Brazilian entrepreneur Marco Perlman profited twice from his country’s recent decade of sustained economic growth: first as a successful venture capital investor, and then as a risk-taker who turned a longtime hobby—photography—into a transformative eco-enterprise.
A self-professed “technology freak,” Perlman, 40, founded the Brazilian digital photo products and services company Digipix in 2004. At the time, the business-to-consumer market in digital photography was still establishing itself in the United States—and was a complete novelty in Brazil. Inspired by the idea of “mass customization,” Digipix enables consumers and businesses to print their own high-resolution, personalized photo albums and pictures, which are then delivered to their homes or offices.
Since securing funding from Brazilian venture investors DGF Investimentos in 2008, Digipix has multiplied its revenue five-fold and has grown to 160 employees. Perlman, a Stanford University graduate, has expanded the São Paulo-based company to become Brazil’s largest producer of wedding albums for professional photographers.
A cornerstone of the company’s achievement is its environmentally sensitive approach to photo-printing, which has capitalized on Brazilian consumers’ hunger for ecofriendly products. According to the company website, Digipix was the first company in the world to use an ink-based printing system to create “Ecopix”—digital photos that are printed on ecologically friendly paper without the use of heavy metals like silver halides to fix the images onto paper. The printing process is designed to minimize energy consumption and eliminate environmental contamination, and the photographic paper is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council of Brazil.
It took nearly two years for the company to develop the process for printing Ecopix, which requires special printing equipment and software and, so far, is limited to printing 4×6- inch (10×15-cm) color photographs. But the company is convinced that it’s only a matter of time before ecological printing processes will completely replace chemical processes in the photography industry.
Today, Digipix ships throughout Brazil, and its products are sold in stores in two-thirds of Brazil’s states. Perlman has noticed that the company now delivers products to locations far from the traditional economic hubs of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro—suggesting that the country’s modernizing Internet infrastructure now allows Brazil’s most remote communities to participate more fully in the market economy.
Perlman believes his company’s success reflects Brazil’s transformation since 2004—both in terms of economic success and in attitudes toward entrepreneurship. “There have been dramatic changes […] in society’s acceptance of the entrepreneurial way of life, and government’s acceptance of the need to encourage it,” he says. “Digipix has taken advantage of that shift.”