup that not only costs the nation a huge amount but is increasingly looking like it will be a complete failure as Brazil seems unable to complete even its stadiums in time…and nowhere near resolving the huge infrastructure bottlenecks. Hosting the Olympics and World Cup without a significant rethinking of transportation in this country will be a huge challenge. These events may be a failure but they have cast a light on the many underdeveloped aspects of this young and vibrant nation. It acted as a catalyst for change which in the long term is a good thing. Some changes are surprising though….statements saying fuck the world cup coming from a nation hugely infatuated with the sport is hard to believe if I didn’t see it with my own eyes:

The message is clear

The message is clear