Juggling six classes, breaking the language barrier, and speaking to industry leaders on his free time are only a few things Marcelo Dias has accomplished during his time in Berkeley. Marcelo was the one student who was selected from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) to join SCET’s Startup Semester Program and also selected to compete in Collider Cup II as a member of the Management Technology and Innovation team.

Marcelo is a visiting researcher with a background in industrial engineering currently working with one of Brazil’s innovation labs, NTQI-UFMG, under product development and innovation. After learning more about entrepreneurship, Marcelo wanted to indulge in the startup community so he joined an early stage accelerator. This company was based off the idea of “venture building” which is a concept used in Brazil where select individuals provide funding and ideation for other individuals looking to develop and create. Marcelo was one of the founders who went through the venture-building process and created a startup, SejaDireto, with the idea to provide CRM software for car retails and the real estate market.

“This is where the journey started,” said Dias.

Marcelo and two global partner colleagues, Diego Sapunar and Esteban Mino Larenas, from PUC Chile, getting ready for SCET’s Collider Cup pitch event


To expand his knowledge on how accelerators work, Marcelo continued with a six-month acceleration program in Brazil called SEED, and placed as one of the three winners. Soon after, Marcelo discovered SCET’s mission to help grow innovation through applied research, so this aspiring entrepreneur tried to find ways to get involved. He was selected to be his university’s representative. In order to learn as much as he could in one semester, Marcelo dived into the deep end by taking six SCET classes. Although he knew this would be difficult, he wanted to get the most out of his time in the Bay Area so that he would be able to bring back what he learned to his home in Brazil.


Marcelo with fellow Startup Semester students from SRM (India)


Three out of the six classes required students to create their own startup (Blockchain Lab, Technology Firm Leadership, and Management Technology and Innovation-MTI).

“I have had an idea for a while but was only able to build it into a reality after taking SCET classes,” said Dias.

This idea combined research in psychology and management for personal skills in an effort to build a talent management mechanism to find the best-fit employee for a company. After several pitch practices and real life feedback from LinkedIn, Intuit and Facebook, Marcelo and his teammates were selected to compete in Collider Cup II.

“Each SCET class was so different and unique on its own because one taught you leadership while the other taught about the value of the product or how to approach potential clients. MTI helped me talk to real and relevant industry leaders while Blockchain Lab helped me understand the importance of when to enter a market, and how to form a team. I never expected to learn from so many multidisciplinary majors at my time in Berkeley, but SCET enforced the importance of learning from different minded individuals,” said Dias.

Marcelo stayed active beyond his classes and he reached out George Kopas, to who soon became his mentor this semester. Marcelo first met Kopas after a Law School panel Kopas had hosted and later got invited to financial model pitches and visits to the YC and 500 Startups headquarters.

Marcelo and fellow teammate practicing pitches at UC Berkeley


As the semester comes to an end, Marcelo said his first takeaway was being able to work and learning in a team with different cultures and behaviours. “I was able to grow alongside my fellow classmates and was shaped into being a leader.”

Also published on Medium.