They are young, they are Brazilian and they have a dream not only to conquer the world but to change it too. And to do that, they are counting on Mappa, a content curation platform to help people grow as human beings, that is currently in beta testing and is scheduled to be launched globally on 14 October.
By helping people to make smarter choices and to use content for their personal development, these entrepreneurs believe they can have an impact on racial, social and gender prejudice. The goal? “We’ll know we have succeeded when people like Donald Trump don’t gather any public support!” states the startup.
Developed over three years, Mappa is a spin-off of Inesplorato, an analogue knowledge curation company founded in 2010 and based in São Paulo.
“During six years, there was this pressure: how and when you are going to scale your business? We attracted a lot of attention in Brazil and even outside Brazil but people questioned how we would reach a wider audience,” Débora Emm, one of the founders of Inesplorato and Mappa tells me.
In search of growth
To grow, the founders invested a lot of time and money in the development of an algorithm which “reflected the human aspects of the service” but at the same time allowed them to offer a cheaper and faster experience for users.
“Our algorithm finds connections between the information collected from the content and from the user, instantly building a tailored and game-like experience that helps users grow as individuals whilst having fun. We open doors that Amazon and Netflix close,” the startup proclaims. Mappa will be a subscription website, charging US$5 per month for its services.
Emm confidently details her ambitions: “We are aiming high. We are going to be a global platform and I even believe it is going to be easier for us to grow outside Brazil since a lot of content we curate is in English. For sure, we are going to reach more than one million users.”
Below are the highlights of our long chat covering algorithms, choices and innovation in Brazil.
Q. On your website you say: “We’re all drowning in an infinite sea of information.” Are you the rescuers?
A. Mappa is our guide. We are going to help people choose what to watch, to hear and to read. We believe people’s process of decision making today is quite poor. We don’t even realise sometimes how important these decisions can be. We believe that good choices related to the kind of content you are going to read or to watch can contribute to your evolution, to your personal development. So Mappa exists to help people make more conscious decisions as to what to focus their attention on.
So how we are going to be rescued?
Mappa has two main premises. The first one is that we dedicate time to make a continuous diagnosis in order to know and to learn more about each user - and not only to know what he or she is interested in, like, for example, politics. We want to know what are their questions about life are, who they are as a person...
The second premise is that we know a lot about each [piece of] content. So we have a collection and each content [piece] in this collection is extensively analysed and catalogued. And the algorithm then cross-references the information it has about the user and about the content in order to understand if there is a positive relation between them or not. Netflix says they know a lot about the user but in fact they know in terms of herd behaviour. We know about the user in a customised and individual manner, and we know about the content in terms of analysis, and not only to which directory it belongs.
But it must be a more expensive process?
Yes, it is more expensive. And that is one of the reasons that it took us so much time to launch the platform. But once we have already built this first version of our collection it is easier to scale and to constantly update it. I believe we are following a different path from other companies: we are not eager to please our users. Mappa is a knowledge platform.
You are not interested in pleasing your users?
Let me explain. I meant to please in the sense of offering them just entertainment. What we learned from our beta-test users was that our users’ expectations are different. The user understands that some content will be a pleasurable experience but other content will create discomfort. By being uncomfortable, they will learn and refine their abilities. Mappa is not for everyone. It is not going to be Netflix. We are going to be big, but our ambition is different. We are looking for this one million people that see knowledge as an opportunity.
One million users in what period of time?
In two, three years’ time. We are ambitious because if you are not you won’t get anywhere.
What is so different about the algorithm you have developed?
Our insight is how we collect information and which information is relevant or not to us. We don’t collect information in terms of Big Data. We believe in a direct interaction with our user, learning from [his/her] human behaviour, from [their] beliefs.
But people lie, sometimes even to themselves…
That is another reason to explain why it took us so long to launch the platform. We spent a lot of time in interview rooms. It took us time to know which questions to ask and how to ask them. We brought this analogue experience, this eye-to-eye interaction with users, to the development of Mappa.
How do you see the culture of entrepreneurship in Brazil, specifically the digital entrepreneurship?
The Brazilian market is still strongly influenced by the international market. I am quite critical of it. There are too many startups here trying to solve problems that are not relevant to the Brazilian market. We copy other startups, we try to do what the Americans are doing. There are really few initiatives developed from our necessities.
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