May 05, 2016
We are excited to announce that Eduardo Silveira Mufarej, a partner of Tarpon Investimentos and the CEO of Somos Educação S.A., the largest K-12 education company in Brazil will be speaking at this years 3rd Annual Latam Founders Awards Gala on May 10th.
Before joining Somos Educação S.A Eduardo was a member of the Board of Directors of BRF S.A., the world’s fifth largest food company and Chairman of the Board of Omega Energia Renovável S.A., a company focused on renewable energy generation and also served on the Board of Arezzo & Co until 2013.
How did you make the transition from finance to the education sector?
I have been working in finance since 1998. During this time, I worked at Citigroup, CCF (which was acquired by HSBC), HSBC. Late 2003 I joined Tarpon Investimentos where I went on to spend 12 years as a Managing Partner and then as the CEO where I managed their portfolio, fundraising and operations of firm. At the time I was Vice Chairman of Abril Educação. The transition from finance into the education sector came when we consolidated control of Abril Educação, the opportunity presented itself and I left the board to became a full time executive of the company.
What were your motivations behind the shift in branding and how has this change affected the company as a whole?
Abril is a strong brand with strong recognition in Brazil but we felt that if we were really ready to build our own company we needed to detach ourselves from Abril in order to operate in a new direction. Somos means ‘we are’ and with this we had a sense of pride when making it into its own company, no longer a subsidiary of Abril, Somos Educação now stands alone as its own brand. In addition to developing its own brand Somos was a good motivation to make some internal changes, the people have changed in an aggressive way as well as the aspirations of the company. We shifted the focus of the company and sold assets that were not connected to mission, which is to educate young Brazilians and challenge the status quo of education. This needs to start at the beginning, so there is an emphasis of our strategy focused on K-12.
What new products / services are creating the biggest impact?
I am a strong believer that the teacher training programs will create a big and important impact; in terms of adoption, our tutoring and adaptive tools have been growing substantially. Another tool that has been making a big impact is our non cognitive tools for elementary school students, so far this has been a bit hit and a great success. The way I measure success is by the impact being made and the feedback we have been receiving. Non cognitive skills are hard to measure at a younger age but we have seen the level of engagement steadily increase, have received excellent feedback and are continuously making improvements to make sure students see progress.
Somos has made a number of acquisitions in the past, with the downturn in the economy, how do you view the market for future acquisitions?
We are increasingly seeing more opportunities in our space. We are paying attention to future acquisition opportunities, taking a strong look into the school operations space… expect some announcements later this year
Which trends in education / edtech are having the biggest impact on Brazil? and Why?
The ones catering straight to students. We are already seeing a large adoption rate from high school students taking the online prep courses. There are all sorts of tools available online, and distance learning that has been growing substantially over the last 2 years.
What are the biggest challenges to improving education in Brazil and how can technology make an impact?
We need to move from a place where the teacher is the sole protagonist and classes are being taught in the same format for everyone. Technology will play a major part in developing a more individualized platform, allowing educators to identify where student caps are and how to appropriately act on them. We are seeing that the adoption and acceptance of technology is much higher in private schools than in markets where the government makes the decisions around education. It is an exciting time for technology in the education space.
What are the major challenges for edtech growth in emerging economies such as Brazil, and rest of Latin America?
First would be broad band availability, second while there are a number of edtech tools and lots available content online they are not connected to the curriculum. In order to see greater progress these tools need to be connected to what the teacher is doing in the classroom, this is something we aspire to build in house or through acquisition.
What do you think will be the big disruptors in the edtech space will be over the next 10 years?
I think disruption will come from a solution based model rather then product based and whoever tackles that will succeed.
Can you walk us through a typical day in your shoes?
Essentially as the CEO of Somos Educação I am running 4 businesses so every day is different, diverse, and can be overwhelming at times. I make it a priority to visit schools on a regular basis in order to better understand what the school owners and families want, which in turn helps us to develop better solutions
When you aren't working, what do you like to do in your free time?
When I am not working I enjoy spending time with family and friends. Besides that, I Chairman of the Board of Confederação Brasileira de Rugby (Brazilian Rugby Union) and am a member of the Board of CLP, Centro de Liderança Pública (Public Leadership Center).