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Precocious Entrepreneurship

To Hélio Rotenberg, of the Positivo Group, investing in innovation is the key to success

CARREIRAS aDaniel BuenoEntrepreneurship came into the life of Hélio Rotenberg at a very early age. Rotenberg, 52, has been the president of Positivo Informática since 1989 and of the Positivo Group, which is in the education business, since 2012. “At 14 I was already giving private classes, and at 18, I started my first business venture, Pattin, a roller skating rink in Curitiba,” he says. Rotenberg received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR) and a master’s in information technology from the Pontifical University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-RJ). When he finished his master’s in 1987, he returned to the Paraná state capital with one burning question: would he pursue a PhD or start a business? Uncertain, he taught classes at the Information Technology Department of the Federal Technology Education Center of Paraná (Cefet-PR).

A TV commercial about the information technology course offered by Faculdades Positivo—now Positivo University—helped him make the decision. “My father knew one of the professors, who suggested I talk to Professor Oriovisto Guimarães, one of the founders of the Positivo group,” he recalls. “During our first conversation I explained what information technology is, without using buzzwords or technical terms, and was hired.” In 1988, he started teaching and became director of the information technology program. “That was when I saw an opportunity to sell computers to those schools that had already purchased our educational material,” he says. After researching the market, he realized that it would be feasible to set up a computer factory, and so he took the idea to the Positivo partners. And so the company, which was already a well-known educational group, branched off into a new area, which, at the time, was just beginning to take its first steps. In May 1989, Positivo Informática was born and Rotenberg, then 27, became the company’s top executive.

Rotenberg: from education to the development of computer manufacturing

Grupo PositivoRotenberg: from education to the development of computer manufacturingGrupo Positivo

The project of getting the company started began, as he tells it, with a simple realization: that the more than one thousand schools that had acquired the right to use the Positivo methodology could teach information technology to their students, using the most suitable educational materials—computers. They could be manufactured and sold to the schools along with the methodology. “I talked to one of our teachers, who assured me that it was a simple matter to assemble a computer,” says Rotenberg. He learned how to make them and developed a business plan to sell 30 computers a month at a price that today would be the equivalent of R$15,000. “Now we sell more than 200,000 pieces of equipment a month,” says Rotenberg, who in his free time likes to read, watch good movies, and spend time with family and friends. He says his academic training was vital: “The academic experience gave me the foundation and the confidence that enabled me to take risks.”

In his opinion, the biggest challenge facing any business leader these days is finding the best talents on the market: identifying them, attracting them, and retaining them. “The competition for good people is becoming increasingly stiff,” he says. Especially in a technology company, another challenge is remaining current in the midst of a scenario of more and more technological products. “Research, and investing in innovation are the keys to success,” he says.