Diogo Duarte Ribeiro recently took a break from the practice of law to devote all his efforts to FINe and the startup community in Miami. This guy is truly passionate about re-inventing how customers receive rewards for their loyalty and supporting small businesses by giving them an extra tool to succeed.
Outside of work, he is a surfer and travels the world. To date he has lived in 7 countries and calls Miami home.
Our City Thoughts: Why did you create in Miami?
Diogo Duarte Ribeiro: It is the perfect time to be in Miami. The city is growing and attracting the right type of talent. More risk takers are choosing Miami to start something new.
Miami is one of a kind because all the startup players act like a team – everyone supports each other so that the city can grow as a whole. As an example, I am comfortable approaching someone further ahead in the startup industry and getting their two cents on my projects… Where else can you do that without fear of your idea getting stolen?
What does your organization do? How was it founded?
Diogo Duarte Ribeiro: There are two sides of our company, the merchant and the user. For the merchant, we give them detailed information about their customers, and a way for them to communicate and serve those customers better. They get all of this while ALSO getting higher retention.
For the user, we give them immediate rewards for their loyalty to their favorite shops. No waiting to get more points or buying 10 to get 1 free. Instead, every time they walk into a FINe shop they are greeted with a reward.
The triggering event behind FiNe’s conception was a question presented by one of my law school professors: “How would you make your coffee shop better?” Back then, I frequented most of the coffee shops (some of the world’s finest) around Charleston, South Carolina and was experiencing daily these quaint places where you feel comfortable sitting for hours. As much as I loved these places, there were many things I would have done differently had I been the owner of the coffee shop.
For two years the idea of starting my own coffee shop kept coming to my mind. My vision was different and questioned the way most coffee shops are run. In my head, better service and introducing more ways to get people to socialize should be at the heart of a coffee shop experience. It wasn’t until April 20, 2013 that it finally hit me. I would implement all of these benefits and more to all coffee shops with the creation of FINe.
Describe a challenge you overcame to reach this point.
Diogo Duarte Ribeiro: Understanding the art of selling. The most important thing when you are talking to customers is listening to their needs. Before, I was coming into businesses and giving them a long pitch about our software. Now, I sit back and listen. If I don’t feel that our software will help the business, I walk out the establishment, but if I do, I dive deeper into the subject and talk about how much we can help that merchant.
How did you and your co-founder end up collaborating?
Diogo Duarte Ribeiro: Still in the paranoia phase (this is when founders are afraid their ideas will be stolen if they tell someone), I invited my co-founder to my place to get his feedback on my idea. A day after our conversation, he comes up to me and shows me what looks like a phone application on his phone. I asked him what application he was showing me and he said, “that’s if the FINe application, I created this prototype.” I knew then, that a strong partnership was being formed. Six months later, we consider ourselves family, and I am secretly in love with his 6 month baby girl.
What does your team mean to you?
Diogo Duarte Ribeiro: It extends further than just co-workers. We help ourselves in everything. When one of us is struggling, the others pick up the slack and bring everyone else on their shoulders. Running a startup is incredibly tough, and a having a great team means constantly looking out for each others back and staying positive and open to new opportunities, not giving up, and having a good time while you do it.
How do you think Miami impacted who you are today?
Diogo Duarte Ribeiro: This city is awesome. You can walk in to a coffee shop in Wynwood (take Miam for instance), and chat with experienced entrepreneurs. You can’t do that in San Francisco or New York, as easily as you can do it here. Miami has enabled me to grow my company and to follow my passion.
What do you love the most about how miami is changing?
Diogo Duarte Ribeiro: That I get to be a part of it. There are so many pioneers in Miami who are reshaping the future of this city, and to have access to their knowledge is invaluable.
Describe an innovation you are working on?
Diogo Duarte Ribeiro: For small businesses, I am giving them the marketing capabilities used by big corporations like Macy’s, Starbucks, and CVS. They can now understand their customer better and communicate with them at an affordable price point.
For the user, there is no more waiting. We are the first program that gives customers instant rewards on the things they love, so they can spend what they save on the FINer things in life.
What’s the most gratifying aspect of what you do? And the most grating?
Diogo Duarte Ribeiro: Giving back to the community of entrepreneurs. Even though I don’t have much experience, I am further along than those just starting. So having people approach you to get your feedback is honoring.
The most grating aspect is that things don’t advance as fast as you would like. You have to be extremely patient and keep a positive attitude all the time. My favorite quote that I look at every time I stumble on an obstacle is, “In every moment there is beauty. Rather than striving to make that beauty into what you think it should be, just enjoy it as it is. Find enjoyment in simply letting it flow.”
What wisdom would you share with your younger self (maybe when you were 18)?
Diogo Duarte Ribeiro: Follow your passion and take risks. You get to discover who you really are and become a happier person when you do. The sooner the better.
What community issue keeps you up at night?
Diogo Duarte Ribeiro: People don’t live in Miami. People live in their apartment, house, or in their car. I want to see more people walking in the streets, sitting at terraces outside of cafés, and socializing in restaurants. Essentially, Miami has no real vibrant street life – I would love to see that changed.
Describe your ideal Miami. Why are those qualities important to you?
Diogo Duarte Ribeiro: An ideal Miami would have independent crafty cafés, restaurants, and stores. Places where you can spend quality time with friends, places where merchants do their best to deliver a high quality product in a comfy atmosphere. The density of great places would make its residents want to just hop from one shop to another. The use of cars would be limited – people would walk, collide, and communicate.
This would make Miami a smarter and better city. We have the potential, but as long as we stay in our car to order our coffee fix at the window of the Starbucks drive-through, things won’t change.
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