The founder of Invillia, Renato Bolzan, spoke with the podcast “Career without Borders” about our innovation DNA, culture, internationalization, his move to Lisbon. And how the Global Growth Framework connects it all 🙂
Data + People + Action = Invillia
Understand the power of the Global Growth Framework_ game-changer to game-changer, innovation to innovation (transcription in English below)_
Check out the full interview_
And the transcription of the main questions_
Hi, I’m Gabs Serreira and this is Career without Frontiers. Ready for today’s adventure? We’re going to talk to a person from the interior of São Paulo who, when he graduated, ended up working in the capital, but already with a business plan. He wanted to put a company that he had in mind into operation, he had many ideas and was sure it would work. Invillia is now a company with more than 900 employees and does a really cool job in the technology area. During the process, the company grew a lot and even went to other markets in Europe, which was when the opportunity arose for him to move to Portugal. So let’s see what he has to tell us. And for this conversation today, as always, we are here with our multilingual traveler Fabrício Carraro, chatting with Renato.
Renato, please tell our listeners who you are and what led you to Portugal.
My story, I think, is not very different from most people in the technology area. I’m from the interior of São Paulo, Araraquara, and I studied Computer Science at the Federal University of São Carlos. During my graduation, I always wanted to build something, to change something I saw happening in the world. And I tried to do a thousand things during that period. I had a professor who marked this part of my graduation a lot. We had a discipline called Entrepreneurs in Informatics, at the time, this was in 1996, and this professor taught this discipline and always brought alumni and people connected to the university who went to do business. He had fantastic stories. I said that one day I wanted to do what they were doing. And I kept it. I was finishing my degree and needed a mandatory internship to complete the course. Like a lot of people at that time, I didn’t have so many opportunities in the countryside and I ended up going to São Paulo but with that desire to one day take the business plan out of the drawer and start a company. I went to São Paulo, did the internship, invited some friends to do business with me, they were much more sensible than me and said no. I also had no choice, no money, no experience, no relationships and I thought I would stay in São Paulo and focus on my career. Then I got to meet a lot of interesting people. I took the beginning of the Internet in Brazil and went to work on some operations that were, at that time, very different for the context of the technology market, which was Internet operations. I went to work in a home broker that nobody understood what it was at the time, in media companies, and made my career within this Internet universe. I lived with the burst of the bubble, the Internet, those fateful moments that changed the history of business. In 2003 I decided to really take the business plan out of the drawer and went into business. That’s when I founded my first company, which today is Invillia. I founded a lot on my face and courage, with no money, no experience, we started the business as many technology companies started at that time. The famous software factory. We managed to grow, gain some relevance within this Internet market, which at the time was very closed. It was hard to find any supplier who had the technical skills to handle that universe. And because of my background and history, I focused the business exactly on that, on what we now call digital. Invillia was born on that. There were several things during that period, mergers and acquisitions. And 18 years later, there is Invillia, which is a company that currently has 900 employees spread across 9 countries, a company totally focused on the digital world and innovation, and that has been growing very strongly in recent years and gaining a lot of relevance within the innovation scenario of very important clients in Brazil. In a nutshell, this is my story.
And at what point in your evolution did you decide to leave the country and why?
In 2017 we started exporting, it was the first experience we had exporting services to Europe, the first country we exported was the Netherlands. And we did that as a test, as an MVP to see if this thing really flies. But nobody bet too much, because there were many cultural differences, there was the language, the structure of the company as a whole was not very prepared for that, but like any good Brazilian entrepreneur, we never give up, we have that courage, go up and make happen. And that’s what happened. This customer in Holland tried it, liked it, we even did one thing, like all good Europeans, he’s super caucios to do anything and always full of fears, we gave him a period to try the company’s service and pay zero, he didn’t even need to justify if he didn’t want to. And it went very well, he liked it, it ended up expanding the work a lot and by the year 2018 I ended up making an investment in a company in Portugal, called Sead Money. This company was founded by an old boss of mine from my time back there as a developer. We met again, he got to know Invillia a little more, he’s been living in Europe for a long time too, he had a prominent position in one of these giant techs and he said that we have a very good level of delivery, why not try to think beyond Brazil, internationalize the company. And then we already had this case from the Netherlands, which already gave us some credentials, and we decided to internationalize the company and start in Europe. A path a little different from most, which starts with the US and then expands to Europe and Asia. We decided to take the route to Europe, which I think was sensational because it taught us a lot, is teaching us a lot, and will make us super prepared for the next flight, which should be the USA soon.
