(I’m back from Brazil and finishing up with some observations and conversations from my recent trip visiting with Brazilian IT companies.)
Brazil, like many developing countries, has a First World country attached to a poor country. Brazilian IT is very sophisticated and world class. We attended a very large trade show focused on banking technology services. It looked the same as any trade show in the US.
After Sao Paulo, we took the evening flight to Rio de Janeiro. The Brazilians in our group were perking up visibly as we took the coach from the airport to our hotel. The Brazilians love Rio, one of them explained that it’s the equivalent of Miami, a place where people work hard so that they can play hard.
We couldn’t see much of Rio because it was night but you could hear thump and the swoosh of the surf from the beach (Ipanema) across the street from our hotel.
I had a great conversation at diner with from John Dohm, VP with True Religion. It turns out he was an early collaborator with Ray Kurzweil on his first book about the Singularity (please see: Is “The Singularity” The Elite Geeks’ Version Of “The Rapture”?) But isn’t much of a supporter anymore.
The next day we met with government officials and heard about the many financial and tax incentives given to companies that invest in the state of Rio de Janeiro. We also heard about Brazil’s thriving economy, the eighth largest and growing 4 to 5% a year; it’s on track to become the fifth largest economy in the world by 2014 when it hosts the World Cup, (pushing out Italy).
– That evening we celebrated the end of the trip with a short cruise around the bay. When the samba band started playing, the Brazilians in our group become very excited and started dancing. “This music is our proudest export,” one of them said.
– Alfredo Neves, Director for Global Clients and Finance at CPM Braxis, said that Brazil’s work culture has changed a lot and that there are even small startups funded by angels. It used to be that finding a job working for the government was the top goal for many Brazilians and if you passed a key exam, you would be employed for life. But that’s changing and people want to work for private companies.
– I spoke with Heloisa Pereira, one of the organizers from SP4 Communications, and also studying for a PH.d in Sao Paulo. Her thesis is on cyber culture. She’s looking into the phenomenon of Brazilians adopting the online persona of famous people, for example, Demi Moore. She says that there are huge numbers of people on social networks in Brazil with fake personas. Some are more popular than the “real” people.
But she concedes that by the time she finishes with her PH.d in four years time, things might have changed completely. Cyber culture can have a very short lifespan.
She says that Brazilians without PCs will spend an hour or more a day at Internet cafes to keep up with their social networks. Google’s Orkut is far more popular than Facebook in Brazil.
– I was impressed with Brazil and its people. It was surprisingly European and very urban. Brazilians tend to live in large cities, Sao Paulo has about 23 million people, making it the third largest city in the world.
– The food is surprisingly European too, with strong Italian and German influences. I couldn’t find a single spicy dish.
– Sao Paulo is where business in Brazil happens, it’s New York. And the “Paulistas” are proud that it’s where business gets done.
– Sao Paulo isn’t one bit as glamorous as Rio, which is the media and cultural capital of Brazil, but it does have a lot of cultural activities, with theater, films, art galleries, etc. “You can find lots of things to do every night.”
It was great to meet UK journalists Mark Hillary, and Angelica Mari I wanted to thank the hard work of the organizers of the trip, Thais Trapp, and the many others; and I look forward to further contact with Brazil and its tech sector.
Tom Foremski is the Editor and Founder of the popular and top-ranked news site Silicon Valley Watcher, reporting on business and culture of innovation. He is a former journalist at the Financial Times and in 2004, became the first journalist from a leading newspaper to resign and become a full-time journalist blogger.
Tom has been reporting on Silicon Valley and the US tech industry since 1984 and has been named as one of the top 50 (#28) most influential bloggers in Silicon Valley. His current focus is on the convergence of media and technology — the making of a new era for Silicon Valley. He also writes a column at ZDNET.