By Nathan M. Walters, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Brazil’s economic future will partly be shaped by a new generation of entrepreneurs looking to break the mold with innovation in a country not known for fostering new and small business ideas. One of the leaders of the new generation is Emerson Andrade, co-founder of the website Peixe Urbano (Urban Fish), who spoke recently with The Rio Times about success, the stigma of failure, and the importance of entrepreneurialism in Brazil.
Brazil’s economic landscape has historically been dominated by the public sector (or quasi-public sector, for example, Petrobras), leaving little incentive for would-be entrepreneurs to break into a complex and costly bureaucratic system that was less than accommodating at best, in its approach to private enterprise.
Andrade trained in the entrepreneurial incubator, Stanford University and returned from his studies in the U.S. with a re-invigorated approach to business, and a powerful network that has helped propel Peixe Urbano into a Brazilian success story. ”Stanford is great for meeting the people that can move an idea to reality,” says Andrade.
In defining a key ingredient of access to a network he explains, “I met my business partner there and our investors, and members of our board are through the network. Brazil can improve the development of entrepreneurialism by investing in more programs that get students abroad, get them connected with different ideas and a good network of people that are thinking different.”
Brazil’s “Science Without Borders” program aims to send more science and engineering students abroad, with around R$3.16 billion earmarked for scholarships.
“Brazil has traditionally been very conservative,” says Andrade. ”Many people think: why take risk when you can have a nice position in the public sector?” The lure of a comfortable position within the public sector, combined with the heavy cost of failure, has kept the development of the entrepreneurial spirit in check for decades.
“There is a certain stigma attached to failing in Brazil, this is changing,” states Andrade. ”The success of Peixe Urbano has helped more people see the potential for success, has helped develop a better understanding of risk.”
Peixe Urbano, which connects customers with deals offered by local merchants, has exceeded Andrade’s and other founders’ expectations, opening up the possibility of new service lines for the company that complement the initial idea of Peixe Urbano: consumers discovering their city (hence the name).
In just under three years, the company says it has helped more than 20 million consumers, save R$2 billion on purchasing goods and services in around 100 cities throughout Brazil and Latin America. The success has served as an example of what can be done when the entrepreneurial impulse is nurtured.
It is an environment, Andrade says, that government officials are trying to create in Rio. “The government has recognized our success, and talked with us at different times about the possibility of incentives for start-ups, about creating a more successful environment for innovation in Rio.”
“The increased availability of funding, plus the arrival of expatriates with ideas, and the change in the Brazilian mindset are all contributing to the positive movement that entrepreneurialism can bring to the Brazilian economy. Still a lot to be done, but the country is moving in the right direction.”