Venture firm seeks the atypical, and finds it in Brazil

Vinod Sreeharsa – NY Times, 02/23/2012

Atomico went off the beaten path for its first investment in Brazil, and not just in terms of geography.

Last year, Haroldo Korte, a partner at the venture capital firm, drove 300 miles from São Paulo deep into the southern rural interior to meet with Paulo Biancalana, a self-made entrepreneur with no university education who had turned a local auto accessories dealer into a fast-growing Internet business. Working out of a ramshackle building, he had become the country’s top seller on a leading e-commerce site, MercadoLibre, and started Connectparts — which together gave him annual sales of $10 million.

Atomico had to woo Mr. Biancalana, who was initially suspicious of outside investors. After roughly six months and a half-dozen meetings, Atomico invested $7.5 million in the start-up, which is now being courted by other venture capital firms.

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