Pitching, profit and Brazil’s startup boom

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Matthew Taylor
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A person (Izabel Gallera, partner at Canary) is holding a microphone and appears to be talking. There is a purple background with white text (Web Summit Rio) and a semi transparent cross shaped design superimposed in the background.

From tips on pitching, walking the path to profitability, and investing in new regions and demographics, there are many ways to beat the tech investment crunch.

With our first South American tech event complete, it’s time to get ready for Web Summit Rio 2024, taking place in the Riocentro convention center from April 15-18. Will you be there?

In 2023, Web Summit Rio held sessions uniting tech experts, cultural icons and global policymakers, and offered interactive Q&As, masterclasses, and speaker experiences.

Here are some insights from world-renowned experts on making tech better, including Edith Yeung, Izabel Gallera and Renata Quintini.

Building a Brazilian ‘startup mafia’

The Brazilian startup ecosystem has matured since 2010, when, according to Monashees founder and managing general partner Eric Acher, “entrepreneurs had basically no capital at all and had to be incredibly resilient”.

Now, as Race Capital general partner Edith Yeung pointed out, startups are pulling in one-third of all VC funding pouring into Latin America.

Edith expressed an interest in meeting “the next generation of the Brazilian founder mafia” at Web
Summit Rio – a reference to the success of the ‘PayPal Mafia’, the founders and former employees of PayPal who went on to build other fruitful startups, including Tesla, YouTube and Yelp.

“It’s great to see Brazilian founders with good outcomes who can go back and be angel investors; fund the ecosystem. And so much of it is connections,” said Renata Quintini, co-founder of Renegade Partners.

“Be each other’s customers. Give each other money. Give each other talent. Because these are the engines that compound and multiply,” Renata continued.

Investing in women pays off

For every dollar invested in a woman-founded startup, around 78 cents in revenue is generated. In comparison, startups founded by men generate just 31 cents to the dollar.

Early-stage VC firm First Round carried out a study on diversity with 300 of their startups, and the results are heartening for those trying to prove the case for gender equality in the tech sector.

“[First Round] found that co-founding teams that had a woman actually performed 63 percent better than those that did not have a woman,” explained Gina Gotthilf, co-founder and COO of Latin American VC firm Latitud.

The important thing, said Forbes Brasil editor Fabiana Corrêa, is to bring everyone to the table when discussing gender balance and representation in the startup world: “I would like to bring more men to this conversation – to bring more men to the debate – because we need them to invest in female businesses.”

Startups must walk the path to profit

At Web Summit Rio, conversations in the VC world were dominated by topics including funding – especially how to manage and attract more of it – and finance.

Renata pointed to global economic stagnation as the key reason for a recent freeze in startup valuations, saying they “have come down, on average, 30 to 50 percent” from 2021.

However, this shouldn’t deter emerging companies from seeking new rounds of funding. It just means entrepreneurs need to be more financially forward-thinking.

Nuvini founder and CEO Pierre Schurmann claimed that companies now need “to show a clear pathway to making a break-even point” before they can seek new funding.

Renata echoed this point: “Ensuring you have two years of runway is very important.”

When it comes to pitching, less is more

Pitching is perhaps one of the most nerve-racking elements of founding a startup. Great ideas can be hard to communicate in the high-pressure, fast-paced world of raising investment, especially for those more experienced in the language of coding than in public speaking.

But, according to experts, a smooth pitch isn’t always the key to success. “If you’re too polished, or if you’re acting, something feels fake. It’s a turn-off,” said Crunchbase CEO Jager McConnell.

While tech has long been known for its dressed-down, casual approach to work attire, a similar approach can be key in negotiating with a VC.

“If I’m analyzing a company to invest in, I don’t like to see a transactional pitch,” said Canary partner Izabel Gallera. “I love to have a conversation. I love to be informal.”

Izabel recognized that pitching can be a challenge for founders from a more technical background: “Technical founders sometimes don’t have the social ability of other founders.”

Web Summit Rio returns to the Riocentro convention center from April 15-18. Pre-register for tickets now.

Main image: Izabel Gallera, partner at Canary. Sam Barnes/Web Summit(CC by 2.0)

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