Roberto Fermino became a DJ when he was 16. He would grab his audio equipment and go to people’s places to play tunes for them to dance to. “That was pretty easy,” Fermino recalled. Five years later, he sped up the beat, starting a party club. He wanted to popularize electronic dance music as much as he wanted to make some money.
Getting people to enjoy his party club idea proved difficult, though. The residents of the low-income area of São Paulo where he lived in Brazil preferred more traditional tunes. “Changing culture and cultural preferences is really hard,” he sighed. “So it didn’t work that well.” This experience taught Fermino that a business venture doesn’t fare well unless customers want its services or products.
In 2010, he joined his cousin Jefferson Soares, who ran a company that designed Web pages. Fermino helped the struggling startup find solutions that allowed customers to build their websites gradually at lower cost. By the time the business took off, Fermino already had a new idea — an online marketplace for local services.
BUILDING AN ONLINE MARKETPLACE
Small-business owners and others who need to hire photographers or home-repair services often don’t know where to go to find each other. Window dressers — people who make careers out of decorating the front windows of shops — and their customers are one example of a group that benefits from such a marketplace. Fermino thought an online marketplace would be a good way to connect these groups. His company would charge small fees for its services.
Funding was the greatest problem for Fermino’s startup. In Brazil angel investors generally support types of businesses they know well, and only a few of them understand online ventures. So Fermino took his idea to a new business incubator — 21 212 — started by two entrepreneurs, one Brazilian and one American. For a while he even worked for the incubator.
Fermino named his startup Helpin and it “graduated” from 21 212 in March 2012. Fermino and his partners “showed that they were prepared to walk on their feet,” he said on his Facebook page. Three months later Helpin started developing a network of franchises. “When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you'll be successful,” Fermino said.
Fermino, 27, graduated from Universidade de São Paulo with a degree in engineering. At the university, he ran an entrepreneurship center, where student entrepreneurs exchanged ideas and experiences. Today he studies at Babson College, known for one of the best entrepreneurship programs in the world.
His entrepreneurial drive never stops. “Ideas are exploding in my head,” Fermino said. He picks an idea with the most promise and works on it. The others he shares with friends and fellow entrepreneurs. If you need an idea, just give him a call.
Angel investor: (n) An investor who helps a startup or entrepreneur by providing money and assistance. An angel investor invests in the person and focuses on helping a business succeed.
- An angel investor helped our video editing startup. We help small and large companies edit videos for websites.
Franchise: (n) A business that has the right to sell a company’s product in a particular area.
-Some American restaurants have slowly become successful franchises overseas because foreign college students who returned home from the United States decided to open up restaurants in local markets.
Online venture: (n) A business term used for a startup company that conducts business on the Internet.
- The online venture became successful once our business professor provided us with useful Web page design tips.