24 Mar 2021

Get to Know Kanoa, a Social Enterprise Track New Venture Competition Team


With the New Venture Competition (NVC) finale right around the corner, learn more about team Kanoa, which has created a platform to bring together an untapped pool of diverse Brazilian public high schoolers with firms seeking new talent. We asked Lia Rolnik (MBA 2021) about her entrepreneurial journey and NVC experience.

Team Members: Cinthia Romaro (MBA 2021), Guilherme Franzoni, Lia Rolnik (MBA 2021), Monique Freitas (MBA 2021)

What inspired you to start your company?

It all started at the LATAM conference in 2019. Brazilian companies were talking about how they were opening up new offices to hire developers outside of Brazil—they couldn’t find talent in the country. We met afterwards and shared our disbelief that, in a country with 200 million people and incredibly high rates of unemployment, there wasn’t any available talent.

How has the Rock Center or Social Enterprise Initiative helped with your entrepreneurial journey? Are there any other HBS resources that you have been using?

Most of our team took advantage of the Social Enterprise Fellowship in the summer, which was what enabled us to pursue this venture idea. We have also been using Rock Center’s templates for our pitch, and a lot of professors’ advice in different aspects of the business.

How have you been preparing for the competition?

We have been testing our pitch with many different audiences and gathering as much feedback as possible before the big day!

What part of the NVC journey has been the most helpful for your team?

Writing our executive summary and receiving judges’ feedback really helped us push our venture forward.

How did you go about creating your competition pitch? Do you have any advice for someone looking to create a pitch?

We spent a lot of time thinking about our business model and testing our hypotheses before structuring a pitch, so crafting the pitch was an easy task after all that work. Our advice is—if you are more on the risk aversion side as we are—do not feel pressured to get a pitch out there before you are confident with what you are building!

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

We have a few, but let’s highlight two! The first one is to fall in love with a problem and not with the solution. We have been working on this problem for a long time and are already in our third solution iteration. It’s okay to pivot, but make sure you are always learning something new and narrowing down your focus. The second is to never lose sight of who you're servicing and always have them close to you.

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