May 3 2018

NOVA Connects With The Startup Ecosystem In Brazil

In February the NOVA team, Saint Gobain’s external ventures arm, traveled to Brazil, home of Latin America’s largest, longest established, and most vibrant startup scene. NOVA works to identify forward-thinking startups whose philosophies align with Saint-Gobain’s focus on well-being and sustainability, and connect these startups with the resources and experience of Saint-Gobain. With the majority of Brazil’s startups concentrated in the country’s financial center of São Paulo, the city was the destination of choice to hold NOVA’s annual team meeting.  In addition to Saint-Gobain’s regional business offices, the team spent a week connecting with the country’s burgeoning entrepreneurial ecosystem and launched the Global NOVA Network to engage with startup hubs around the globe.

First Stop: CUBO Coworking Itaú - The Largest Center of Technological Entrepreneurship in Latin America

In 2016, in its on-going quest for open innovation, Saint-Gobain partnered with CUBO Coworking Itaú, Latin America’s largest hub for technological entrepreneurship. The organizations joined forces to create a co-innovation platform where digital technologies can make a foray into the construction sector. For Saint-Gobain, the partnership aims to accelerate digital innovation in its markets and improve customer experience; for CUBO’s startups, Saint-Gobain is a big-name early partner to evaluate proof of concepts. CUBO hosts a broad variety of startups and selects two batches per year to join the hub. The one major selection criteria for these ventures: each high-quality, advanced stage company must show a solid financial statement of at least one million Brazilian reals in revenue. Located in downtown São Paulo, CUBO brings entrepreneurs, established corporations, investors and universities together in one place to discuss technology, innovation, new business models and new ways of working. Its current space houses 52 startups, but is expanding to a new facility that will accommodate as many as 210 resident companies and partners, more than 1,250 workers, and 2,000 daily visitors.  The building will be ready to operate this summer.

The NOVA team met with CUBO resident FoxTrot Systems, an artificial intelligence and logistics start up headquartered in San Francisco. Founded in 2014, FoxTrot Systems, a last-mile delivery software, relies on real time data streams and algorithms, and uses technologies like the cloud and AI, to build new solutions for managing and increasing the efficiency of the next generation of delivery fleets’ operations. As reported by NOVA, the decentralized economy, relatively low number of incumbents, and negligible roadblocks makes Brazil a great place for companies like FoxTrot to conduct pilot programs. Over the past ten years, these factors have resulted in the region attracting many U.S. based startups, receiving foreign investment, and encouraging a growing number of entrepreneurs to utilize and leapfrog tech innovations, turning São Paulo into the Silicon Valley of Latin America. “Brazil is a dynamic place for the startups economy and the activities of Saint-Gobain are intensively connected with the ecosystem to develop complementary innovations, in a context of sharp competition and need for differentiation on our markets. Having the support of the NOVA team, with its deep experience of the worldwide ecosystem, is a great asset to be more agile and successful in the projects and pilots that we are implementing with local startups. Here, we identified innovative approaches of startups, in the areas of AI and machine learning for instance, that can potentially be adopted by other businesses internationally. NOVA also connects us with startups overseas that match with our local necessities and speed up our innovation.” explains Thierry Fournier, President of Saint-Gobain South America.

A Dive into São Paulo’s Incubators and Accelerators Ecosystem

In the recent years, where the number of operating tech startups has surged, incubators are popping up within universities. The University of Campinas, or Unicamp - where Minas Apelian, Global Director of NOVA introduced the team’s mission and took the opportunity to assess potential technological development partnerships - has its own integrated technology based incubator, Incamp. The Inova Unicamp Innovation Agency promotes interaction between the university and companies through the offer and licensing of technologies developed at Unicamp, and the negotiation and monitoring of collaborative research contracts. 

Later, the team met with Maurício Martinez, open innovation manager at Oxigênio, the startup accelerator created by Porto Seguro and Plug and Play Tech Center, a major Brazilian insurance company and one of Silicon Valley’s largest startup accelerators, respectively. Oxigênio’s main goal is to invest and support startups from sectors like insurance, automotive, fintech, services, logistics, telecom, health, security, and create partnerships with companies from the Porto Seguro group. The acceleration program, housed in the Center of Innovation of the Oxigênio Aceleradora in São Paulo, lasts three months, with the possibility to extend the program for an additional three months at the Plug and Play headquarters in California. The team was also able to spend time with Rogério Tamassia, co-founder and Director of LIGA Ventures, the first Brazilian accelerator totally dedicated to connecting startups and big companies. Since 2015, his company has screened more than 8,000 startups at all stages of development.

Global NOVA Network

This trip launched the Global NOVA Network initiative to facilitate connections with start-ups, incubators, and accelerators, and strengthen Saint-Gobain’s presence in every entrepreneurial hub worldwide. Regional Saint-Gobain representatives will foster connections between local ecosystems and Saint-Gobain businesses where NOVA team members are not present, starting in Brazil with Lucile Charpentier, Digital Strategy and Marketing Director, of the South American Delegation in São Paulo. “The spirit of entrepreneurship is a cultural characteristic of Brazilian people. New startups are popping up every day with innovations that are specifically solving our internal pain points, adding value to our solutions and offering new services to our customers. Collaborating with startups represents a challenge for our organization as they are bringing a new mindset of agility, user experience, trial and speed of execution. To deal with these new business models, we intensify and rely on our design thinking sessions and we have a network of internal entrepreneurs that makes the connection between startups and the business needs much easier.” comments Lucile Charpentier. “We are excited to launch our Global NOVA Network that will connect and empower representatives from delegations around the world.  We will use this forum to share tools and best practices that can help local teams engage startups more efficiently.  I am excited to lead and become part of this dynamic community of entrepreneurs across Saint-Gobain.” says Apelian.

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