Building bridges in social innovation: the case of Pipe Social

Social innovation is the latest trend in entrepreneurship around the world. In Brazil, the biggest challenge is to connect investors and start-ups. During the European Development Days, event organised each year by the European Commission, The New European had the chance to interview Carolina Aranha. A Brazilian entrepreneur and speaker at the event, Ms Aranha shared her views on social innovation and women’s empowerment.

Carolina Aranha is one of those people who are not afraid of success. An expert in product development and technology, after a long time working for Microsoft and Telefónica (the main Spanish telecommunications company) she decided to combine her passion for volunteering with her expertise in innovation. This drive for social change encouraged her to create a consultancy in Brazil called Impactix, whose aim is to impulse start-ups with a social impact.

After continuously receiving calls from investors and start-ups that were both looking for their counterpart, this Brazilian entrepreneur realised there should be a way to facilitate business-matchings and at the same time provide a space for social innovators to show their innovative solutions. Entrepreneurs, Mariana Fonseca and Livia Hollerbach had the same thought. The three of them decided to join forces and co-founded an innovative platform. That was the moment Pipe Social was born.

Pipe Social is a platform that connects investors with social and environmental start-ups in Brazil and South America. The start-ups’ creative solutions are showcased in the platform, allowing investors to have a direct access to their profiles. Public response to Pipe Social was overwhelming and now the platform showcases more than 1000 start-ups.

The biggest concern for social entrepreneurs in Brazil is funding. The largest country in South America is not philanthropic at all. Therefore, it is really important for start-ups to be part of a platform like Pipe Social, to facilitate investments.

According to Carolina, the financial ecosystem in Brazil experiences an “egg and chicken” challenge: “Some investors get high returns on low risk credits, which discourages them to invest in start-ups, which are a high risk investments per se. This blocks the start-ups from investment“.

Bureaucracy is also present in the everyday life of entrepreneurs that have to deal with a relatively complicated tax system. Ms Aranha welcomes the fact that some Brazilian states, like Sao Paulo, are simplifying bureaucracy by establishing a fast track system that allows an entrepreneur to create a company within seven days. However, for Carolina, the main barrier for entrepreneurs is team building, “it is a hard task to find qualified professionals with experience in the tech sector”, says the Brazilian entrepreneur.

Pipe Social is also committed to a more sustainable and equal world. The platform’s six pillars narrow down all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Carolina believes that “with all the challenges the world is facing, such as climate change and social issues, it makes sense to have sustainable business models that generate a social impact”. Every day in Brazil, more companies pay more attention to the SDGs and take into account the social impact of their actions.

Gender equality is a pending subject in Brazil. For Pipe Social it is a priority to support women in the entrepreneurial world. Each year, this platform mentors pro bono some start-ups led by women. Only two out of ten start-ups in Brazil are founded and led by women. Women often experience more trouble in finding investments and struggle to find their place in a traditional male-dominated business. Carolina believes that it is necessary to address women’s self-confidence and encourage their presence in the tech and entrepreneurial world.

The story – and success – of Pipe Social testifies that social innovation is gaining ground in Europe and in South America. Thanks to the innovative solutions that social entrepreneurs create, there is still hope for making the world a more sustainable and better place.


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