João de Paula, Glio: YCombinator’s First Latin American Startup Ep 85

Originally from a small town outside of São Paulo, João de Paula cofounded the first Latin American startup to participate in YCombinator back in 2013. Fueled by an obsession with making an impact, he unknowingly embraced the entrepreneurial spirit from an early age. He created different projects while growing up and then later taught himself to code to start his business, which he cofounded with his friend Roberto Riccio, a former professional poker player.

After his 7-year odyssey with the online platform, which was a local reviews platform for LatAm, João and his partner decided to close the company. João took a six-month break before deciding to return to the startup ecosystem by joining Origin, a financial wellness platform that helps people tackle savings, retirement and insurance.

In this episode I sit down with João to talk about Glio’s early days, raising money, applying four times to YCombinator and finally getting in. Joao also offers advice to entrepreneurs applying for YCombinator , how to prepare for the interview and get the most out of the program. We also cover his return to Brazil, the decision to wind the company down after 7 years of hard work, and his current plans for Origin.

“You didn’t have much value in an early-stage startup if you’re just a lawyer”

Those were the words João received from his best friend and Glio cofounder Roberto Riccio. Diving into the startup ecosystem hadn’t always been a clear cut path for Joao. His initial strategy to making an impact had been to study Law. However, he soon realized that was going nowhere, and around the same time Roberto had been working on what would eventually become Glio. In addition to being a professional poker player, Roberto had started the biggest poker website in Brazil MaisEV. 

Find out how Roberto’s passion for starting companies, Joao’s change in career, and a conversation over a couple of drinks birthed Glio on this episode of Crossing Borders.

Learning to Code in Sickness (and in Health)  

Unable to find a suitable candidate to become their third cofounder with a more technical background, Joao decided he would learn to code and cover that position while Roberto focused more on design and business models. It just so happened that João got really sick in that moment, which Joao describes as a moment of luck. He stayed home for three months and used this time to absorb as much information as possible on coding through books and online courses.

Learn more about this process as well as some of João’s top hacks for learning how to code on this episode. 

Fourth Time’s a Charm

The Y Combinator application process served as a resilience test for Joao and his partner. As admirers of Paul Graham’s essays, João and Roberto knew they had to get in the program to position themselves for success. With nothing to lose, and lots of time for improvement, they applied a total of four times until they finally received the interview call.

Check out this episode of Crossing Borders to hear more details and tips on the Y Combinator application process, interview, and overall experience. 

Lessons from a 7-Year Odyssey

If there’s one lesson João cannot emphasize enough is the importance of hiring the right people. In his experience, most of his employees stayed for the long term, some even from the beginning to the end of Glio. How do you achieve this level of loyalty? By rewarding employees well and ensuring they don’t burn out.

In this episode, find out how companies can improve their hiring practices as well as other valuable lessons learned in João’s experience in the ecosystem.

Show Notes: 

  • [1:33] – Joao’s current work: Origin
  • [2:27] – Flying from San Francisco to São Paulo
  • [3:47] – From Brazil’s countryside to Rio de Janeiro
  • [4:22] – Cultivating João’s entrepreneurial spirit
  • [5:09] – Joining Glio
  • [6:54] – Transitioning from Law school to Entrepreneurship
  • [8:47] – Learning how to code
  • [9:40] – Number one hack to start coding
  • [11:05] – Brazilian ecosystem in 2011
  • [12:29] – Jumping into YCombinator
  • [15:41] – YC Interview process in 2013
  • [17:11] – The first company in LatAm to be in YC
  • [17:50] – Advice to other founders applying to YC
  • [22:15] – Raising $1.5M in the Valley
  • [23:30] – Today’s market compared to 2013
  • [25:10] – Returning to Brazil after YC
  • [30:25] – Winding Glio down 
  • [32:08] – Lessons learned from the 7-year business odyssey
  • [35:00] – Decision to join Origin
  • [36:57] – Why Brazil is a great place to build a tech team
  • [38:06] – Advice to João’s younger self
  • [39:37] – Books, blogs, and podcasts Joao recommends
  • [40:58] – What’s next for João and Origin?

Resources Mentioned: