What I discovered in one week in Porto Alegre is quite important: the start-up community is growing at a fast pace. We saw a strong movement of young and energized entrepreneurs with innovative and environment-friendly business ideas. They all shared a common passion: building a better future for Brazil. We had a unique opportunity to meet and interview dozens of entrepreneurs. Along this process, we discovered Semente Negócios‘ significant progress in building an ecosystem to support entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, these entrepreneurs are the future end-users of the new product we will help Semente design! This blog will describe our partner Semente‘s current operations and paint an overall picture of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Porto Alegre.
Semente are local leaders in entrepreneurial education. Their mission is to build an entrepreneurial community in Porto Alegre and beyond. Currently Semente comprises of only a handful of full-time employees. They are busy round the clock at doing an excellent job in providing entrepreneurial education by hosting seminars and organizing competitions to students, entrepreneurs and even employees in corporations, just to name a few examples.
Our Social Sabbatical project required us to help Semente by designing an online entrepreneurial education toolbox which will help them scale their operations to a national scale.
Semente planned a busy schedule for us. We got a glimpse into their typical daily activities. Our journey started with a visit to Semente’s office, “Casa Liberdade” (translation: “house of freedom”). It is a shared workspace where artists, entrepreneurs, and freelancers meet, work and attend workshops. The theme in this house is about one’s spiritual well-being and about self-discovery of one’s inner passions and motivations (http://estaleiroliberdade.com.br/).
Academia / University
Next stop was at Tecnosinos in the city of São Leopoldo. Tecnosinos is a technology park strategically located in proximity to Unisinos university and several companies, including the SAP Labs. In 14 years since its creation, the 100% privately funded park has attracted over 4500 jobs as well as several businesses ranging from start-ups to multinational corporations. By the way, constructions are underway to double the size of the SAP Labs in São Leopoldo!
Semente’s involvement in this park is with both the University and the onsite incubator. They provide mentoring services to early-stage entrepreneurs and organize workshops, seminars, lectures and competitions at the university. Here we met with the founders of several innovative businesses.
For example, Kyoodai is a small business selling branding and marketing services whose customers include Toyota (Kyoodai Digital Studio). We also discovered SBPA (SBPA Simulators), a flight simulator software company and even got a chance to test our flying skills! Check out the video at the end of this blog to find out whether we succeeded in our first-ever landing attempt!
On the same busy day we were invited to attend a networking event organized by Semente, called Empreendrinks. The concept is simple: pitch your business idea as if there were real investors in the room and obtain feedback from fellow entrepreneurs. This is yet another example showcasing the networking capabilities of Semente as well as the level of their involvement in the entrepreneurial community.
Finance & Investments
Finally we got exposed to Semente’s role in WOW Accelerator. WOW invests in early stage entrepreneurs and innovation. WOW is a group of 50 angel investors primarily focused on the Porto Alegre area. An angel investor is an investor who is often willing to invest in very early-stage start-ups which may not have a proven business model yet. They invest in the ‘idea’, and therefore, bear high risks.
We had the opportunity to attend the WOW celebration event where the 3 start-ups finalists presented their business idea. These finalists won a round of investment following a long application process. WOW leverages Semente’s vast network to connect with entrepreneurs.
Here is a simple graphic depicting a simplified entrepreneurial ecosystem in Porto Alegre according to my perception. Keep in mind that the entrepreneur is at the center. I hope it helps to visualize the ecosystem!
Summing it up
Entrepreneurship is the engine of economic growth. By helping Semente during this Sabbatical project, SAP is contributing to the social and economic development in Brazil. As part of our project scope to design an online education toolbox for entrepreneurs, we interviewed several entrepreneurs in the search for a perfect problem / solution fit. Along this journey, we discovered a growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in Porto Alegre and learned about Semente’s ambitious mission, networking capabilities and their strong presence in this community.
As promised, the video of our first flying experience!