By Leo Valiquette
We're excited to be hosting Brazilian startup Yupi Studios at the Communitech Hub this week. He is in Waterloo Region this week through the Canadian Digital Media Network’s Inbound Soft-Landing Program and sponsor OpenText for the mentorship and counsel to prepare Yupi Studios for that next stage of growth.
In the midst of another busy day at the Communitech Hub for Erisvaldo Gadelha Saraiva Junior was a big “Woohoo!” moment, courtesy of BlackBerry Developer Evangelist Bryan Tafel.
Tafel provided Saraiva Junior with a BlackBerry Z10, a licence to port his company’s current game, Yupis, to the BlackBerry platform, and an invitation to join the Built for BlackBerry program. Third-party apps that are certified under the program earn a stamp of approval that signifies to consumers a higher level of quality in a crowded app market. Even more importantly, certified apps benefit from an additional promotional push from BlackBerry through its app store, social media marketing, and direct and channel marketing efforts.
“We want to protect user experience, but we also want to evangelize the developer,” Tafel said. “It is good for both the developer and the user.”
It’s a welcome opportunity for Saraiva Junior and his Brazilian startup, Yupi Studios – which develops apps, games and other creative content for smartphones, tablets, smart TVs and social networks.
Tafel, who hails from Argentina but travels extensively for BlackBerry, represents the Canadian company’s focus over the past year-and-a-half to build a strong and dynamic developer ecosystem. In fact, he is himself an entrepreneur who started his own company almost a decade ago.
“We are really interested in working with startups, because we realize that quality apps, the best apps, are coming from startups and entrepreneurs,” he said. “So we want to give them the best of the resources we have so they can have a successful business. If they have a successful business, we will have a successful business.”
Potential for partnership
But it wasn’t the only opportunity that presented itself during the day. Saraiva Junior also met with Rob Drimmie, Development Manager for Communitech’s Apps Factory.
The Apps Factory provides an innovative and cost-effective set of services to support anyone’s efforts to take an app from concept to commercialization. Its services, which operate on a revenue-neutral fee-for-service model, includes staging, prototyping and brokering meetings between its clients and the external development partners that can help take an app all the way to market.
While Drimmie and Saraiva Junior discussed how the Apps Factory works and its efforts to create meaningful work placements for co-op students from the University of Waterloo, the crux of their conversation was the opportunity for partnership.
As we have discussed in the previous posts chronicling Saraiva Junior’s visit, Yupi Studio’s long-term business plan is to develop an educational gaming platform for children called Yupi Play. Serving as an app studio for hire is only a short-term means to pay the bills. But Saraiva Junior is always looking for opportunities to ensure that the studio-for-hire side of the business is stable and manageable so that as many resources as possible can be devoted to developing the platform. That means not having to constantly chase after new work.
“I would rather have one, two or three long-term partnerships that will give us fixed cash flow and make it easier to focus on developing our platform properly,” he said.
He and Drimmie agreed to talk further about the potential for the Apps Factory to be such a partner.
As the parent of a child diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, Drimmie also had some great advice to offer about the market potential of Yupi Play.
Yupi Play will be the first mobile entertainment platform in Brazil that connects parents, children and educators. It will focus on educational gaming and provide a social network that is secure and more suitable for youngsters than, for example, Facebook, which has an age restriction of 13 and up. The platform will feature dashboards for parents and educators to track and direct progress and also be open to other developers.
Drimmie suggested the platform could also be ideal for the occupational, speech and other therapists who work with children with special needs. It holds the potential for therapy to continue outside of an active session with activities that the therapist, and the parent, can monitor to track progress.
Back to those problems and pain points in the market
Identifying and defining such market opportunities lies at the heart of what startups learn when they engage with Communitech’s HYPERDRIVE accelerator program. Saraiva Junior also spoke with the program’s Managing Director, Doug Cooper.
Yupi Studios has already benefited from an incubator program, the six-month Startup Chile program, which is now being duplicated with Startup Brazil.
“It was a great experience,” said Saraiva Junior. “I realized we needed to focus more on the business, it’s much easier to pitch your idea when you have customers.”
However, Startup Chile focused more on meet ups and the creative collisions between entrepreneurs that naturally arise in a co-working environment. There was little of the structured mentoring and emphasis on accountability that characterizes HYPERDRIVE. Saraiva Junior’s meeting with Cooper left him seriously considering applying to be part of a future cohort of the Communitech program.
For Cooper, a big part of the appeal of HYPERDRIVE is the unique ecosystem in which it resides.
“Having a 1,000 tech companies (in the Kitchener-Waterloo region) means you have a 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs to learn from and that is of huge value,” he said, because it allows entrepreneurs to always find that next mentor who has already worked through the next challenge they face. “You need a lot of choices, otherwise you quickly hit a glass ceiling, which I think happens in a lot of markets.”