As its name suggests, the LatAm Edge Awards is a competition to find and reward some of the most innovative and dynamic companies in Latin America.
This year, LatAm Edge Awards decided it would help one lucky enterprise to launch their business in the UK, and more than 60 businesses with a turnover of more than $1 million entered the competition.
“This year’s entrants presented us with a tough challenge to pick a winner from a field of excellent businesses,” said Bob Doyle, head of EMEA and Latin America at London & Partners, and a judge for the award.
But a winner had to be chosen, and that winner was Brazilian company Round Pegs, which is in line to receive the £125,000 prize money.
For Pedro Donati, founder and CEO of Round Pegs, it was an “amazing experience” to come to London to attend the LatAm Edge awards as a finalist and then to emerge as the winner.
In an interview with EM360º, Donati explained that Round Pegs is a creator of entrepreneurship as a service. The company provides a white label, scalable business platform specialised in designing and building startup innovations within enterprises.
Pedro came up with the idea while he worked at the largest private-sector bank in Latin America, and set up a business model for it within the organisation. But then, he received backing from senior executives at the bank to go off and establish the business model he and his team had developed as a separate business entity, and things have been going very well ever since.
“Our offering is very unique – we help create a startup business within enterprises. Unlike a traditional startup which needs to secure its own funding and answer to their investors, RoundPegs is more focused on finding talented entrepreneurs to work on their startup business units which can be developed further for potential spin-off.”
“When the large corporations build a new business,” explains Donati. “There are ways for them to monetise in the traditional company instead of needing to monetise the new company.”
This is something perhaps smaller, independent marketing companies would find more difficult to do on their own, but it’s something Donati says he learned.
“That showed me that corporate venture building – building companies for companies – was a very powerful tool and that was tapping into a place in the market that no one was reaching.”
It seems the start-up culture has taken over large parts of the world. In the past, it may have been virtually impossible to raise money to back your idea, but now it’s not.
It’s still difficult, but there are many more investors actively looking to invest, which is in contrast to attitudes of the past, which were more conservative, and more interested in keeping the money in a savings account and earning interest.
Clearly, it’s less risky to do that, but these days with interest rates being so low, interest payments are not what they used to be.
Moreover, for most established businesses, it can be difficult to develop innovative new products and services, or improve processes, internally. Companies of all sizes can become set in their ways, especially if the business is doing reasonably well.
They might feel they don’t have the time nor the inclination to develop any ideas they may have.
This is where Donati says it may help to look beyond the company itself. “We believe that every company will create their own start-ups as a means to foster innovation in ways that start-ups alone cannot do and enterprises don’t have the means to.
“So, we designed a way for them to do it and we said before we open this up for any company in the world, why don’t we try it and we show them what can be done.”
For example, one of the companies Round Pegs works with is one of the largest clinical analysis groups in the world, with almost 30 laboratory brands and 600 lab facilities in Brazil.
Round Pegs partnered with the company to develop what Donati describes as a “health personal assistant” in the form on an app.
The first year of operations for Rounds Pegs has just ended, so the LatAm award came at the right time for the company to start looking to expand its offering overseas.
“Our community of people is spread all over the world. we have 40 people that range from San Francisco to Moscow,” says Donati. “Our offices are virtual offices.”
However, Donati says it’s important to develop apps and other products and services with the relevant geographical location in mind.
For example, Brazilians love football, or soccer as it’s called in the US, but they’re not familiar with all sports.
“There’s like famous cases where I met some guys that helped Walmart go to Brazil the first time, and they got this huge baseball area in the stores, and there’s absolutely no baseball culture in Brazil,” says Donati.
“So that was my question: Why do that? And they said that works in the US.
“But it’s not something that is going to work here.
“You have to understand the market that you’re going to. And take each country as a country, as a culture, and respect each culture – in each gap there’s a market.”
Speaking about Round Pegs, during the awards ceremony, creator of the LatAm Awards and CEO of GrupoCasa, Sandra Sinicco, said she looks forward to helping the company expand into the UK and Europe.
“Their proof of concept was incredibly strong and there is a huge market opportunity for them in the UK,” she says. “This year, we had over 150 people at the awards ceremony, an increase of over 100 per cent since the 2016 awards. It is great to see so much interest from many diverse industries.”
Doyle said he “could immediately identify the business demand in the UK for Round Pegs – industries can benefit from the innovative platform that Round Pegs provides”.
Doyle added: “They clearly demonstrated all the attributes we were looking for as well as being a company that will clearly benefit from accelerated entry into the UK market.”