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Incubator

Facing real life

A group of companies from Ciatec inaugurate a new system of post-incubation

Fiber phone is ready to stand out in the market. It carries with it the acronym FWL210, which is going to give it its own identity in the commercial world of telecommunications. The equipment, developed in partnership by the companies FiberWork Comunicações Ópticas and Elemed Equipamentos Médicos e Hospitalares is going to be useful to telecommunication companies in the carrying out of maintenance and in the assembling of optical fiber transmission lines. The product sums up the potential and the ambition of entrepreneurs in the path of real life, after a period of incubation in the business nurseries sponsored by the Company for the Development of High Technology Center of Campinas (Ciatec). They make up part of a group of 19 companies who have graduated from Ciatec in a ceremony that took place on the 19th of October last. Together, they already have an income of R$ 18 million per year.

Graduation is the moment in which the company leaves the environment of the incubator – where it receives all the technical and administrative infrastructure support needed to progress – to face the challenges of the market. However, Ciatec decided to innovate. The incubator now has a post-incubation phase that will hold six of the nineteen graduating companies. In this manner, FiberWork, Elemed and four other companies – OptoLink, Bioluz, Ecco and SAAT – have been able to gain a new condition, having become post-incubation companies. Beyond being a cute play of words with the idea of “post graduation”, the new phase aims to lessen a little the risk of the enterprises that are going to enter a competitive market.

They remain for a post incubation period in a building as still maintained by Ciatec, where the companies are going to take on greater risks and the main costs of administration: secretaries, computers, telephones, expenditure with water, light and cleaning, in an environment very near to company independence. With five years of experience, the Ciatec houses 24 companies, of which 13 are already competing outside of the protection of the incubation system in which the physical infrastructure market and technological orientation are supplied for almost nothing. The cost to the company is very small: a monthly deduction of some R$ 4,00 per square meter (m²).

The Ciatec is maintained by the City Hall of Campinas and by Sebrae, in a total investment that reaches R$ 200,000 per year. Added to this amount, which serves for the maintenance of Ciatec’s building and for the payment of the incubator staff, is another R$ 1 million in investments in the companies – without the need for a return on the money -, promoted through the Program of Technological Innovation in Small Companies (PIPE) of FAPESP. As well as the companies FiberWork andElemed, Ecco and OptoLink, the companies Smatec, Ram, Unilaser, Valitech, Fissore and Pro-Clone also receive assistance from FAPESP.

Uniting distances
In a new phase, all of the recent diploma receiving companies, after five years in the program of incubation support maintained by the Center of Support for the Development of Companies (Nade) of Ciatec, are going to take on greater responsibilities for their cash flow as they are going to pay for the costs of their infrastructure. For this reason, Elemed and FiberWork are treating with care the launching of their product FiberPhone, which is going to occur at the telecommunications exhibition Telexpo 2002, which will happen in the second quarter of next year.

The new equipment is capable of maintaining communication at distances of up to 200 kilometers (km) without the need for the intermediation of a switch telephone center, as it happens in common calls. The existing equipment on the market can make transmissions of up to 150 km. Other advantages of the device are in operating on conventional lines of fixed telephones and of cellular phones, as well as working with a single optical fiber, characteristics that raise FiberPhone to a category superior to similar equipment. All of this for a price that is 60% lower than those imported, of around U$ 5,000.

“We are reducing the profit margin in order to gain visibility, because we have a more advanced product that will be able to be produced on a large scale”, defends the electronic engineer Climério dos Santos Vieira, the owner of Elemed and a partner in FiberWork in the initiative. For Sérgio Barcelos, the technology director of FiberWork, “FiberPhone will bring in an additional income greater than US$ 200,000 for the two companies during 2002”.

Electric current
The perspective given by Santos Vieira at the moment when he is face to face with the hardships of the market is to guarantee a basic income for the survival of his business. This is without giving up ongoing new projects. Parallel to the portfolio of more than one hundred clients that he has accumulated by offering maintenance service of medical-hospital equipment and of radio frequencies, Vieira will continue to look for solutions to the electrocardiograph, a piece of equipment that measures the electrical current of the heart – that he has invented. “I am having a hard time with the technical complications so that the device be able to carry out automatic diagnoses, as I intended to.”

