Upcoming Documentary on Startups in Campinas

The following is teaser for a documentary about startups in Campinas, Brazil. The blurb for the video says that Campinas is considered by many to be Brazil’s “Silicon Valley,” but it’s worth noting that this is debated. There are actually several startup centers in Brazil, and some question whether any of them meet the criteria to be a true startup haven.

That said, this promises to be a very interesting documentary, and I look forward to seeing the full version.

See also: 
Fabricio Bloisi, Movile CEO, ‘Campinas Will Be The Brazilian Silicon Valley’ (Forbes)
Samba in the valley (The Economist)
Why you should pay attention to Brazil’s ‘San Pedro Valley’ (The Next Web)

Quality Woodworking

My wife had been saying for a couple of years that she’d like to have a box to keep our family silver in, and a few months ago I finally did something about it. Rather than go to Amazon.com or elsewhere for some assembly-line box from overseas, I reached out to an old childhood friend in Missouri. I contacted Denis Shahan, someone I’ve known since Kindergarten, because I’d heard he’d taken up woodworking and was making some very nice products. Having seen some of what he could do on his business’ Facebook page, I sent him a couple of pictures of the type of box my wife would like to have. He said he could do it within the time allotted, and set his price. A few months later when I visited in Missouri I stopped by his shop to pick up the silverware chest. I was amazed at what I found.

This chest is exactly what we asked for, and was made from locally sourced wood. Handcrafted, the lid shuts tightly but perfectly. He even foresaw a problem with the original design in that it called for the bottom drawer to be divided, but since that would limit space for larger serving utensils he built it without the divider. He was exactly right.
What impresses me most is that Denis is the same age as me, just a couple years shy of 40. If he keeps up his craft, I can’t even imagine what wooden works of art he’ll be making in 10 to 20 years. 
If you are looking for a special holiday gift for someone, check out his gift selection. He also does custom woodwork and can build furniture to your specifications. Seriously, check out his Facebook page.

Note: I received no compensation, discount or other benefit of any kind for this endorsement.

The Tower of David: Venezuela’s 45-Story Slum

This story was too interesting to pass up. In Venezuela a skyscraper under construction was abandoned in the 1990s, and squatters moved in. It’s become notorious as a 45-story slum, with a reputation for rampant crime and drug use. This short video shows another, more positive side to the story. To me, it’s a symbol not only of banking failure and governmental incompetence, but also the ingenuity and tenacity of the human spirit.

Keep Talking!

Communication is essential to the success of a project. Without good, well-defined communication, the end product or service can stray significantly from design. It is particularly important to maintain good communication with client stakeholders, which I suppose also falls under stakeholder management. This weekend I received two lessons on the importance of communication management, from two different sources.

On Saturday I bought a phone on Swappa.com. Other potential buyers had attempted to negotiate the seller down as much as $60, but I went for the asking price, which I considered completely reasonable. After completing the purchase I sent the seller an email thanking him for the sale and expressing my “condolences” for the annoying behavior of others on Swappa. His response? Dead silence. Monday morning I left a comment on the sale page asking when I might expect the item to ship. He replied right away, and seemed annoyed: “It is shipping today.  You bought phone Sat night and no shippers are open on Sunday.” He’s not wrong factually, but I’m also right. As a seller he should have dropped me a courtesy email over the weekend, or simply replied to my email. Instead, I was left wondering whether this seller was for real.

On Sunday morning the water in my apartment was ice-cold. I took a quick, freezing shower and then texted my landlady. Later that afternoon, after church and lunch, my wife and I returned to the apartment to find that the water continued unheated. With no access to the basement to check on the hot water heater myself, I could only keep calling and texting the landlady. Between 3pm and 7pm there was no answer and no reply. Around 7pm my wife and I started carrying some things out to the car and noticed that the basement door was open. The landlord was down there checking on the hot water heater. It seems they received the messages, but didn’t let us know they’d be checking on it. A lot of stress on our part could have been averted with a little more communication from them.

