Dave Curran, originally from Co. Louth, is a co-founder and COO of Love Mondays, an online platform where employees write reviews about the companies where they work. This makes Love Mondays the go-to destination for job seekers who want first-hand information on companies where they are interested in working.
Love Mondays began operating in 2013 in Sao Paulo, initially focused solely on the Brazil market but last year expanding to Mexico and Argentina. In 2016, it was acquired by Glassdoor, making it the part of the Recruit Holdings Company, a giant of the global HR industry. We recently spoke with Dave about his experiences and the challenges and opportunities that come with doing business in Brazil.
IBN: In terms of doing business in Brazil, what are the main challenges that you’ve encountered on your journey with Love Mondays? Or pain points Irish companies should look out for?
DC: I think there are three main challenges with building a business in Brazil and these are accentuated if the business has a high growth model.
First off, access to talent is a real challenge. While there are many super smart and highly motivated people in the country, identifying those from the masses is tough — and even if you do you still need to convince them to join your company versus the competing offers they receive. This is especially true in tech.
Second is the complexity of the Brazilian bureaucracy. The process of setting up a company and then adhering to the tax code are pretty common pain points for entrepreneurs. Brazil has a myriad of taxes that you need to figure out and it is not black and white — so you may believe you are doing everything correctly and discover you’ve been amassing a potential tax liability. On the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking, specifically regarding ease of adhering to the tax code, Brazil ranks 184th — behind, for instance, the Democratic Rep of Congo.
Finally access to capital. If you are in the tech sector and seeking VC funding there are only a handful of funds in the region. If you are a smaller business and just want to accessregular debt from your bank, the interest rates are shockingly high.
IBN: And the positive aspects of managing/starting a company in Brazil?
DC: The fact that Brazil is a difficult place to do business means that there are a lot of opportunities. Whereas in the US or Europe for instance if you hit upon a great business opportunity, there are ten other companies snapping at your heals. In Brazil that is not the case. Your challenge here is execution and dealing with the issues I mentioned earlier. This coupled with the fact that Brazil is continental in size means you have a huge market to service. So if you have a strong stomach and a high appetite for risk you can do very well here.
IBN: How would you compare the startup scene in Brazil to that in Ireland?
DC: Obviously Brazil is a huge country (200M vs 5M people in Ireland) so that for any business you build in the startup space you can focus exclusively on the domestic market. It is possible to reach unicorn status solely serving the local market — looking at the likes of NuBank, PagSeguro, 99 Taxis, etc. Whereas in Ireland you need to be building your product or service to expand outside of the country if you want to reach scale. That said, Ireland has an incredible concentration of tech and a close proximity to large markets, so it’s possible to overcome that issue.
IBN: Was it easy to establish a network in Brazil in terms of local partners and suppliers?
In some ways, the tech ecosystem in Brazil is very concentrated, so tapping into existing knowledge about how to navigate some of the challenges here is not so difficult. Other entrepreneurs are very open to meeting and providing support, you just need to ask. So typically you can find your way to the right person pretty quickly.
IBN: The online world also has a negative dimension. What approach does Love Monday take to abusive comments?
DC: Love Mondays helps job seekers make better career decisions by accessing reviews of companies and salary data, all posted confidentially by our users. Think of it as a Tripadvisor for careers. Obviously with the crowdsourced content model you need to take steps to ensure the content posted by the community is kept at a high standard. In the case of Love Mondays, we take a number of steps to do so, including having any content reviewed by a team of moderators before we publish on the platform. Any content deemed abusive won’t make it through this filter.
IBN: There are already very strong person-to-person links between Irish people and Brazilians through education and research. Do you think there is scope for business links to grow — for example, greater links between companies in the digital or gaming sectors?
DC: I imagine there is — however at the end you need to see how both sides can create value for the other. Are there companies in Ireland who could have a value proposition that could be interesting for a Brazil consumer or business? I would guess so. And vice versa. But it’s obviously something that needs to be looked at on a case by case basis.
IBN: Would you recommend Brazil to Irish companies looking to expand?
DC: As I mentioned, the market is huge and there is a real appetite for new, innovative products and services. Additionally, Brazilians are typically quick adopters of new offerings — they are willing to experiment with something new pretty quickly, unlike some other Latin American countries where there can be a more conservative culture. However don’t expect quick results — you need to have a long-term mindset to building a robust and successful presence here. Be ready to stomach setbacks as you learn the market.