We talked to Matheus Santos Braga about how Rentbrella helps people share umbrellas in smart cities and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Matheus Santos Braga: We are doing well, taking all the proper care, and fortunately, we are all healthy and hanging in there. We are trying to stay positive and redefining these days as an opportunity to spend more quality time together and to enjoy each other’s company.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Rentbrella?
Matheus Santos Braga: As a child, I have always dreamed of being an inventor and influencing future generations. That is one of many motives that drove me to become a graduated engineer from the University of São Paulo. But just when I led and managed teams, I found my passion and how I think I would contribute more to mould the future.
During my time at the university, I participated in an extracurricular group whose objective was to design and manufacture a racing car. I led the team to win one national championship, a title we hadn’t won in 10 years, and participate in an international competition. This way, we were able to consolidate ourselves as the 12th best team in the world ranking. After achieving my extracurricular group goals, I started looking for new challenges, and this guided me to start working at Stone Payments, a Brazilian fintech unicorn.
In my senior year of university, I developed a few preliminary stages of becoming my first startup company. With the help of a close friend and a pathologist doctor, we designed a gadget that scans microscope slides and saves them as digital images that could be easily shared online with any other doctor. With this device, the medical report could be done remotely, reducing the exams’ costs and time. I cannot say this project was a complete success, but I can say that I learned what not to do – everything that could go wrong went wrong.
After this, I started working at Rentbrella, in 2017, from the first pilot production, leading the Engineering team towards new challenges and products, and afterward relocating to be responsible for the Rentbrella Expansion, helping the company to prepare everything to conquer the world.
How does Rentbrella innovate?
Matheus Santos Braga: As the first umbrella sharing company that combines concepts of circular economy and Out of Home Advertising, we can say that innovation is in our DNA. To be more specific, we promote a change of habit by allowing people to commute comfortably without the need to carry an umbrella all day, or worse, overpaying for one when it starts raining. So we have successfully redefined the use of umbrellas, combining technology with user experience, in addition to exploring an advertising space never imagined before.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Matheus Santos Braga: Our business relies on people walking in the streets to offer our umbrella sharing services for our users and generate value for our sponsors and advertisers, so COVID directly impacted our operations.
Initially, we began searching for alternative locations for our stations, such as residential buildings and hospitals. Still, we quickly realized that the best alternative was to enhance our product when people returned. We took the time to add additional safety information on our stations’ side and updated our app to better our user guidelines. And last but certainly not least, we have installed sanitizer dispensers in our stations to help fight the virus’s spread.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Matheus Santos Braga: We can’t say we were fully ready for the pandemic, I don’t think any company can honestly state they were, but at least we’ve managed to make it through with ease as our company’s leadership doesn’t only focus on exponential growth but is also very attentive to cash flow by always seeking sustainable growth. Hence, we were fortunate enough not to have to make many tough choices, and most importantly, we didn’t have to let anyone go. The pandemic also allowed us to explore further our long-term strategies for the company’s growth.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Matheus Santos Braga: I believe there are several ways to manage stress and anxiety: working out, increasing our contact with nature, or hanging out with family and friends. The main method is continuously meditating and controlling what I can, and accepting what I can not control.
Among all the things we are in contact with, we must realize that some are under our responsibility and others are not. We can not control the outcomes, what will happen in the future, what happened in the past, or the others’ opinions. But we can control our behavior, our desires, and our actions.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Matheus Santos Braga: We operate in an emerging market that has few players around the world. And among them, we see that we have competitive advantages because we come from Brazil, which has several logistical and operational difficulties. Yet, we have already consolidated an operation with more than 40 thousand umbrellas on São Paulo’s streets.
Your final thoughts?
Matheus Santos Braga: 2020 has been a very long year, both in difficulty and number of challenges. My deepest condolences to all of those who had their lives and businesses ruined and a heartfelt thank you to all the companies and people out there who choose to lighten these troublesome times for their workers, coworkers, families, and friends. Only with everyone’s collaboration and appropriate care, we’ll be able to reduce the impact of the pandemic.
And to close it up, I would like to share with you a phrase towards which I frequently returned to during the pandemic to empower me and also lighten my day:
“What is important is not what happens to us, but how we respond to what happens to us” – Jean-Paul Satre.
We don’t get to choose to have a pandemic; it is undoubtedly impacting our lives and businesses. All that matters now is how we proceed through this mess and see ourselves afterward and during it. I believe I can speak for me and everyone in Rentbrella when I say that we see very clearly the pandemic as an opportunity to look inwards and improve our business for us to hit the ground running to the new normal.