Brazil’s Loft adds $100M to its accounts, $700M to its valuation in a single month

Nearly exactly one month ago, digital real estate platform Loft announced it had closed on $425 million in Series D funding led by New York-based D1 Capital Partners. The round included participation from a mix of new and existing investors such as DST, Tiger Global, Andreessen Horowitz, Fifth Wall and QED, among many others.

At the time, Loft was valued at $2.2 billion, a huge jump from its being just near unicorn territory in January 2020. The round marked one of the largest ever for a Brazilian startup.

Now, today, São Paulo-based Loft has announced an extension to that round with the closing of $100 million in additional funding that values the company at $2.9 billion. This means that the 3-year-old startup has increased its valuation by $700 million in a matter of weeks.

Baillie Gifford led the Series D-2 round, which also included participation from Tarsadia, Flight Deck, Caffeinated and others. Individuals also put money in the extension, including the founders of Better (Zach Frenkel), GoPuff, Instacart, Kavak and Sweetgreen.

Loft has seen great success in its efforts to serve as a “one-stop shop” for Brazilians to help them manage the home buying and selling process. 

Image courtesy of Loft

In 2020, Loft saw the number of listings on its site increase “10 to 15 times,” according to co-founder and co-CEO Mate Pencz. Today, the company actively maintains more than 13,000 property listings in approximately 130 regions across São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, partnering with more than 30,000 brokers. Not only are more people open to transacting digitally, more people are looking to buy versus rent in the country.

“We did more than 6x YoY growth with many thousands of transactions over the course of 2020,” Pencz told TechCrunch at the time of the company’s last raise. “We’re now growing into the many tens of thousands, and soon hundreds of thousands, of active listings.”

The decision to raise more capital so soon was due to a variety of factors. For one, Loft has received “overwhelming investor interest” even after “a very, very oversubscribed main round,” Pencz said.

“We have seen a continued acceleration in our market share growth, especially in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the two markets we currently operate in,” he added. “We saw an opportunity to grow even faster with additional capital.”

Pencz also pointed out that Baillie Gifford has relatively large minimum check size requirements, which led to the extension being conducted at a higher price and increased the total round size “by quite a bit to be able to accommodate them.”

While the company was less forthcoming about its financials as of late, it told me last year that it had notched “over $150 million in annualized revenues in its first full year of operation” via more than 1,000 transactions.

The company’s revenues and GMV (gross merchandise value) “increased significantly” in 2020, according to Pencz, who declined to provide more specifics. He did say those figures are “multiples higher from where they were,” and that Loft has “a very clear horizon to profitability.”

Pencz and Florian Hagenbuch founded Loft in early 2018 and today serve as its co-CEOs. The aim of the platform, in the company’s words, is “bringing Latin American real estate into the e-commerce age by developing online alternatives to analogue legacy processes and leveraging data to create transparency in highly opaque markets.” The U.S. real estate tech company with the closest model to Loft’s is probably Zillow, according to Pencz.

In the United States, prospective buyers and sellers have the benefit of MLSs, which in the words of the National Association of Realtors, are private databases that are created, maintained and paid for by real estate professionals to help their clients buy and sell property. Loft itself spent years and many dollars in creating its own such databases for the Brazilian market. Besides helping people buy and sell homes, it offers services around insurance, renovations and rentals.

In 2020, Loft also entered the mortgage business by acquiring one of the largest mortgage brokerage businesses in Brazil. The startup now ranks among the top-three mortgage originators in the country, according to Pencz. When it comes to helping people apply for mortgages, he likened Loft to U.S.-based Better.com.

This latest financing brings Loft’s total funding raised to an impressive $800 million. Other backers include Brazil’s Canary and a group of high-profile angel investors such as Max Levchin of Affirm and PayPal, Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale, Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger and David Vélez, CEO and founder of Brazilian fintech Nubank. In addition, Loft has also raised more than $100 million in debt financing through a series of publicly listed real estate funds.

Loft plans to use its new capital in part to expand across Brazil and eventually in Latin America and beyond. The company is also planning to explore more M&A opportunities.

This article was updated post-publication to reflect accurate investor information

#andreessen-horowitz, #baillie-gifford, #better-mortgage, #better-com, #brazil, #co-founder, #d1-capital-partners, #david-velez, #dst, #finance, #financial-services, #funding, #fundings-exits, #instacart, #instagram, #joe-lonsdale, #latin-america, #loft, #max-levchin, #mike-krieger, #money, #new-york, #nubank, #palantir, #paypal, #proptech, #real-estate, #real-estate-tech, #recent-funding, #sao-paulo, #startup, #startups, #tc, #tiger-global, #united-states, #venture-capital, #zillow

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PicPay, the Brazilian mobile payments platform, files for an IPO on Nasdaq

Brazilian mobile payments app PicPay filed an F-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for an IPO valued at up to $100 million on Wednesday. The company plans to list on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol PICS.

PicPay operates largely as a financial services platform that includes a credit card; a digital wallet similar to that of Apple Pay; a Venmo-style P2P payments element; e-commerce, and social networking features.

“We want to transform the way people and companies interact, make transactions, and communicate in an intelligent, connected, and simple experience,” said José Antonio Batista, CEO of PicPay, in a statement.

While the company is based in Sao Paulo now and operates across Brazil, PicPay originally launched in Vitoria in 2012, a coastal city north of Rio. In 2015 the company was acquired by the group J&F Investimentos SA, a holding company owned by Brazilian billionaire brothers Wesley and Jose Antonio Batista, which also own the gigantic meatpacker JBS SA.

2020 was an explosive year for PicPay as the company saw its active userbase grow from 28.4 million to 36 million as of March 2021. According to the company’s 2020 financial report, which PicPay shared with TechCrunch, the company’s revenues also grew drastically from $15.5 million in 2019, to $71 million in 2020. The company is not yet profitable, however, and PicPay shelled out $146 million in 2020 to fuel its growth.

“We believe that the growth of our base and user engagement in our ecosystem demonstrates the scalability of our business model and reveals a great opportunity to generate more value for these customers,” Batista added.

Fintech is one of the most popular sectors in Brazil today, because there’s a lot of room for improvement in the region. The country has traditionally been controlled by four major banks, which have been slow to adapt to technology and also charge very high fees.

PicPay’s IPO is being led by Banco Bradesco BBI, Banco BTG Pactual, Santander Investment Securities Inc., and Barclays Capital Inc. 

*The Brazilian Real was valued at 5.50 to $1 USD on the date of publication.

#brazil, #e-commerce, #fintech, #initial-public-offering, #mobile-payments, #securities-and-exchange-commission, #social-networking, #tc

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Colgate-Palmolive, Coca-Cola and Unilever join AB Inbev’s sustainable supply chain accelerator

A clutch of the world’s largest consumer products and food companies are joining Budweiser’s parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev in backing an investment program to support early stage companies focused on making supply chains more sustainable.

The Earth Day-timed announcement comes as companies and consumers confront the failure of recycling programs to adequately address the problems associated with plastic waste — and broader issues around the contributions of consumer behavior and industrial production and distribution to the current climate emergency.

The AB InBev program, called the 100+ Accelerator, launched in 2018 with the goal to solve supply chain challenges in water stewardship, the circular economy, sustainable agriculture and climate action, the company said. These are problems that the alcohol manufacturer’s new partners — Colgate-Palmolive; Coca-Cola; and Unilever are also intimately familiar with.

Since the launch of the accelerator and investment program, AB InBev has backed 36 companies in 16 countries, according to a statement. Those startups have gone on to raise more than $200 million in follow on financing.

The accelerator program creates funding for pilot programs and offers opportunities for early stage companies to consult with executive management at the world’s top consumer brands.

Since the program’s launch, AB InBev has worked with startups to pilot returnable packaging programs; implement new cleaning technologies to reduce water and energy use in Colombian brewing operations; provide insurance to small farms in Africa and South America; collect more waste in Brazil; recycle electric vehicle batteries in China; and upcycle grains waste from the brewing process to create new, nutrient rich food sources.

