Brazil, a country familiar with big business is now nurturing a
growing network of small business incubators, tapping universities
for young entrepreneurs with a start-up spirit.
The Genesis Institute in Rio de Janeiro looks nothing like the
high-tech offices that grew amid the boom in Silicon Valley.
But this incubator, where about two dozen start-ups are divided
into tiny offices with shared bathrooms down the hall, has helped
young entrepreneurs create operational software for bus companies,
new equipment for maintaining oil and gas pipelines, and robotics
technology to measure environmental damage associated with petroleum
In doing so, the Genesis Institute is helping to grow a new class
of technological entrepreneurs in Brazil.
The news about Brazil's booming economy is dominated by big
business, foreign investment, a huge consumer appetite, and the
prospects of oil. But Brazil has also blazed forward as an
entrepreneurial leader. And while entrepreneurs here face a
bureaucracy that could deter the most determined go-getter, they are
also being nurtured by a government that sees them as a key engine
of job growth. The government's Financing Agency for Projects &
Studies (FINEP) has launched its largest project ever to support
"We are betting this will have a transformative effect on the
country," says Eduardo Costa, FINEP's innovation chief.
Creating job creators
Brazil is, in many ways, poised to transform. The country has led
the region in R&D, investing in it the recommended 1 percent of GDP,
according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD). A 2007 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor shows
Brazil as a leading entrepreneurial country, with 13 of 100
residents involved in a start-up.
And its incubator network has grown from 136 in 2000 to 400
today. Most are affiliated with universities, says Ary Plonski, head
of the Brazilian Association of Science Parks and Business
Incubators. "The idea is to create new opportunities for students so
they don't leave university fighting for a job, but being job
creators," Mr. Plonski says.
That's what Paulo Lerner, an industrial engineer, and Andre
Averbug, an MBA graduate, did. The two friends could have joined an
established company. Instead, in 2004, they set out to build a
public phone for buses to benefit commuters. During a visit to a
garage to test the product, they saw how complicated managing a bus
fleet is, and began developing software to help managers track