The startup programme that brings Brazilian technology to Silicon Valley

Published on Thursday, 18 October 2018

At one point or another in our lives, we have all dreamt about flying. Ever since the Wright brothers made their first flight, humans have continued to research better ways to fly around the world and to optimise the information gathered while doing so. A passion for aviation is precisely what inspired Brazilian entrepreneurs Fabrício Hertz, Lucas Mondadori, and Lucas Bastos to set up their company Horus Aeronaves, in 2014. Together they are transforming their enthusiasm into tangible ideas and developing drones that provide data acquisition and processing services through Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology.

“To be innovative is to have a flexible and creative mind. Innovation for me means small changes that provide a considerable improvement in our lives.”

– Lucas Momm Bastos, COO of Horus Aeronaves

Around the same time, another Brazilian company was growing and conducting similar research but in the field of smart cities. The startup SmartGreen was established in 2012 and it works with integrated solutions to automate public lighting and Internet of Things (IoT) related services. Smartgreen is developing the city of the future.

“Innovation means finding opportunities where others would not normally find them, through solutions that others would not normally try.”

– Daniel Russi Netto, co-founder of SmartGreen

Good ideas deserve to be rewarded, which is why both of these Brazilian startups have been selected by Enel. They will have the opportunity to test their solutions with Enel and then scale on Enel businesses. To make sure that the scale up phase is successful, Enel is bringing the two startups to San Francisco to take part in the Mind The Bridge Startup School. This three-week programme provides an in-depth overview of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and allows startups to evaluate their businesses. During this time, they will be involved in workshops, mentorship sessions, corporate visits, pitching exercises, as well as local excursions to get a holistic view of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. “Expectations are high and I am sure that this experience will provide Bastos and Netto with the tools they need to scale up their solutions,” says Fabio Tentori, Head of Enel Innovation Hubs and Startup Initiatives.

Flying high over Brazil

Lucas Bastos, COO of Horus Aeronaves, is particularly looking forward to the programme. “For me, the Startup School is a great opportunity to understand the Silicon Valley environment, to make new connections and to present my company in the US,” he says.

After several years of hard work and development, Bastos is proud to say that Horus is Brazil’s leading drone operating company: “We came first in the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles [UAV]  structural competition in 2013 and the following year we received our first seed money to develop an aircraft for surveillance. In 2015 we started our commercial operations and we sold our first aircraft to EMBRAPA [the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation]. Since then, the company has received more than 3 million dollars in investment.”

Horus Aeronaves manufactures and sells UAVs made  out of carbon fibre and designed to map large areas and fly long distances. Additionally, the startup offers an “online platform to process drone images and extract data through algorithms based on computer vision and artificial intelligence,” Bastos explains. Thanks to technology embedded in the aircraft, they can convert data into useful information for the end user. They have also developed their own “network of drone operators throughout Brazil to offer the DAAS (drone as a service).”

Making cities smarter

SmartGreen on the other hand, was born out of a need: “The main motivation for the development of an end-to-end platform for remote asset management was the deficiency of wireless communication systems in Brazil, especially those provided by the mobile operators, in addition to the lack of ready and viable solutions in the market,” explains Daniel Russi Netto, one of SmartGreen’s co-founders. 

The company specialises in the concept of a smart city focused on integrating various services, such as an automated public lighting, a connected network that is managed remotely by an operations control centre. “The system is connected to street lamps that form a wireless mesh communication network and we work with different models that can adapt to all types of lighting,” he explains. Netto adds that the main purpose of their system is to provide “better services to the population through automatic problem detection and the reduction of operational costs.”

As the concept of a smart city is broad, SmartGreen offers additional services that can be integrated with their network: “Public property security, utility management of public buildings, public fleet management, environmental sensing, garbage collection, to name but a few,” explains Netto. The co-founder of SmartGreen will attend the Mind the Bridge Startup School and expects to “improve pitching skills, prospect potential business opportunities in the US, increase networking and discover success stories of similar startups.”

A focus on Energy and a chance to shine in Silicon Valley

The technology developed by both startups has the potential to significantly impact the energy sector. Horus Aeronaves’s technology “is beneficial because drones are a cheaper, safer and more reliable tool for inspections,” says Bastos. He adds that their UAV “can be applied to the inspection of power lines, solar panels as well as wind turbines.” SmartGreen use their platform to automate energy metering. “The purpose is to provide the reduction of operational costs through automation, as well as providing the utility company with online data on the energy consumption profile of its customers,” explains Netto.  SmartGreen also use IoT in the automation of solar energy microgeneration management in homes, factories and buildings.

Now, thanks to Mind the Bridge and Enel, Horus Aeronaves and SmartGreen have the opportunity to shine in the North American and European markets. The Startup School enables young companies like these  to conduct a thorough evaluation of their projects and empower their value proposition through  60 hours of structured activities such as workshops hosted by seasoned professionals, mentoring sessions and weekly presentation critiques. By the end of the three weeks, they will have obtained valuable feedback and experience that they can take back to their home countries. In the case of Horus Aeronaves and SmartGreen, “the Brazilian ecosystem is quite different from Silicon Valley since in Brazil there are several obstacles that prevent entrepreneurial initiatives such as the cost of capital, high taxes, short-term vision and lack of government support and a culture of innovation,” says Netto.

IoT, drones and smart energy are among Enel Group's business lines, so the Startup Program is an opportunity to boost research within these fields. It is also beneficial for startups, as Bastos explains: “With this new partnership with Enel, we will go a step further in the development of AI solutions embedded into drones.”

Opportunities are on the horizon. Stay tuned!

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