Interview: Guga Gorenstein
This is the first one of an interview’s series I intend to run on this blog. Please leave your feedbacks on the comments session! The main goal is to present Brazilian startups to non-Portuguese speakers.
Meet Gustavo Gorenstein – better, meet Guga, as even his relatives call him. He kindly accepted to be my first guest.
Guga runs Poup, an online cashback startup. Poup’s business model is simple: they are a list of online stores. If you buy things in one of these stores, Poup gives users money back.
The magic? They share the money the store gives Poup to each successful sale with the user.
Guga (center) and Carlos (right) with Poup’s team
So, Guga, could you tell us a little bit about your background?
Sure! I worked for a large corporation for several years and, in 2010, just decided to join my wife and apply for an entrepreneurship master degree in University of London. It was close to what I did in my job and innovation and entrepreneurship were always passion.
And when did Poup start?
During my stay in London, I launched with a group of friends “TipGain”. I got also in love with technology – my iPhone has a great part in it – and I have seen with my eyes that running a tech startup could be fun and the thing I wanted to do for a living. So I got back to Brazil and started discussing startup ideas with one friend from London, day by day, while I was figuring out what to do with my life. The both of us like a lot coupons and discounts and I’ve discovered the cashback business model and loved it. Then, we decided to start testing hypothesis in a Wordpress blog which became Poup’s MVP. My friend decided not to continue in the business and I’ve found a nice team here in Brasilia, specially a great CTO, my co-founder Carlos Botelho.
Besides being a non-technical founder, you’re also self-funded. How did it happen to you?
Since I started worked as an intern, I always earned more money than what I spent. So, make savings it’s a habit for me. When I decided to start running my own business, I got savings to at least be comfortable for a period while Poup is still growing in profits. When I came back from London, I received a nice proposal to work in an innovation area and with a confortable salary. At this time my wife was already pregnant and it made me think a lot.
However, by this time I was going to Stanford University, in the heart of Silicon Valley, to take part of a short entrepreneurship program called Emerging Silicon Valleys. When I was there I called the company, thanked them for the generous offer and said I could not take it. At that time, I felt that I was “all in” with Poup.
The fact that now I have Alice, my beautiful 2-month daughter, also pushes me into finding a way of making money with Poup, day after day.
You talked about Stanford and Silicon Valley. What were the greatest outcomes about the weeks you stood there?
I’ve been there for about two months. The most exciting thing I discovered there is that we, here in Brazil, are so close of what is done in the Valley. We have great ideas, we also have great entrepreneurs and we can also have success running startups. Speaking of entrepreneurs and ideas, we are in the same level.
And are you happy for what you have done until now?
You can be sure! We’re now open to public and this is such a great milestone to me. It allows us to tell more and more people to try our product and help make it better. I’ve also learned that a technical team was so necessary to make things work fine – and got a little bit anxious while we were developing our first version. But now we can run many experiments that we couldn’t before, like A/B testing. We’re also working hard to make more users know about Poup.
They are coming, aren’t they?
Yes, we’re happy about the growing rates. We got a few tier-A media cover, and this was great and generates a lot of qualified traffic. But we’re talking about e-commerce and, as a business-to-consumer platform, we need to scale – and scale fast. So, besides being bootstrapped, we’ll be starting to look for funding pretty shortly. The main goal is to scale our users, specially by fine-tuning the acquisition channels.
It seems that you got a lot involved with e-commerce in Brazil. What do you think about this market?
It’s a very hot one! The average online sales value in Brazil is R$ 350 (US$ 175) by sale – people usually don’t believe me when I talk about this number. Until now, we got an average of R$ 500 (US$ 250) in Poup. Conversion are looking pretty good right now.
If your plans succeed, how do you see Poup five years from now?
I can clearly see an online sales kickoff place. I see Poup as the place to start your online shopping experience. And, by the time, we think about turning this into an organic behavior. We care much about our partners – you’ll not see online stores in Poup that can’t be trusted. For the merchant, we offer people willing to pay for what they offer and in a “shopping mode”.
And, if Poup fails… What’s next?
To be honest, if we didn’t succeed, there’s a great chance that I’ll run a new business, maybe a startup. But now, as a father, there’s also the need of food on table. And, if everything else goes wrong, I would be very glad to work with innovation, entrepreneurship and startups in a company if it’s needed.
But, come on… =)
I really believe that we’re helping people with Poup and we’re just in the beginning of something nice. I’m very excited about that.