Startup in LATAM ① : Brazil, the biggest market in LATAM
In my last blog, I wrote about what I saw and heard about startups in Africa.
After visiting Africa last year, I flew from Johannesburg, South Africa to Sao Paulo, Brazil, on a 10-hour flight (there was a direct flight then) to visit the South American continent on the other side of Japan the first time in my life.
The region south of Mexico where Latinos form the core of the population is called Latin America (or LATAM). I was determined to visit the countries of Latin America on this trip.
According to PwC's GDP ranking projections for 2050, Mexico and Brazil are expected to surpass Japan's GDP. That's why I wanted to go there by myself.
Challenges in LATAM
Be careful in Latin America.
I've been repeatedly warned about this not only before my departure from Japan, but also by friends I've met in Europe.
It is true that security is so bad in Brazil that there is an app called "Onde Tem Tiroteio" (meaning "the place where the shooting took place" in Portuguese) that shares the places where it happens.
But, fortunately I didn't have any trouble because I traveled around Latin American countries with caution.
Such social conditions are due to the historical background of the ongoing political instability and economic crisis in the country.
For example, last November, former Bolivian President Evo Morales resigned and went into exile following allegations of fraud in the presidential election. Argentina defaulted on its debt in May of this year for the first time since 2014.
But just like the apps above, there are some productive things.
This social climate makes products and people who can turn a crisis into an opportunity.
Over the next few posts, I'd like to share some of the fabulous cultures, people, and startups that I've encountered in Latin America, on the other side of the world from Japan.
Brazil with a unique presence in LATAM
Look at the map again, you will see that Brazil is a huge country in the South American continent.
With an area 22.5 times the size of Japan and a population of 210 million, Brazil is the largest market in Latin America.
What makes it even more unique is that its official language is Portuguese.
While most other Latin American countries are Spanish, which makes it easy to communicate across countries, the different language makes it unique within Latin America and has different market attributes.
Brazil is projected to be the world's fifth largest GDP by 2050.
Fourteen "unicorn" companies with an enterprise value of more than $1 billion have emerged in the two years from 2018 to 2020, and they are hotly watched by SoftBank and investors around the world.
In this article, I'd like to take a look at TruckPad and its CEO, Carlos, who has been touted as the next unicorn company.
TruckPad innovates logistics with a truck version of Uber
Carlos Mira, CEO of TruckPad (pictured far right)
Brazil is a vast country, but it lacks adequate rail infrastructure for transportation, and as a result, it is increasingly dependent on road transport, mainly trucks. When there is a truck strike, the logistics and economy of the country are paralyzed.
The big problem is that many truck drivers have been waiting at a window operated by an intermediary for transportation deals, looking at paper notice boards and waiting for them.
TruckPad provides a platform that matches these deals with truck drivers based on their geographic location to move freight more efficiently. There are already about 200,000 registered truck drivers, moving more than US$18 million worth of cargo every month.
The business itself, which uses technology to solve problems, is great, but what surprised me when I actually spoke with CEO Carlos is his founding story.
His family has been in the truck business for 35 years, but when he was 45 years old, he sold his shares in the family business to his brother and went to the US to get an acceleration by Plug and Play.
From there, he started TruckPad, grew the business, and raised significant strategic funding from the Manbang Group for a similar business in China.
He is now 50 years old. I had a very exciting MTG with Carlos as he talked about the future, and it was very inspiring for me to do my best.
Mr. Nakayama, CEO of Brazil Venture Capital, said there are three reasons for the birth of startups like Unicorn and TruckPad.
It can be said that entrepreneurs who have chosen to "start up" in this environment have successfully leveraged it and paved the way for their success.
What did you think of the challenges in Latin America and Brazil's startups?
I'll be blogging about Latin American culture and startups over the next few posts.
After Brazil, I'm going to write about Argentina.
I'll also touch on other countries such as Colombia, which produced Rappi, and Mexico, the largest Spanish-speaking market, so be sure to follow me on Twitter and don't miss any of these posts.← Go home