By Dan Berthiaume
For a US software company to open a development center in Latin America is nothing new. However, when a Latin American company opens a development center in the US, it is certainly newsworthy. Totvs Inc., a major Brazilian technology/software provider specializing in solutions for small-to-mid-sized businesses (but not exclusively) with headquarters in Sao Paolo and a global client base, recently opened a development center in Mountain View, CA, in the heart of Silicon Valley.
According to Vicente Goetten, executive director of Totvs Labs (the new subsidiary operating in Silicon Valley), a desire to grow its international presence, foster innovation and partner with US technology firms looking to enter Latin America drove the company’s decision to launch US-based operations.
“We have become dominant in Latin America and Brazil,” explained Goetten. “Now we are at the next stage in our development where we want to become a global technology standard, especially for SMBs. It is clear we need a presence in the US to achieve that goal. If you are going to locate in the US, especially if you want to be an innovator in technology, there is no better place than Silicon Valley.”
Looking for the Edge
From its Silicon Valley development center (or “innovation center,” as Goetten calls it), Goetten said Totvs can “see the edge” of new technology and also have access to “great universities and great talent.”
The process of opening the Silicon Valley center began in 2009, when Totvs partnered with Stanford University to identify opportunities to leverage the talent and innovation available in the Silicon Valley area. Eventually Totvs settled on a 2,600-square foot office space which Goetten said the company completely remodeled and “built from scratch” to meet the needs of the work being done and the people performing it.
“We remodeled the space so it would be very pleasant,” said Goetten. “That’s very important for the technical people working in Silicon Valley.”
Small Numbers, Big Results
Totvs initially opened the center at the end of 2011 and today has roughly 14 software engineers, architects and designers working there. By the end of this year, Goetten said he expects about 20 employees and ultimately expects between 26 and 30 employees, many of them long-term, to work out of the center.
“We want to partner with fast-growing companies and help them go to Latin America with products we develop together”
“The important thing is scalability,” Goetten said of the relatively small number of employees located at the center. “We want to develop innovative technology, but not grow headcount at the same pace. We have small teams working in specialized technology areas.”
Goetten said the center’s employees are a “diverse group” including individuals from Russia and India as well as the US. Their backgrounds range from formerly working at major global technology firms like Yahoo and IBM to having founded start-ups. One thing Goetten emphasized is that while some employees from Brazil have been sent to work at the center for a few months at a time, regular staff is sourced locally.
Opening the Door to Latin America
In addition to developing innovative technologies with the assistance of Silicon Valley talent and expertise, Totvs also hopes the center will become a hub of partnership activity with US technology firms looking to enter the Latin American market. “We want to partner with fast-growing companies and help them go to Latin America with products we develop together,” he explained.
In looking at the center as a hub of technology innovation, Goetten said technology companies from India and Europe have been opening similar centers in the US in recent years, but Totvs is one of a much smaller number of Latin American technology companies setting up full-time operations here. He added that Totvs will offshore specific activities to its Silicon Valley location.
“We will only offshore what makes sense to offshore here,” he said. “We will develop things that require high skills, relating to areas like Big Data, cloud and mobile.”