As pressures from outside investors and regulators mount, companies are beginning to shift their attention to focus on ways to make their industrial processes more sustainable.

These kinds of collaborative initiatives among major corporations, which are long overdue, have the potential to make a significant contribution to reducing the environmental footprint of business, but it depends on the depth of the commitment and the speed at which these businesses are willing to deploy solutions beyond a few small pilot programs.

Applications for the latest cohort will be due by May 31, 2021.

 

#africa, #anheuser-busch, #brazil, #breweries, #china, #coca-cola, #companies, #consumer-products, #earth-day, #food, #south-america, #supply-chains, #tc, #unilever

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My Daughter and I Are Trapped in Brazil’s Tragedy

We spend our days watching ambulances, as Covid-19 rips through the country.

#ambulances, #bolsonaro-jair-1955, #brazil, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #death-and-dying, #quarantines, #vaccination-and-immunization

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Goldman Sachs leads $23M in funding for Brazilian e-commerce startup Olist

Olist, a Brazilian e-commerce marketplace integrator, has raised $23 million in a Series D round extension led by new investor Goldman Sachs Asset Management that brings its total Series D financing to $80 million.

Existing backer Redpoint Ventures, which first put money in Olist in 2015, also participated in the latest round. With this latest infusion, Olist has now raised over $126 million since its 2015 inception. This round is reportedly its last before the company plans to go public, according to Bloomberg.

SoftBank led the first tranch of Olist’s Series D in November as well as the company’s $46 million Series C in 2019. Valor Capital, Velt Partners, FJ Labs, Península and angel Kevin Efrusy had previously invested in the first tranche of the Series D.

Olist connects small businesses to larger product marketplaces to help entrepreneurs sell their products to a larger customer base. The company was founded with the mission of helping small merchants gain market share across the country through a SaaS licensing model to small brick and mortar businesses.

As of October 2019, Olist had more than 7,000 customers and used a drop-shipping model to send products directly from stores to clients around the country, allowing them to grow with a capital-light model.

Today, Olist says its platform provides tools that support “all the stages of an e-commerce operation” with the goal of helping merchants see “rapid increases in sales volume.” It currently has about 25,000 merchants on its platform.

The startup is no doubt benefiting from the pandemic-fueled e-commerce boom taking place all over the world as more people have turned to online shopping. Latin America, in general, has been home to increased e-commerce adoption. The region’s $85 billion e-commerce market is growing rapidly with projections of it reaching $116.2 billion in 2023.

As evidence of that, Olist says its revenue tripled to a record number in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the previous year, although it did not provide hard figures. It also reportedly doubled revenue in 2020, according to Bloomberg.

Olist Store, the company’s flagship product, gives merchants a way to manage product listings, logistics and store payments. It also offers “a unique sales experience” through channels such as Mercado Livre, B2W and Via Varejo. The product saw a record GMV in the first half of the year, which was up 2.5 times over the same period in the prior year, the company said.

Last year, Olist launched a new product, Olist Shops, giving users the ability to create a virtual showcase “in less than 3 minutes” that also offers payment checkout tools and integration with logistics operators. Shops has interfaces in Portuguese, English, and Spanish, and since its launch, it has attracted more than 200,000 users in 180 countries, according to Olist.

“The pandemic has accelerated digitalizing business processes around the world, thus spurring e-commerce growth in a surprising way,” said Tiago Dalvi, Olist’s founder and CEO, in a written statement. 

The company plans to use its new capital to invest in technology and products, pursuing new mergers and acquisitions and boosting its internationalization process. This is on top of two acquisitions Olist made last year — Clickspace and Pax Logistica, which gave Olist entry into the heated logistics space with more than 4,000 registered drivers.

Specifically, CFO Eduardo Ferraz said the company is in preliminary discussions with ERPs, retailers, and companies with complementary solutions to its own.

“That is why we also decided to expand the investment in our Series D and bring Goldman Sachs as another relevant investor to our cap table,” he said.

David Castelblanco, managing director and head of Latin America Corporate and Growth Equity Investing for the Goldman Sachs Asset Management, said his firm was impressed with how Olist empowers SMBs to generate more revenue.

“Tiago and the Olist team are incredibly customer oriented and have created an innovative technological solution for their e-commerce clients,” he added.

Olist is operating in an increasingly crowded space. In March, we covered São Paulo-based Nuvemshop’s $90 million raise that was led by Silicon Valley venture firm Accel. That company has developed an e-commerce platform that aims to allow SMBs and merchants to connect more directly with their consumers. 

#accel, #banks, #brazil, #ceo, #cfo, #companies, #e-commerce, #finance, #fj-labs, #goldman-sachs, #kevin-efrusy, #latin-america, #olist, #online-shopping, #opera, #redpoint-ventures, #sao-paulo, #series-d, #softbank, #tc, #valor-capital

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How Working From Home Changed Wardrobes Around the World

It wasn’t all sweats and leggings. A whirlwind tour of how the pandemic affected what we wore, from India to Italy.

#brazil, #fashion-and-apparel, #france, #india, #italy, #japan, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #russia, #senegal, #shopping-and-retail

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Biden Wants World Leaders to Make Climate

The administration is closing in on deals with some close allies, but agreements with powers like China, Brazil and India are proving difficult.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #brazil, #china, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #india, #kerry-john, #united-nations-framework-convention-on-climate-change, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government

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Biden Wants Leaders to Make Climate Commitments for Earth Day

The administration is closing in on deals with some close allies, but agreements with powers like China, Brazil and India are proving difficult.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #brazil, #china, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #india, #kerry-john, #united-nations-framework-convention-on-climate-change, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government

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The Singers Who Long to Share A Stage Again

After a year apart, the Afro-Brazilian musicians Larissa Luz, Luedji Luna and Xenia França are looking forward to a reunion.

#brazil, #friendship, #music, #quarantine-life-and-culture

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China Official Acknowledges Low Effectiveness of the Country’s Covid Vaccines

#beijing-china, #brazil, #china, #china-national-pharmaceutical-group-corp-sinopharm, #drugs-pharmaceuticals, #internal-essential, #moderna-inc, #pfizer-inc, #research, #rna-ribonucleic-acid, #vaccination-and-immunization

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Mexican unicorn Kavak raises a $485M Series D at a $4B valuation.

Kavak, the Mexican startup that’s disrupted the used car market in Mexico and Argentina, today announced its Series D of $485 million, which now values the company at $4 billion. This round more than triples their previous valuation of $1.15 billion, which established them as a unicorn just a couple of months ago in October of 2020. Kavak is now one of the top five highest-valued startups in Latin America.

The round was led by D1 Capital Partners, Founders Fund, Ribbit, and BOND, and brings Kavak’s total capital raised to date to more than $900 million. Kavak recently soft-launched in Brazil, and this new round of funding will be used to build out the Brazilian market and beyond, said Carlos García Ottati, Kavak’s CEO and Co-Founder. The company plans to do a full launch in Brazil in the next 60 days, García said, and we can expect to see Kavak in markets outside Latin America in the next 24 months, he added.

“We were built to solve emerging market problems,” García said.

Kavak, which was founded in 2016, is an online marketplace that aims to bring transparency, security, and access to financing to the used car market. The company also offers its own financing through its fintech arm, Kavak Capital, and counts more than 2,500 employees and 20 logistics and reconditioning hubs in Mexico and Argentina.

“In Latin America, 90% of the [used car] transactions are informal, which leads to a 40% fraud rate,” said García, who experienced these challenges first-hand when he moved to Mexico from Colombia a couple of years ago and bought a used car. 

“My budget allowed me to buy a used car, but there was no infrastructure around it. It took me 6 months to buy the car, and then the car had legal and mechanical issues and I lost most of my money,” he said. Kavak buys cars from individuals, refurbishes them, and offers warranties to buyers.

