Q&A With Tallis Gomes - Easy Taxi's Founder

Brazilian entrepreneur discusses the business mentality through Latin America

Frederico de Azevedo Aranha meets with Tallis Gomes, 26, founder of Brazilian eHailing business, Easy Taxi. The company is currently leading a successful expansion out of Brazil, through Latin America and into the rest of the world.


Q: Overall, how has your experience of expansion been?

A: Before expanding to different countries, we had to expand within Brazil itself. Brazil [is] a continental country [and] to overcome the diversity of cultures became our main challenge. Moreover, expanding internally was a necessary step in order to learn more about ourselves, so when we started expanding to Latin America we had already grown mature about our operation and our business culture.

We are innovators. We are lions. We are out there for the kill. Our targets are our competitors. Establishing a business culture is the first step in any internationalization process, because if you have a strong business culture, you can then look for people willing to play the right roles in this set up.


Q: In a recent post, Derek Footer, managing partner of Origo Ventures, said that it isn’t likely that we are going to see game changers coming from Latin America in the next years. He affirms that the region’s risk aversion is its main drawback. Do you agree?

A: Yes, unfortunately I do. In Venezuela, Argentina and Bolivia, governments are against economic growth. I’m not talking about right or left wing parties, but of a model of state, an ideal of life that is being sold to  people - one that creates not only state-dependant people but risk averse people.

When you expect the government to meet all of your demands, you become dependent and risk averse. In Brazil, for instance, the Labor Party has deepened such dependency to an extent that it only benefits itself and its power plans. Notwithstanding, we have an incompetent government that doesn’t seem able to rid itself from the old government-style populism - one that 70 years ago led to the creation of our weak labor and entrepreneurship laws. [These] laws are still in effect and hinder development.


Q: Is that related to the “Brazil Cost”?

A: Yes, it absolutely is. We can find cheaper qualified workers abroad. I am not saying that we can’t find professionals here. Being the largest Latin American nation, the best ones usually come from Brazil. What I am saying is that our culture is somehow not as professional as other cultures, as we tend to work in the “Brazilian way”, always postponing our own commitments regarding tasks, and thus, leading a professional life that isn’t exactly “by the book”.

I can hire a qualified professional in Colombia with a different working culture than I can find in Brazil. Here, for instance, labor laws are very strict and there are far too many benefits, which reflect on the behaviour of the workforce. Not surprisingly, working overtime or performing a task which has not been stipulated in the agreement may lead to a lawsuit against the employer, turning him into an enemy of the state and of society.


Q: Easy Taxi already operates in most Latin American countries with local offices. Can you tell me a story that illustrates that risk aversion abroad?

A: In Argentina, even though I find it a wonderful country, we were facing serious threats against our employees, especially in Buenos Aires, because some taxi co-operatives unions were against the adoption of the technology provided by Easy Taxi. They didn’t want a change in their business model. They were fed by weak laws and a state of economical paralysis that when we offered them a new way, the government supported groups felt threatened.

Our employees received real life threats, in Buenos Aires. They were told to “remove the app from the web”. This was as laughable as it was dangerous. Ignorance isn’t a bliss, it is a threat. Aiming at stopping the threats and gaining popular support, we had to promote a massive PR campaign through the main media groups, which we named “Freedom is a right”. It worked, but not as much as we intended since we are not operating as we wanted in Buenos Aires, but focusing in the less unionized cities of the country.


Q: Are risk and change aversion related?

A: For sure. If a country isn’t used to changes, it is probably because it is risk averse. If it is risk averse, it is because there is something wrong in its culture or in its economy. Changes can be good, but if we know that changes aren’t welcomed in a country, why would we take the risk?


Q: Are poor government and lack of public entrepreneurship policies what really define Latin America from the B2B perspective?

A: It is easy to criticize. However, I believe that Latin America and Brazil, as a whole, are competent enough to fight in global markets. Easy Taxi is Latin American and is the number one application in its market. We are killing our competition and that includes Uber, an American company.

Our professionals are competitive. We can and we will offer more and more solutions and services to the world, however, I still believe that our culture isn’t well developed when it comes to venture capitalism and that’s why I tend to agree with Derek Footer.


Q: You’ve been talking a lot about Colombia. What is it with the country that is making you so excited about it?

A: In Colombia I found a better set of regulations, cheaper access to qualified labor force, people willing to adhere to new technology and eager for innovation. It is a blue ocean for startups, because there are few apps aiming at providing local solutions.

Colombians are more process oriented, whilst Brazilians and Argentinians are more goal oriented. It is a difference we benefit from, since we are adding our own flavor to our team there. They are, like all of us, lions with one purpose: to eliminate our local competition. For example, if our team in Brazil is more worried with what to do, Colombians are more worried with how to do it. Together we are stronger.


Q: Easy Taxi is rapidly expanding and is already taking over Asia. What are the differences of working in LatAm to working in Asia?

I’ve been criticizing Latin America, but truth be told, we are some of the most innovative people on earth. All in all, we are all creative people with the ability to think outside the box. We can work on the edge, that’s how we do things. We live like that, that’s our reality. Asians, on the other hand, are more driven by hard logic. Colombians may be more process oriented than Argentines, but they do not compare to the Taiwanese in their passion for planning. What I am saying is that Latin America knows how to improvise and Asia know how to plan - generally speaking. Both are wonderful regions and I have much respect for all of our employees in Asia and they too can create wonderful things.


Frederico de Azevedo Aranha is a Marketing Graduate with a Post-graduation in Project Management and a Latin American entrepreneur. He would love to receive your feedback: aranha.azevedo@gmail.com