Back in the Spring of last year, I was informed of a new crowdfunding website that had recently launched in Brazil called Catarse. At the time, I was familiar with the concept of crowdfunding and was certainly interested in it, but I hadn’t really spent any time thinking about it or brainstorming about its potential. That all changed when I saw Catarse, the first crowdfunding platform to launch in Brazil. Seeing a variety of fresh, innovative and hard-hitting projects being funded on the platform really sparked my interest both in crowdfunding and Brazil in general.
Yesterday, I had the chance to sit down with one of the caras (means ‘guys’ in Portuguese) who co-founded Catarse, Luis Otavio Ribeiro. Having spent quite a bit of time on the site watching videos and following certain projects, I was really excited about the opportunity for a little face time with one of the founders. There in the comfort of Catarse’s office, I sat down with Luis and learned about how the company was formed, what differentiates it from other platforms and where the company is going in the future.
The idea for the Catarse platform was born in a simple, very entrepreneurial way. Back in April of 2010, Luis, a business student at one of the business schools here in Sao Paulo, was surfing the Springwise website for ideas. Springwise is well known in the entrepreneurship community as a place to learn about new and innovative ideas from around the world for businesses ranging from restaurants to mobile apps. On Springwise, Luis encountered the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform in the US, and in that moment the idea for Catarse was born.
Catarse, sparking the change right here from their office in Sao Paulo
Together with fellow business student Diego Reeberg, the duo began to formulate a plan for bringing crowdfunding to Brazil. Later on in the year, they were fortunate enough to find a programmer out of Porto Allegre with a similar passion for the idea and from there the prototype for the first crowdfunding platform in Brazil was created.
On January 17, 2011, eight months after the idea was born, Catarse went live for the first time. Without really knowing what to expect from their entrepreneurial experiment, the Catarse team went into the project with a mission to democratize fundraising so that any Brazilian with an idea or creative project would be able to get the funds they needed to give it a shot.
A few of the reward from various Catarse projects
Within a few months of being live, the caras of Catarse started to receive some interest from other groups around Brazil about potential partnerships. One group in particular out of Rio de Janeiro was particularly keen on forming a partnership, and according to Luis it became apparent after only a few conversations that both groups were on the same page. The two groups came together (it was a “fusion” according to Luis) under the Catarse name and suddenly Catarse was a whole new entity.
One of the cool things about the company is that there is no official CEO or Director of Strategy. The group works as unit, collaboratively and cohesively, to make their decisions, and participation is collective rather than status based. It is young, energetic company that is representative, in my opinion, of a new type of organization that functions without hierarchial and status-based decision making, and instead focuses on speed, innovation and collaborative participation.
Luis and I!
One of the most interesting points in my conversation with Luis was when I asked him about how Catarse is different from other platforms like Kickstarter. One of the key things that you will notice on Kickstarter is that there are many projects that are funded at levels that are 200%, 500%, 1000%, etc. more than what the project creators originally asked for. This is because many of Kickstarter’s projects are product based, so people fund them knowing that they will get a product in return for their donation. Catarse, on the other hand, has had very few projects (if any) that have reached this level of funding because there is a different mentality amongst the Brazilian’s who are supporting these projects. Rather than being interested in a certain product or service, Brazilians are much more interested in the social benefits of the project and as have a “estamos juntos,” or a we-are-together, mentality.
For this reason, Catarse has helped launch many cultural projects that I would call hard hitting and profoundly impactful (as I spoke about in my last blog). While Luis didn’t necessarily agree completely with the notion that Catarse is a catalyst for cultural entrepreneurship, as it is very difficult to categorize these types of projects as simply cultural or social, it is clear that the projects on Catarse have a deeper sense of purpose than a simple product launch or new service idea.
Finally, Luis shared some tips about launching a crowdfunding campaign, which is a lot more difficult than it looks at first glance, and gave me some idea as to where the company is headed in the future. Many crowdfunding companies like Catarse were inspired by and modeled around the Kickstarter business model, where the platform takes a percentage of the profit for every project that is successful. Once a platform like Catarse starts to get some traction, however, a new realm of possibilities opens up depending on the characteristics of the market. In Brazil, a place with a lot of entrepreneurial enthusiasm and creativity, there is a large opportunity to evolve the business model and start experimenting with new ideas to get more projects off the ground. I am not sure what those ideas are, but I look forward to following the company in the future to see what comes to fruition.
Overall, it was an amazing day for me, as I was extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to meet one of the caras of Catarse and hear insights from one of the pioneers of the new crowdfunding movement here in Brazil. No doubt, exciting times lie ahead for the company and it will be really cool to see how the both the site and market evolves as more people become familiar with the concept.
And that wraps up my time here in Sao Paulo. Next stop, Belo Horizonte!