Tudo Bem in Rio de Janeiro

Team Funbio is working with the Brazilian Biodiversity Fund (Funbio), an NGO that funds projects in support of biodiversity conservation throughout Brazil.  Many of Funbio’s projects are dependent on their donations, and are unable to sustain themselves when funding from Funbio runs out.  To tackle this issue, Team Funbio was asked to explore alternative sustainable funding models, and ultimately propose a new financial mechanism to be applied to Funbio’s projects in different territories throughout the country. 

When our team touched down in Rio, we could barely believe our eyes – or our luck.  Somehow, mixed in with the magical megacity’s twelve million inhabitants are beautiful powdery beaches, hulking green mountains, dramatic rocky peaks, misty rainforests, tiny monkeys, heart-shaped lakes, and endless delicious juice stands. 

 

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Tom, Jenn and Mike walk along Ipanema Beach on our first afternoon together in Brazil.

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The view from our patio – Ipanema Beach and Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers) Mountains, with Vidigal favela in the distance.

 

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View from the top of Pão de Açúcar, after scaling 1300 vertical feet of rock to get to the top.  We’ve witnessed views of Rio from every possible angle and vantage point, and the city still takes our breath away.

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Liza asks questions in broken portunhol (a mix of Spanish and Portuguese) as she and Tom decide which mix of tropical fruit juices to try.  Carambola (starfruit) and laranja (orange) are the flavors of choice today.

 

Before we had even arrived at the office to learn about Funbio’s impressive conservation work in Brazil, we already had a personal sense of just how beautiful and worth protecting the country’s natural resources are – and how important it will be to continue building support, investment and engagement around these issues that are so critical to the future of the nation, and the world.

  

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A marmoset we met on Pedra Bonita, moments before Team Funbio went hang gliding.

 

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Mike’s spectacular views of Rio from up in the air attached to a kite.

 

Our first days in Rio with Funbio consisted of long informational team meetings, and equally long team lunches.  We quickly discovered the very common “quilo” (pay-by-weight) lunch options, which made afternoon productivity fairly challenging, especially when .75 kilos or more became a Team Funbio standard.  One of these lunches involved “feijoada,” a typical Brazilian stew with beans, pork, and other exciting additions.   Needless to say, like everything we’ve eaten in Brazil, it was delicious.

 

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Feijoada and other tasty items at a “quilo” restaurant in Botafogo, the neighborhood where Funbio’s office is located.  This plate weighed more than .8 kilos (and Liza scraped it clean).

 

Once we had a solid grasp on the complexities of Funbio and our objectives for the in-country phase of our project, we started the process of interviewing to gain insights into the viability of our proposed funding model, which involves a new and previously unconsidered outside investing component.  Over the course of 8 days, we met with key public and nonprofit leaders, academics, entrepreneurs, impact investors, accelerators, and other impressive individuals with interests and experience in the social finance and sustainability space. 

 

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Team Funbio meets with the founder of EcoSecurities, a leading project developer for international carbon markets, and Founder & Chairman of Guardiam, an investment platform that deploys both private equity and philanthropic capital to sustainable investments, in his beautiful office in Tijuca, Rio’s urban rainforest.

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Liza and Jenn meet with the Founding Partner of PIPA, the second accelerator in Brazil, and the first with a focus on social enterprises.  Some features of their offices included a pool, hummingbirds, and beanbag chairs.

 

We even made a trip to São Paulo for two days to meet with more interviewees in Brazil’s largest city, a sprawling sea of tall, grey buildings that stretches as far as the eye can see.  We can’t deny it – we were a little homesick for Rio while we were away.

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The gray view from the offices of IFC (International Finance Corporation), part of the World Bank, in São Paulo.

 

 We were both humbled and energized by our conversations with these experts, grateful for their openness, and amazed by the time they took to meet with us – from the 7:30am meeting in our hotel restaurant, to the 4:00-6:30pm meeting with an Amazon entrepreneur and private equity partner in São Paulo. 

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Team Funbio and our main Funbio contacts, Camila and Manoel, after our final presentation on the last day of our in-country engagement.

 

Yesterday, we delivered our final presentation to Funbio’s CEO, CFO, external stakeholders, internal staff, and many others.  And as we put the finishing touches on our final deliverable – a 40-page report on our proposed financial mechanism – we can’t help but feel a bit wistful that our time with Funbio in Rio is coming to an end.  But each one of us is absolutely certain that we’ll be coming back someday soon to Brazil – and of course, to Rio, the Cidade Maravilhosa.

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