ContxtoiFood, the unicorn from São Paulo acquired, er rather, acqui-hired Brazilian startup Hekima for an undisclosed amount. The announcement was made this week. 

What convinced the food delivery giant was the startup’s talent for developing customized artificial intelligence (AI) models.

Thanks to this aqui-hire, within the next 12 to 18 months the startup will offer personalized options for the user based on their dietary restrictions and personal tastes.

Related article: Brazilian startup, iFood, announces big 2020 plans—and faces protests

Hunger for artificial intelligence

Developers in AI are hard to come by in Brazil, and basically anywhere. And so for Bruno Henriques, the VP of Innovation at iFood, the option of onboarding over 100 specialized data scientists in one fell swoop was the right move.

The US$500 million the startup raised in 2018 probably contributed to the successful acquisition.

Moreover, Henriques also added that iFood’s push for innovation is also a strategy to avoid the brain drain phenomenon in Brazil. 

“There is a shortage of qualified professionals in Brazil because many AI-focused graduates end up accepting career proposals for global companies outside of the country,” said the executive.

Prior to this purchase, iFood had already been exploring how to optimize delivery routes. It was experimenting on how to achieve this via the predictive capabilities of artificial intelligence.

Brain drain, here, there everywhere

For many developers, data scientists, and engineers the “promised land” to apply their talents is Silicon Valley. I.e. working at Google, Apple, or any of these other tech titans.

However, as Henriques put it, not all talented graduates want to leave. But they find there are no attractive job opportunities in their native countries to keep them there. A reality not only in Brazil, but in all of Latin America as well.

But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

Going abroad to work/study can be an enriching experience and sometimes these talented peeps do return. And in the process, they set up their own businesses in their native country, thus bringing invaluable insights and tech.

In any case, startups like iFood are also contributing to retaining talent.

And further down the road, as startups and innovation hubs in Latam grow, perhaps the region’s talented people won’t feel they’re forced to leave to find jobs.

Wanna hear more? We recommend you listen to the following podcast episode: Mientras que Grow Mobility tiene problemas, Sofbank reaparece y iFood avanza firme hacia el futuro. You can find the time stamp available in the description.

Related articles: Tech and startups in Brazil!