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Douglas Nicolau has been volunteering since he was eight years old. Founder of Incentiv.me, winner of the “Social Impact” category of this year’s Latam Edge Award, Douglas’ early interest in social projects made it so that this area became the core of his journey as an entrepreneur.
Throughout his life as a manager, administrating and creating projects to be subsidised by the Incentive Laws (Leis de Incentivo), he gradually realised that his work facilitating projects faced many obstacles due, mainly to the lack of connections between the proponent of the idea and the potential supporter.
He asked himself why over 60% of projects die before ever leaving the planning stage, and why does this number not add up? At that moment, a company started forming – a company that began by creating and executing social projects and that soon became a TaxTech: a startup utilising technology to innovate the tax system.
After getting into the Acceleration Programme - StartUp Farm - at the Google Campus in 2015, the founders were able to validate their thesis and establish Incentiv.me, whose focus is to deliver a complete solution for companies looking to make use of tax incentives to support good causes and connect them to institutions that need these resources. For that, they established a marketplace which has, today, over 400 projects involved and over 120 companies interested in sponsoring good ideas, totalling over US$ 200M in investments and around 1 million lives that were directly impacted thanks to the projects that were able to come to fruition.
This platform was only the beginning. From it, Incentiv.me developed an Incentive Laws Map, which includes a “potential calculator”, helping companies identify all the tax benefits they can use.
The second product was Conecta, a marketplace platform automating part of the match process between companies and the most relevant initiatives for their social responsibility strategies. Recently, the company launched a third product, a governance and transparency tool called Monitore. Through it, companies can accompany social projects they have invested in through taxes and direct grants, that way, they are evidencing ESG initiatives through performance reports.
"Recently, I have seen an EY report saying that 81% of the work hours of those involved in ESGs are spent looking for data! We deliver data that is current, in real-time, and clearly laid out, which ensures that potential investors save both time and money,” says Douglas.
In 2018, the company carried out their first round of investments, having received a contribution of US$ 1.4M, led by Harvard Angels and investments from Anjos do Brasil e Insper Angels. Instead of utilising these resources in their cash flow, they chose to invest in the creation of a Network of Impact Executives, so as to bring more engagement to their projects. “They help us with mentorships, openings alongside large companies and, in 2021, we executed another round of investments and reached 220 C-Level executives who help us a lot when it comes to strengthening the bond with this community,” says Douglas.
With this network put in place, Incentiv.me’s projects began to gain traction, establishing a win-win environment for all involved. Both guests and others who might be interested in the network can participate after going through a selection and integration process. It is important that people who get involved are focused on helping to get social projects out of the planning board and into the real world.
Today, their projects are largely in the fields of Education, Culture and Health. Only around 3% are from the area of sports. “A field that has been growing a lot currently is social inclusion and diversity”, says Douglas.
How does it work
To be a part of Incentiv.me, projects must be approved within the Incentive Laws. There is no fee charged if you would like to put your project up on the marketplace.
A fundraising contract is signed, and then presentations to potential investors are carried out. Once the matchmaking has been done, the project, as established by the Incentive Laws, will pay a “success fee” to Incentiv.me, rewarding them for their role as the fundraiser.
Access to the platform is free for companies in order to encourage more companies to seek out ongoing projects. “Just to paint a picture, 65$ of the companies in our ecosystem did not use tax incentives previously and have now begun to make use of them”, says Douglas.
Competitors and expanding internationally
Companies such as Incentiv.me see the market they are in as a large network of potential partnerships, and that really facilitates the process of encouraging the connection between competitors, who, actually, end up also adhering to partnerships with the company. Today, Incentiv.me is present in 35 municipalities and 12 Brazilian states, and is looking to get out of the Rio-São Paulo axis so that new projects can be boosted in different regions of the country. “If we think about Incentiv.me the way it is today, we strongly believe that we are a company structured to work on the area of end-to-end incentives”, Douglas highlights.
Throughout the years, Incentiv.me clients with overseas operations have started to demand information about incentive laws around the globe, as a way to support social projects. This movement made it so that the company started to pay more attention to their operation in markets outside of Brazil. “Taking part in the Latam Edge Award 22 was deeply aligned with the moment we are going through”, says Douglas.
The expansion should happen through the platform through the integration of local players, given the complexity of this business. For that to happen, the company is looking to establish parameters for their results making use of international metrics, which are considered the ultimate authority when it comes to social impact. “Currently, there aren’t one or two unique parameters, because everything is very new in this field, but we are working to consolidate a variety of parameters in order to have the best level of information possible. With that in mind, we have, over time, created an archive of Incentive Laws for us to refer to, so we can choose the best parameters on a case-by-case basis”, says Douglas, adding that the company has a strong commitment to transparency, which they will never give up on.
Still speaking about the challenges that might be faced in the next two years, Douglas mentions the choosing of collaborators, since that is a crucial area in the company. Another challenge is the increased polarisation in Brazil, which has been decreasing the possibility of dialogue. “It is worrisome and I can see that we will face tough times ahead. Dialogue is fundamental”. The third challenge is to think about internationalisation without losing sight of local business, working in a way that is well structured and planned, realistic.
“We want relevant projects to have access to resources with a lot of transparency. This is good for the project, good for the company, and very good for everyone”, he concludes.
For more information, just access: www.incentiv.me