Miami — As a journalist who covers tech, startups, and entrepreneurship in Latin America, I’ve watched the last couple of months from a unique seat. I’ve been working to do my part in the launch of Bloomberg Línea, but I’ve also had a behind the scenes perspective of an executive who decided that now, amid the pandemic and with the global economy fluctuating around him, was the best time to launch an international, multilingual, digital media publication in an emerging market. The publication serves more than 600 million people worldwide who speak Portuguese and Spanish.
If the timing alone wasn’t enough, the industry - journalism - could bring pause to any entrepreneur.
But what got me to where I am today is my curiosity about how companies are born, so naturally, I was intrigued to learn the story of Bloomberg Línea. I reached out to Kaio Philipe, Bloomberg Línea’s COO, and asked if I could interview him for a story. He said, “yes.” What follows is what I learned through our conversation.
“There wasn’t [another] player that could deliver this content, and the timing, despite the hurdles, the timing was great,” Philipe said.
Philipe and Leon Falic, CEO of Bloomberg Línea, saw that interest rates were down in Latin America, so it didn’t make sense for people in the lower to middle classes to keep their money in the bank. They were looking for ways to invest and capital markets were a natural fit, but there wasn’t a business publication to support these interests. In the last few years alone, Brazil has had more than three million new investors in the stock market.
Philipe was running his own consulting firm at the time, where he helped consumer goods companies grow largely through digital media. Falic, along with his brothers, owns the Falic Group of Companies, a conglomerate with a diversified portfolio that includes travel retail/duty-free stores and brand boutiques, news and gift and convenience stores, food and beverage, fashion and beauty brands, consumer product distribution and e-commerce, gas stations, and hotels. Little did they know they were about to launch Falic Media to house Bloomberg Línea.
From conversations to launch, Bloomberg Línea was up and running in a little more than a year, five of those months were focused on pure execution.
Philipe, who didn’t work in traditional news media before, brought expertise in business, digital media and Latin America - he’s Brazilian and previously traveled in Latin America for work. The Falic Group could offer the existing company infrastructure, contacts, and region knowledge. Bloomberg brought journalism expertise and a brand known the world over.
Philipe and I are based in Miami, but the other 53 journalists and staff are scattered throughout eight countries in Latin America and Europe. Brazil, for example, has a team of 15. Because of the pandemic, Philipe has only met five of his employees in person.
“It’s weird, but it works,” he said. “I interviewed more than 300 people,” he added.
Philipe took a two-pronged approach to hiring: hire some of the leaders himself, and then have some of them hire for their supporting roles. In most cases, he said, people came through a referral.
“Everyone that we hired, from the intern to the news director, I interviewed them myself. Because they need to know you,” he said, explaining that people need to have confidence in their leaders.
On that note, the publication has two news directors, but no editor-in-chief, and Philipe said that was on purpose. “We didn’t want the publication to have one voice,” he said. One news director leads the Spanish-speaking countries, while the other leads Brazil.
Through all the hurdles of setting up a company remotely, it was an administrative challenge he faced that still baffles him today, “I tried to buy computers [for the team based in Latin America] at a well-known online platform in Latin America, but they didn’t accept my corporate card because it’s international - and I understand why - there’s a lot of credit card fraud,” he said.
He then approached Amazon in Latin America, and after a fraud check, he was able to buy the computers and have them delivered. “I had no negotiating power because I didn’t have any other options,” he said.
With that task behind him, he and the part of the team he had already hired, set out to build eight country-specific websites, plus one for all of Latin America, one for news in English, and one for news about Brazil, but in Spanish. And others, not in Latin America, are in the works.
With the Bloomberg partnership, some baseline aesthetics were already set in place. And the backend would be largely Arc Publishing - a content management system built by the team at the Washington Post, which they now license out to other large news organizations.
Clearly, there were a lot of moving pieces.
Not to mention the content which would be distinct on each country page and then come together seamlessly on the other pages.
“Every market is different, there’s not a one size fits all [approach]. In Venezuela, they want to read about the realities of Venezuela, because they know they can’t really trust their local media,” Philipe said.
But there is at least one truth that unifies the region.
“Every market in Latin America is controlled by a media conglomerate,” he said. “I was raised watching Globo - to me that was the universal truth,” he added.
Bloomberg Línea aims to change that in everything it does.
Bloomberg Línea has been live for a little less than a month. The sites had their soft launch on July 28th, with the official launch on August 9, 2021. On average, there are 120 new stories published on the pages each day, including Bloomberg original content, which is then translated into the appropriate language. To make money, the business uses the traditional revenue model of ads, sponsorships, events and subscriptions.
“Our goal is to generate value for people, it’s the only commitment we have. And the way to generate value from one country to another can be a very different thing,” he said.