When it comes to picking a one-line descriptor for a startup, the Mandaê team has it down: “Our mission is to make shipping stuff simple.” That’s how company co-founder Marcelo Fujimoto presented the Brazil-based project to PulsoSocial.
Founded by Fujimoto and Karim Hardane, Mandaê proposes a fast, easy way for individuals to ship whatever they want. Users snap a photo of the object they want to send using the Mandaê app, and the team comes by, picks up the item, packages it and ships it. Clients pay the same fee the post office charges, plus a R$10 pick-up fee (around US$4.50), which is waived if the customer is shipping more than one item.
Currently, the startup is operating in private beta in the greater São Paulo area. Most of its customers are e-commerce entities or small businesses, shipping an average 7.9 items per pickup. In March, Mandaê successfully closed a seed round of funding, with participation from Hans Hickler (the ex-CEO of DHL Express) and Kima Ventures (a Paris-based fund).
We spoke with Fujimoto regarding the solution and the often-troublesome issues of bureaucracy and logistics in Brazil.
Emily Stewart: This isn’t your first startup in Brazil. What have you learned in your previous entrepreneurial experiences in the country, and why go and stay there for business?
Marcelo Fujimoto: I’m a Brazilian and American citizen, and Karim (my co-founder) has been here for a while, so both of us very much consider Brazil our home now. Before working on Mandaê, Karim and I both had opportunities to go back to the U.S. or to Europe, but we chose to stay here. On an emotional level, we want to see more Brazilian entrepreneurship success stories, and we want to work on solutions to local problems.
Fundamentally, we think Mandaê is a great opportunity because we’re solving a big problem in a big market with a great team. We learned from our previous e-commerce experiences in Brazil how big a pain point shipping and logistics is, especially here because there are fewer shipping options than in the American or European markets. We also have an intimate knowledge of how the Brazilian transport and logistics markets work, and just as importantly, we know what it takes to execute well here. This includes not just navigating the infamous Brazilian bureaucracy, but also dealing with product development, HR and other issues, each of which have uniquely Brazilian twists.
ES: There are a fair share of solutions on the market for logistics in Brazil right now. Why attack such a crowded market? What makes you stand out?
MF: Logistics is a broad term that encompasses a lot of different markets and users. In our case, there are thousands of transporters in Brazil that focus on the last mile of logistics (the final steps involved in getting the product to your door). The Brazilian postal service (the Correios) is the dominant player, with 33% market share.
But nobody else is working on solving the first-mile problem. In a R$10 billion market with tens of millions of Brazilians shipping over 200 million small packages annually, you won’t find a single person that enjoys shipping stuff. Finding packaging, going to the post office and waiting in lines just isn’t fun. We’re the only ones that are working on a solution that eliminates all of these hassles.
There are a lot of apps these days focused on the same-day, intra-city logistics market (i.e., motoboy apps). We don’t consider them to be competitors – our market, consumers, use case, and even nature of items delivered are quite different.
ES: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced building this? What obstacles?
MF: I wish I could say the biggest challenge has been HR or product or customer development, but it’s been dealing with Brazilian bureaucracy. It’s tragic that even setting up a legal entity, opening a bank account or signing any sort of contract can be the biggest obstacles, but it’s a fact of life here. There’s growing recognition of the importance of startups to the Brazilian economy, and there are efforts being made to simplify requirements and processes for startups and small businesses, so we obviously hope things continue in this direction.
ES: You’ve been pretty successful on the investment front. Any tips there?
MF: The factors that help a startup to succeed in general are probably consistent with fundraising success: work on a problem you’re passionate about solving, in a market that’s big or has the potential to be big, and do it with a great team. For Brazilian entrepreneurs, what we’d suggest is to look for funding sources not just within Brazil, but also from elsewhere. AngelList was a tremendously useful tool for us, and it’s what led us to Kima Ventures. The Brazilian economy and investor appetite here may have cooled, but the best and most dedicated entrepreneurs will find a way, and that’s a good thing.
ES: What’s your plan for the year ahead?
MF: With our seed round, our goals are to hit certain product development milestones, show traction and start proving that we can execute on our unit economics. The intention is to raise a Series A round thereafter and hopefully start expanding our reach into other markets.
ES: Do you see this only as a Brazilian solution or something that could go somewhere else as well?
MF: We definitely have other Latin American markets in our future sights. Shipping hassles are a global problem, not just Brazilian, and we think we’re developing a logistics platform that can be applied elsewhere.