Communication is paramount, whether the news is good or bad. It reduces unneeded anxiety on the part of stakeholders, at least letting them know that the situation is “on the radar” and can be addressed one way or the other.

The Night of the Doctor

The 8th Doctor’s regeneration had never been seen, until this week. Amazingly, the BBC has released online a mini-episode entitled “The Night of the Doctor” in anticipation of the upcoming 50th anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor.

Paul McGann played the 8th Doctor in a regrettable 1990’s Doctor Who movie. He was a great actor working with a sub-par script, and he went on to do voice roles as the 8th Doctor for a number of audio books. It’s great to see him in this mini-episode, and it makes me wish they’d do a few more prequel episodes featuring him.

BR-116: Brazil’s Hellish Highway

Update: Click here for my review of Matt Roper’s “Highway to Hell.”

British journalist Matt Roper thought he’d stumbled across a big story. He had no idea how bad it would be or how it would change his life. Very late one night he encountered an 11 year old girl on BR-116, a main highway in Brazil. She was prostituting herself to passing truck drivers.

Roper began to investigate and heard one horrific story after the other. Fathers using their daughters sexually and then selling their bodies for money, mothers taking their daughters out for prostitution, forced abortions and more. He then uncovered a report made by the Brazilian government that identified 262 locations along the highway where minors were sold for sex. That averages to 1 minor every 10 miles.

Rather than simply publish his report and move on, Matt Roper worked with Canadian country singer Dean Brody and Brazilian children’s counselor Rita Marques to found and operate a charity called Meninadança. This charity supports The Pink House in Medina, a sort of home/halfway house for girls aged 11 – 17 who have been commercially sexually exploited.

Matt has also published a book, entitled “Highway to Hell,” in which he tells with greater detail the stories of girls exploited along BR 116, how he became involved and what the Meninadança charity does to help.

For more information, watch the video below, check out the Meninadança website and consider buying the book


See Also:

What’s a Good Law for Brazil’s Startups?

Brazil baffled me. When I moved to Brazil in 2001 (and married a beautiful Brazilian woman), I had already been there a few times on mission trips. I spoke pretty decent Portuguese and felt like I had an idea of what to expect. A few months in, though, I began to realize how deeply intertwined the government, at all levels, was with the economy. Over the years I defined the problems I saw under three tightly-related categories: centralism, collectivism and positivism. It was difficult for me at the time to understand how it had gotten to be that way, and how it managed to survive.

Now, if you are really interested in reading up on these, take a look at a previous post I wrote on the topic: What Keeps Brazil Back. For further reading on positivism in Brazil in particular, I haven’t yet found a better explanation that that found in Dr. Antony P. Mueller’s 2002 article, The Ghost That Haunts Brazil.

It’s simply a given that the Brazilian government is going to continue to be deeply involved in the economy, and in ways and to a degree that citizens of many other Western nations would consider disconcerting. Someone seeking to make a living in this environment really has only one option: adapt.

That said, I recently read with interest an article for TNW by Eduardo Henrique, head of U.S. operations for Brazil-based Movile, entitled Brazil is using the law to push innovation, but here’s how it can do more. He talks about Brazil’s “Good Law” (lei do bem) and makes a few suggestions for how it could go further. A couple of thoughts came to mind after I read his article.

First, it would be great if smartphone prices could really be reduced (along with auto prices and any number of other “luxury items”), but in reality it isn’t just a matter of taxes. Brazilians pay a premium for brand status. However much they complain about high prices, if a product’s price drops too much, people just might stop buying.

Second, if we’re going to talk about tax breaks for start-ups, we’re also going to need to define what a start-up is, and decide at what point it is no longer a start-up and, therefore, must start paying higher taxes. It feels as though doing so would create a bit of a disincentive to start-up growth. Why not instead work on systemic reform of business and tax law, making it easier for small- to mid-size business in general to get started and achieve sustainable growth?

Although I lived in Brazil for a few years about a decade ago, and intend to move back soon, I’m no expert on business in Brazil. Far from it. I invite comment here.

Listen to the audio version of Eduardo Henrique’s article below.