Today, a new coworking space that will host 250 people or up to 50 tech startups inside its 50,000 square feet launches in São Paulo, Brazil.
Cubo aims to make São Paulo–Brazil’s largest city and the economic capital of Latin America–into a startup hub to rival Silicon Valley by fostering entrepreneurs with the same perks American startup founders enjoy, like a close-knit community, access to investors, and what Cubo’s founders are calling the “serendipity” that’s so vital to making connections in business.
Achieving those serendipitous encounters means that the sheer volume of entrepreneurs in one place has to be high. Entrepreneurs among São Paulo’s 20 million people are scattered far and wide without a major hub like Silicon Valley’s Menlo Park, says Cubo project lead Flavio Pripas.
Cubo was born out of a three-pronged collaboration from Pripas, the São Paulo-based Internet entrepreneur and CEO of Bitinvest; Brazil’s largest bank, Itaú Unibanco; and Redpoint e.ventures–a partnership between Menlo Park-headquartered Redpoint Ventures and San Francisco’s e.ventures.
“If you have a place to force those connections, then that ecosystem can flourish,” says Pripas. “This is exactly what we are doing here. We have been hearing a lot in the past couple of years that, ‘Hey, the next Facebook or Twitter will come from some emerging towns,’ and this is not happening. So we do believe that by doing this, we will help achieve something like that.”
But that’s not to say that São Paulo isn’t already an entrepreneurial force to be reckoned with. Brazil is a country full of highly engaged web and social media users, and with its large population and a GDP of more than $450 billion, São Paulo is responsible for much of that activity. According to Anderson Thees, founding partner of Redpoint e.ventures, the city accounts for 30% of Brazil’s high-growth businesses, while Brazil’s next-largest city, Rio de Janeiro, accounts for only 8%.
In a recent study from Compass–the business-data management tool–São Paulo ranked as the 12th best city for tech startups. A Google Campus, which also offers a community for startup founders and hopefuls, is set to open in São Paulo this year.
Pripas just hopes to move the needle from No. 12 on Compass’s tech startup list to the top, in the company of top-ranking hubs like Silicon Valley, Boston, and Tel Aviv. The top four spots on this year’s list are currently occupied by American cities. São Paulo is the only Latin American city in the top 20.
With its characteristic white walls and architectural glass, Cubo certainly looks like something that was born in Silicon Valley. Located in the Vila Olímpia area of São Paulo, Cubo is a little over a mile away from the businesses that make up 80% of the city’s current entrepreneur ecosystem, Thees says. Going forward, the coworking space will offer at least one event every day, says Pripas, like rooftop socials and skill share sessions, often with special guests from the tech entrepreneurship world. Startups inside Cubo will pay a market rate to use the space and won’t have a time limit imposed on their stay.
Funding isn’t guaranteed to those working in the community, but the access to investors through Redpoint e.ventures gives Cubo credence with startup founders as well as the possibility of investment. And while Silicon Valley is a mature environment where an idea can be matched with angel investors very quickly, São Paulo isn’t so developed, Pripas says. Thees says that in Silicon Valley, corporations invest in or acquire successful startups, but the São Paulo business scene isn’t quite there yet. Cubo is at least meant to help the city skip ahead a few steps on its way to development as an entrepreneurship hub, he says.
“We believe our involvement and our link to Silicon Valley will help ferment the participation of the ecosystem–not only of the residents but of the community at large,” Thees says of São Paulo. “Talking to players in the Valley, a lot of them say that we are similar in many ways to their ecosystem 15, 20 years ago. What we really have to do is make sure we close the gap faster. The ingredients are here.”