What are you working on right now?
Right now I consult for startups in the USA, Brazil and Europe. Most recently I co-founded an LED lighting business in Brazil. With the fast pace of development and the World Cup coming up, the country is in need of better infrastructure. In fact, one of the reasons some of the Brazilian cities are so violent is that the streets are not well illuminated. We had eminent contract with six world cups stadiums, large shopping malls, and some cities but we had issues with the supplier and couldn’t move forward in an acceptable time frame.
Where are you seeing the most opportunity right now for entrepreneurs?
In today’s economy, the problem is investment. Software is a wonderful field to be in for an entrepreneur, it doesn’t require much investment and may address some of the major issues today such as harnessing and analyzing enormous volume of information. Some of the most successful companies in the world right now have the least amount of people working for them. It’s one of the only type of startups where you can be in an early stage and not worry too much about investment. Biotechnology is also an exciting field to be in. All the recent innovations in therapeutics and diagnostics create an environment for disruptive technologies to surface. However, it is a much more expensive, longer and riskier process. At the same time, the federal government is working on creating incentives to encourage entrepreneurship, but funding remains a problem.
Are there greater opportunities in emerging markets right now for entrepreneurs?
Oh yes. There are incredible opportunities, especially in Latin America and the BRIC countries, because a large number of poor people are moving into the middle class. There is need for everything; food, infrastructure, high tech and etc. It is much riskier, though. There is high level of corruption in a lot of these countries. You have to really understand the country you’re investing in before you decide to make a move. The laws right now in many emerging markets are made to be very difficult for the entrepreneur. In Brazil, for example, you need a PhD to understand the tax code. Additionally, the laws are being adjusted and modified frequently. There is a risk of not understanding how the country works or not understanding the culture. In the U.S. people say “let’s make a deal” and they mean it. In Brazil, that may not be the case. You’re guilty until you’ve proven the contrary, especially if you are a “gringo”.
How did you get involved with the Dingman Center?
A friend invited me. I really enjoy it. It’s a great place to see innovation. I love technology and I love business. You can see the potential in some of the technologies. It’s a great way to use my experience and background top help the community.
From my own perspective as a PhD, the Dingman Center provides a great opportunity for the UMD students to become an entrepreneur. When I was a graduate student it never crossed my mind that I could use my ideas to start a company. If I had then the support that Dingman has to offer, I would have started a company a long time ago.
As an entrepreneur, it’s also great to help young people that are creating technologies and don’t know how to take it to the next stage. I’ve learned a lot from the Dingman experience, and I also hope we are adding value for these students. We want to be mentors and cheerleaders to help them succeed in ways they never thought they would.
What traits do all successful entrepreneurs have in common?
Persistence and a bit of shamelessness. If you want to do something innovative, everyone will say you’re crazy. You have to believe in yourself. Don’t be afraid to fail. You have to take a lot of “no” answers and be prepared to fail many times.
Dr. Jacobovitz has over 20 years experience in international entrepreneurship, business strategy and development, fund raising, and marketing with fortune 500 as well as startup companies. She has held senior management positions in Biotechnology, Telecommunication, and Biofuels, has co-founded and supported technology based start-up companies, and is an accomplished researcher with many published peer reviewed papers and 6 filed patents. She has extensively consulted, developed corporate and marketing strategy, business & investment plan for national and international companies that contributed to $1 billion IPO, and millions of dollars in private equity investments and International Development Bank loan. She holds a MS in Biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University and a PhD in Applied Physics from UNICAMP (Sao Paulo, Brazil).