Crossing borders with startups and Oaktech
We had an amazing chat with Fernando Figueiredo, Founder and CEO of Oaktech and member of The Vault, SF who left Brazil to study marketing in America and unexpectedly became an entrepreneur. Fernando’s story is a unique one. Fernando left his native country Brazil in 1996 and came to the US to study marketing.
As an international student, he struggled trying to find work and had to settle for a job at the campus’ bookstore. It was around this time that Amazon was just starting to get traction and he noticed that many of the students were talking them. The conversations piqued his interest and he immediately knew it would impact the student bookstore. The experience left him inspired to eventually open his own bookstore, but with a twist. His approach was to buy and sell books to students, while leveraging Amazon for the distribution; it turned out this strategy worked really well. During this time, he noticed changes in consumer behavior, such as students who just living across the street from his bookstore, yet never came in to buy books. They preferred to order them online. It was this epiphany, where he saw that the future of commerce was online that gave him the impetus to start something new.
Around the same period, Brazil was short on needed medical supplies, so he started an export business called VIMEX, which sold medical supplies to Brazil. As a native Brazilian, Fernando knew many friends and family members who were doctors in Brazil, but struggled to get the
products they needed. His venture created such a buzz that the Brazilian government approached him and asked if he would be interested in a job in their San Francisco office called Apex-Brazil, a division that has agents promoting Brazilian companies all over the world. He joined and started to gain an understanding of the inner workings of the government and how he could help Brazilian businesses enter US markets.
This led him to his current venture, Oaktech, a company that aims to bring foreign companies to the US market, while focusing on their product first. Oaktech helps global companies understand the market risk before officially launching in the US. Fernando has seen many companies coming to market in the US make the same mistakes, such as opening up large offices before understanding the product market fit, timing of when best to launch, competitive landscape, target customers or understanding the right positioning for the market.
Oaktech creates a “soft landing” for Brazilian entrepreneurs. It’s also important to understand the cultural differences in business the two countries have. Many companies that have experienced great success in Brazil still struggle bringing their products into the US, and much of it because of differences in business conduct and unfamiliarity of the U.S business climate. Their biggest myth Brazilian entrepreneurs fall victim to is the belief that the US suffers from the same complicated bureaucracy as in Brazil. While the bureaucracy isn’t there, the cultures do differ greatly. Business meetings take more time in Brazil. Usually, people will try to get to know each other first, usually people talk very little about the actual product or specifics of their business vs. here in the US, where people will dive right into their product or company’s goals.
Since its inception, the Oaktech team has brought 12 companies into the US from the Brazilian market, most of them, tech companies. Fernando believes that great products and services can come from all over the world and the US offers a great market for new products that will make people’s lives easier.
You can check out our informative conversation with Fernando here. Learn more about Oaktech or follow him on LinkedIn.