Startup Aims To Score With World Cup

Jun 17, 2014

The World Cup finals kicked off yesterday in Brazil. For the roughly 70,000 Brazilian immigrants in Massachusetts, the opening match between the host nation and Croatia was a reason to leave work early.

But one Boston startup is looking to the World Cup for more work.

From the Here & Now Contributors Network, Curt Nickisch of WBUR has the story of a small company using the global competition to prove its worth on a bigger stage.


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In World Cup action today, Belgium plays Algeria, Brazil goes up against Mexico, Russia takes on South Korea. And who can forget the U.S. victory yesterday over Ghana? If you've been moved to maybe go to Brazil, it could be tough to get lodging. But you might try an app developed by a start-up company in Boston. From the HERE AND NOW contributors network, WBUR's Curt Nickisch has the story.


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CURT NICKISCH, BYLINE: In a small conference room in Boston's financial district, an employee of the software start-up firm Dashbell is speaking to a client in Brazil. Daily check-ins like this have become the norm with the World Cup about to go fever pitch, says employee Andrea de Melo.

DE MELO: It's de Melo in Portuguese, but I don't do that. That's too much.

NICKISCH: De Melo is the daughter of a Portuguese mother and a Brazilian father, both immigrants. And she applied for a job at Dashbell after seeing CEO Paige Brown give a presentation to investors a year and a half ago.

MELO: Paige was talking about Brazil and had this huge map. And I was like, I need to talk to her.


PAIGE BROWN: But markets like Brazil are growing up to 18 percent every year in online travel.

NICKISCH: Brown is a travel fanatic who saw a business opportunity when she was visiting Latin America. She says, practically every bed and breakfast or room for rent could be booked only by phone.

BROWN: So you have this huge fragmented market of small independent - they call them pousadas in Brazil - 'cause everyone wants to stay local. You want to stay with the local people and get more culture.

NICKISCH: Brown says, only four percent of pousadas offer their rooms online. She saw a huge need for more of them to list their rooms on multiple websites without overbooking. But just because there's a need doesn't mean it's obvious to your potential clients. Often, customers need a reason to change their behavior and, in this case, do business differently.

Take the car sharing company Zipcar. One key to its success was launching during a recession. People were willing to try something new - car sharing to save some money. So Dashbell needed a reason for Brazilian pousada owners to buy the company software, and Brown found one.



NICKISCH: The World Cup. All of a sudden Brazilian bed-and-breakfasts - on average, half empty - were going to be completely booked. Owners desperate to cash in and reap soccer fans coming for the World Cup, Dashbell rolled out its software to pousadas across Brazil. Employee Andrea de Melo...

MELO: You know, a major World Cup event and then the Olympics a couple years after - you're looking to increase. And I think we just kind of jumped on that - on that train there. And we're trying to follow them down that, you know, road of growth and opportunity.

NICKISCH: Dashbell workers won't have much down time over the next month, helping their clients manage this extremely lucrative soccer season. So the start-up's employees will be streaming the games at their workstations because for, de Melo, the World Cup isn't just a reason to acquire new customers. It's also a reason to wear her Brazil and Portugal jerseys to work. For HERE AND NOW, I'm Curt Nickisch. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.