Roberto Oliveira has founded, bought, and funded multiple startups. He seems to have great intuition when it comes to seeing what the next big thing is in tech. Now he is betting on a new form of digital asset your company needs.
On the DealMakers Podcast, Oliveira shared his experience growing up in Brazil’s tech scene, selling his startup for tens of millions of dollars before buying it back. The future of online business, and the number one factor for startup success. Plus, the future of conversations between brands and consumers.
Growing Up In Brazil’s Tech Scene
Roberto Oliveira was born in the sprawling Brazilian metropolis of Sao Paulo. His parents moved to the tech and aerospace sciences city of São José dos Campos after his father was invited to work as a scientist at INPE, the National Space Research Institute.
Then they moved to Belo Horizonte, where his dad started his own tech company before tech startups were really even a thing.
Roberto remembers his parents always encouraging him and his brother to embrace technology and electronic engineering. They were incentivized to create and develop things. He remembers getting his first computer at around 10 years old, on which he began to learn to code.
By 15 years old Oliveira was going to work with his father. He was working as an electronic technician and manufacturing electronic products.
He continued learning engineering at university. Then began taking classes on entrepreneurship, which got him interested in marketing and sales. His father was still very much a traditional technologist and technical founder who was fascinated with building products, but not the sales part of entrepreneurship. This became frustrating for Roberto. So, after graduating from college he went out on his own.
Riding The Waves Of A Digital Revolution
Together with a friend and his uncle, Robert Oliveira started his first company, a mobile phone store. This was back in 1997 when mobile devices were just used to make phone calls. Yet, they saw the potential for mobile to become a really big thing.
They did well and became the second biggest reseller in their town. This helped them build closer relationships with mobile phone carriers. Nokia came along, which was the biggest mobile phone manufacturer at the time. This led to their second venture, a Nokia service center.
In 1999, the excitement around tech and the internet was exploding. The mobile phone carriers were putting money into digital networks. Nokia was trying to create a mobile internet. So, Roberta started another company to take on this space called Take.
Nokia commissioned them to build a platform for downloading ringtones. At this time they owned 13 mobile phone retail stores which positioned them well to connect with consumers. They inked deals with 13 different mobile carriers and effectively created a monopoly. Between 2001 and 2005 they grew at a rate of 250%.
Selling & Buying Your Own Company
Seven different investors approached them about funding Take. Yet, they were growing so fast that one company out of Japan just offered to buy them instead. Having bootstrapped their way to this point, the $35M they received was an offer too good to refuse.
They cashed out and used their winnings to found two other companies. A venture capital firm that has invested in over 20 other companies, and a micro rewards startup that is still running in Brazil now. Then in 2008, the Japanese company that had bought Take came calling. They were restructuring their holdings and liquidating all of the foreign companies they had acquired. In just one week they closed the deal to sell Take back to Roberto.
Today, they have 1,000 paying clients, 500 employees, partnerships with Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple, and $40M in recurring revenue. A figure they expect to double again over the next year.
The Future Of The Business
Oliveira successfully saw the mobile revolution coming, and then the mobile internet wave. Now, he and his team are working on what they see as the next evolution for brands and consumers.
Like Mark Zuckerberg, Roberto sees the next leap as being much more like digital messaging platforms like WhatsApp. There are now over 200M active websites on the internet. After the explosion of websites, brands turned to the less crowded space of mobile apps. There are now almost 9M mobile apps.
Roberto says content, and omnichannel communication is still very important. Yet, he alludes to the fact that companies will have to be iterating far more and far faster to keep up with changes. From large banks to small local retailers he also sees online conversations between brands and consumers as being even more important.
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