The capacity of looking for alternatives typical of the scientific universe, in communion with the belief of the commercial appeal present in day to day business, illuminates the entrepreneurial centers. The recurring preaching among economists is that the future is in the vast field of scientific and technological innovations. “The stimulus for the creation of companies based on knowledge is an essential activity because it will result in an increase in the capacity of local wealth , creating new jobs directly and indirectly”, explains professor Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, the president of FAPESP.

“It is huge the impact on the life of a city with an excellent research university such as Unicamp, which works within internationally academic references, which signifies that its alumni are competitors capable of facing the globalized market with intelligence, creativity and the capacity for continuous learning , comments Brito. “It is necessary that one understand that the investment in technological development goes hand in hand with the notion itself of national sovereignty. There is no registration, throughout the 20th century of any country that had self-development in social and economic terms without sovereignty. Sovereignty is the formation, the existence of one’s own and autonomous technological base”, comments the town councilman Sérgio Benassi, of the PC do B (The Communist Party of Brazil) political party, the 1st secretary of the Municipal Council of Campinas.

“The graduation of these new companies demonstrates the high return on the public investment in a policy of industrial development”, goes on the councilman. The form of evaluating the benefits of this investment is in the observation of the indices of survival, well above the average among normal company start-ups. Close to 80% of those incubated through Ciatec are still going after three years, as against a mortality rate of 70% of small companies in general. The experience of supporting these companies needed a smoother passage, in the well-founded opinion of the president of Ciatec and also municipal secretary of the International Cooperation of Campinas, the emeritus professor of Unicamp and physicist Rogério Cezar de Cerqueira Leite.

An altruistic devotee of the incubation incentive, professor Cerqueira Leite recognizes the danger of these innovative cells being swallowed up by the well rooted structures of the market. For this very reason, he believes in the perfecting of the process currently in play. Hence the creation of the “post incubation” stage at the Ciatec of Campinas. “One of the fundamental ingredients so that the incubator goes well, more even that financial assistance and the basic structure that we offer, is the existence of the environment itself where ideas can be exchanged”, insists Cerqueira Leite. “The unquestionable success here comes from the fact that these people originate from Unicamp itself or from the company Telebrás”, he comments.

Incubating companies, especially those linked to the development of products of high added value directed towards technology, suffer in the moment of facing the natural conditions of dispute of a market motivated by changes and surrounded by agents with fat investment checkbooks financing their rearguard. As described the physicist from Rio de Janeiro, Idelfonso Felix de Faria Júnior, the head of the company OptoLink, incubated since 1997 at Ciatec, (see Pesquisa FAPESP Nº 67). In the segment in which he is currently working, that of transmission equipment for a fiber optics network, there are international giants such as Corning, Etek, Gould Electronics. Innovating in developing products and services with all of these shadows on their heels, need much more than creative capability.

The capital for company take off came through its association with Solectron, a North American multinational in this sector. Owner of an income of some US$ 1.8 billion, the company is present in the four corners of the earth and will provide to Optolink conditions to treble its current capacity of assembling one thousand parts of optical connectors per month. These connectors have the function of joining or separating the signals transmitted by optical fiber. By the end of the year, Faria Junior expects an income of some R$ 1 million.

Lots of invitations
There are those who look suspiciously towards this type of partnership, admits Faria himself. “Since OptoLink came to the forefront, I began to be sought after by entrepreneurs interested in transforming me into a well paid employee”, Faria tells. He politely refused the invitations when he could until the appearance of Solectron’s proposal which, according to Faria, is to manufacture the products with the American company investments and to divide up the profits. “I managed to achieve the ideal partnership in order to go on developing my work, investing in products that they are going to sell throughout the world.”

The formation of new small companies with a technological seal collides with the current culture in the Brazilian university environment. “Some sectors are even a little open but others are mainly closed to this type of enterprise. The difficulty in changing this culture is well ingrained in mediocrity. There is a defensive attitude from the university professors who are afraid of entering into contact with the real world”, considers Cerqueira Leite. “It is up to the more competent to fight for project money patronized by institutions such as FAPESP, the National Council of Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), or similar entities, so as to develop their proposals and that will end up reinforcing the importance of the incentive areas such as the one created by Ciatec.”