“Instead of buying a new car, they can buy a better car that still has all the warranties. It’s a really aspirational process,” said García. The company, which really amounts to four companies in one given its areas of focus, was built to be comprehensive by design in order to meet the various gaps in the market, García said.

“When you’re building a business here [Latin America], you need to build several businesses because so many things are broken,” he said. That’s why the financing option, for example, has been a key to their success, according to García.

Financing has traditionally been hard to come by in Brazil, and as García said, the used car market lacks infrastructure there, too. That being said, Brazil is Latin America’s fintech hub, and the space has been made leaps and bounds over the last 7-10 years with companies such as Nubank, PagSeguro, Creditas, PicPay, and others leading the way. As a result, credit cards and loans are more widely available today in the region, offering competition for Kavak Capital. While Kavak has localized some of its product for the Brazilian market — namely building out a Portuguese language version of the app and website — García said the markets are very similar.

“In Brazil, you still have the same problems that you have in Mexico, but Brazil is a little more developed, especially in fintech, which is light years ahead of Mexico,” he said.

With the Brazilian product heading to the races, García said they already have plans for other regions, though he declined to name them.

“80% of people in emerging markets don’t have access to a car,” García said of the global market size. “We want to go into big markets where customers are facing similar problems and where Kavak can really change their lives,” he added.

#apps, #argentina, #articles, #automotive, #brazil, #colombia, #creditas, #d1-capital-partners, #ecommerce, #finance, #financial-technology, #financing, #founders-fund, #funding, #latin-america, #logistics, #mexico, #nubank, #online-lending, #online-marketplace, #pagseguro, #recent-funding, #series-d, #startups, #transportation, #unicorn, #used-cars

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Shell invests in LanzaJet to speed up deliveries of its synthetic aviation fuel

The energy giant Shell has joined a slew of strategic investors including All Nippon Airways, Suncor Energy, Mitsui, and British Airways in funding LanzaJet, the company commercializing a process to convert alcohol into jet fuel. 

A spin-off from LanzaTech, one of the last surviving climate tech startups from the first cleantech boom that’s still privately held, LanzaJet is taking a phased investment approach with its corporate backers, enabling them to invest additional capital as the company scales to larger production facilities.

Terms of the initial investment, or LanzaJet’s valuation after the commitment, were not disclosed.

LanzaJet claims that it can help the aviation industry reach net-zero emissions, something that would go a long way toward helping the world meet the emissions reductions targets set in the Paris Agreement.

“LanzaJet’s technology opens up a new and exciting pathway to produce SAF using an AtJ process and will help address the aviation sector’s urgent need for SAF. It demonstrates that the industry can move faster and deliver more when we all work together,” said Anna Mascolo, President, Shell Aviation, in a statement. “Provided industry, government and society collaborate on appropriate policy mechanisms and regulations to drive both supply and demand, aviation can achieve net-zero carbon emissions. The strategic fit with LanzaJet is exciting.”

LanzaJet is currently building an alcohol-to-jet fuel facility in Soperton, Ga. Upon completion it would be the first commercial scale plant for sustainable synthetic jet fuel with a capacity of 10 million gallons per year.

The fuel is made by using an ethanol inputs — something that Shell is very familiar with. It’s also something that the oil giant has in ready supply. Through the Raízen joint venture in Brazil, Shell has been producing bio-ethanol for over ten years.

The company expects that its sustainable fuel will be mixed with conventional fossil jet fuel to power airplanes in a lower carbon intensity way. Roughly 90% of the company’s production output will be aviation fuel, while the remaining 10% will be renewable diesel, the company said.

LanzaJet’s SAF is approved to be blended up to 50% with fossil jet fuel, the maximum allowed  by ASTM, and is a drop-in fuel that requires no modifications to engines, aircraft, and infrastructure.  Additionally, LanzaJet’s SAF delivers more than a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on a  lifecycle basis, compared to conventional fossil jet fuel. The versatility in ethanol, and a focus on low carbon, waste-based, and non-food /non-feed sources, along with ethanol’s global availability, make  LanzaJet’s technology a relevant and enduring solution for SAF. 

 

#all-nippon-airways, #articles, #biofuels, #brazil, #british-airways, #energy, #food, #georgia, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #jet-fuel, #lanzajet, #lanzatech, #mitsui, #president, #shell, #tc

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The ‘Joy and Envy’ of Vaccine FOMO

As some people start to shake off coronavirus precautions, those who are waiting their turn for a vaccine say the FOMO is real. “It’s like when every friend is getting engaged before you.”

#age-chronological, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #brazil, #canada, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #disease-rates, #european-union, #france, #germany, #great-britain, #mexico, #politics-and-government, #quarantine-life-and-culture, #states-us, #vaccination-and-immunization

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Ribbit Capital leads $26.7M round for Brazilian fintech Cora

Cora, a São Paulo-based technology-enabled lender to small-and-medium-sized businesses, has raised $26.7 million in a Series A round led by Silicon Valley VC firm Ribbit Capital.

Kaszek Ventures, QED Investors and Greenoaks Capital also participated in the financing, which brings the startup’s total raised to $36.7 million since its 2019 inception. Kaszek led Cora’s $10 million seed round (believed at that time to be one of the largest seed investments in LatAm) in December 2019 with Ribbit then following.

Last year, Cora got its license approved from the Central Bank of Brazil, making it a 403 bank. The fintech then launched its product in October 2020 and has since grown to have about 60,000 customers and 110 employees.

Cora offers a variety of solutions, ranging from a digital checking account, Visa debit card and management tools such as an invoice manager and cashflow dashboard. With the checking account, customers have the ability to sending and receive money as well as pay bills digitally.

This isn’t the first venture for Cora co-founders Igor Senra and Leo Mendes. The paid had worked together before — founding their first online payments company, MOIP, in 2005. That company sold to Germany’s WireCard in 2016 (with a 3 million customer base) and after three years the founders were able to strike out again.

Cora co-founders Léo Mendes and Igor Senra; Image courtesy of Cora

With Cora, the pair’s long-term goals is to “provide everything that a SMB will need in a bank.”

Looking ahead, the pair has the ambitious goal of being “the fastest growing neobank focused on SMBs in the world.” It plans to use the new capital to add new features and improve existing ones; on operations and launching a portfolio of credit products.

In particular, Cora wants to go even deeper in certain segments such as B2B professional services such as law and accounting firms; real estate brokerage and education.

Ribbit Capital Partner Nikolay Kostov believes that Cora has embarked on “an ambitious mission” to change how small businesses in Brazil are able to access and experience banking.

“While the consumer banking experience has undergone a massive transformation thanks to new digital experiences over the last decade, this is, sadly, still not the case on the small business side,” he said.

For example, Kostov points out, opening a traditional small business bank account in Brazil takes weeks, “reels of paper, and often comes with low limits, poor service, and antiquated digital interfaces.”

Meanwhile, the number of new small businesses in the country continues to grow.

“The combination of these factors makes Brazil an especially attractive market for Cora to launch in and disrupt,” Kostov told TechCrunch. “The Cora founding team is uniquely qualified and deeply attuned to the challenges of small businesses in the country, having spent their entire careers building digital products to serve their needs.”

Since Ribbit’s start in 2012, he added, LatAm has been a core focus geography for the firm “given the magnitude of challenges, and opportunities, in the region to reinvent financial services and serve customers better.”

Ribbit has invested in 15 companies in the region and continues to look for more to back.

“We fully expect that several fintech companies born in the region will become global champions that serve to inspire other entrepreneurs across the globe,” Kostov said.

#brazil, #cora, #digital-banking, #finance, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #greenoaks-capital, #kaszek-ventures, #latin-america, #qed-investors, #recent-funding, #ribbit-capital, #smbs, #startups, #venture-capital

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FinanZero, Brazil’s free online credit marketplace, raises $7M

FinanZero, a Brazilian online credit marketplace, announced today that it has closed a $7 million round of funding – its fourth since it launched in 2016 was founded in 2016. It has raised a total of $22.85 million to date.

