The year was 2003. Carlos Leite, a student at the Faculty of Computer Science at Universidade São Paulo (USP), was already a frequent visitor to the programming labs and an enthusiast of agile development. Along with two college colleagues, who were advising on agile development, he helped develop a solution that turned the cell phone into a means of payment.
At that time, there were no smartphones – the first iPhone would be launched four years later – and the use of cell phones basically consisted of making calls and sending SMS messages (in addition, of course, to snake games and other simple games that served to spend time).
It was there that he discovered his passion for entrepreneurship. The solution gradually became a product and was sold to Oi in 2007. “It cost R $ 75 million. I remember this number well because people think we start a business like this and get rich. But, in fact, I earned my money and kept working a lot ”, he recalls.
It was a complete wallet solution, which allowed the payment of bills at establishments using only the cell phone SMS. Called Oi Paggo, it survived for some years in the operator’s catalog. Meanwhile, Leite and his partners continued to work with similar solutions and even implemented an equivalent product in Nigeria.
After the absolute success of the first product, sold to a major telecom operator, the partners ended up losing a bit of the “ground of reality”, according to him, and stopped focusing on the product and customers. “We just wanted to speak in the United States, on Google. We strategically broke the face, ”he recalls.
He also realized, over time, that he thought differently from the other partners, which led him to new challenges. “I wanted to work with new technologies, with the cloud, and I saw that we were stuck in that world of the data center, the physical server.”
Telemedicine ahead of time
The entrepreneurial streak and the look for innovation would continue to guide Leite through her career. “I was never in a comfort zone,” he says. “I have always liked and accepted the new challenges.” And it’s not a catchphrase; Leite’s trajectory shows where this restlessness took him.
Her challenge right after working with payment solutions, for example, in 2012, was a project for an online platform that sought to communicate between doctors and patients under the name of medicinia.com.br.
There were many obstacles, especially in the beginning, when the service was aimed at the end customer – the patient. Regulatory agencies and sector entities recommended that doctors not use the solution, under the justification that it was telemedicine, an illegal form of care at the time.
Today, when he sees how essential telemedicine has become in the lives of Brazilians and the population around the world because of the coronavirus pandemic, Leite jokes and says that “timing was not yet ideal” in 2013. As well as the means payment solutions, which are revolutionizing business transactions today, the solution was ahead of its time.
But the platform was adapted and found its niche in b2b, attracting hospitals and clinics as customers, in a solution based on intelligence for operational flows, making communication with the patient more efficient. It is still in the air today, but Leite is no longer there. “When the project started running on its own, I realized it was time to go to another startup,” he says.
“Society is a marriage and that’s where the challenge of entrepreneurship begins: choosing a partner.” For Leite, the creation of a new startup meant, in most cases, the association with partners he had met in previous ventures and, above all, the construction of fantastic teams, after all people are essential in this journey.
It was like that after Medicinia, when he left for Skore, an Edtech startup, that worked with knowledge management, corporate training, employee onboarding and optimization of sales teams. It was another project that attracted large customers and continues today.
But Leite still needed to know other environments. He met a friend: Alexandre Stuber, whom he had met in Medicinia. He learned that Stuber was working on an e-commerce solution called Mercado Fresh.
The startup had already received investment, but Leite was not enthusiastic at first. The reason: the rejection he had developed for e-commerce solutions at the time. “I thought e-commerce was basically putting a product catalog on the air. It was a very ignorant view indeed. But everything changed when he told me about the idea, the complexity of the problem that we were going to solve. I was in love with the possibility of taking the physical shopping experience online. I took on the technology part and we played the Fresh Market until mid-2018.”
Despite his central role as an entrepreneur and investor, Leite never stopped working directly with technology. His resume always included positions like “Head of Engineering” or “CTO” in these companies and startups in which he worked.
So when his latest challenge came, he was ready to accept. He and Stuber were brought in by St. Marche to help increase the network’s e-commerce solution and assist the company in a major digital transformation at a time when topics such as omnichannel were becoming even stronger. Now, more than ever, bringing the experience of physical shopping online needed to become a reality.
On March 13, 2020, when all countries in the world were frightened by the rapid spread of the coronavirus, Leite took over as CTO of the St. Marche Group with the aim of accelerating the transition to the omnichannel without the supermarket losing one of its main values: personalized customer service.
“Before, e-commerce and physical marketing still had very independent actions. With the pandemic, everything got mixed up and the teams started to play more together ”, says Leite, who took some of his experience in years of startup to help the company transform quickly.
The complex journey of the “customer centric”
The entrepreneurial bias and the trajectory for different startups – including those that “foresaw” solutions that would only be feasible years later – showed Leite the importance of keeping a disruptive eye and an open mind for technologies that simplify and speed up operations.
But the central element on this road has always been the same: the desire to seek a better experience for the consumer. “This is value delivery”, he defines. “The omnichannel is that. It is to understand the signals that the consumer sends and to enable the channels to process these signals. ”
According to Leite, large platforms and heavy structures make companies less competitive than competitors who operate with more simplified platforms. “These structural decisions can make everything win or lose in an omnichannel world. To make it easier, there are platforms and tools that support and help when making these decisions. In the end, the goal is always to create the healthiest consumer experience possible. ”
Although it is not possible to predict what tools and technologies will arrive to improve operations in the future, Leite is sure: anyone who is dedicated to delivering a customer-centric experience will be able to remain relevant.
“In the end, what everyone wants to know is: how do you manage to deliver the right content to the right customer, at the right time, on the right channel?” Says Leite, who asked this question to the head of machine learning at Google two years ago behind. “He replied: ‘that even Google doesn’t know how to do!’. That’s the $ 1 billion question, ”he jokes.
“But we will only discover this by reading the customer and anticipating their demands. IT has to become the brain that understands the needs of the customer. But, at the same time, we cannot robotize everything and lose the human side. ”
The CTO of St. Marche – and an entrepreneur par excellence – defines this journey as “very complex”, but he is certain: as long as he can, he will be part of it. “When someone calls me for a good challenge, my answer is, ‘let’s move on’.”