Growing with a Start-up

Growing With A Start-up

Growing with a Start-up

 Juliana Matiz and Jeffrey Camp

“It’s not about selecting a product and finding a problem. It’s about taking a problem and finding a solution”, said Sergio Furio, founder and CEO of Creditas, a leading Brazilian Fintech company that specializes in secured loans.

Mr. Furio and Joanna Smith - founder and CEO of AllHere, an Edtech company focused on “improving attendance and student success with mobile messaging powered by AI” - gave a presentation at the Softbank Operator School to students from the University of Miami, FIU and Miami Dade, and detailed their individual experiences of growing with their startups.

How and why did Furio create his company? With no previous experience on entrepreneurship, he only cared about finding a solution to a new-found obsession back in 2012. In his early years, Sergio Furio started investigating Brazil’s extreme high interest rates, and his findings differed completely with what the Brazilian banks were presenting to the public. Problem found: the general Brazilian population were facing high funding costs. The solution? Furio wanted to offer Brazilians lower interest rates, through quality loans, to help them achieve their life aspirations.

Without knowing where to start, but with a clear goal in mind, he began forming a team. The first step was to find the right person “to go with him along the way”, and he concluded that mastering growth was all about the people he surrounded himself with.  Furthermore, Furio spoke about the importance of disruption of industries through constant reinvention. The result? After many years of hard work, and sometimes hardship, Creditas is currently valued at $1.75 billion, has five new acquisitions, and has further expanded its operations to an additional two countries: Spain and Mexico. Furio, as well as many other entrepreneurs, experienced a rollercoaster of emotions: from dreaming big to rapid growth - as well as the constant ambiguity, chaos, and stress throughout the process.

Before founding Allhere, Joanna Smith taught middle school mathematics and served as Director of Family Engagement at a charter school in Boston, Massachusetts. At the conference, she spoke of her frustration when trying to connect students with the right support at the right time. Her solution was to design a tool to increase student participation in school and build engagement with families.

So, how did she manage to raise a tech company with only $500 to her name and basically no knowledge of technology? Her mindset was: “Do whatever it takes to get to where you see yourself”, as well as having a “confident and definite view of the future”. As a visionary who wasn’t afraid to take risks, Smith did exactly that to reach the next level of growth. She was resourceful, she looked for people who were always there to help take the next step, and she approached every challenge as a learning opportunity. With mentors and guidance throughout the process, she sought out Venture Capital money and knowledgeable investors, with access to a big network, who would remain by her side through the most challenging times. Today, Allhere is used by 8,000 schools across 34 states helping 2 million students and families across the U.S, raising $12.1M in investment capital.

Furio and Smith followed a similar path: they found a problem that was affecting millions and then imagined a solution that they could provide for this problem despite the obstacles they might encounter along the way.  While Furio focused on inefficiencies in the Brazilian financial markets, Smith addressed the problems in connecting students with the support they needed at the time they needed it.  One would be hard pressed to imagine two problems as different as these.  But while the problems were worlds apart, the attitude and enthusiasm they brought to solving them were the same.  Both adopted a “whatever it takes” attitude and embraced the risks that come with starting a new venture.  Both understood the value and strength in a team, and both looked at challenges and setbacks as a chance to learn not become discouraged.  Entrepreneurs everywhere can take from this that while the problems one hopes to solve may differ, the path leading to their solution can often be the same.

These life stories illustrate the monumental tasks that entrepreneurs face on their path to success. Many don’t even achieve success – approximately only 25% make it past 15 years, to be more precise. That is why the examples of Furio and Smith are inspirational and should be a reference for future entrepreneurs on the road ahead: to find new solutions to existing problems in the world.

This page was written by Juliana Matiz and Jeffrey Camp. Ms. Matiz is a member of Cane Angel Network investment team and is pursuing her Master of Science in Finance from the University of Miami graduating in December 2021. Mr. Camp is the Managing Director of the Cane Angel Network.