The real-time online loan broker allows people to apply for a personal loan, a car equity loan, or a home equity loan for free and receive an answer in minutes. A key to FinanZero’s success is that it doesn’t offer the loans itself, but has instead partnered with about 51 banks and fintechs who back the loans.

FinanZero is based in Brazil’s financial capital, Sao Paulo, and has 52 employees.

“From day one we said, ‘We only work with a success fee,’ so we only get paid when the customer signs the loan contract,” said Olle Widen, the company’s co-founder, and CEO. 

Instead of charging the customer, FinanZero gets a commission from one of its partners, and with a growing volume of credit applications – an average of 750,000 applications per month – the company has seen 61% revenue growth from 2019-2020.

Olle Widen, cofounder and CEO of Finanzero

The Brazilian finance and banking market has been ripe for disruption, as it has traditionally favored the rich. 

Those with low incomes – the vast majority of Brazilian citizens – are then left with few options when it comes to financing, and which in turn forces them into compounding debt they’ll likely never escape from. Traditionally, young Brazilians have lived with their families until they got married, and while there is a cultural aspect to it, the bottom line is that mortgages were infinitely hard to get approved for. 

With products like FinanZero and Nubank – Latin America’s largest digital bank – Brazilians are starting to see more economic mobility and independence from the legacy institutions that dictated their lives for so long.

Widen, who is Swedish, moved to Brazil about 10 years ago for personal reasons, and while there, was pitched the idea of FinanZero by Webrok Ventures, an investment company focused on bringing Nordic innovation to Brazil. 

At the time, Swedish startup Lendo – a precursor to FinanZero – was making waves in Sweden, and the team felt that a similar model would succeed in Brazil, a country known for its bureaucracy and red tape, and thus primed for a streamlined and hassle-free approach to loans.

The original idea was to just copy Lendo, Widen said, but as others have discovered, along the way the team needed to “tropicalize” the product and the experience, meaning they had to build a custom solution for the Brazilian market and its people.

“The founder of Lendo was a childhood friend of mine,” said Widen, of his close ties to the Swedish fintech.

To apply for a loan on FinanZero you don’t need to provide your credit score. Instead, all you need is a utility bill (proof of address), proof of income, and your government ID. The process is so simple, Widen said, that 92% of loan applications are initiated from a smartphone.

“Our business model is very based on the bank’s risk appetite and we saw 60% growth from 2019-2020. We are close to 3 million visits per month, about 1.5 are unique and in March of 2021, we had 800K people fill out the entire loan form. We have about a 10% approval rating across all products,” Widen said.

The round was led by the Swedish investors VEF, Dunross & Co, and Atlant Fonder, which are all previous investors in the company. The funding will go toward marketing – most of which will be on T.V. – product development, and talent acquisition.

#banking, #brazil, #economy, #finance, #finanzero, #latin-america, #loans, #money, #online-lending, #personal-finance, #recent-funding, #sao-paulo, #startups

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Researchers Are Hatching a Low-Cost Coronavirus Vaccine

A new formulation entering clinical trials in Brazil, Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam could change how the world fights the pandemic.

#antibodies, #bangkok-thailand, #biology-and-biochemistry, #brazil, #clinical-trials, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #drugs-pharmaceuticals, #eggs, #factories-and-manufacturing, #gates-bill-and-melinda-foundation, #immune-system, #influenza, #mclellan-jason-researcher, #mers-middle-east-respiratory-syndrome, #thailand, #vietnam, #your-feed-health, #your-feed-science

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Researchers Are Hatching a Low-Cost Covid-19 Vaccine

A new formulation entering clinical trials in Brazil, Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam could change how the world fights the pandemic.

#antibodies, #bangkok-thailand, #biology-and-biochemistry, #brazil, #clinical-trials, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #drugs-pharmaceuticals, #eggs, #factories-and-manufacturing, #gates-bill-and-melinda-foundation, #immune-system, #influenza, #mclellan-jason-researcher, #mers-middle-east-respiratory-syndrome, #thailand, #vietnam, #your-feed-health, #your-feed-science

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Virus Variants Threaten to Draw Out the Pandemic, Scientists Say

Declining infection rates over all masked a rise in more contagious forms of the coronavirus. Vaccines will stop the spread, if Americans postpone celebration just a bit longer.

#astrazeneca-plc, #brazil, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #disease-rates, #europe, #florida, #germany, #great-britain, #immune-system, #influenza, #johnsonjohnson, #moderna-inc, #novavax-inc, #oxford-university, #pfizer-inc, #vaccination-and-immunization, #your-feed-science

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Covid-19 Killed the Last Juma Elder in the Amazon

The coronavirus and Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, are jeopardizing the survival of Indigenous peoples and the future of the next human generation.

#amazon-jungle, #bolsonaro-jair-1955, #brazil, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #indigenous-people, #juma-aruka-d-2021, #land-use-policies

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As Coronavirus and Economic Woes Ravage Brazil, Bolsonaro Improvises and Confounds

Critics see the recent behavior of Brazil’s president — polarizing in the best of times — as an unnerving sign of a flailing leader. His strategy, if there is one, is difficult to discern.

#bolsonaro-jair-1955, #brazil, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #deaths-fatalities, #defense-and-military-forces, #disease-rates, #impeachment, #politics-and-government

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Virus Variants Can Infect Mice, Scientists Report

Infected rodents pose no immediate danger to humans, but the research suggests that mutations are helping the coronavirus expand its range of potential hosts.

#animals, #bats, #brazil, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #disease-rates, #europe, #institut-pasteur, #mice, #minks-animals, #rodents, #south-africa, #xavier-montagutelli, #your-feed-science

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Tropical Forest Destruction Accelerated in 2020

There were bright spots, but the total lost acreage increased by 12 percent over all from the year before, according to new research.

#agriculture-and-farming, #amazon-jungle, #biodiversity, #brazil, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #economic-conditions-and-trends, #forests-and-forestry, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #indonesia, #logging-industry, #pantanal-brazil, #rural-areas, #wildfires, #world-resources-institute

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Brazil’s Armed Forces Chiefs Resign Abruptly Amid Cabinet Shake-Up

The sudden departure of the military leaders came a day after President Jair Bolsonaro fired his defense minister and reshaped his cabinet.

#appointments-and-executive-changes, #bolsonaro-jair-1955, #brazil, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #defense-and-military-forces, #politics-and-government

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Google starts trialing its FLoC cookie alternative in Chrome

Google today announced that it is rolling out Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), a crucial part of its Privacy Sandbox project for Chrome, as a developer origin trial.

FLoC is meant to be an alternative to the kind of cookies that advertising technology companies use today to track you across the web. Instead of a personally identifiable cookie, FLoC runs locally and analyzes your browsing behavior to group you into a cohort of like-minded people with similar interests (and doesn’t share your browsing history with Google). That cohort is specific enough to allow advertisers to do their thing and show you relevant ads, but without being so specific as to allow marketers to identify you personally.

This “interest-based advertising,” as Google likes to call it, allows you to hide within the crowd of users with similar interests. All the browser displays is a cohort ID and all your browsing history and other data stay locally.

Image Credits: Google / Getty Images

The trial will start in the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and the Philippines. Over time, Google plans to scale it globally. As we learned earlier this month, Google is not running any tests in Europe because of concerns around GDPR and other privacy regulations (in part, because it’s unclear whether FLoC IDs should be considered personal data under these regulations).

Users will be able to opt out from this origin trial, just like they will be able to do so with all other Privacy Sandbox trials.

Unsurprisingly, given how FLoC upends many of the existing online advertising systems in place, not everybody loves this idea. Advertisers obviously love the idea of being able to target individual users, though Google’s preliminary data shows that using these cohorts leads to similar results for them and that advertisers can expect to see “at least 95% of the conversions per dollar spent when compared to cookie-based advertising.”

