Brazilian Startup ZeroPaper Reaps Rewards From Scrimping and Saving.
By: Lianna Patch
Photos: ZeroPaper/Intuit – Media Relations
In the startup world, you often hear, “Well, I could have thought of that.” But as anyone who has actually launched a startup knows, it’s not the thought that counts. It’s the willingness to live on instant noodles, move cities multiple times, and work on your business without any support, that counts — and that’s what the four founders of ZeroPaper did.
Andre Macedo, Arley Moura, Carlos Eduardo Braga, and Cadu Carvalho founded ZeroPaper in 2012 as a free, cloud-based small-business finance solution. At the time, the founders were all working at major Brazilian banks. “Each one of us is good in one area,” Macedo explains. “We all have different talents, but we are aiming at the same goal.” While Macedo is the self-described “business guy,” Braga is the C.F.O; Moura is the C.T.O; and Carvalho handles the platform’s design.
The partners wasted no time securing funding for ZeroPaper. “We had the idea, and then we went to Rio de Janeiro to pitch our idea at 21212 Accelerator’s Angel Day event,” Macedo says. ZeroPaper won just a little venture capital — only R$ 20,000, or $8,000 U.S. — but that was enough for the company to take its next step. “We were thrilled,” Macedo says. “We left our city, Brasilia, and moved to Rio de Janeiro to make it happen.”
Once in Rio, it was time to hunker down and work out the kinks. “In six months, all we did was work hard while living on instant noodles to save every penny,” Macedo says. “We invested our capital seed into legally organizing the company, paying a lawyer and an accountant to file all the paperwork correctly. From our banking experience, we knew how important organization is to a business’ [ability] to thrive.”
At 21212 Accelerator’s next Demo Day event, ZeroPaper’s hard work paid off. “Once again, we got picked up by an investor, but this time, it was a venture capital company, TOTVS Ventures — one of the largest in Brazil,” Macedo says. “One year later, we got acquired by Intuit.”
This irresistible buyout was exactly what Macedo and his fellow founders were aiming for. Putting aside the (probably substantial) terms of the Intuit deal, which went undisclosed, ZeroPaper had set its sights on a single goal: lowering the mortality rate of Brazilian startups. “In Brazil 73 percent of small businesses will survive more than two years, and the lack of financial control is the biggest failure factor,” Macedo explains. “We felt like, ‘Mission Accomplished’ — now we would be able to do what we’d dreamed [of doing]. We want to help more small business owners to take financial control of their business.”
ZeroPaper received other offers, but held out for the one that felt right. “We got other acquisition proposals before, but none of them had the same business philosophy we had,” Macedo says. “Intuit does … It does not matter that we are not the owners anymore. What really matters is that the Intuit deal equipped us with better tools to accomplish our goals.”
What’s Next on the Books for ZeroPaper
Though eventually, the plan is to integrate ZeroPaper into Intuit’s QuickBooks Office suite, the ZeroPaper platform is still available — and earlier this year, TechCrunch reported that it had more than 450,000 users. “QuickBooks and ZeroPaper are not competitors,” Macedo says. “The companies that use QuickBooks are larger than the ones that use ZeroPaper. It is a distinct market. Together, we can offer a complete line of FinTech tools to cater to any size of business.”
The transition from ZeroPaper to Intuit has gone “very smoothly,” Macedo reports. “We moved from Brasilia to São Paulo, and we are working on building up Intuit’s infrastructure in Brazil.” Before Intuit inked its deal with ZeroPaper, the financial services behemoth didn’t have an office in Brazil; now, Macedo, Moura, Braga, and Carvalho are helping open its São Paulo bureau.
The Intiuit-ZeroPaper fusion is good news for Brazilian entrepreneurs who, like Macedo and his partners, are willing to put in the work to make their businesses succeed. “The tech bubble, where everyone thought they could make millions in a few months by owning a startup, has burst,” Macedo says. “Nobody is that naïve anymore.”
In other words, if you want your startup to succeed, get ready to eat some ramen.
Lianna Patch is a writer and editor from New Orleans, LA, whose portfolio spans copywriting, cultural publications, and literary journals.
ZEROPAPER´s PITCH AT THE 21212 ´s DEMO DAY
Carlos Braga Talks about ZeroPaper