Startups are born as solutions to problems, answers devised by entrepreneurs as responses to real issues. This is certainly the case of TextCorner, which was born as a way of filling the company’s founders own content creation needs.
TextCorner was founded by Vitor Peçanha, who is perhaps best known for his work at Webholic, a Brazilian startup and technology blog born out of ReadWriteWeb Brazil. TextCorner is a platform that connects freelance writers with companies in need of content for their blogs and websites. Currently, TextCorner is one of two Brazilian startups participating in the most recent edition of Start-Up Chile.
We reached out to Peçanha to learn more about TextCorner as well his experiences thus far with Start-Up Chile and impressions of the buzz currently surrounding Brazil.
Peçanha explained that TextCorner emerged out of the humblest of beginnings. The idea for the startup came about following conversations between Peçanha and Webholic colleague Diego Gomes (Co-Founder of Everwrite). The two discussed ways to improve the content creation process, and from there, TextCorner was born.
The first TextCorner MVP, Peçanha confessed, was a Google spreadsheet, used as a straightforward way to organize writers for jobs he himself was offering. Over time, however, Peçanha recognized that a more complex product would be necessary if this was to be a scalable company, and he launched the TextCorner closed beta platform in January.
Initially, Peçanha has tested TextCorner for a few of his websites as well as the blogs of a couple of his close friends. He acknowledged that there is still quite a bit to pan out.
The Scalability Challenge
One of the biggest challenges he outlined was that of vetting writers. When TextCorner was in its earliest days, Peçanha found that most of the writers who applied for content creation jobs weren’t qualified to write about the specific topics he was seeking – specifically, the internet. However, individuals did appear with expertise in more general topics, such as gardening and parenting.
The task of approving good writers with specific knowledge in a set area remains perhaps the biggest challenge faced by TextCorner right now. Currently, writers are asked to send a sample text, which must be approved by the TextCorner team. After a writer has been accepted, he or she is given small assignments until trust may be built up and ratings and comments from clients are received.
Though the system works right now when operations are small, Peçanha recognized that it is not scalable. Not only does the approach require a lot of manual labor, but it also poses the problem that, at some point, the rating system will become irrelevant. Moreover, it does not leave room for consideration of rubrics and topics.
Though Peçanha expressed setbacks regarding this issue, he wasn’t too worried, thanks in large part to Start-Up Chile.
The Ups of SUP Chile
In being part of Start-Up Chile, he noted, he has been able to buy some time to fix this problem and really improve his product. With the funds received from the program, he has hired a design team and brought two employees with him from Brazil. He can now spend his six months away concentrating on overcoming the remaining issues related to TextCorner. For the time being, he explained, there is no big rush to find more clients.
Peçanha was quite positive with respect to his experiences as part of the fourth class of Start-Up Chile. TextCorner is one of only two Brazilian startups in this round of the program – the other is related to biotechnology. Peçanha pointed out that, historically, most of the Brazilian enterprises to participate in the program have come from Belo Horizonte.
He said that he is enjoying the Start-Up Chile experience very much thus far, especially in that it allows him to dedicate himself 100% to TextCorner – something he does not have the privilege of doing while in Brazil. Peçanha commended the co-working space provided by the program, highlighting its value as an opportunity to network and meet entrepreneurs from all over the world. Nevertheless, he explained, the organization is still working out some kinks.
An Evolving Program
Peçanha noted an impression that the Start-Up Chile staff is still figuring out the best way to run the program and is currently in the process of pivoting the organization towards more of an accelerator. Initially, the program offered no mentoring, just meetings and money. However, with this class, mentoring is slowly but surely becoming part of the deal. Many of the entrepreneurs involved are starting such initiatives themselves.
Distraction and motivation, or lack thereof, can also prove problematic within the Start-Up Chile setup. The huge co-working space with so many people around, Peçanha said, can be very distracting. Moreover, because the program lacks the structure of a traditional accelerator, some entrepreneurs are inclined to “take the money and run.” Though Start-Up Chile asks that participants give something back to the program, it’s not always the case, and some projects involved simply skid by and do nothing. The program is something for which each individual entrepreneur must take personal responsibility – even with reimbursements, which the Start-Up Chile staff warns entrepreneurs may, initially, take some time.
Moreover, Peçanha acknowledged the challenge of participating in a program outside of the country where his main market resides, Brazil. Though he loves travel, he mentioned that seeking clients proves a difficult task from so far away, ruling out business meetings for negotiations. And in consideration of the bureaucratic complexities of Brazil, even a small issue, such as a bank account mix-up, is not easy to deal with from abroad. This in consideration, Peçanha will make a trip back to his homeland soon to meet with partners and investors and pan out a few bureaucratic issues.
As to what’s next for TextCorner, Peçanha explained that he and his team will continue to refine the project while at Start-Up Chile and also begin to seek investments. Right now, he is his own biggest client, along with a few friends, so gathering more paying customers is likely on the horizon.
And as to competitors, he noted that while there are similar services out there, the language barrier in entering into the Brazil market for content creation is an advantage. Though he may explore other Latin American locales in the future, his home country will remain his first order of business – at least for now.
Brazil Still Brazil
In closing, we discussed Peçanha’s impressions of Brazil’s startup ecosystem on the whole. In covering technology in the country for over three years, what had he noticed?
Brazil today is receiving more press than ever, he noted, and opportunities are abound. E-commerce is huge, and cash is flowing. Peçanha pointed out, however, that the market is still maturing. Investors must learn how to survive in Brazil, deal with bureaucracy and also manage different kinds of entrepreneurs.
Peçanha was starkly realistic about the prospects of Brazil. In Chile, he explained, there is an enormous amount of optimism surrounding the country – in large part from individuals who are not actually from Brazil. As a Brazilian, Peçanha has a more realistic view, saying essentially, “Brazil is still Brazil.” Government regulations are tight, taxes are high, and setting up a business is hard. If one is able to learn the ropes and focus on execution, the opportunity is undeniable. But by no means will it be easy.