Clean and Cool Startup Mission leaves Rio
Incredibly, the first stage of the Clean and Cool Mission to Brazil is over already. This morning we made the short flight from the drop-dead-gorgeous Rio to the elegant sophisticate that is Sao Paulo. And the difference is immediately apparent. But before we dash on let’s take a moment to reflect on what was learnt in Rio.
The bulk of our time in Rio was taken up with highly effective exchanges of information between the British and Brazilian startups represented at the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES). I will write a brief summary of each company shortly, so watch out for that. We were honoured to be received by the president of the bank Professor Luciano Coutinho. Here I will simply summarise that from the opening address by Luciano Coutinho to the closing address by Julion Ramundo, (director at the bank), we heard about how important it is for Brazil and Brazilians to be partners in innovation. Brazil is very pragmatic at choosing whatever solution best fits the problem but it has to be a two-way street perhaps technology from Britain being manufactured in Brazil or jobs adapting and implementing tools originating in the UK. Hardly an unreasonable request in our opinion! And whilst details are not yet public we’ve already seen multiple examples of the openness that can drive deals very quickly when the fit is right.
On Saturday I was able to join a small group to meet Adilson from Eu Quiero Liberadad (in English: I want freedom). This is a co-operative of people in the Complexo do Alemão community (often known by their Portuguese name ‘favela’). Juliana told us that they started the co-op simply because they needed work and due to history in the gangs or other disadvantages refuse collection was one of the few opportunities open to them. Gradually this grew from a practical approach to become a real vision for building a better community. From their start in 2004 through company incorporation in 2008 to winning a concession from the municipality.
But in 2009 Adilson pitched to Gomez, an engineer with experience in putting together financing through BNDES and elsewhere. The result is far from complete, indeed it is just now gaining momentum and Gomez says he thinks it’s a ten year project. But after that liberal dose of realism, I have to say I am filled with optimism for a marriage of real grass-roots activism and serious central funding. If you doubt the commitment look at the enormous infrastructure commitment of the cable car that acts as a public transportation system where no other is practical given the density of homes.