On the weekend of May 1st, two key events took place in são Paulo. No, not the Indy race, nor the syndicalized workers manifestations. I am talking about Geeks on Beer on Saturday 31st and BR Innovators BRNewTech Geeks on a Plane Special Edition on May 1st, two events that mark a key point in the Brazilian entrepreneurship and startup ecosystem.
Geeks on Beer was an awesome informal meeting between selected entrepreneurs and investors from BR and abroad, mostly from USA/California, but also from Chile, Argentina, Germany and a few other countries.
Besides talking to some of the GOAP and getting some good first hand insights(+ a mix of inspiration to work + envy, as we are still quite a few years behind in our startup environmnet), it was really nice to meet other entrepreneurs from Startup Weekend São Paulo, seeing how their projects evolved, and getting a glimpse of the ecosystem that Diego Remus(Startupi), Bedy Yang and the BRInnovators crew are nurturing in Brazil.
Seeing the interaction between foreign early stage funds and BR funds, I hope BR scene improves at a very fast pace, and soon we have the equivalents(if not branches) of Ycombinator, 500Startups and Techstars in BR, not depending on Bootstrapping and gov grants only for seed stage – though both Aceleradora and Instituto Inovacao in a sense seem to start to fill those holes, at least re mentoring.
One interesting bit talking to the director of an accelerator, that matched my experience in 2010, was how potentially harmfull the process of chasing gov money(specially grants) could be to a startup – entrepreneurs too often spend a lot of time writing grant proposals instead of just building new features and testing them, not to mention waiting too long to start working on their ideas, as most BR grants get postponed at multiple times and for several months (take your pick from PRIME, RHAE or Subvencao for an example of this). Additionally, the very process of writing a big master plan for a product and following it for 1-3 years without significant changes(which is the very expectation of most grant programs ans grant contracts), is att odds with leaner methodologies centered on customer development, which imply buiding/testing/killing features based on user feedback in much shorter interations, potentially changing in a radical way the business model, etc. Though subvention money is quite tempting(free money with no equity), nowadays I think one gotta think very carefully before putting the time and effort on the application process, as well as balancing the whole administrative overhead and rigidity associated to it against the net total(and sure, the probability of actually winning the grant). Perhaps diluting a little and getting private capital(specially if we are talking of smaller ammounts), might be sometimes a better strategy, specially considering the expertise an early stage investor might bring and the potential help securing larger rounds if all goes well.
Meeting several other foreign investors and entrepreneurs that were based not only in SP, but also in Rio, BR and Floripa, it became quite clear that BR entered the international radar as a promissing spot for startups. This reminded me of a recent experiment trying to hire a top intern, where we got more applications from the EU than from BR! Seems like what was a rather odd configuration at AI Engineers (at least here in POA) in its first years – having at times more clients and collaborators abroad than locally – is already becoming a natural setting for high tech startups in BR in general.
If you been at Geeks on Beer, I bet you’ll agree that we had a quite productive evening/night; if you haven’t, keep your radar on for (I hope) the next edition – you’ll surelly learn a lot, meet several interesting people and come back with some key insights for your business.
P.s.: Do not miss the pics, videos and report on Geeks on Beer at Startupi , thanks to D. Remus!
P.p.s.: And be sure to check ou the GOAP attendee list.