Paula Guedes: Bootstrapping gives the freedom to act independently and creatively

Look at any news source out there today, and you’re sure to see at least one mention of the flailing international job market. Unemployment rates in many parts of the globe are soaring, and even in places like Brazil, where the economy has been on the upswing over the past few years, the situation is far from ideal.

While job seekers claim that there is no work available, corporations complain of lack of talent, resulting in a number of unfilled positions and even more unemployed workers. Moreover, in the online scene where most job seekers search for openings, user experience is sub-par at best. Candidates often visit more than 20 different websites in order to learn about companies and positions before applying, and for entry-level candidates, there are few real resources available to answer the many questions they likely have. These young job-seekers also have high expectations for the platforms and websites they use, having grown up in a 2.0 world. is set up in Brazil to tackle these issues and make an impact on the country’s job market.

Atlz is a social platform that connects university students and recent graduates with companies and HR departments seeking qualified young talent. Launched in December of last year, it now boasts over 20,000 registered users, 900 universities represented, and 20,000 opportunities listed.

One element vital to the success of Atlz is the company’s ability to partner with universities and HR corporations. In August, the platform will announce the partnerships it has solidified with a number of reputable Brazilian universities, which will come on top of its agreements with companies like Aennova, etalent and ezlearn.

Atlz founder and CEO Paula Guedes filled us in on the platform as well as her own background, the bootstrapping method, and the company’s anticipated impact on the complex and expensive Brazilian job market.

Emily Stewart: You have a pretty significant background in business and finance. Why get involved with a startup now?

Paula Guedes: Finance and economics are both great languages for business. They exist to facilitate growth and to make the business environment more viable. It is with this mindset that I’ve been an intent student and practitioner of these fields. Doing M&A provided unparalleled good practice for applied strategy and finance knowledge. It gave me a solid understanding how a wide variety of businesses add value to the world and make money. . . . These teachings are most definitely transferable to the world of startups. 

That said, I think it is important to highlight that I chose to get involved with, not just any startup. I make the distinction because it is an important one. I chose to be involved with technology because it is the only way to make a true impact at a large scale. I chose the HR market because I´ve observed truly unique market conditions that make me believe that it is about to be disrupted. Take the simple fact that all over the world you have candidates complaining that there are no jobs available and you have corporations complaining that they cannot find talent. This reflects a lack of understanding of a fundamental problem and is definitely a symptom of an industry that is about to suffer a lot of structural changes, which makes it interesting to be a startup in this field.

I am with Atlz because I have a passion and a vision for it. Had I not seen this opportunity, I may never have arrived at a startup, who knows… 

ES: You have a lot of competition out there in terms of other organizations and platforms that offer similar services – LinkedIn, for example, or university jobs programs. What makes Atlz stand out?

PG: stands out because it is primarily focused on university students and recent grads that are actively looking for better work opportunities. This may seem trivial, but in fact it is the most important way in which the network stands out from the others, as this fact alone brings a number of implications to the technology we chose to develop. 

We have put the user at the center of the job search experience. . . . Because our target demographic is young, and therefore very fluent and active in social networks, the expectation is that all interactions on the internet provide an opportunity to talk and interact with others.  In other words, users expect everything to be a social experience. . . . Candidates can ask questions, say what they like about each job, or even follow companies and openings. . . .  Because Atlz is a company that is geared to young people, we also have a number of features that make the selection process more fun, having brought in the concept of gamification.

Finally, we provide users with tools to show more dimensions of their personalities, dimensions that are not evident on a resume. On Atlz, candidates can record a video resume and demonstrate their knowledge through the actions they take online (like posting articles). We provide tools for candidates to differentiate themselves from others. Atlz is a platform that allows for the exchange of knowledge on a large scale, so companies and candidates may know one another better.

ES: You’ve chosen to make it a go with Atlz using the bootstrapping method. Why have you gone this route? Do you plan to seek investments later down the line?

PG: This is a very complex and personal decision that at the very minimum depends not only on entrepreneur´s risk profile but also on the founding teams’ risk appetite, life circumstances, savings, etc. When you start to reflect on alternative financing options, broadly speaking, there are other factors that are incredibly important to consider: a company’s life stage, industry type, and even general macroeconomic conditions, such as interest rates (the cost of borrowing from banks rather than giving up company equity for capital).  

As a general recommendation, I usually suggest that all entrepreneurs start with the model of backing up their ideas through bootstrapping. Every startup begins with mobilizing people to evaluate certain opportunities – this process does not cost much other than time and dedication. Validating initial assumptions is essential before getting to the point of articulating a vision to the investor. . . . Bootstrapping gives the freedom to be able to act independently and creatively. It is also a way to develop an attitude of frugality and to instill discipline as to which areas to invest resources in.

Nonetheless, raising capital is an important part of growing any business, and when done right, smart money brings industry-specific expertise and therefore generates high impact. We’ve already been approached by investors who have great admiration and respect for what we’re doing but don’t think it is the right time to invest yet. This time will definitely come one day.

ES: Many note the complexities of hiring in the Brazilian marketplace as well as the cost of labor. What are your thoughts on this? How may Atlz fit in to help solve this problem?

PG: We perceive the difficulty in hiring and the high cost of labor as two of the main reasons behind the opportunity for a platform like ours to succeed 

Companies need talent for growth, and their most important investment is in human capital. Universities are a great source of qualified talent. Nonetheless, anyone who tries to approach a university in order to hire students will tell you that it is an incredibly difficult and bureaucratic task. Furthermore, the regions that are experiencing the most growth in the country are regions in which corporations have not had to do significant hiring before. This poses an even greater problem for reach given how costly it is to travel in Brazil. Finally, given the high cost of labor, hiring the wrong person becomes a very costly mistake. 

By having university students and recent graduates connected in one place, candidates and HR departments can get to know each other better prior to hiring, without any bureaucracy involved. . . . These interactions and the exchange of information should not only reduce the cost of hiring, but also the cost of making the wrong decision regarding hiring someone inappropriate for the job.

Atlz is still in its early stages and has not yet defined strategies for revenue generation and monetization. For the time being, Guedes and her team will continue to concentrate on creating the best user experience possible on the platform in an effort to win over the tough-to-convince young demographic they’ve targeted.


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