Thanks to the kind folks at EY, Sao Paulo, I was able to score a pass to this event. The focus of the Endeavor organization 1, and therefore this event 2, is to provide assistance to high potential and/or high impact entrepreneurs, by bringing them in contact with experienced entrepreneurs, investors, experts, etc. The goal is to create a sustained culture of entrepreneurship in the different countries that Endeavor is active in.

The entire event was in Portuguese, but thankfully they had translators, and provided headphones to folks like myself. It was very well-organized, and there was no hitch in the proceedings. There were several panel discussions, and interviews, that were designed to provide valuable insight to new, as well as, potential entrepreneurs. I gained from the experience both from a professional, and a cultural perspective.

On the professional front, my takeaways were:

  • You are a potential entrepreneur if you are not satisfied with how things work, constantly think of ways to improve on things, have the courage of your convictions, and are stubborn enough about your core beliefs to be able to sustain a dream of how you want things to be.
  • More than the idea itself, the willingness to sacrifice time/pay/savings, is key. Reminds me of a quote I read several years ago: “No, the concept is easy. Any idiot can have a good idea. What is hard is to do it.” 3 4
  • The ideas that typically succeed are the ones that can still be relevant a decade from now i.e. something that you can keep building upon through an extended period of time.
  • Depending on the type of business, having a high barrier to entry may or may not be crucial to success in this day and age. For example, in the E-Commerce space, where one can practically build a business from one’s garage, there have been several copy cats of Amazon, Google, etc. that have found success in different countries. I guess the point I am trying to make is not to spend too much time worrying if someone else has already done something similar.
  • Brazil, along with several other countries, is a very nascent market, with millions of people entering the middle class every year. Obviously, these economies won’t grow linearly, but the long-term secular trend seems to be of a growing population with new needs/wants, and disposable income to go along with it. This creates an enormous opportunity for not just established businesses, but new businesses as well. Any business plan will be well served to address such markets along with mature markets like the US.
  • Be patient, and play the long game. One Entrepreneur talked about how things looked pretty bleak at one point, and then within a year, circumstances changed, and he was able to come out on top. His point was that nothing, including circumstances, is constant. Flip side, of course, is not to be so rigid as to be blind to the reality of a failed business plan!;)

On the cultural front, my observations are:

  • This was my first opportunity to be a fly on the wall and just observe Brazilians interact with each other. Brazilians have a very positive attitude. People are warm, generally carry a smile, and are not contentious by nature. At the same time, they seem to be hard-working folk…but I can’t say for sure since I have not worked here. I know that my Brazilian colleagues/friends back in the US are super hard-working, but most people who come to the United States tend to be.
  • Several of the panel participants, and interviewees were relatively long-winded in their answers. They were definitely a little less scripted, and less careful with their answers, than what I observe back in the US. The good part was that the openness was refreshing…the bad part was that I’ve been conditioned to appreciate short, and direct answers.
  • While there were many self-made entrepreneurs on display, there also seemed to be a significant percentage of family owned businesses where entrepreneurship was inherited. It was interesting that several panelists referred to their client base as A class, B class, C class, etc…implying class-ism in society, so to speak. This reminded me of India in some ways. One panelist observed that due to a hierarchical culture, bad news often gets filtered by the time it gets to the top, and leaders end up making flawed decisions based on non-factual information. Again, similar to the culture in the Indian sub-continent. Hopefully, as all these economies mature, it will inevitably lead to them being more meritocratic.
  • East or West, North or South, some things are common wherever you go. There were buzz words like DNA, core values, understanding the customer, etc. thrown around enough times for me to want to play buzzword bingo. There was an attempt to project that female leaders need not be treated any different than male leaders, yet there was a women only panel which quickly devolved into talking about women specific challenges. There was a little bit of nationalistic silliness hinting that somehow a country’s culture by itself ensures economic success. Have been hearing that a lot in the US election cycle too.

I’m probably repeating myself, but I’m really glad I got to attend this event.

After the event, we hung out for a little bit on the rooftop bar, called Skye bar 5. The hotel where this event was held is pretty unique, as its name implies 6.