How Higher Education Can Empower Startups
titus is a higher education institution based on an “employer university concept” that prepares students for success in international business, links them with employers, and invests in their entrepreneurial goals. With campuses around Rio Grande do Sul, Atitus is a regional leader in practical education in the areas of business, health, polytechnics, law and agribusiness. One of the pillars of the proprietary methodology is the predictive journey of its students, leading to two paths in their training: entrepreneurship or high employability.
President and cofounder of Atitus Educaçao, Eduardo Capellari, started his career as a professor of political science. He developed a passion for education; however, early on, he saw a gulf between Brazilian higher education and the business sector.
Because of how higher education is set up in Brazil, the mainstream system creates a closed loop. “Together with my partners, we saw this huge gap between Brazil’s higher education and the reality of the business world, so we set out to bridge that gap.” For Eduardo, this mission statement is the main driver behind Atitus. When legislation around private universities shifted, he found an opportunity to expand the limits of higher education by founding Atitus with the goal of preparing students to be cosmopolitan professionals who can understand their role as part of an innovative international economy.
Students need to see themselves as part of a more significant conversation in the international business world instead of focusing only on local or national possibilities. This, according to Eduardo, is the main obstacle for Brazilian startups today: young innovators are not taught to think outside of Brazil and, in turn, outside investment and companies are not primed to look inside Brazil for international solutions. Atitus's primary focus is to shift this paradigm.
With courses in multiple sectors, from agrobusiness to engineering, Atitus is a space where innovation feels at home and where young professionals can get a well-rounded and international education. With a focus on hard connections to local companies and business initiatives such as the Caldeira Institute (one of Southern Brazil’s biggest hubs for business development, of which Atitus is one of the founding companies), Eduardo aims to create the perfect environment for the growth and stability for young startups.
Traditional academia and business are becoming less relevant; young entrepreneurs should be taught through a multidisciplinary lens where adaptability is key.
Atitus now hosts and incubates young startups specifically focused on educational tech, and it hopes to combine its initial mission with new ideas to keep improving the landscape of Brazilian entrepreneurship. Eduardo mentions specifically the failure rate of startups headed by young entrepreneurs in Brazil, with the majority of startups forced to close within a year of launching, clearly showing that young entrepreneurs entering the market need better preparation to open or manage their businesses.
With Atitus, Eduardo found a way to address this through education, funding and reinvesting in students. Through the entrepreneurial track, students from different business backgrounds can connect with other local entrepreneurs and companies in Rio Grande do Sul and across Brazil as well as with investors looking for innovative new startups. The primary goal here is to connect students with jobs, opportunities and companies curated to their interests within an ecosystem specifically designed for their success, be it as an entrepreneur creating their own business or as a young professional starting their career.
Atitus also directly invests in its own students through the Atitus Venture program. Select business students in the entrepreneurial track are chosen to be incubated in the school and receive investment for the first round of funding. Through this program, Atitus provides its students with the necessary resources to jumpstart their business, along with the connections and tools needed to succeed. "We are not trying to give our students a romantic view of the business world; we want to connect them with reality so that they are prepared for the challenges of actually owning a business."
The relationship between universities and businesses can be a mutually beneficial one, be it through research investments or recruiting, and I believe that nurturing this relationship is the key to a successful and innovative society.
Ultimately, Eduardo's goal with Atitus is to be a guide and supporter of young startups, both through education and resources. He believes that innovation can flourish in Brazil, creating not only better professionals who are ready to face international markets and their challenges but who also have the resources to come out stronger and more resilient.
Eduardo Capellari's most important tips for startups:
- Educate yourself. As a young entrepreneur you need knowledge of the traditions for good business management as well as the constant changes in innovation in your sector.
- Broaden your scope. Never limit yourself to a local or even national landscape. Growth is about opportunity, and you need to be prepared for it no matter where it comes from.
- Adapt to challenges. Be ready to fail but make sure you don’t falter. Be ready for the worst outcomes without letting these be the end result.
- Take advantage of changes within your sector. Be it new legislation or economic shifts, be informed and ready for when the conditions become available for your idea.
- Use your background, even if you are changing careers. As you move through the entrepreneurial world, you’ll need something that differentiates you from others. Never underestimate the set of skills that makes you a unique player in your field.