Summing ideas
“Another important factor in an incubator is the atmosphere and the exchange of experiences between the entrepreneurs”, recalls Brito. The physicist Sérgio Celaschi, five years as the head of Ecco, defends with fervor the thesis that the force of the enterprises born through Ciatec is directly proportional to the sharing of ideas. “When passing into the real world we are not going to compete against each other but fight for distinct sectors of the market because it is the only formula with which we can conquer a place outside”, believes Celaschi, also a partner at OptoLink, the neighboring company to Ecco in the Ciatec warehouse.

This is a geographical position which he hopes to maintain at the new address of the installations destined for the “post graduation” phase. The company Ecco produces equipment based on lasers for microsurgery and esthetic physiotherapy carried out in medical offices. The company is likely to reach an income of R$ 350,000 this year and of R$ 1 million in 2002.

Successful solutions
Among the examples of the companies who have left Ciatec and seem destined to succeed, one can highlight the company GoWap, was called IntraWeb Systems at the time in which the two newly graduated computer engineers from Unicamp, Fabrício Blois and Fábio Póvoa, founded it. They took up the idea of developing products and services linked to applications on an Intranet or the Internet. They found solutions that called the attention of a market under formation and still needy. In three years, they jumped from an income of R$ 150,000 and two assistants to R$ 6 million and a staff of forty. The lever that projected them came through the sale of 30% of the company’s capital to the venture capital investment fund named Rio Bravo, which has among its partners-advisors of high visibility, the former president of the Brazilian Central Bank, Gustavo Franco.

The common complaint of those who don’t have a consolidated capital investing partner centers around the most matter-of-fact questions, such as the lack of the acceptance of the native Brazilian creativity. Something along the style of what the critics and humorists call a third world inferiority complex. “There is enormous resistance towards purchasing national technology through Campinas, because many businessmen prefer the official foreign stamp on the product”, complains Faria Junior of OptoLink. In the vacuum of this difficulty, the firm Tangram Consulting was born at Ciatec in Campinas, still in the phase of incubation, which is specializing in offering marketing alternatives to companies born in the field of technology.

“We are learning to lead with few resources because these companies have little to invest”, explains the director George Souza. “Thus, the work of the construction of a brand name depends directly on how we can power up the cheapest channels in an attempt to give some visibility to the company. “Without marketing and without the conditions to structure networks of distribution or sales of their products, the consolidation of an incubated company demands a double effort from its owners. The physicist Paulo Ricardo Steller Wagner, the owner of Bioluz Equipamentos e Serviços is betting on a partnership with his clients in developing equipment under request so as to off-set his costs. A combination that works in the sector in which he is specializing, radiotherapy equipment.

The company began its activities five years ago and can already has already in its curriculum, equipment with a high degree of specialization, as in the case of the one developed for the positioning of patients during radiotherapy treatment. Formed by three laser points, this apparatus gives to the doctor who is making the radiotherapy application, the exact position of the location of the cancer lesion. “These pieces of equipment are in operation in the 180 hospitals and clinics that offer this type of treatment”, explains Wagner.

Products and relevance
“The important point when one enters the market is to know that, by passing through here, we leave a rearguard through which we could re-align ourselves if need be”, believes Wagner. He and his team, made up of two assistants, are preparing the launching of a new product: a polystyrene mold cutter used for the production of metal armor plating that protect the areas adjacent to the location that will receive the radiotherapy treatment. With this equipment, Wagner believes that he could treble his current income of some R$ 350,000 during the post-incubation period.

For the president of Ciatec, Cerqueira Leite, to bet on the inventiveness of Brazilians would do more for contemporary Brazil than to go on pursuing an increase in the export of steel. “Knowledge and competence are the assets most fundamental to the future of Brazil. It is not enough to be rich in strategic minerals. One needs to be able to do, to search for technological and innovative capability”, defends the professor. For him, the incentive for the national entrepreneurial potential has to gain relevance in our native economy. Ciatec of Campinas, as the vehicle of current investments, is demonstrating that it is complying with its mission within this scenario.

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