Entrepreneurs emerge from the slums of Rio

In Inside Brazil’s Advertising Startup Boom, TechCrunch discusses how Brazil may be the next hub of advertising innovation.  Whether that turns out to be true or not, Brazil certainly has its share of impressive entrepreneurs.  Here are TC’s descriptions of two of them:

Alan James of Biruta

The company was started by Alan James, who grew up in one of the poorest areas of Rio and dropped out of high school working odd jobs to survive. He started his advertising career in 1997 by stringing banners to the back of a plane. How’s that for old school banner ads? He grabbed attention by creating more outrageous banners like three-dimensional Coke cans that would inflate as he flew.

James moved the company into a Shell-sponsored incubator started to help develop entrepreneurship in poorer areas of Rio, but because the rooms were all taken he started it in a bathroom. (They’ve since taken over the building and formally turned that bathroom into more office space.)

Boo-box’s founder Marco Gomes lead the interactive team at AgenciaClick before starting the company in 2007. His simple belief is that everyone producing content online should be able to make money from it. Boo-box still sells that original ecommerce ad unit, traditional IAB ad units and experiments with other social media ad units too. A lot of them—like advertising to your Twitter followers— aren’t particularly unique from US companies, but Boo-box focuses on treating its publishers better than other ad networks, as such it has a network of hundreds of sites and 500 million page views a month in a huge country most ad networks have ignored. And the 20-something Gomes—who also came from a slum— has emerged as sort of a role-model for Web kids in Brazil.

It’s hard enough to start a company when you come from a privileged background in the U.S.  Imagine starting out in the Favelas (slums) of Rio!  Gotta have some respect for these guys!


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