Sure, we all know about Silicon Valley in the US, but who knew there is more than one down in Brazil? Home to almost 150 million internet users and sixteen unicorns, according to CBInsights, it’s no surprise that tech innovators have been making moves in this market. Even more – last year, StartupBlink’s Startup Ecosystem Report awarded Brazil the highest country rank in Latin America, placing it beside the UAE, Taiwan, and Norway.
At least seven cities are staking their claim to the title of ‘Brazilian Silicon Valley,’ bustling with tech companies and showing off serious innovation. We discussed the most prominent tech hubs with over 20 senior software developers living there. Below, find some insights about Brazilian technology centers that we gathered for you.
São Paulo: The Big Apple of Brazil
- The number of citizens: 22,620,000 (Macrotrends.net)
- The number of tech talents: 350k in Software and Tech industry
- Local startups: C6 Bank, Creditas, Nuvemshop, Wildlife Studios, Loft, Unico, CloudWalk, Loggi, Dock, Neon, Movile, CargoX (CBInsights); Nubank, XP Inc., Infracommerce, EmCasa.
São Paulo is one of the hottest innovation hubs in Brazil and the entire region. Its strong unicorn presence (12 of 16 Brazilian unicorns nest there), robust fintech sector, and record-breaking startup funding figures have made the city an industry-leading ecosystem. It’s a thriving environment for entrepreneurs to start with, given its urbane vibe and abundant public and private support networks that are in place.
In particular, VC’s Sequoia (Nubank), and Flybridge (EmCasa and Infracommerce) chose São Paulo as their gateway into Latin America, while other firms like Redpoint eVentures, Kaszek, and ONEVC also have offices here. Naturally, large international brands have also moved their base of operations to São Paulo.
Today, 63% of businesses that operate in Brazil have their headquarters here. This includes Netflix, which bases its entire Latin American operation from offices in the city’s financial district. As a result, São Paulo has become the 16th best city for technology businesses in the world.
“São Paulo is a vast, professional, and cosmopolitan city, and its startup ecosystem is much more developed than that of most Latin American cities,” says Gina Gotthilf, co-founder and COO of Latitud.
In 2019, a local company and venture builder Potato Valley Ventures was established, focusing on construtechs and projects to bring innovation to the civil construction and real estate markets.
São Paulo strikes an enticing balance between opportunity and capability for those looking to climb the career ladder and make a name for themselves. Yet the sheer number of people in this populous city means that living here isn’t all fun and games; crowded streets filled with traffic can quickly add to your daily commute.
When searching for the best talent in Latin America, we’re interviewing hundreds of technology people from there, and here’s what they say about local tech hubs. Rafael, a Node.js developer for 20+ years, shared that ten years ago, a move to São Paulo may have been the best choice for those looking for their first tech positions. But today’s job market brings certain advantages and changes – most notably, that companies must be better to compete on a global scale.
“Employers now need to prioritize employee wellbeing by providing fair pay and remote options; something which was harder to come across back then,” – Rafael says.
Belo Horizonte: The talents forge
- The number of citizens: 6,248,000
- The number of tech talents: 30k in Software and Tech industry
Belo Horizonte has been making waves in the tech startup scene lately. With a vibrant and highly educated workforce, venture capitalists have jumped at the chance to support locals dreaming of starting their businesses in tech. The city also offers plenty of incentives with tax breaks and grants, making it an even more attractive spot for entrepreneurs hoping to get ahead. Additionally, the state is home to several universities and tech schools, allowing tech professionals to stay up to date on the latest technologies and trends.
Luís, a Node.js/React.js developer with 15 years in tech, says there’s no better nominee for the new Silicon Valley title than Belo Horizonte in Minas Gerais.
“Belo Horizonte is among the largest cities in Brazil, after São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and it is home to many tech and biotechnology firms. Google has since invested more than $200 million in Belo Horizonte alone, where hundreds of technology professionals are working. The engineering center is headed by Berthier Ribeiro-Neto, a former professor and the founder of Akwan,” – Luis says.
Also, a recent announcement claims that Google is expanding its footprint in Brazil, looking to double the size of its technology staff from 200 people to 400 by next year. Most engineers are based out of Belo Horizonte currently, but Google plans on investing further with a new office opening in São Paulo that will house more than just commercial operations – it’ll also be home to many new tech hires.
“These decentralized innovation hubs [like BH] make large companies see startups as technology providers and not as a bunch of kids who are building apps,” says Thiago Veloso, head of marketing at Crawly, a Belo Horizonte-based startup.
As we wrote earlier, Latin American tech professionals have a unique work culture. They value teamwork, trust, and a positive psychological climate at the workplace. Renato, another Node.js developer, adds that Belo Horizonte conforms to that type of culture at most.
“Minas Gerais is the Silicon Valley of Brazil, where innovation thrives and relaxation reigns. By contrast, São Paulo bustles with high-energy vibes as people race to keep up with its fast pace,” – Renato says.
Curitiba: The Guadalupe Valley
- The number of citizens: 3,813,000
- The number of tech talents: 25K in Software and Tech industry
- Local startups: EBANX, Olist, MadeiraMadeira
Curitiba, the vibrant Brazilian city synonymous with cutting-edge urban architecture solutions, is now making waves in a new sector – technology.
Locals know Curitiba for its safety, good climate, low costs, great medicine, innovation, and plenty of green spaces compared to other capitals. Software companies and startups have been dubbed the city ‘Vale do Pinhão’ – an initiative creating an exciting hub of tech talent and future success stories. It offers tax deductions, provides opportunities for meetups and rounds with entrepreneurs, trains tech students of all levels, and helps create real change in the city.
