Renata Bell, Milan Lee, Roger Pai, and Paul Roberts are part-time Berkeley-Haas MBA students who had the opportunity to advise KIDU, a Brazilian Education Technology startup in Sao Paulo, on potential go-to-market strategies. Combining their diverse professional experiences, the four MBA team members proposed a solid recommendation for KIDU, through insights generated from seven weeks of interview, research, and design thinking.
Despite lost luggage and sleep deprivation, our first day in Brazil was amazing. We went straight to the market to sample the food and coffee, and were immediately welcomed by the warm Brazilian helpfulness. Before the trip, we had been warned of robbery, violence, and kidnappings in the surrounding São Paulo area, but that was not our reality. Although our hotel and KIDU office were in a nice neighborhood, we never had any trouble venturing out of the neighborhood.
Our first meeting with KIDU over delicious Brazilian style pizza
We were greeted by our hosts on the first evening. They were incredibly nice people and took every opportunity to share their favorite places to go and best places to eat with us. Brazilians love their food, and Paulistanos (San Paulo residents) regularly flock to their favorite restaurants. On the subsequent work days, we had the opportunity to meet the rest of the KIDU staff and interviewed them regarding their teaching experiences in Brazil. The KIDU staff had an infectious enthusiasm for life and teaching that we’ve never seen before.
Meeting with other KIDU staff and teachers
During our first week, our hosts arranged a series of K-12 school visits and cultural activities for us. One of the most impactful experiences was when we visited Jardim Angela, located near São Paulo. During the 90’s, this area was considered one of the most dangerous places in the world by the United Nations. The area is much safer now and currently has 400,000 residents. We met up with our NGO contact at A Banca who generously showed us around the favela. Our impromptu interviews with a group elementary school aged students, who were playing soccer barefoot, allowed us to realize how the underprivileged kids share the same curiosity as kids coming from better socio-economic background.
Kids at Jardim Angela sharing their stories with a KIDU staff; the favela is in the background
The Haas team with NGO A Banca
Another cultural visit: Haas team at one of the Sao Paulo stadiums
In the weekend between our two-week project engagement, we were fortunate to visit Rio de Janeiro for sightseeing. Coincidentally our trip aligned with the World Cup final between Argentina and Germany that was being played in Rio. The whole scene was chaotically filled with Argentinean fans chanting the rivalry song, Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising”. We almost lost one of our team members to a group of Argentinians; as we were leaving the restaurant after a dinner, Roger was hoisted above the Argentinian fans to be transported to the next bar for party. Despite the craziness, the fans released Roger, and we were able to proceed with the rest of the itinerary to visit Lapa (the nightlife district), Sugarloaf Mountain and Copacabana beach.
View from Sugar Loaf Mountain at sunset
The second week was intensive as the Haas team worked in “Brazilian hours” to converge all insights and finalize project recommendation. Brazilians generally work long hours and dinner often takes place around 9pm. The Brazilian stereotype for their love of beef is no exaggeration, but they also have excellent seafood, cheese, finger food, and juices. It is typical to have coffee after lunch and sometimes after dinner; however coffee is usually in the form of an espresso shot rather than the large cup of coffee that Americans are used to. We enjoyed fresh squeezed juices every opportunity we got—our very favorite was the superfood Acai.
Delicious meal of Bahia (South of Brazil) cuisine
Haas team working on a late night to prepare for final presentation
On a final closing note: The four Haas team members were from different cohorts, classes, and backgrounds that interacted mainly only over the phone prior to this trip. Being thrown together day-and-night for two weeks is a crash course in learning how to compromise and work effectively together. We each quickly learned to be patient with each other’s eccentricities but also discovered new things about each other that brought us closer together. We ended this trip genuinely caring for each other not only as classmates, but close friends who experienced a unique experience together.