A lot of attention is paid to entrepreneurs once they’ve gotten off the ground, having received investments, participated in acceleration programs or spent time in incubators. But what happens before that, when one decides to start a business and doesn’t have the faintest idea of where to begin? That’s another story, especially in Latin America and countries like Brazil, where energy is always present but know-how is not.
Brazilian organization Bizstart is looking to make an impact on brand new startups and young entrepreneurs and play a hand in the education of these enterprises and individuals. It offers a range of what we can call pre-acceleration services, partnering with angel investors and accelerators to prepare entrepreneurs for the road ahead.
Maurilio Alberone and Rafael Carvalho founded the company upon recognizing the growth of the entrepreneurial culture in the country and the gap of professionals prepared enough to maneuver that opportunities and challenges that culture represents.
Bizstart provides educational tools and sets up meetings for budding entrepreneurs and technology professionals throughout Brazil, the aim being to train entrepreneurs in the country’s startup scenario. It teaches attendees about startup management and related successful processes, such as the lean startup method, business model generation and customer development.
The prospect of Bizstart caught our attention, so we got in touch with co-founder Maurilio Alberone to find out a bit more – the origins of the idea, the proposal of the organization, and its ultimate goals.
Emily Stewart: Who is Bizstart aimed at attracting, and what projects or profiles benefit most from attending a Bizstart meetup? What do those meetups entail?
Maurilio Alberone: All entrepreneurs will learn valuable lessons from our workshops and online courses. But, given the business practices that we work on, digital companies have a special interest in our meetups.
We try to combine business practice theories with practical exercises and group dynamics. That way, we believe the attendees can extract the most from our workshops’ content. People who already have a business idea or a startup can apply it to their own realities, and those who don’t can simulate or contribute with the others.
ES: Both you and Rafael of have a significant background in startups and entrepreneurship. What have been your greatest successes and failures, and how do you think those have contributed to Bizstart?
MA: We have been on the entrepreneurial track for quite some time.
Rafael Carvalho created his first company at age 16, during the internet bubble. Since then, he’s worked as a web entrepreneur. In 2008, with me and others partners, he founded a startup to build a new platform for segmenting television advertising. We raised investments, built teams and worked at the startup for three years. At the end of 2010, we recognized that the company wasn’t achieving the expected results, so activities were closed.
As both Rafael and I became closer to the Brazilian startup scene and have a passion for education, we decided to found Bizstart at the end of 2011. Nowadays, the company has more than 1,000 clients, with who we work via online courses, workshops and consulting. Bizstart shows that doing what you love with a clear market opportunity raises your odds of success.
ES: What are your observations of the current startup and technology market in Brazil? What trends have you noticed? What do you think are the strong points of the ecosystem, and what needs work?
MA: We believe that the Brazilian startup ecosystem has matured quite a bit over the last few years, and really fast at that. We got involved in it five years ago, and the changes are noteworthy. Entrepreneurs are more conscious of their responsibilities, and new investors appear each and every day. Brazil’s economy has got the world’s attention, and the case is the same for the country’s startups.
One of the most important strengths of Brazilian entrepreneurs is their high technical capacity and their ability to learn quickly. However, we still see a gap when it comes to business, marketing and finance, especially with the younger crowd.
ES: There is an ongoing debate as to whether Brazilian startups should concentrate on the local economy or aim their enterprises at global audiences. What are your opinions on this?
MA: We believe that are opportunities on both levels. Locally, we still have a number of needs to be met and problems to be solved, which could be a huge market for some startups. For example, local services based on the online-to-offline (O2O) concept are business models that are very interesting for Brazil.
However, we know that, in some market segments, it is impossible to reach a truly big and profitable market share only in Brazil. For businesses oriented at tech platforms, such as data analysis or cloud computing, a global vision is fundamental. A good expression is: “Work locally, think globally.”
ES: What is the most important lesson you hope attendees take away from a Bizstart meetup?
MA: The most important thing our attendees can take away from one of our meetups is how to build a business that is focused on customers. We see a lot of startups failing because they’ve spent too much time developing a product that customers don’t want, both here and around the world. We want to pass on our experiences and practical knowledge in order to help Brazilian entrepreneurs avoid such risks. We get a chance to see great business ideas grow and become fantastic Brazilian companies.
Bizstart is playing an important role in the educational front of Brazil’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The next Bizstart meetup will take place on August 25th in Belo Horizonte, attendance costing just R$340 (US$165). Down the line, the lessons learned and experiences gained from Bizstart encounters will surely prove worth much more.