Guto, a former telecom engineer
who returned to PUC for graduate studies and eventually to teach,
knew that many of the products developed in Latin American universities rarely become commercial ventures. But he decided to gamble on
the “Pig,” whose name comes from
the way it roots through oil and gas
pipes to find leaks. In 1998, Guto
and two partners decided to invest
$20,000 to commercialize the product and form Pipe Way. They licensed
the technology, paying royalties to
the university and to Petrobras, the
Brazilian oil company that financed
the research, and started to bid on
They won their first big contract in
1999: a project to monitor and check
1,176 kilometers of pipes for Petrobras.
At the time, Pipe Way had seven employees. Today, with operations in
Brazil, Argentina and Colombia, there
are nearly 60 employees.
In May 2008, the company founded
Pipe Way International, and started
operations in Texas. With 400,000
kilometers of oil and gas pipelines
(Brazil has 20,000), Texas represents
the company’s biggest challenge yet.
But it doesn’t faze Guto. “ To be able to
compete, we never stopped investing
in technology,” says Pereira da Silva.
In fact, he’s now trying to encourage
others to duplicate his success. Pipe-Way supports research at five other
universities in Brazil.
Pipe Way International founder, Guto, and his “Pig”
I Gabriela Cuevas
t’s not often—especially in old professor at the Pontifícia Univer-
Latin America—that an in- sidade Católica (PUC) in Rio de Ja- Barron
novation developed in a uni- neiro, José Augusto Pereira da Silva Mexico
versity becomes a profitable business. (“Guto”). With adjustments and a soft- Maybe it helps to have a clever name. ware upgrade, the “Pig” has become The “Pipe Pig,” a tool used to detect the signature product of the Brazil- leakages and weaknesses in oil and ian company Pipe Way International, G abriela Cuevas Barron is used to standing out. In 2007, when construction
gas pipes, was developed by a team a global business whose annual rev- was set to begin in Mexico City on
of researchers that included 40-year- enues now reach $6.2 million. what would have been Latin Amer-
26 Americas Quarterly summer 2008