On the women's entrepreneurship day, we interviewed Deborah Malheiro, Appnext representative in the program ScaleUp inBrazil, an accelerator program to international tech companies that aim to expand to Brazil - designed by the Brazilian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, The Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency and Israel Trade and Investment Brazil.
Deborah, in this second batch of the ScaleUp inBrazil program, you are the only woman leading the business internationalization initiative in Brazil. Tell us a little about your background and how you came to be responsible for Appnext's international expansion to Brazil.
So, I have been working in the ad-tech industry for more than 5 years, even though my first degree is actually in Journalism and my master’s in political science. After working mainly as a client account manager, I arrived to Appnext 2 years ago and my job was to manage the app developers who were the direct advertisers of the company. 6 months ago, an opportunity came and I moved to Sales and started to lead this expansion to Latin America, especially in Brazil. This has always been one of the company`s goals, but with a Portuguese native speaker I guess that was finally the right fit. For me personally it represented a great challenge as I had done Sales only in the beginning of my career. And, even though I am from Brazil, I had never dealt with clients there, so for me that was more used to European/Israeli way of doing business that shift also proved to be demanding in the end of all.
Appnext was founded in Israel and nowadays has a global presence in different regions of the world. As Appnext's business development leader in Europe and Latin America, how do you see the presence of female entrepreneurship in Israel, Europe and Latin America?
Well, I guess we can`t deny that unfortunately if we compare these regions in terms of presence of female entrepreneurship the situation is very much unequal. Generally speaking, while Europe and Israel provide better policies and initiatives for women to be more present in the business working places, in Latin America we can observe that in the vast majority men are still occupying these spaces. It is not that in Europe or Israel inequalities do not exist, but in Latin America the challenges on this area are way harder. I believe we still have, in all regions, a long way to go in terms of more female presence in the entrepreneurship world. It should be all government`s priority to guarantee the representativeness of women in the business field and also to make sure to empower women so that they are able to have access to these opportunities.
You are Brazilian acting in an Israeli company. What are the similarities and differences between the Israeli and Brazilian business culture?
What I feel is that both Brazilians and Israelis are very warm-hearted and friendly people, who like to go more to a personal level when doing business. However, while in Brazil personal connections are one of the top factors for decision-making, in Israel I believe that is not the most important thing. Another relevant difference is that in Israel all the processes happen very fast, they prefer not to waste so much time on pondering and go straight to the testing phase. On the other side in Brazil the decision-making process takes more time and in general also involves more people and more papers, while in Israel they hate bureaucracy. In the end it is important to find a common ground between the two cultures, understanding that if you want to do business in Brazil it is mandatory to change your mind set about the practices you are used to and open your mind to new ones.
Finally, leading the business internationally has some challenges. What advice would you give to the next women who want to lead international expansion initiatives to Brazil?
I believe the most important factor is to have confidence in yourself and not give up given that certainly there will be challenges on the way. Leading an expansion in a different country is never an easy mission, there are cultural differences and different ways of doing business from the ones you have been doing so far. So it is essential to try and test few initiatives and approaches until you find the ones that will work better for you. Also, you need to be open to fail and learn a lot on this process, since there isn`t a ready recipe on how to coordinate this expansion. On top of that, as I mentioned for an entrepreneur woman in Brazil there are extra unspoken challenges that are posed, so again it is important to be secure in your work and on your professional value and make sure you are being respected. Finally, try to be creative and think out of the box! Sometimes we focus so much in the final result of a goal that we tend to forget to think about the process and of course enjoy it a bit.
Deborah Urbach Malheiro
Deborah is business development leader, EU & Latam at Appnext, an Israeli startup that recommends users with apps they need throughout their daily mobile journey.