When Brazilian tech entrepreneur Raphael de Albuquerque was looking for an office in the U.S., metro Atlanta wasn’t initially on the radar. New York, Silicon Valley and other places topped the list based on reputation alone.
“It’s not normal for us over there thinking about Atlanta, specifically for tech companies,” said the CEO and founder of Zoox, which operates wi-fi platforms and access control systems for hotels and transportation authorities.
When he saw the city with his own eyes, he observed a few competitive advantages: ample entrepreneurial support from the Georgia Department of Economic Development and institutions like Georgia Tech, a competitive cost structure and helpful Brazilian service providers with a presence here, like tax and legal advisory firm Drummond Advisors.
But one thing put it over the top: livability, he said during a Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce Southeast webinar on Georgia’s innovation ecosystem.
“When you decide to go into some place, you do not decide alone, you have to decide together with your family,” said Mr. Albuquerque, a father of two who subscribes to the “happy wife, happy life” axiom and emphasized the importance of settling one’s family when it comes to cross-border investing — a fact he believes is often overlooked.
Georgia’s recruitment agencies pride themselves on operating as a family that shares information and provides assistance to companies at various stages.
Mr. Albuquerque was admitted to the Advanced Technology Development Center, the state’s incubator housed at Georgia Tech, but all firms can avail themselves of resources like the state’s trade and investment office in Brazil and its Centers of Innovation on IT, Agribusiness, Aerospace and other key sectors, a few of which were on the call.
Chris Chammoun, director of the agtech innovation center, said the southern part of Georgia has become a magnet for Brazilian agribusiness companies looking to bring their innovations to market, from fertilizer firm Forquimica to Colombo North America, which brought a new type of peanut combine to the U.S.
“It was a new design, a different type of harvester that was not seen here before, and it was a true innovative market disrupter, and they’re slowly gaining more and more market share,” Mr. Chammoun said, adding that Georgia is attractive for its blend of agricultural research and commerce.
Fro Brazilian firms, support like that provided by Georgia is vital, said Pedro Drummond of the eponymous advisory firm, but they also have to do their own homework.
“The most successful companies — they first adapt the product and check the market,” he said, noting the differences in taxation, immigration, labor law and competition.
Zoox has followed this framework, building out its repertoire from its Alpharetta office and winning new customers like the New York City subway system, all while staying connected to home in Rio de Janeiro through nonstop flights from Atlanta and graduating from the ATDC.
“Our technology is growing over here — we are very happy, and my family is very happy to choose Atlanta not just as our business headquarters but our life headquarters as well,” Mr. Albuquerque said.
ALos on the call were Grant Wainscott, director of ecosystem expansion at the Metro Atlanta Chamber; Mariana Desani, trade and FDI specialist at the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s office in Brazil; Glen Whitley, director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for IT. The discussion was moderated by Maria Luiza Pinho of the Georgia State University Robinson College of Business. Chamber President Lucia Jennings provided opening remarks, while Chairman Gene King, managing shareholder for Invest America, closed it out.
Watch the video here: