Proximity is King

Yesterday I went to BR New Tech meet up. Great event hosted by Microsoft for 200 entrepreneurs and investors.   TKS MSFT!

Aside from the quality of the entrepreneurs, what stroke me was how little the industry really knows about itself. Very few people in that room could claim that they knew what the others were working on and that is a major setback for the community.

3 aspects drive this behaviour

1. Personalization of the company. Brazilians grew up thinking of companies that belong to someone. For that reason, the ideas that generate those companies also belong. There is very limited willingness to bring on partners for new ventures, be they a VC/Angel or another entrepreneur.

This clearly slows down the company’s development as one person will have to master all aspects of the business, whereas you could just bring someone with that specific expertise and get moving much sooner and at a much aster rate. As they are not looking for partners/investors/ideas, entrepreneurs do not share their ideas and, therefore, cannot be helped.

One of the most interesting companies I’m looking at right now, did exactly the opposite. The entrepreneur walked in with an idea and we didn’t like the business plan based on a few monetization problems.  He went home and 30 days latter came back with completely different twist that made much more sense and we are moving forward. 2 things I like about it. 1 an entrepreneur that listens and will let me help develop the company; 2 an entrepreneur that is resilient and will pivot the company if needed.

Entrepreneurs need to understand that they will hardly get it right the first time. So get your idea in front of as many people as possible so you gather feedback and improve it.  This leads me to my next point

2. No industry references. As we are in the industry’s infancy, we do not have the brokers and the success cases mapped out. That makes it really difficult to know who you  should put your idea in front off.

This problem is much harder to solve as it will take a cycle of successes for the real brokers to become known. We did see a good start in the room yesterday with the angel investors but more will be needed. We will know that Brazil matured as a VC market when we have specialized though leaders rather than broad ones.

3. Geographic dispersion. There is no real meeting place for the community to meet and share Ideas. We do not have a  Sand hill road or an RTP where we congregate the community and can walk down the street and meet people who will help.

People underestimate how much value can be created over a simple lunch or coffee. Entrepreneurs can meet partners and investors, investors can exchange ideas and find do-investors and employees can can have the next bog idea.

When Warehouse had to choose its office we made an explicit choice to move away from Faria Lima, PE/IB dominated area of the city,  into Vila Leopoldina.

Vila Leoppoldina feels a lot like the Meat Packing district as it is an industrial area that is quickly converting to residential/office space. Furthermore, it is side by  side with Sao Paulo’s leading university. We took a long gamble that  Vila Leopoldina might actually become Brazil’s version of sand hill road but it is still too early to tell. Lets work for it.

If we can increase the proximity of the entrepreneurs, VCs, Industry References and Ideas, we will succeed in creating a robust industry.

Preference Based / Individualization

It’s been 2 years since A round and a full year since its B round.  Now roundpegg has raised its A round. Both of them are trying something interesting. They are trying to eHarmonize the world.

In a world where the proliferation of options overwhelm individuals, helping them make choices according to their preferences becomes invaluable.

To narrow down the options, both sites apply matching engines to rank options and guide you through them.

The concept is not new and Amazon has been doing something similar for ages. However, there is a settle difference, while amazon takes into account what you know (through what you bought),  Hunch and roundpegg take into account who you are and what you like/dislike, therefore suggesting things that are not always obviously related.  This, therefore, might lead to experimentation.

This, in itself is a space that I really like. Moreover, I like the infinite possibilities around it. There is value in this tool in virtually every complex decision one has to make.

Imagine a site that could suggest restaurants based on what you like/bought and how you behave. Go further, imagine suggestion of specific dishes. Or take it to another space, and use preferences to narrow down the options when house hunting or shopping for a new car.  imagine what this could do to job hunting, roundpegg is already working on that.

As the engine increases significantly the chances of positive outcomes, users will be more willing to experiment.

On the back-end, having all this preferences mapped out create a priceless database from where to extract amazing consumer information.

In the future, we will all marry to eharmony, either for dating or for anything else.