Bedy Yang took the stage at PulsoConf this morning, the conference’s main representative from Brazil, Latin America’s leading tech hub. An associate at 500 Startups and leader in Brazil Innovators, Yang outlined her experiences in Brazil and Silicon Valley and provided her thoughts as to the role of venture capital and seed funding in the startup ecosystem.
During her 30-minute speech, Yang touched on a number of insightful points, a few of which we’ve listed below.
Spontaneous creativity is key. Yang opened her presentation with the assertion that creativity most often spurs from spontaneous meetings and discussions. An environment that facilitates such occurrences must be created through the building of a network of entrepreneurs and innovators.
Brazil is about recognizing opportunity. In 2010, Yang asked an important question: If they can do it in Silicon Valley, why not Brazil? With that, she began Brazil Innovators, which is now composed of a network of over 3,000 professionals. In the country, she’s led the way in solving problems, sharing ideas and teaching fellow entrepreneurs that pivoting and failure are part of the game. Through events, media coverage, incentives and more, Brazil has converted into a huge opportunity for Latin America and the rest of the world.
Network is necessary. One can always wait for universities and government entities to become more entrepreneur friendly, but who knows how long it will take. Instead, it is up to individuals to build a network of likeminded people and cultures to foster a successful ecosystem. It’s about innovators, Yang said, not innovations.
The funding gap is real. Yang explained that there is an important gap between the idea stage and proof of concept, making investment garnering extremely problematic. Most investors are tempted to hold off on investing until more users are gathered, traction developed, revenues received, etc. This is where early-stage funds like 500 Startups come in.
Getting from zero to one is hardest. Reaching a point that will be attractive to the majority of investors is the biggest challenge faced by early-stage startups, almost like a funnel. 500 Startups helps enterprises overcome this by injecting initial amounts of US$10,000 to US$250,000 into budding startups with follow-on investments later down the line. Yang pointed out that 500 Startups’ investments are almost always accompanied or followed by funding from other organizations, whether angel investors, local funds or other sources, and that together, these investments help early-stage startups to eventually access growth capital.
It doesn’t matter where you are. Given the current market scenario in Brazil, more and more startups are setting their sights on the country. Likewise, entrepreneurs are emerging from Brazil and Latin America, thinking on a global scale. There is no better time than the present to think big and attack foreign markets. Yang explained, “Things move so quickly that it really doesn’t matter where you are.”
VCs are game changers. Yang firmly believes that through investments, organizations like 500 Startups are effectively changing the entrepreneurial ecosystem. They drive transformation for angel investors, support local networks, empower successful startups and drive entrepreneurship. Notably, Yang pointed out that at 500 Startups, they “focus on winners” and make sure to pay special attention to the startups making real waves.
Market size decides VC destinations. When asked why 500 Startups has chosen to concentrate on Mexico and Brazil in Latin America, the answer, for Yang, was simple: market size. The Brazilian market is huge, as we all know, and in Mexico, the market is sizeable and also lacking in strong angel investment groups. While other Latin American countries are always taken into consideration, market size is an important factor.
Yang presented a global perspective with unique insights into Latin America. She has proven herself time and time again to be a central figure in the startup circuit.