Trela, the latest Brazilian startup financed by SoftBank, wants to resume purchases on WhatsApp


Whenever Ana Lúcia Almeida Gazzola wants to impress her guests, she cooks prawns with butter, lemon and rosemary. It’s a simple recipe that the 72-year-old retired teacher from Belo Horizonte found online. But he relies on good quality shrimp, not always easy to find in Minas Gerais, one of the few Brazilian states without access to the ocean.

So it was a game-changer when Gazzola discovered Trela, a startup that connects food sellers to shoppers on WhatsApp groups. During the pandemic, when going outside was still risky, the service was indispensable at Gazzola.

“I live alone and stayed home as a precaution,” Gazzola said. Rest of the world. “But I love going to restaurants and cooking, so when I joined the group and saw the products they were selling – organic food, seafood, meat and frozen gourmet meals – I decided to ‘try.”

Trela ​​CEO Guilherme Nazareth said Rest of the world that he had the idea for the service in September 2020. It was then that Guilherme Alvarenga, who would become its co-founder, told him about a community-run WhatsApp sales group in his building in Nova Lima , Minas Gerais. At the time, the group had 256 people, the maximum allowed by WhatsApp, and had a waiting list of over 100.

Trela ​​didn’t reveal how many groups or users it has, only that the groups are in Belo Horizonte and Nova Lima, Minas Gerais, and São Paulo, Alphaville, and Osasco, USA. State of Sao Paulo. It plans to expand into Rio de Janeiro and Porto Alegre and recently received $25 million in Series A funding led by SoftBank. Nazareth said that by collecting a fee from the suppliers of its groups, Trela ​​achieved an average growth rate of 45% per month, with a workforce of 75 employees.

But for many users, Trela’s innovation may be a solution in search of a problem. As Trela ​​sellers and consumers recounted Rest of the world that the startup was a time saver and an added layer of security when shopping online, users outside of Trela ​​were concerned that groups run by the company would have less choice in the types of products they could buy and sell.

Company Name: Trela
Headquarter: Belo Horizonte and Sao Paulo
Based: 2020
Founders: Guilherme Nazareth, Guilherme Alvarenga and João Jönk
Funding: $125,000 (original); $25 million Series A
Evaluation: $125 million

Brazilians have been buying and selling goods on WhatsApp since 2011, when the “groups” feature was first introduced. Shopping on the platform is now so widespread that there are dedicated websites for finding links to these groups. Just such a site offers over 800 links to sales groups.

WhatsApp has become an obvious place to shop because many Brazilians already spend a lot of time on the platform, said digital transformation specialist Fernando Moulin, a partner at Sponsorb, a São Paulo-based business performance firm. “WhatsApp is moving towards the super-app concept, bringing all aspects of our lives into one place,” Moulin said. Rest of the world.

Before Trela, WhatsApp sales groups focused more on getting discounts by bringing people together to buy products in bulk or finding second-hand goods. These WhatsApp groups also connected people with vendors they wouldn’t normally have access to, such as Gazzola’s fresh shrimp supplier. Trela ​​has focused on connecting buyers directly with suppliers.

Trela ​​is the first company in Brazil to try to organize groups into a streamlined system for consumers and sellers. Instead of the usual random community-driven ordering system, Trela ​​publishes weekly listings with five to 10 products, each with a link to a product and the minimum number of orders needed.


Trela

There are benefits to ceding community control over a WhatsApp sales group to a business. For sellers and group managers, this means they no longer have to worry about community management and order tracking. This is what changed the minds of the owners of the original group that inspired Trela ​​about selling the group to the startup. “If there were no Guilherme [Alvarenga]the group probably wouldn’t exist anymore, because it’s really a full-time job,” said Ralph-Peter Petzold, a 54-year-old engineer from Nova Lima, Minas Gerais, and one of the group’s owners. Rest of the world.

For consumers, this means the certainty of knowing that what they have purchased will arrive as soon as the seller has reached a minimum number of orders. Moulin predicts that services like Trela ​​will become “the big stores of WhatsApp”.

Flávia Araújo da Matta Machado Leite Oliveira, a 58-year-old lawyer from Belo Horizonte, was once a member of a community-run sales group but now buys mostly through Trela. Her “network effect” made the startup more attractive to her. Oliveira said Rest of the world that she feels safer buying things on Trela’s group.

But some WhatsApp shoppers, like 28-year-old fashion designer Georgia Maria Lopes of Florianópolis, aren’t so sure they like having a startup run their shopping groups. Lopes is part of a shoe sales group, in which a salesperson from multiple shoe stores in a mall gives the group access to exclusive promotions. Lopes has been with the band for about two years and said Rest of the world that it does not believe that adding an additional intermediary necessarily helps consumers.

Gisele Lopes Ross, a 38-year-old midwife from São Paulo, who organized a few groups, said Rest of the world that groups “tend to manage themselves”. Ross believes that in community-run groups, people have more autonomy to decide what they want to buy and to negotiate directly with sellers.

Some sellers, like Geovana Machado, a 43-year-old entrepreneur from Jundiaí, São Paulo, who owns a children’s clothing thrift store, agree that Trela’s system doesn’t work for everyone. “It’s a market concept that relies on a large number of items, which I don’t, because I rarely have two of the same item,” she said. Rest of the world. She prefers to make sales directly; 80% of her sales come from a community-run WhatsApp group where she can build relationships with customers.

Trela ​​also doesn’t focus on bulk buying for discounts. Instead, the founders say, it is aimed at elite neighborhoods or apartment buildings, where the average income for a family of four is 22,000 reals (about $4,300). “We’re looking for pockets of wealth in cities, areas where there’s demand for high-quality products but not as much supply,” Nazareth said.

For now, Trela-run groups and community-run groups coexist, offering two different types of services.

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