Brazil’s startup scene could be a gold mine, assuming the country doesn’t “blow it.”
Izzui and its investors are hedging their bets that technology and entrepreneurship will ultimately prevail and that Brazil will be one of the great participants in the global Internet economy.
Izzui has raised $1.4 million to build its platform, where individuals and brands can create, publish, share, and sell courses on Facebook.
Using Izzui’s app, people can quickly develop educational content on any topic, ranging from how to make salada de funcho, pancetta e laranja (fennel, pancetta, and orange salad) to introductory classes on Python or building iOS games. Brands can use it as a way to engage their audience, while individuals can aim to make a little money off their knowledge and skills.
It currently has 210,732 users and 500 published courses.
The startup is also making a B2B play through its Quicklessons platform, which helps corporate customers develop collaborative, cloud-based training courses for employees.
Internet use is growing at a rapid pace is Brazil. The country recently reached 100 million Internet users and is the world’s second biggest country on Facebook. A lot of the activity is happening in the e-commerce and online travel sectors, but ed-tech is heating up.
Brazil’s government recently launched a program called Startup Brasil to accelerate startups and help bring their products to market. Of the 56 companies chosen, 11 are working in education. As more people come online, there is demand for services that make education more accessible, as well as those that help brands engage with consumers online.
Izzui aims to satisfy both needs.
Brazilian venture capital firm Confrapar led this first round of funding. It will support development of a new version of the platform as well as building a presence in the United States.
Brazil has attracted a significant amount of attention from VCs over the past couple years. Redpoint e.Ventures set up a dedicated fund in the region and respected firms like Sequoia and Accel also established a presence in the region. Optimism was high as Internet penetration grew at an impressive space and the emerging middle class presented exciting opportunities for commerce. Furthermore the upcoming World Cup and Summer Olympics will attract tourism dollars as well as motivate the government to improve its Internet infrastructure.
However, the country still faces major challenges. Millions of citizens protested the governments extravagant spending in sporting events, rather than on solving pressing problems with health care and education, and high taxes. An enormous bureaucracy and corruption make it a challenging region to conduct business.
The exit opportunities are also limited, as Brazil lacks a strong public market or large acquirers.
It is still early when it comes to startup development in Brazil, but the companies that do well tend to be “fast follow” businesses, which take proven business models and apply them to a new region.
Interest in crowdsourced educational content is high in the U.S., with companies like Udemy, Udacity, Ted, Lynda.com and others. Izzui hopes this interest in producing and learning from user-generated content will extend to Brazil, and that brands will increasingly search for new, authentic ways to connect with consumers online.
Izzui has offices in Rio de Janeiro and Miami.