CEO talk: see how Sensedia is revolutionizing the API market worldwide
In the CEO Talk, we spoke with Kleber Bacili, who told how the startup raised, in the last round alone, BRL 120 million from Riverwood and how the business is expanding to the American and European markets.
The Kombi is a trademark of Sensedia ‘s history . It was there that Kleber Bacili and Marcilio Oliveira left the incubator in Campinas and made the first office change, of the many that marked the evolution of the startup. Today, the Kombi is a meeting point for employees at the headquarters, who get together to exchange ideas and have a beer.
From the spin-off with CI&T, Sensedia went from 10 employees to 850 in 14 years . A leap that reflects the maturation of the startup in the API ( Application Programming Interface ) management market. There are more than 200 corporations that have opened the doors to digital transformation through the platformization and integration of APIs.
Among Sensedia’s clients are large corporations, such as Natura, Porto, Zurich Seguradora, Neon (which went from a startup awarded in the 100 Open Startups Ranking to a Brazilian unicorn), in addition to companies abroad, including Peru, Colombia, Mexico and, more recently, the United States and England.
In the CEO chat, Bruno Rondani , CEO of 100 Open Startups and Kleber Bacili, Co-founder and CEO of Sensedia, talked about the startup’s growth, how the company started its internationalization process, based on the investment raised in 2021, and on culture management.
CEO talk: Sensedia towards internationalization
Sensedia established itself in the Brazilian market through the management and application of APIs for different purposes. With the growth of marketplace models in Brazil, the startup was able to mature its business model and scale. The consolidation of the brand opened doors to develop APIs focused on Open Banking and Banking as a Service . According to Kleber, these two fronts were levers that enabled the development and investment in new applications of the solution.
With credibility in Brazil, and already with clients and actions in other Latin American countries, the next step in the journey of success was to structure a strategy to conquer clients in the United States and Europe, places, according to Kleber, with fertile ground for growth of business.
“Here in Brazil, we were playing the Brazilian Championship, but there was a Champions League going on abroad that we wanted to win”, comments Kleber.
It was from there that the startup began to seek investments from foreign funds, funds that had well-consolidated cases and structures to support the search for foreign markets.
During the fundraising process, the startup talked to funds and major Brazilian investors. In conversations, the objective was clear: to ask for advice and feedback on the proposal. “If you want money, ask for advice. If you want advice, ask for money,” he says.
From mentoring to mentoring, the pitch was adjusted. For Kleber, it was essential to get closer to Brazilian players so that the proposal became more rounded and mature for foreign funds.
“This is one of the most striking characteristics of the innovation ecosystem in Brazil. Collaboration between players must be a premise for those who want to scale sustainably. Collaboration is everything when it comes to open innovation,” says Rondani.
Thus, after several exchanges, connections, mentoring and feedback , the startup raised, in 2021, BRL 120 million with the Riverwood Capital fund .
Series A funding was fully focused on the Growth Round , a funding round to reach new markets. And so it consolidated. Less than a year after the acquisition, Sensedia is already present in the southeastern region of the United States and also opened operations in Mexico.
With the focus on internationalization, the startup needed to develop new analyzes and actions to establish itself in foreign lands, since the brand competes with big names in the sector. Despite the challenges, Sensedia is already guaranteeing sales outside Brazil. Today, 10% of revenue comes from contracts with external customers. According to Kleber, the forecast is that, in the coming years, this percentage will reach 50%.
With the expansion, the startup also structured a Discovery strategy , in which a market study is carried out in the location where the company wants to capture customers. Thus, not all markets, for example, are under the umbrella of Sensedia. Based on marketing actions, attracting leads and how they behave, the startup analyzes whether or not it will be present in a given region.
Kleber also reinforces the importance of carrying out benchmarking for the idealization of new fronts. “Today, I don’t just look at competing companies, but also at comparable companies, at companies that are our size, and I analyze their performance”. In addition to corporations, Sensedia partners with other startups, fostering a connection between entrepreneurs.
Cultural Transformation at Sensedia
With the expansion, Sensedia now had 550 new employees in one year. In all, there are 850 employees, with more than 70% working completely from home. In addition to Brazilians spread throughout our territory, there are around 40 employees who work in other countries.
According to Kleber, having a vast team spread across several countries is a challenge in terms of cultural transformation . Therefore, the startup also created communication actions so that the teams are in total harmony.
Alignment is end-to-end, involving all leaders and all employees.
The startup’s headquarters, located in Campinas, is the space for teams working from home offices to meet for the development of new projects and innovations, as well as for training and other actions that require physical presence.