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Ready for the fight

Ninety entrepreneurs from PIPE qualify themselves for business management

Over five months, 90 entrepreneurs with projects funded by FAPESP’s Small Business Innovation Research Program (PIPE) met eight times to get information about marketing, logistics and leadership, among other issues related to the market. The objective was to broaden their vision of the market, to draw up a business plan, and to prepare their companies for venture investments. They made up the first intake of the PIPE Entrepreneur program – the fruit of a partnership between FAPESP, the Enterprise Endeavor Institute, and the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service of São Paulo (The Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service (Sebrae)-SP). The encounters were coordinated by the W. Institute.

The results of the program went beyond the objectives and were a surprise. The “pipos” – as they came to denominate themselves – identified synergies between their activities and products and started to piece together partnerships regarded as strategic for their business. Fumito, for example, a company that develops equipment and methods for dehydrating fruit and vegetables, is signing up a partnership with Enalta Inovações Tecnológicas, which produces a technological platform for precision irrigation in perennial crops. “Together, we are going to develop a controller”, says Julio Suzuki, from Fumito. Fumito is also going to offer advice to Orbital, a company that produces photovoltaic generators for aerospace applications, in the construction of “clean rooms” – with a low concentration of microorganisms – for developing new products.

The associations are multiplying. Orbital is putting together a partnership with ADTS, which develops intelligent sensors with applications in the electricity sector, to construct a remote measurement system. And ADTS, in turn, is negotiating projects in common with Tecnima Imagem e Automação. The synergy amongst the “pipos” should even spawn a new company, for marketing phytotherapic cosmetics, the result of an association between Synergia, a company with technological projects for the financial area, and Multi Vegetal, the manufacturer of the product. “We have now carried out sales tests, and the cosmetics were well received”, explains Mamede Augusto Machado da Silveira, from Synergia.

The target is to set up a national sales network for the product and, at the same time, to create a virtual market. “That is where Synergia’s expertise comes in”, Mamede explains. The “pipos” are also in contact with each other to try to get round a common problem, regarded as critical for consolidating a company: a strategy for selling the product. They plan to create a consortium of PIPE companies that have technological affinities to finance “qualified salesmen, specialized in selling Brazilian technology”, says Arnaldo Sima, a director of Sima, a strategic business management company. “The idea has started to be discussed and is being very well received by the “pipos”, Sima says.

Venture investment
Besides fostering integration amongst entrepreneurs, the program broadened their vision of the business, in the assessment of the participants. “The course opened up our minds to the possibility of venture investment and made us think about what it means to be the owner of a business. Now we are getting ready to get along with strangers”, says José Carlos Arruda Alves, a director of Invernire, referring to the possibility of forming a partnership with private investors.

At the end of the program, on July 16, the entrepreneurs took part in individual counseling sessions with investors and consultants who are members of Endeavor’s network of collaborators, made up of professionals from successful organizations. At these encounters, “pipos” were able to test their business model. “We are changing the software sales profile for services”, says Sérgio Aramis, from Dentalis Software. He presented his project to Mordejai Goldenberg, from Eccelera – which is a member of Endeavor’s network of collaborators -, who, according to him, validated his project and suggested that “we should adjust the focus” to the demands of the market.

Jadir Nogueira Gonçalves, the president of Fibraforte – a company that develops tools for optimizing structures and that works in the space segment -, is also giving his company a new direction. “We are having difficulties in selling our expertise, and this encounter made us see better the need for expanding our sales capacity by channels, so as not to be captive to just one sector”, he explained.

There was also a positive assessment amongst the businessmen who are members of Endeavor’s network of collaborators. Martin Escobari, from the financial consultancy Orange Advisory, believes that some enterprises may now be ready for venture investments. He laments that there are so few angel investors in the country, willing to bring capital into emerging companies. “We need to publicize cases of success to attract this kind of investor”, he suggests.

Daniel Baldin, from Decisão – a company that manages a venture capital fund formed with resources from the Interamerican Development Bank (IADB), Sebrae and ABN Amro Bank, in a total of R$ 22 million -, wagers that “the chances of bearing good fruit are great”. He believes, though, that entrepreneurism should be disseminated and publicized at the university, for the opportunity of starting a business to be brought forward.

Mario Bethlem – who was IBM’s general manager in Brazil and today is a member of GA Partners – also believes in entrepreneurism. “The strength of the economy lies more in these small companies than in the existence of the large corporations.” In the assessment of Marilia Rocca, Endeavor’s director general, PIPE Empreendedor has proved one thesis: “The leveling of technical knowledge, added to counseling by specialists and to facilities for accessing the market, results in the maturing of the business and of the entrepreneur himself”.