Google notes that its own advertising products will get the same access to FLoC IDs as its competitors in the ads ecosystem.

But it’s not just the advertising industry that is eyeing this project skeptically. Privacy advocates aren’t fully sold on the idea either. The EFF, for example, argues that FLoC will make it easier for marketing companies that want to fingerprint users based on the various FLoC IDs they expose, for example. That’s something Google is addressing with its Privacy Budget proposal, but how well that will work remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, users would probably prefer to just browse the web without seeing ads (no matter what the advertising industry may want us to believe) and without having to worry about their privacy. But online publishers continue to rely on advertising income to fund their sites.

With all of these divergent interests, it was always clear that Google’s initiatives weren’t going to please everyone. That friction was always built into the process. And while other browser vendors can outright block ads and third-party cookies, Google’s role in the advertising ecosystem makes this a bit more complicated.

“When other browsers started blocking third-party cookies by default, we were excited about the direction, but worried about the immediate impact,” Marshall Vale, Google’s product manager for Privacy Sandbox, writes in today’s announcement. “Excited because we absolutely need a more private web, and we know third-party cookies aren’t the long-term answer. Worried because today many publishers rely on cookie-based advertising to support their content efforts, and we had seen that cookie blocking was already spawning privacy-invasive workarounds (such as fingerprinting) that were even worse for user privacy. Overall, we felt that blocking third-party cookies outright without viable alternatives for the ecosystem was irresponsible, and even harmful, to the free and open web we all enjoy.”

It’s worth noting that FLoC, as well as Google’s other privacy sandbox initiatives, are still under development. The company says the idea here is to learn from these initial trials and evolve the project accordingly.

#advertising-tech, #australia, #brazil, #canada, #computing, #google, #google-search, #india, #indonesia, #japan, #mexico, #new-zealand, #online-advertising, #philippines, #software, #tracking, #united-states, #web-browsers

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Men’s health startup Manual raises $30M Series A from US and European investors

Men’s health and wellbeing startup Manual has raised a $30m Series A round from US-based Sonoma Brands and Waldencast, and Manual’s existing European investors Felix Capital and Cherry Ventures. FJ Labs and the GISEV Family Office also participated in the round. The cash will be used for product development and international expansion. Manual provides diagnostics, treatments and ongoing care and plans to expand across Europe, Asia and Latin America. The company has already expanded to Brazil.

Manual is competing with Numan (raised $13M), also from the UK (Manual launched a month earlier than them). In the US it is competing with Ro (raised $876.1M) and Hims (listed). All these brands tend to focus on issues like vitamins and erectile dysfunction, with the, often common refrain of, ‘normalizing’ the idea that men should look after themselves better, across a number of fronts and removing stigma’s around sexual health. It performs blood tests and other tests to analyze heart health, gut health, testosterone, sleep, energy, and immunity. They are pushing at a large market, as men historically avoid doctors.

Manual app

Manual app

George Pallis, CEO and Founder, previously led marketing at Wise and Deliveroo. In a statement he said: “We’ve been encouraged to see men of all ages increasingly turning to Manual to solve multiple health problems, with almost half of our customers seeking help for more than one issue. It’s clear that a health concern may have more than one cause, and we can provide customers with the ability to treat their health in a more holistic way. Using different treatments to understand and improve their wellbeing.”

Speaking to during an interview Pallis added: “We built our own teleconsultation product and have different applications for the blood test offering. When you get your results we will offer a clinician, we’ll walk you through all the data and the learnings. We offer tools where people can monitor their progress and have regular check-ins with our medical team.”

Antoine Nussenbaum, co-Founder and partner of Felix Capital, commented: “There is still much work to be done to remove the taboo when it comes to men looking after their wellbeing and talking openly about health concerns. But we’re starting to see a shift happen amongst consumers.”

Kevin Murphy, Managing Director of Sonoma Brands, commented: “Manual exists to empower men to take better care of themselves and to live fuller lives by doing so. George and his team have the clarity of vision and the skill to make Manual a leader in this exciting and important area.”

#antoine-nussenbaum, #articles, #asia, #brazil, #ceo, #cherry-ventures, #deliveroo, #energy, #europe, #felix-capital, #fj-labs, #health, #latin-america, #leader, #manual, #online-food-ordering, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #well-being

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His Plane Crashed in the Amazon. Then Came the Hard Part.

A Brazilian pilot working for wildcat miners escaped death when his plane went down in a remote area. He walked through the jungle for 36 days before being rescued.

#amazon-jungle, #aviation-accidents-safety-and-disasters, #brazil, #pilots

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A Collapse Foretold: How Brazil’s Covid-19 Outbreak Overwhelmed Hospitals

The virus has killed more than 300,000 people in Brazil, its spread aided by a highly contagious variant, political infighting and distrust of science.

#bolsonaro-jair-1955, #brazil, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #hydroxychloroquine-drug, #rumors-and-misinformation, #vaccination-and-immunization

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Brazil’s iFood outlines sustainability initiatives aiming to reduce its carbon footprint

The Brazilian-based pan-Latin American food delivery startup iFood has announced a series of initiatives designed to reduce the company’s environmental impact as consumers push companies to focus more on sustainability.

The program has two main components — one focused on plastic pollution and waste and another aiming to become carbon neutral in its operations by 2025.

Perhaps the most ambitious, and surely the most capital intensive of the company’s waste reduction initiatives is the development of a semi-automated recycling facility in Sao Paulo.

“We want to transform the entire supply chain for plastic-free packaging in Brazil. By controlling the national supply chain, from production to marketing and logistics, we can offer more competitive pricing for packaging to industries that already exist but do not have a scale of production and demand today,” said  Gustavo Vitti, the chief people and sustainability officer at iFood. 

 The company has also created an in-app option that allows customers to decline plastic cutlery when they’re getting their food delivered. 

“These initiatives will contribute to reducing the consumption of plastic items, which are often sent without being requested and end up going unused into the garbage bin,” said Vitti. “In the first tests that we did, 90 percent of consumers used the resource, which resulted in the reduction of tens of thousands of plastic cutlery and shows our consumers’ desire to receive less waste in their homes.”

On the emissions front, the company will work with Moss.Earth, a technology company in the carbon market, which developed the GHG inventory to offset its emissions by buying credits tied to environmental preservation and reforestation projects. 

But the company is also working Tembici, a provider of electric bikes in Brazil to move its delivery fleet off of internal combustion powered mopeds or scooters.

“We know that compensation alone is not enough. It is necessary to think of innovative ways to reduce CO2 emissions. In October last year, we launched the iFood Pedal program, in partnership with Tembici, a project developed exclusively for couriers that offers affordable plans for renting electric bikes,” said Vitti. “Currently, more than 2,000 couriers are registered and are sharing 1,000 electric bikes in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in addition to the educational aspect of program that we have contemplated. With good adherence indicators, our plan is to gradually expand the project, taking it to other cities and, thus, increase our percentage of clean deliveries.”

The Brazilian electric motorcycle company, Voltz Motors is also working with iFood, which ordered 30 electric motorcycles for use by some of its delivery partners. The company hopes to roll out more than 10,000 motorcycles over the next 12 months. 

Coupled with internal facing initiatives to improve water reuse, deploy renewable energy and develop a green roof at its Osasco headquarters, iFood is hoping to hit sustainability goals that can improve the environment across Brazil and beyond. 

“We know that we have a long way to go, but we trust that together with important partners and this set of initiatives, in addition to others that are under development, it will be possible to reduce plastic generation and CO2 emissions impact on the environment. Our relevance and presence in the lives of Brazilian families further reinforces the importance of these environmental commitments for the planet,” said Vitti.

