The process of building a successful startup does not only depend on dreaming up a good idea. The road to success often requires a lot of sleepless nights, deep technical knowledge, a good phonebook and a sufficient amount of funding. With that on mind, a group of young software innovators from Campinas, a city located about an hour away from São Paulo, set out to create a startup association that has quickly become a safe haven for collective inspiration, strategy setting and high-value networking.The organization –ACS (Associação Campinas Startups) – was established after a few local entrepreneurs decided they were tired of the traditional “incubators” run by the city administration and by Unicamp, one of the biggest universities in the country. Such incubators, they realized, lacked the business knowledge and expertise, which is crucial to become a viable business.
“Sometimes, they [the incubators] just make the development of a startup more difficult. The tutors or professors there may often have very little contact with the real market,” says Taília Lemos, co-founder and president of the association.
She herself has launched a startup called Gentros and that focuses on biotechnology and agriculture. Founded in 2008, Gentros was part of Ciatec, one of the local incubators, until Taíla decided to invest in ACS.
“We the entrepreneurs noticed we have some common demands: knowledge of business management, good networking, marketing strategies and sources of funding”, she told Nearshore Americas. Two years after its creation, ACS counts on 15 startup members that gather once a month to share ideas, contacts and good or bad experiences. “It is all based on collaboration.”
Startups and ACS
Once a month they meet seed and venture capital investors such as Intel Capital, Pitanga Fund and Bosch Venture, among others. Each company under the umbrella of ACS is today seeks capital of around US$ one million. “Fortunately, there is no lack of interest,” says one member.
According to data from Instituto Inovação – the institution focused on providing support for young entrepreneurs in the country – around 2000 startups in the web and IT area were created in 2011 in Brazil, a three-fold increase on 2009.
Clansoft is a good example of a software startup in Campinas, established by some Brazilian entrepreneurs that have flourished in the collaborative environment of ACS. The company develops intuitive interfaces for tablet PCs, IOS, Android and 3F tools. “One of our main challenges was to create products for tablets at a moment when there was no definition about the market of tablets,” said Pedro Almeida, from Clansoft.
He explains that the main motivation to join the association is to establish contact with companies that are in the same league as they are, “which are going through or that have overcome similar challenges.”
To Name a Few
Another good example of a young firm building momentum is I.Systems, which was created with the intent of developing software solutions for the management of industrial processes.
In a matter of just a few years, the startup landed big clients like Rhodia, São Martinho, Usina Pederneiras, Lanxess, Coca-Cola and Ajinomoto.
But today I.Systems is facing problems similar to that of companies in the information technology industry: a severe lack of qualified knowledge professionals. “Now our biggest challenge is to hire the right people at the right time and with the right profile,” says Igor Santiago, one of the founders of I.Systems.
He is an avid supporter of organizations like ACS. “The members help each other to elaborate, test and review different business models. The ability to test quickly with little resources helps companies to improve their chances of succeeding”, he says.
Santiago, like Taíla from Gentros, is critical of incubators. They have a business model that is based on Sebrae (Agência de Apoio ao Empreendedor e Pequeno Empresário), created by the government to support small and mid-size business across the country.
“Startups have dynamics that are very different from those of a bakery, for example. The value proposal and the market analysis”, he said.