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“Our goal is to co-found 5 startups a year,” says Carlos Gamboa, partner at Brazilian venture builder Fisher

In an interview with LABS, Gamboa and Amanda Graciano, new partner at Corporate Venture Building, talk about the company's present and future

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Have you ever thought about founding one startup a year? Well, that’s what Fisher has done since the start of its operations seven years ago. And the plan now is to accelerate and launch at least one new startup every six months. What sets Fisher apart from other companies focused on creating startups is the venture builder model, which has grown internationally and has stood out as a tool for generating and managing new businesses.

Fisher is one of the few companies in Brazil that operate with the venture building model and recently announced the hiring of Amanda Graciano, former head of Latin America’s biggest innovation and entrepreneurship hub Cubo, to upgrade the team as a partner in corporate venture building. In a conversation with LABS, Graciano and Carlos Gamboa, one of the company’s partners, talked about the venture building methodology can affect startup culture in the Brazilian scope.

The company says it is capable of co-founding one startup per semester. But, in the face of a heated market that frequently scales its investments, it is already possible to glimpse a more intense performance in the breeding of startups. The idea, according to Gamboa, is to increase this number in the medium term and long term.

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“We are very satisfied with what we do in the present. Looking at our journey over these four and a half years, we started with an idea, and we knew what we wanted to do. If we are going to invest effort in an exceptional team and build transformational companies, we want to do it with businesses that have an impact on our society, country, and world. So we do what we consider relevant, even if it takes a lot of work. When we talk about creating two startups a year, that’s a lot. On the other hand, we ended up attracting more brilliant people and looking up at more transformational theses than we can achieve today. On this side of venture building, in the Fisher portfolio, we intend to go to a rhythm of 5 per year”, commented the partner, without detailing dates for the company’s production rate to scale from two to five co-foundations per year.

Fisher’s focus is on co-founding startups whose segments and models speak directly to the experiences of the current team. For this reason, the company has been looking for new talents to increase its team and, in the future, have an even more capable and diversified portfolio.

We are structuring ourselves for this. We are bringing professionals who complement this training. We see professionals as partners and as customers. But we don’t do consulting: we choose clients who we would like to work with and together we can help in this more advanced journey of innovation. We want to do more, we want to use our method in a constructive way to achieve more transformations and impacts

Carlos Gamboa, partner at Fisher.

What is venture building, and how does it work in emerging countries like Brazil

The venture-building model has become essential for the continuous development of the startup ecosystem. Unlike startup accelerators or incubators, venture builders follow startups’ progress, from their beginning to their investment rounds, and continue to play a leading role during the whole process.

Lately, Fisher was invited to join the GSSN (Global Startup Studio Network), an international group focused on studying the operational process of venture builders. As a result, the company had access to data on the evolution of the model, which has grown worldwide since 2015. This expands its view and opens up new investment possibilities.

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More popular and dynamic in more mature markets such as North America, the VB model is also essential — albeit for different reasons — for emerging markets such as Brazil, where the promotion of entrepreneurship beyond the barriers of “setting up a business by need” has begun only recently.

“In ecosystems like the US, entrepreneurship and everything that happens in the process (failure tolerance, product focus) is a little more natural. There is a whole crop of professionals in the field that is not restricted to an elite, like in Brazil, and it is a more widespread culture. So the culture and the market generate a more qualified base of people. For that reason, team building is more natural; you get a better pace for building startups,” said Gamboa. “In the United States, you have some startup studio models where several product tests are done. Fifteen are made, for example, and then ten advances in the process, but only five become product-focused startups, and then finally the business is born. It’s a more serial and culture-focused process. In Brazil, we are not there yet, but we are improving a lot. There is already an evolving market. But here, there is a problem: the shortage of talent. In Brazil, we had to get more involved (in the early stages of breeding startups) than in the American market due to this need to professionalize the business from the initial stages. It’s one of the things we’ve tried to break down to develop a more robust methodology that attracts the right people to this market.”

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When speaking about the process of attracting new professionals to the venture building area, Gamboa highlighted the recent success in the search for names that make the team more experienced and diversified: “We have attracted a lot of good people. In the crop we are managing, we have exceptional people who understand that connecting with Fisher accelerates their projects and gives them more security for them to execute their business with us,” he said.

With this scenario in place, a venture builder must know how to manage its partners and business associates to bring new visions and expertise to the team that the current team doesn’t have. The hiring of Amanda Graciano came to fill this gap.

“My arrival adds to the team’s expertise because we have very similar journeys. In the last year, I must have analyzed a thousand startups. So it was an interesting combination, because all the partners are totally focused on business development, and it is rightful to have an organizational concern to apply our methodology and make this model increasingly serial”, commented Graciano.

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Although the venture building model has shown efficiency in the development of new ventures, it also raises some doubts for many entrepreneurs. If a VB’s contribution to the development of a project goes beyond guidance or mentoring, is there also a risk that your business’ capital or shares will be devoured by a large VB company? In a partner startup, what would be the percentage owned by the venture builder who co-founded it? About this subject, Gamboa reassured the need to keep the business healthy for everyone involved and that there is an international model that, if followed, guarantees sustainability.

“We put a lot of effort into each startup, and it’s very important that it works that way. It is intense and effectively consumes our ability to carry out other businesses. Let’s put it in this way: we do not work with incubation or acceleration, models in which you work in for some time and have a small percentage. We are always minority partners, but we remain relevant. Sure, each case has its own story, but we have a policy that is aligned to global standards for venture builders, practiced even by companies in Silicon Valley”, he said. LABS found out that this participation rate in capital or shares normally goes from 25% to 40%.

You may ask ‘but is it like this all over the world?’, and I’ll tell you: Yes, it is. We have already undertaken and invested, so I think we understand the dynamics of the business. Every time we start a project with this model, we are already thinking three steps ahead. For example: every startup is born with a planned Stock Option Plan. There will always be a gap between the starting team and the team you will need along the way. That’s why we always dedicate between 10 and 20% of the startup’s capital to bringing crucial talent. But Fisher will never have the bigger slice of the cake

Carlos Gamboa, partner at Fisher.

To clarify Fisher’s idea and positioning as a venture builder, Gamboa used ongoing projects as an example: “There’s a startup that we are working on right now that was totally bred inside our company. One of our associates had experience in the field and we identified an opportunity in a specific market. It was born 100% Fisher, and yet the co-founders, who do not belong to Fisher, own 60% of the company.”