#articles, #brazil, #earth, #electric-bicycle, #environmentalism, #food, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #ifood, #moss, #recycling, #renewable-energy, #reuse, #sao-paulo, #sustainability, #tc, #technology, #tembici

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Argentina’s Digital House raises over $50M to help solve LatAm’s tech talent shortage

Digital House, a Buenos Aires-based edtech focused on developing tech talent through immersive remote courses, announced today it has raised more than $50 million in new funding.

Notably, two of the main investors are not venture capital firms but instead are two large tech companies: Latin American e-commerce giant Mercado Libre and San Francisco-based software developer Globant. Riverwood Capital, a Menlo Park-based private equity firm, and existing backer early-stage Argentina-based venture firm Kaszek also participated in the financing.

The raise brings Digital House’s total funding raised to more than $80 million since its 2016 inception. The Rise Fund led a $20 million Series B for Digital House in December 2017, marking the San Francisco-based firm’s investment in Latin America.

Nelson Duboscq, CEO and co-founder of Digital House, said that accelerating demand for tech talent in Latin America has fueled demand for the startup’s online courses. Since it first launched its classes in March 2016, the company has seen a 118% CAGR in revenues and a 145% CAGR in students. The 350-person company expects “and is on track” to be profitable this year, according to Duboscq.

Digital House CEO and co-founder Nelson Duboscq. Image Credits: Digital House

In 2020, 28,000 students across Latin America used its platform. The company projects that more than 43,000 will take courses via its platform in 2021. Fifty percent of its business comes out of Brazil, 30% from Argentina and the remaining 20% in the rest of Latin America.

Specifically, Digital House offers courses aimed at teaching “the most in-demand digital skills” to people who either want to work in the digital industry or for companies that need to train their employees on digital skills. Emphasizing practice, Digital House offers courses — that range from six months to two years — teaching skills such as web and mobile development, data analytics, user experience design, digital marketing and product development.

The courses are fully accessible online and combine live online classes led by in-house professors, with content delivered through Digital House’s platform via videos, quizzes and exercises “that can be consumed at any time.” 

Digital House also links its graduates to company jobs, claiming an employability rate of over 95%.

Looking ahead, Digital House says it will use its new capital toward continuing to evolve its digital training platforms, as well as launching a two-year tech training program — dubbed the the “Certified Tech Developer” initiative — jointly designed with Mercado Libre and Globant. The program aims to train thousands of students through full-time two-year courses and connect them with tech companies globally. 

Specifically, the company says it will also continue to expand its portfolio of careers beyond software development and include specialization in e-commerce, digital marketing, data science and cybersecurity. Digital House also plans to expand its partnerships with technology employers and companies in Brazil and the rest of Latin America. It also is planning some “strategic M&A,” according to Duboscq.

Francisco Alvarez-Demalde, co-founder & co-managing partner of Riverwood Capital, noted that his firm has observed an accelerating digitization of the economy across all sectors in Latin America, which naturally creates demand for tech-savvy talent. (Riverwood has an office in São Paulo).

For example, in addition to web developers, there’s been increased demand for data scientists, digital marketing and cybersecurity specialists.

“In Brazil alone, over 70,000 new IT professionals are needed each year and only about 45,000 are trained annually,” Alvarez-Demalde said. “As a result of such a talent crunch, salaries for IT professionals in the region increased 20% to 30% last year. In this context, Digital House has a large opportunity ahead of them and is positioned strategically as the gatekeeper of new digital talent in Latin America, preparing workers for the jobs of the future.”

André Chaves, senior VP of Strategy at Mercado Libre, said the company saw in Digital House a track record of “understanding closely” what Mercado Libre and other tech companies need.

“They move as fast as we do and adapt quickly to what the job market needs,” he said. “A very important asset for us is their presence and understanding of Latin America, its risks and entrepreneurial environment. Global players have succeeded for many years in our region. But things are shifting gradually, and local knowledge of risks and opportunities can make a great difference.”

#brazil, #digital-house, #digital-marketing, #e-commerce, #education, #funding, #fundings-exits, #globant, #latin-america, #marketing, #menlo-park, #mercado-libre, #mercadolibre, #online-courses, #private-equity, #recent-funding, #rise-fund, #riverwood-capital, #san-francisco, #software-development, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital, #venture-capital-firms, #web-developers

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Real estate platform Loft raises $425M at a $2.2B valuation in one of Brazil’s largest venture rounds

Buying and selling residential real estate is a complex business, no matter where you live. A slew of startups in the United States are focused on streamlining that process for people. But in Brazil, where no MLS exists, the challenge of digitizing real estate is even greater.

One startup that has set out to serve as a “one-stop shop” for Brazilians to help them manage the home buying and selling process has managed to attract one of the largest — if not the largest — funding rounds ever raised by a Brazilian startup.

This morning, digital real estate platform Loft announced it has closed on $425 million in Series D funding led by New York-based D1 Capital Partners. A mix of new and existing investors also participated in the round, including Advent, Altimeter, DST, Silver Lake, Soros, Tarsadia, Tiger Global, Andreessen Horowitz, Caffeinated, Fifth Wall, Monashees, QED and Vulcan, among others.

The round values Loft at $2.2 billion, a huge jump from its being just near unicorn territory in January 2020, when it raised a $175 million Series C.

A round of this size is impressive for any startup, but especially for one that was founded just over three years ago in Latin America. The region has seen explosive growth as of late, with a maturing startup scene in Brazil in particular. São Paulo-based Loft too has seen major growth. While the company was less forthcoming about its financials as of late, it told me last year that it had notched “over $150 million in annualized revenues in its first full year of operation” via more than 1,000 transactions.

In 2020, Loft saw the number of listings on its site increase “10 to 15 times,” according to co-founder and co-CEO Mate Pencz. Today, the company actively maintains more than 13,000 property listings in approximately 130 regions across São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, partnering with more than 30,000 brokers. Not only are more people open to transacting digitally, more people are looking to buy versus rent in the country.

“We did more than 6x YoY growth with many thousands of transactions over the course of 2020,” Pencz told TechCrunch. “We’re now growing into the many tens of thousands, and soon hundreds of thousands, of active listings.”

The company’s revenues and GMV (gross merchandise value) also “increased significantly” in 2020, according to Pencz, who declined to provide more specifics. He did say those figures are “multiples higher from where they were,” and that Loft has “a very clear horizon to profitability.”

“Loft has adapted really fast to the new reality we’re living in, with COVID having only propelled or accelerated our growth,” Pencz said.

Pencz and Florian Hagenbuch founded Loft in early 2018 and today serve as its co-CEOs. The aim of the platform, in the company’s words, is “bringing Latin American real estate into the e-commerce age by developing online alternatives to analogue legacy processes and leveraging data to create transparency in highly opaque markets.” The U.S. real estate tech company with the closest model to Loft’s is probably Zillow, according to Pencz.

In the United States, prospective buyers and sellers have the benefit of MLSs, which in the words of the National Association of Realtors, are private databases that are created, maintained and paid for by real estate professionals to help their clients buy and sell property. Loft itself spent years and many dollars in creating its own such databases for the Brazilian market. Besides helping people buy and sell homes, it offers services around insurance, renovations and rentals.

In 2020, Loft also entered the mortgage business by acquiring one of the largest mortgage brokerage businesses in Brazil. The startup now ranks among the top-three mortgage originators in the country, according to Pencz. When it comes to helping people apply for mortgages, he likened Loft to U.S.-based Better.com.

The startup has also grown its number of employees in the past year, growing from 450 last January to 700 today. In particular, it’s significantly beefed up its tech team, according to Pencz.

Image courtesy of Loft

Notably, at the time of its series C, the investment marked the first and only investment in Latin America for Vulcan Capital (the investment arm of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen) and the first and only Brazilian investment for Andreessen Horowitz.

This latest financing brings Loft’s total funding raised to an impressive $700 million. Other backers include Brazil’s Canary and a group of high-profile angel investors such as Max Levchin of Affirm and PayPal, Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale, Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger and David Vélez, CEO and founder of Brazilian fintech Nubank. In addition, Loft has also raised more than $100 million in debt financing through a series of publicly listed real estate funds.

