Brazilian entrepreneur Arie Halpern, a disruption expert, gives some tips to anyone who wants to immerse in the business world
Brazilian entrepreneur Arie Halpern has been accumulating successful experiences in many parts of the world since the 1970s when he was 20 years old. Among other achievements, he has developed a fleet supply system, the CTF, which became the world leader in embedded loyalty programs, and the Premmia – loyalty program for Petrobras. Always aware of the opportunities and pitfalls of the market, Halpern, author of the Disruptive and Connected blog, lists seven steps for anyone who wants to venture out into business disruption.
Keep your feet on the ground
The excitement with the idea of a new product cannot keep the entrepreneur from a cold analysis of the market. “The proof of the product’s utility and cost-effectiveness is the number one test,” Halpern says. Elementary, no doubt about that. But to get the right answers to this elemental question one needs to know what to ask and to whom, he says.
Appraise the turnaround time
The project should only be implemented when you are sure of its technical and economic feasibility. This is another point Halpern insists on. The answer involves the evaluation, for example, of the product’s intended market (is it growing? is it promising?), and the time required to overcome the resistance to innovation and conquer the consumer. Taking the curve of new technology adoption seriously, the entrepreneur will have the elements to assess when that idea will actually start to bear fruit — or rather have a financial return. One should not start a walk in the desert without having enough water to reach the destination or at least the nearest oasis. “The question to be answered is: will I have the financial strength to support that period? Amazing as this idea might be, it should bring results before the investors break”, says the entrepreneur. If this is not possible, it is best to abandon the idea or wait for a favorable moment to put it back on the agenda.
Be pragmatic, but also a dreamer
An inventor is a key figure in the disruptive business. “The point is that they tend to be dreamers,” says Halpern. The pragmatists, on the other hand, are those who are anxious to know whether an innovation is applicable in the real world. These are usually the marketing professionals. The innovative company needs both, each one working in their own place. As the entrepreneur explains, “the creative person develops the technology, the pragmatist helps to transform the new technology into a product or discovers where the consumers who still do not know they need that technology are”.
Evaluate the barriers to competition
A vital issue for the company is to assess whether the technological innovation that is proposed can be replicated by the competition. “If the replicating cost is too low the business has no future and dies before starting”, teaches Halpern. To make the investment and effort worthwhile, you need to be sure that the cost will be high enough for those willing to compete in the same space.
Check out the working capital
Disruptive businesses do not overrule market laws. One of the most common mistakes among innovative entrepreneurs is, indeed, to believe that it is possible to immediately sustain the company with the first sales. “It’s an illusion, don’t fall into that trap. Without working capital, no business survives”, alerts Halpern.
Submit the product to the stress of tests
“Test, test, test are the three crucial steps in the development of a product”, according to Halpern primer. You need to check how the target consumers will react to the innovation and, at the same time, if the product will resist when in contact with them. Even if the idea is great, it is important to be supple and make adjustments that can increase the empathy with the consumer and facilitate the adoption of the innovation.
Have a strategy for the short and the long term
It is important for a starting company to invest in technologies that can be put into use immediately and ensure survival in the short term. (The pragmatist is crucial here.) At the same time, the entrepreneur cannot stop preparing future moves. “A good strategy”, suggests Halpern, “is to, aiming at the medium term, think about finding new disruptive applications, not yet anticipated by the conventional market, for the existing technology. And, looking at the long term, invest in the creation of what no one has yet imagined, exploring the futuristic vision of the inventors and dreamers “.
Do you know Arie Halpern?
The Brazilian entrepreneur Arie Halpern has since early had an attraction for risk taking and a taste for innovation. In the 1970s, being just over 20, he focused on the map of Brazil’s exports and saw an opportunity in Africa. There he went to sell umbrellas and sunglasses to the Africans. It was not what he had imagined, as the Chinese were already there charging “Chinese prices”. Halpern decided, then, to focus on the United States market. There he discovered a niche that granted him excellent businesses: to sell canned fruits — mango, guava, pineapple. To win the contracts, he had to break a sweat in convincing the Brazilian manufacturers to adapt the product and the packaging to the requirements of the US market. After this, Halpern’s taste for innovation found fruitful ground in the development of technological businesses. In Brazil, he developed the manufacturing of phone channels duplicators which were used by all the telephone companies to alleviate the lack of lines at the time.
As head of CTF Technologies, he revolutionized the supply system of vehicle fleets in Brazil. When the business was sold to a foreign partner, the company had more than 5 thousand customers and processed the purchase of more than 3 billion liters of fuel per year. He transformed the company into a global leader in loyalty programs with embedded technology. After that, he developed a loyalty program for Petrobras — the Premmia — based on collection technology and system management at the sales points. He is currently focusing on two products that have in common disruptive potential. One of them is a dietary supplement for monogastric animals under the Tonisity brand, which is initially being marketed to feed pigs. Pigs? Yes, and this is a business that aims a flock of 1,2 billion animals worldwide The other is Gauzy, a company that has widened the possibilities of glass application. Equipped with liquid crystal film, this innovative glass can control light penetration as well as turn it into a surface for projection of images.