How was this process of moving to Portugal for you?
I had been to the Web Summit a few times before, but I knew next to nothing. What is the big challenge for a company like ours, which is a company that does not have an investor, a fund that provides support, a structure for you to take such a step? The big challenge in a company of this type is to be able to move its culture to other places. And then I tried to come here, recruit a team that could replicate this culture, brought engineers from Brazil who would also do this replication, but I realized that there were still missing some things that we valued a lot. And then I made a proposal to my family, which was to change, to stay a year in Portugal, until the integration of this team, and then we would come back. Everyone agreed, my wife also loves these adventures and my kids are young and allowed us to do it fast. We came here, everyone adapted, liked it a lot and we’ve been here for almost 3 years.
Renato, you commented that at the beginning when you were setting up the company, you tried to “copy” the culture you already had. Was it easy to do this with new people from different places?
It’s not easy, it’s something you’ll have to adapt to. I usually say that there are no people to work like the Brazilians. I always use this example. There is the rich dad’s son and the poor dad’s son. I think that we, Brazilians, are the children of a poor father, and your tomorrow you have to do today, not wait for someone to make it happen. It seems such a simple thing because we are used to it, but culturally it is a big difference. The European, in this same simple example I’m giving, is a bit of a rich dad’s son, so he doesn’t have to do today the tomorrow. He needs to live today, and this has a great impact when you talk about the company’s culture, when you talk about how you work. Brazilians are much more open to things, much more willing to be the early adopter of new things than Europeans. Brazilians are much less bureaucratic, let’s call it that, than Europeans. And that has a good side and a bad side. When you roll out the company culture, it’s very different. You have to look at this. And today we have people in 9 countries. In addition to Portugal, Netherlands, England, Mozambique, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Poland, Belgium and Mexico. In these regions, we usually have either local or Brazilian people who have moved there and who want to continue with some connection with a Brazilian company. It’s very different, you have to rebuild it all the time. And as we are also a fully distributed company and all these people, almost 900 people we are talking about here, they are in over 150 different cities. Managing this entire machine and making it work is a very complex mission. We have a very good team that takes care of various aspects of this but it’s a daily challenge, every day we learn new things, we discover new challenges, we advance in things we thought we couldn’t do and that’s what ends up moving Invillia. The best thing in this world that we live in, in this technology market that reinvents itself all the time, is for you to balance these things. How to build a company culture that serves a European who is more bureaucratic and at the same time serves a Brazilian who is more informal. Someone who is more disciplined and someone who is less disciplined. All these things are huge challenges for people management that we experience every day.
How do you manage to reconcile this of having your own internal culture and having to adapt to each company you go to. Because each company I imagine has a very different culture.
This is a very important point and I think it is one of the things that are responsible for the success that Invillia has had. We built something called the Global Growth Framework. This Global Growth Framework, we call it a framework, but for those who do not understand what this word is, imagine the following, it is a toolbox with a lot of technical and management things, processes, methods of getting things done. And we end up using a customized version of this toolbox for each type of customer. Always respecting the following: the customer has its own culture, it has its way of doing it and Invillia cannot be a foreign body to that, but it also cannot be someone who says look, I’m here to do what you want that I do. Because we work within these innovation chains and one of the things that you have within these chains is the provocation, the desire to change what can be better. And we always try to gain the trust of these customers to act exactly on that. So we try to make our framework, our toolbox available to the customer and show him everything we use, how we use it with each one, make this initial setup with and combine adjustments throughout the process. And these fairs change, there are times when we use more things that we have in there and others less, and this depends on the space we are gaining and how open the customer is for you to interact at higher levels. One thing we always do, and this is part of the culture too, is to be very humble. We never say that we have the formula for success. There is no such thing inside Invillia. The customers we serve are highly qualified customers, they have different levels of maturity when we talk about product development, software development, and how to deal with this together with the business areas. There are different maturity levels that we end up dealing with in these customizations of our Global Growth Framework.
Thank you very much for your participation and for your time, make your disclosure now to finish.
Your podcast is very good and has a lot of cool stories from tech people. Invillia has 101 open positions in the technology area, needing many engineers, product people, UX, quality people, to work from anywhere on the planet. And we look at this as a machine for developing people. Invillia actually became a great machine for developing people. Anyone who wants to develop a fantastic career, to have the opportunity to work on several mega interesting projects and to live the day-to-day of a super restless company, one of these vacancies will surely fit for people who listen to the podcast. Just go to the website https://invillia.com/jobs and check out the opportunities that we have open.