Loft plans to use its new capital in part to expand across Brazil and eventually in Latin America and beyond. The company is also planning to explore more M&A opportunities.

“We’re now going into this year extremely well-capitalized and I think that in addition to doubling down on the core business, there might be strategic acquisitions also on the horizon,” Pencz told TechCrunch. “We also plan to make Loft as much of a regional and potentially global business, following in the footsteps of some of the other Brazilian companies who recently have been expanding globally.”

Dan Sundheim, founder of D1 Capital, said that part of his firm’s approach as investors is identifying opportunities “at the confluence of structural shifts, secular trends and world-class management teams.”

“Analyzing Loft, we were particularly impressed by the team’s focus and relentless execution, which has allowed them to build scale as well as deep data and technology moats in a short amount of time,” he said in a written statement.

#brazil, #d1-capital-partners, #funding, #fundings-exits, #loft, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #startups, #venture-capital

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Nuvemshop, LatAm’s answer to Shopify, raises $90M in Accel-led Series D

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to people everywhere shopping more online and Latin America is no exception.

São Paulo-based Nuvemshop has developed an e-commerce platform that aims to allow SMBs and merchants to connect more directly with their consumers. With more people in Latin America getting used to making purchases digitally, the company has experienced a major surge in business over the past year.

Demand for Nuvemshop’s offering was already heating up prior to the pandemic. But over the past 12 months, that demand has skyrocketed as more merchants have been seeking greater control over their brands.

Rather than selling their goods on existing marketplaces (such as Mercado Libre, the Brazilian equivalent of Amazon), many merchants and entrepreneurs are opting to start and grow their own online businesses, according to Nuvemshop co-founder and CEO Santiago Sosa.

“Most merchants have entered the internet by selling on marketplaces but we are hearing from newer generations of merchants and SMBs that they don’t want to be intermediated anymore,” he said. “They want to connect more directly with consumers and convey their own brand, image and voice.”

The proof is in the numbers.

Nuvemshop has seen the number of merchants on its platform surge to nearly 80,000 across Brazil, Argentina and Mexico compared to 20,000 at the start of 2020. These businesses range from direct-to-consumer (DTC) upstarts to larger brands such as PlayMobil, Billabong and Luigi Bosca. Virtually every KPI tripled in the company in 2020 as the world saw a massive transition to online, and Nuvemshop’s platform was home to 14 million transactions last year, according to Sosa.

“With us, businesses can find a more comprehensive ecosystem around payments, logistics, shipping and catalogue/inventory management,” he said.

Nuvemshop’s rapid growth caught the attention of Silicon Valley-based Accel. Having just raised $30 million in a Series C round in October and achieving profitability in 2020, the Nuvemshop team was not looking for more capital.

But Ethan Choi, a partner at Accel, said his firm saw in Nuvemshop the potential to be the market leader, or the “de facto” e-commerce platform, in Latin America.

“Accel has been investing in e-commerce for a very long time. It’s a very important area for us,” Choi said. “We saw what they were building and all their potential. So we pre-emptively asked them to let us invest.”

Today, Nuvemshop is announcing that it has closed on a $90 million Series D funding led by Accel. ThornTree Capital and returning backers Kaszek, Qualcomm Ventures and others also put money in the round, which brings Nuvemshop’s total funding raised since its 2011 inception to nearly $130 million. The company declined to reveal at what valuation this latest round was raised but it is notable that its Series D is triple the size of its Series C, raised just over six months prior. Sosa said only that there was a “substantial increase” in valuation since its Series C.

Nuvemshop is banking on the fact that the density of SMBs in Latin America is higher in most Latin American countries compared to the U.S. On top of that, the $85 billion e-commerce market in Latin America is growing rapidly with projections of it reaching $116.2 billion in 2023.

“In Brazil, it grew 40% last year but is still underpenetrated, representing less than 10% of retail sales. In Latin America as a whole, penetration is somewhere between 5 and 10%,” Sosa said.

Nuvemshop co-founder and CEO Santiago Sosa;
Image courtesy of Nuvemshop

Last year, the company transitioned from a closed product to a platform that is open to everyone from third parties, developers, agencies and other SaaS vendors. Through Nuvemshop’s APIs, all those third parties can connect their apps into Nuvemshop’s platform.

“Our platform becomes much more powerful, vendors are generating more revenue and merchants have more options,” Sosa told TechCrunch. “So everyone wins.” Currently, Nuvemshop has about 150 applications publishing on its ecosystem, which he projects will more than triple over the next 12 to 18 months.

As for comparisons to Shopify, Sosa said the company doesn’t necessarily make them but believes they are “fair.”

To Choi, there are many similarities.

“We saw Amazon get to really big scale in the U.S.. Merchants also found tools to build their own presence. This birthed Shopify, which today is worth $160 billion. Both companies saw their market caps quadruple during the pandemic,” he said. “Now we’re seeing the same dynamics in LatAm…Our bet here is that this company and business has all the same dynamics and the same really powerful tailwinds.”

For Accel partner Andrew Braccia, Nuvemshop has a clear first mover advantage.

Over the past decade, direct-to-consumer has become one of the most important drivers of entrepreneurship globally,” he said. “Latin America is no exception to this trend, and we believe that Nuvemshop has the level of sophistication and ability to understand all that change and fuel the continued transformation of commerce from offline to online.”

Looking ahead, Sosa expects Nuvemshop will use its new capital to significantly invest in: continuing to open its APIs; payments processing and financial services; “everything related to logistics and logistics management” and attracting smaller merchants. It also plans to expand into other markets such as Colombia, Chile and Peru over the next 18-24 months. Nuvemshop currently operates in Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.

“While the countries share the same secular trends and product experience, they have very different market dynamics,” Sosa said. “This requires an on the ground local knowledge to make it all work. Separate markets require distinct knowledge. That makes this a more complicated opportunity, but one that enables a long-term competitive advantage.”

#accel, #amazon, #andrew-braccia, #argentina, #brazil, #chile, #colombia, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #finance, #financial-services, #funding, #fundings-exits, #investment, #latin-america, #market-leader, #mercado-libre, #mexico, #nuvemshop, #payments-processing, #peru, #publishing, #qualcomm-ventures, #recent-funding, #saas, #sao-paulo, #series-c, #silicon-valley, #startups, #tc, #united-states, #venture-capital

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A Stew That Captures the Essence of the Sea

A vibrant seafood stew, moqueca invigorates holiday menus and everyday meals alike.

#brazil, #cooking-and-cookbooks, #easter-and-holy-week, #lagos-nigeria, #seafood, #soups

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Brazilian startup Tractian gets the Y Combinator seal of approval for its equipment monitoring tech

Igor Marinelli and Gabriel Lameirinhas were raised around manufacturing plants. Marinelli’s father worked for International Paper in a plant outside of Sao Paulo while Lameirinhas’ father worked in a cement plant. 

Throughout their lives, the two friends had heard their parents complain about the sorry state of maintenance and monitoring of the heavy equipment that their factories depended on to stay up and running.

So the two men decided to do something about it, and set about to develop the technology which would become Tractian.

Friends from their days at University of Sao Paulo, Lameirinhas and Marinelli kept in touch as Marinelli pursued a career in the U.S. as an entrepreneur, they reconnected in Brazil after the collapse of Marinelli’s attempt to launch a predictive chronic health condition service called BlueAI.

Marinelli spent some time working in a paper plant himself and became a software engineer for the facility. It was there that he saw the shoddy state of affairs that industrial monitoring tools were in.

Together with Lameirinhas he determined that there could be a better way. Factories in Brazil aren’t equipped with wifi or gateways or other networking technologies that the newest solutions from companies like Siemens or Schneider Electric require. Integrations with existing enterprise resource planning software from companies like SAP present another headache, said Marinelli.

“Only industries with huge capital can go through that mess,” Marinelli said.

