By Megan Mitchell
Earlier this month, TechCrunch ran a fantastic profile of the hot Brazilian start-up baby.com.br. The company was founded by cousins Davis Smith (WG’11/G’11) and Kimball Thomas and was the 3rd place finisher in the 2011 Wharton Business Plan Competition. Baby.com.br adapted the Diapers.com model (founded by Wharton alumnus Marc Lore and Vinit Bharara C’93 in the fast growing Brazilian market. Baby.com.br, now more than 100 employees strong, was, by its third month of operation, receiving more than a million visitors a month and shipping 1,000 orders a day. The company has continued to see monthly double digit growth ever since.
Davis is just one of the many Wharton people defining the start-up landscape in Brazil. Peixe Urbano is the daily deals site that took home the 2011 TechCrunch Crunchies Award for the Best International Start-Up. Co-founded by Julio Vasconcellos (W’02), the company has raised funding from institutional investors as diverse as Benchmark Capital, Monashees Capital, General Atlantic, Tiger Global Management, Morgan Stanley Investment Management and T. Rowe Price. Widely recognized as the top venture capital firm in Brazil, Monashees Capital (also an early investor in baby.com.br) has kept its ties to Wharton strong. Another company in the Monashees portfolio, Elo7, is an online marketplace for buying and selling handcrafted goods. Following a stint at MercadoLibre, Carlos Curioni (WG’06) was brought on board as CEO of this fast growing company. After interning at Monashees in the summer of 2011, Peter Ostroske decided to take a leave of absence from the Wharton MBA program in order to launch olook, an e-commerce fashion brand for the Brazilian market; Monashees was one of Pete’s seed investors.
Brazil isn’t just a draw for Wharton alums. Current students are equally as focused on the region. Current Lauder Program students, Lisa Lovallo (WG’13/G’13) and Marcus Anderson (WG’13/G’13) are co-founders of Hemishare, a Wharton Venture Initiation Program company, that connects top-tier employers in Brazil with international candidates who have studied Portuguese and are eager to work in the region. WEP awarded Entrepreneurial Intern Fellowships to two first-year MBA students interning in Brazil: Nicholast Molina at baby.com.br, and Tom Baldwin at olook. Brett Lewis (WG’13) is one of two candidates selected to participate in a unique summer associate program at Monashees Capital this summer. Brett’s internship will be divided into 3 one-month projects during which he will: 1) analyze a specific market segment and develop an investment thesis for the firm; 2) source new investment opportunities and perform due diligence; and 3) lead a project for one of the firm’s portfolio companies. Also interning in Brazil this summer is Ariel Quinones (WG’13), at online furniture retailer oppa.com.br.
When I visited Brazil last month as part of the Wharton Global Immersion Program, I had a chance to catch up with many of these folks; their excitement and passion was profound, and it is easy to understand why they are drawn to this market. I’m excited to witness Wharton’s impact in this rapidly developing economy — now and into the future.