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Close Your Eyes And Jampp: An Entrepreneurial Journey

Joana Picq Tuesday, 29 April 2014.

I was born in Paris, grew up in Rio, studied in the US, lived in South Africa and Australia then worked at Microsoft in France and Germany, but when it came down to launching my first business I moved to London for it. There is something about the English speaking world that attracts task driven and results oriented people, making it an ideal environment to build something from nothing.

shutterstock 165749363That said by 2009, after failing my first two startups in the UK, I came to realize markets also play a role in building a startup. Europe was barely surviving recession whilst Brazil enjoyed a booming economy and flux of international talent and investment. So I launched another startup there - which also failed, most probably because I was still running the other 2 and based in London.

But that's when I learned the most important lesson of all: startup failure is all about execution. I failed 3 startups altogether because of myself - not markets or anyone else. I failed on the execution, first and foremost for lack of focus, but also for trying to roll-out a long term vision from day one. But those failures brought me the most valuable insights, and I'd do it all over again.

I still decided to leverage the tech boom in Latin America and relocated back to Brazil to set-up VoyagePrive.com in 2011 - being focused paid off, and once operations were running I was able to reconnect to the startup community in LATAM. Many entrepreneurs were gaining traction, various US & EU funds were investing in the region and Brazil was the promised land for eCommerce and web in general but 3 years later we still haven't seen many exits backing that promise.

I decided it was time to try setting up a new business, only making new mistake this time, not the old ones: I took on coding (learned the basics of Javascript, HTML, and ObjectiveC), I took the time to decide what business to build (no jumping on any idea, because this time it would be one business only), and I knew I had to build something with global potential from day one, no matter which market I started out in (no copy-catting for a quick exit).

Then one day an idea came to mind to build a mobile app (not necessarily a business), and at 2am as I stared at the ceiling an entrepreneur friend from London came to mind - my friend Diego would be amazing at helping me with this... So the next day we jumped on Skype and he was in on helping me design and fund the app, but seeing as he always offered his long life co-founder Martin to join on any investment, we had to open it to him. Martin was also in and we started playing with mock-ups.

By day 5 I started looking at their business, which had recently pivoted from social gaming to mobile advertising and I got hooked. They were not looking to add a partner and I wasn't looking to join an existing business but we saw the potential on working together on Jampp. Diego in London, Martin and the development team in Argentina and I went nomadic to find out where our clients would be. I spent the last 2 years flying between Europe, NYC, SF, Brazil, Mexico, selling mobile app installs to clients of all types and sizes thanks to the technology we've built and improved over time.

Last November I decided it was time to come back to South Africa and see how much of a market we could develop in the continent. A few Naspers companies had become important global clients and the potential on that partnership alone was worth the visit. But I didn't expect to find what I found in Cape Town - a flourishing tech startup scene with talent and potential for growth beyond the region. Just 10 months prior, on a holiday visit, I had told friends: "I would never live in Cape Town, it's too isolated and there is no business here..".

A month later I told my partners we were setting up office here - South Africa felt like Brazil 3 years ago; green fields, lots of potential, and a bourgeoning middle class with growing access to the internet, especially through mobile devices. On top of that, South Africa speaks English, the language of money, which makes a huge difference when pitching to US/EU investors. It also has Cape Town to attract even better talent than Rio or São Paulo ever did. But above all, it has bureaucracy simplicity and a strong connection to Europe - you can set up a company within a few weeks, apply for a visa without paying a fortune and easily transfer money to and from the EU or the US.

I'm looking forward to being part of South Africa's ascension to becoming one of the World's top tech hubs.

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Joana Picq

Joana Picq

Joana is a civil engineer turned serial entrepreneur. She worked for 8 years as an International Business Manager; at IBM in Rio, Microsoft in Paris & Munich (incubating acquired software companies across Europe, Middle East and Africa), then VMware in London (running OEM Alliances at EMEA level), before moving to the web industry and becoming an entrepreneur. Joana founded 3 other businesses, from online marketplaces in Brazil to Business Services in Europe.
Joana is currently a partner at Jampp, leading the new digital advertising era of mobile.

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