“It is much better to endeavor in a collaborative environment. Curitiba has improved a lot in this aspect, and it is also positioning itself as a tech city, which helps to attract investments,” — Cris Alessi, president of Agência Curitiba, a governmental body.
In the up-and-coming district of downtown Curitiba, tech startups are creating an atmosphere reminiscent of Silicon Valley. It’s no wonder locals have dubbed this part ‘Guadalupe Valley’ – there is a high concentration of unicorns like EBANX (cross-border payment processing), Madeira Madeira (an online marketplace for home products), and Olist (an e-commerce solution). This buzzing hive has become a meeting point for entrepreneurs to catch up over coffee or exchange ideas in the lift.
Floripa: San Francisco 2.0
- The number of citizens: 1,294,000
- The number of tech talents: 12K
What lurks in the shadows of palm-lined beaches and high-rise condos? Tech entrepreneurs hustling to make it big on a small island. Could this pristine paradise become ‘San Francisco 2.0’, an oasis for ambitious innovators making their mark with their tech products on the global stage?
Florianópolis (also called Floripa) shares many details with San Francisco: from the climate to the love for coffee shops. With its stunning beaches, bustling start-up scene, and highly skilled engineers, Florianopolis has carved out a reputation as an attractive destination for tech professionals. It offers the perfect mix of connectivity to the outside world – with international flights and easy access to the Internet – as well as affordability, making it both accessible and desirable.
Carlos, a senior Ruby on Rails developer, says many startups are opening and growing job opportunities there. Since it’s close to the coast and lovely to live there, Florianopolis is a fantastic place to enjoy; although he hasn’t been there, he always wanted to. Marcelo, his counterpart with 30 years in tech, agrees with this statement.
“São Paulo is the Big Apple of Brazil – with its bustling culture, lots to see and do. But smaller cities like Florianopolis have more charm: less traffic and fewer people make it a better choice for true relaxation,” – Marcelo says.
Recife: The digital harbor
- The number of citizens: 4,264,000
- The number of tech talents: 15K
As globalization pushes companies to switch to remote, technology specialists find themselves scattering around smaller cities that are more comfortable and affordable for life. Fernando, an RoR developer for 20 years, states that Recife and Fortaleza are amazing cities for tech companies and professionals and are inexpensive.
Recife is also home to a large port and is a significant business hub in the region. Two decades ago, Recife was bursting with untapped potential. Boasting the highest number of computer scientists per capita in Brazil due to their esteemed university’s education, it seemed that the location had finally hit its stride — and yet hundreds still migrated abroad or to São Paulo every year for high salaries. Realizing they needed a solution before this talent would be forever lost, Porto Digital — an innovative technological park — was established right in the heart of Recife.
Porto Digital has given the historically impoverished northeast of Brazil a creative new face. Transforming formerly abandoned buildings and historic landmarks, this tech hub generated an impressive $430 million dollars in revenue in 2019 alone. Companies residing at Porto Digital can take full advantage of fiscal incentives reducing their local and federal taxes by 60%, as well as access free meeting rooms and laboratories — with 11,000+ people from 350 companies allowed to vote for its advisory board every general assembly.
“It’s from Porto Digital that we will rewrite the economy of the state and, perhaps, of Brazil,” says Eduardo Peixoto, CEO of CESAR, a Porto Digital member.
Campinas: The tech powerhouse
- The number of citizens: 3,423,000
- The number of tech talents: 14K
Campinas is the tech center of Latin America; it’s home to many high-tech firms and startups. The city boasts two industrial parks (CIATEC I and II) that has become highly attractive for world-renowned technology companies thanks in part to UNICAMP, a prestigious state university located in Campinas providing skilled talent. The region also has its unicorn, QuintoRadar, a provider of credit scoring solutions for banks, retailers, and other financial institutions. Also, Campinas is home to one of the largest Brazilian companies called Ambev Tech.
Campinas’ prime location provides easy links with São Paulo and international airports, making it one the most sought-after spots for technological innovation. More than that, Campinas sweetens the pot for tech businesses with major tax reductions, as 50% cuts on IPTU and ITBI taxes make it an attractive spot to set up shop. And that’s not all: Any company coming into town can also expect a reduction of 2% in ISSQN Tax rate plus exemption from Fees and Emoluments.
Fortaleza: The innovation hub
- The number of citizens: 4,206,000
- The number of tech talents: 16K
The coast of Brazil is proving to be an unexpected tech hotspot, with the city of Fortaleza emerging as a vibrant hub for innovation. Away from the hustle and bustle, its combination of seaside tranquillity and cost-effective prices offers tech professionals balance in their work lives.
An initiative that promises to push the city to the tech even more is 1918 Labs, a Fortaleza innovation hub that promises to accelerate startups. Fortaleza Esporte Clube is coming together with partners BS Innovation to form a hub that serves as a bridge between football and tech – following suit after other famous teams like Palmeiras, Barcelona, and Real Madrid have formed their own similar initiatives.
“The main objective is to accelerate business related to the sports vertical and others related to the club’s activities,” explains Strauss Nasar, CFO of BS Innovation Hub.
Brazil is fast becoming an emerging hub for tech talent, with its very own Silicon Valleys offering developers exciting opportunities. With the promise of a supportive environment full of culture and authenticity, Brazilian tech hubs are proving themselves as one of technology’s frontrunners.
Luís, a Node.js/React.js developer: “Brazil could become one of the key hubs for developers in a decade, as companies are beginning to establish themselves despite economic instability. In 10 years, we may see Brazil grow into an impressive tech center like India is today.”
Read also about tech hubs in other Latin American countries.