From Berkeley to Brazil, Lean LaunchPad is Heading South

With a grant from the U.S. State Department, Berkeley-Haas is piloting a program to train highly motivated Brazilian entrepreneurs striving to bring new ideas and technologies to market.

The program, announced by the White House last month during a visit from Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, will be co-funded by Brazilian universities,  government institutions, and potentially by private sector partners. The goal is to train entrepreneurs and instructors in the Lean LaunchPad framework developed by Berkeley-Haas Lecturer Steve Blank to provide entrepreneurs with the tools to quickly create, test, and iterate on their business models.

“Brazil is experiencing an entrepreneurship boom, but there are few structured and scalable training programs in the country,” says Haas Lecturer Flavio Feferman, (pictured), who spearheaded the initiative for the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship. Brazil lacks the deep experience that we have in Silicon Valley, with multiple generations of founders who become mentors (and funders) to the next generation, Feferman says.

“Therefore, training programs for young entrepreneurs in Brazil has become particularly important,” he says. “Our objective is not to just train teams of entrepreneurs, but to train instructors and to build the capacity of institutions that will disseminate the knowledge throughout the country. ”

The Berkeley-Brazil program is modeled on the I-Corps program.  The Lester Center runs the Bay Area I-Corps Node, with funding from the National Science Foundation, to accelerate the commercialization of science and technology. Recently the Lester Center utilized the same approach in training programs delivered in Catalonia and Saudi Arabia.

Feferman, supported by the Lester Center, spent about eight months presenting the concept to Brazilian institutions to get the effort off the ground. On a flight to the Amazon he connected with a State Department official who was interested in entrepreneurship training as a way to promote development in the country and to strengthen US-Brazil relations. The conversation, and subsequent proposal, eventually resulted in the $250,000 government grant to fund the pilot stage of the program.

Brazilian universities and other institutions will provide matching funds for the pilot program, and the Brazilian National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES), have been supporting the initiative. Feferman says that the pilot program will start with two rounds of training, with the idea of building it as a national model that can be replicated throughout the country.