Raphael Carrondo of Startup Venture Builder tells us about investment programs and specialized services for startups and innovative companies.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Raphael Carrondo: We are fine, thanks. I do worry a little as my parents are in Brazil which is the eye of the tornado at the moment. My father recently got COVID and as he is in the risk group it was a worrying time, but we are all fine now, looking forward to the vaccine!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Startup Venture Builder.
Raphael Carrondo: Well let’s start from the beginning. I was born in São Paulo, Brazil. I attended the French school in São Paulo. After graduating, I moved to France to continue my studies. After I graduated in France from the Institut Vatel in Lyon, I moved to London for my last internship and never left. I just didn’t go to the airport for my flight back to France.
I can say my professional background is in hospitality. In London, after the internship, I started to work in a restaurant in a city that no longer exists, and was invited to participate in an opening of a restaurant in Mayfair. Once I did this first “opening”, I realised that this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to have this clean sheet where I could create processes, train colleagues to the brand values and build a pleasant environment to work.
After that opening, I participated in a second opening for an amazing venue in Soho and moved into the first opening that I would be leading the process for a venue near Trafalgar Square. There I had the opportunity to not only design the day-to-day operations but also be creative and bring technology to what was until not so long ago an extremely traditional industry. Now you see online booking systems, updated websites with the correct menu, not a menu from 5 years ago that was never updated, and waiters carrying iPads as the norm. It was my first contact with technology and digital transformation. I was so excited that I founded the company at that moment with the focus to bring technology to the hospitality sector. In 2013, I participated in the opening of a technology-led venue in Victoria. The “opening” fever started to fade and I decided at that point that I needed to go back to school. Although I believed I had what it takes to design a solid strategy to start a company I didn’t think I had the basis to scale or grow a company. So I was back to school and graduated with the Executive MBA in 2016. At the end of that course, I decided that I needed to expand and, created a few digital companies with other business partners. This is when I met Gustavo. After a very successful career in Media, in Brazil with 2 exits, moved to the UK and was looking to start a new journey as an entrepreneur. He also had some projects with other partners and we started studying ways to work together when we came across this model that we call Venture Building. We brought all projects under the same umbrella. Gustavo introduced me to our third co-founder and CTO Marco that was Gustavo’s partner in Brazil in the media company. It was an alignment of planets and we decided to pivot, re-brand the company, and launch Startup Venture Builder with the mission to support entrepreneurs, startups, and corporations globally in their efforts to incubate, launch and grow solid digital projects. Fast forward 2 years and we are now on 2 continents!
How does Startup Venture Builder innovate?
Raphael Carrondo: How do we innovate? We innovate by bringing strategy and implementation together and by becoming an extension of the companies we work with. We are not consultants or external contractors. It is a very fluid model that evolves depending on the present need of the startup, scale-up, or corporate, bridging the gap in knowledge and resources. We become as involved as needed, ranging from advisors to full departments.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Raphael Carrondo: The pandemic affected our business with a decrease in demand for continuous services. We had to quickly adapt from a continuous model to a punctual services model such as implementing an online presence for offline businesses so they could continue to operate during lockdowns. The only negative part is that these projects are short and do require the same deep dive in the industry, business processes, resources, and capabilities study that a continuous project would require, without the lifetime value. We are betting that once this is over these same companies will contact us again to continue what we started now with a growth focus.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Raphael Carrondo: Internally, thankfully, we did not have to scale the team down, nor put people on furlough however, the directors had to take a pay cut. Now thinking about clients we had to make difficult decisions on letting some go for being late in their payments. It made us rethink our payment process as well as our business model so we can continue to provide our services and share the risk of projects we believe in with the entrepreneur or founding team.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Raphael Carrondo: The management skills that we are using to navigate this new normal are the same as always. We set specific objectives for the quarter, month and week and let our collaborators work how they see, at the time that best suits them. We use OKR software to allow the whole team to view the impact they have on the overall success of the company as well as the tools that are needed to collaborate and communicate remotely. We are strict in the targets but very flexible on the means to reach those targets. We don’t think we will ever go back to an office!
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Raphael Carrondo: We don’t see anyone in the ecosystem as a competitor but as a possible collaborator. We don’t claim to be the best in everything we do, and what is important to us is that our customers or partners get the best for the specific moment they are in. Our job and the greatest value we can bring to any project is having access to the best professionals out there, including companies that would otherwise be competing with us. We look at the big picture, not the immediate returns.
Your final thoughts?
Raphael Carrondo: In the startup world having the correct partners is almost more important than having the best idea. The cliche of 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration is true. Keep focused on the value and solution to the problem you are solving, not the problem itself. If a problem is too big, break it into parts and don’t give up! In the words of William Blake, What is now proved was once only imagined.