Tractian’s sensors measure four things: vibration, temperature, energy consumption and a horometer to measure how long a machine has been up and running. The company has also developed software that can analyze the data coming off of the sensors to predict when a machine might need maintenance.

Y Combinator found the software and hardware package compelling and so did investors like Soma Capital, Norte Ventures, and angel investors including Alan Rutledge and Immad Akhund.

Tractian’s tech costs $90 for the sensors and the analysis and software is another $60 per month, per sensor. Marinelli claims that the service can pay for itself in less than two months. Already, the company has signed up AB InBev as an initial customer and has roughly 30 buyers in total using its sensors.

 

#brazil, #energy-consumption, #entrepreneur, #heavy-equipment, #monitoring, #sao-paulo, #siemens, #software-engineer, #soma-capital, #tc, #united-states, #y-combinator

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OctoML raises $28M Series B for its machine learning acceleration platform

OctoML, a Seattle-based startup that offers a machine learning acceleration platform build on top of the open-source Apache TVM compiler framework project, today announced that it has raised a $28 million Series B funding round led by Addition Captial. Previous investors Madrona Venture Group and Amplify Partners also participated in this round, which brings the company’s total funding to $47 million. The company last raised in April 2020, when it announced its $15 million Series A round led by Amplify

The promise of OctoML is that developers can bring their models to its platform and the service will automatically optimize that model’s performance for any given cloud or edge device. The founding team created the TVM project, which

As Brazil-born OctoML co-founder and CEO Luis Ceze told me, since raising its Series A round, the company started onboarding some early adopters to its ‘Octomizer’ SaaS platform.

Image Credits: OctoML

“It’s still in early access, but we are we have close to 1,000 early access sign-ups on the waitlist,” Ceze said. “That was a pretty strong signal for us to end up taking this [funding]. The Series B was pre-emptive. We were planning on starting to raise money right about now. We had barely started spending our Series A money — we still had a lot of that left. But since we saw this growth and we had more paying customers than we anticipated, there were a lot of signals like, ‘hey, now we can accelerate the go-to-market machinery, build a customer success team and continue expanding the engineering team to build new features.”

Ceze tells me that the team also saw strong growth signals in the overall community around the TVM project (with about 1,000 people attending its virtual conference last year). As for its customer base (and companies on its waitlist), Ceze says it represents a wide range of verticals that range from defense contractors to financial services and life science companies, automotive firms and startups in a variety of fields.

Recently, OctoML also launched support for the Apple M1 chip — and saw very good performance from that.

The company has also formed partnerships with industry heavyweights like Microsoft (which is also a customer), Qualcomm, AMD and Sony to build out the open-source components and optimize its service for an even wider range of models (and larger ones, too).

On the engineering side, Ceze tells me that the team is looking at not just optimizing and tuning models but also the training process. Training ML models can quickly become costly and any service that can speed up that process leads to direct savings for its users — which in turn makes OctoML an easier sell. The plan here, Ceze tells me, is to offer an end-to-end solution where people can optimize their ML training and the resulting models and then push their models out to their preferred platform. Right now, its users still have to take the artifact that the Octomizer creates and deploy that themselves, but deployment support is on OctoML’s roadmap.

“When we first met Luis and the OctoML team, we knew they were poised to transform the way ML teams deploy their machine learning models,” said Lee Fixel, founder of Addition. “They have the vision, the talent and the technology to drive ML transformation across every major enterprise. They launched Octomizer six months ago and it’s already becoming the go-to solution developers and data scientists use to maximize ML model performance. We look forward to supporting the company’s continued growth.”

#amd, #amplify, #amplify-partners, #artificial-intelligence, #brazil, #developer, #enterprise, #lee-fixel, #machine-learning, #madrona-venture-group, #microsoft, #ml, #octoml, #qualcomm, #recent-funding, #seattle, #series-a, #sony, #startups, #venture-capital

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The toilet paper startup backed by Marc Benioff, Dara Khosrowshahi, and Robert Downey Jr. now sells paper towels

Cloud Paper, the startup whose bamboo toilet paper (and celebrity and billionaire backers including Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Marc Benioff, Dara Khosrowshahi, and Mark Cuban) made a splash last year, is getting into the paper towel racket.

Starting today, the company is taking pre-orders for its 12 pack boxes of sustainably sourced bamboo paper towels, which will retail for $34.99.

The Seattle-based company was founded by two ex-Uber employees, Ryan Fritsch and Austin Watkins, who went on to take roles at the logistics startup Convoy, before launching Cloud Paper. Their toilet paper (and now paper towel company) is one of several businesses trying to get consumers to make the switch to bamboo-based consumer products.

Cozy Earth and Ettitude sell bamboo sheets and bedding; The Bamboo Clothing Co., Thought, Tasc, Free Fly Apparel, all make bamboo clothing; and Bite has a bamboo toothbrush to go with its plastic-free toothpastes and flosses.

But (I’m quoting myself here) Cloud Paper may be the only one to get such super wealthy, high profile investors to flush it with wads of cash. Even so, companies like Grove, Tushy, Reel, and the aptly named Who gives a crap, Inc. are all angling to wipe up a piece of the $10.4 billion market for toilet paper.

The company’s founders are on a mission to make the paper industry more sustainable, according to co-founder Ryan Fritsch, and they’re looking to do it one roll at a time.

While other companies look at bamboo as a replacement for cotton or plastics, the Cloud Paper co-founder said this company is squarely focused on toilet paper and paper towels because those products make up most of the crap that’s most wasteful in the paper industry.

The company has already ordered 1 million rolls of toilet paper for production and shipped hundreds of thousands of toilet paper, but the rationale for adoption has shifted, the company said.

“It definitely had its moment when the COVID shutdowns happened,” said Fritsch. “But [consumption] shifted from a TP panic to ‘There’s an easy and convenient, sustainable, option out there.’ It’s less of an all-out craze,” Fritsch said.

No less august a body than the National Resources Defense Council has come out swinging against how much waste is sacrificed to the commode.

For instance, the logging industry in Canada degrades over a million acres of its climate-critical forest, in part to feed U.S. demand for toilet paper, according to the NRDC. Demand from the U.S. has grown so substantially that, in recent years, Canada has ranked third globally in its rate of intact forest loss—behind only Russia and Brazil—mostly due to logging, the NRDC said.

Ninety percent of that is clearcutting, which exacerbates climate change. By the most conservative estimates, “logging in the boreal releases 26 million metric tons of carbon through driving emissions from the forest’s carbon-rich soils and eroding the forest’s ability to absorb carbon,” the NRDC wrote in 2020 report. “Toilet paper’s impact is even more severe because, since it is so short-lived, it quickly releases its remaining carbon into the atmosphere. That is why, according to the Environmental Paper Network, toilet paper made from trees has three times the climate impact as toilet paper created using recycled materials.”

That’s why wiping out forested paper can be a real boon in the climate fight.

“The lion’s share of usage is number one is toilet paper and number two is paper towels, after that the size of the market really really shrinks. We’re going to be continuing on the paper space,” said Fritsch. 

The company’s next act will be working with businesses like restaurants, hotels, and even stadiums and arenas to make the swithc.

“We launched the company as a B2B company. We were working with WeWork and restaurants and the market — if you look at where our paper products were being used,” Fritsch said. “So another big focus will be building products for our commercial customers where there’s higher capacity.”

Cloud Paper box of paper towels. Image Credit: Cloud Paper

#bamboo, #brazil, #canada, #cloud-paper, #co-founder, #consumer-products, #dara-khosrowshahi, #gwyneth-paltrow, #hygiene, #marc-benioff, #mark, #paper, #plants, #plastics, #public-health, #russia, #sanitation, #seattle, #tc, #toilet-paper, #towel, #tushy, #uber, #united-states, #wework

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Brazil Needs Vaccines. China Is Benefiting.

China is a major supplier of coronavirus vaccine, giving it enormous leverage in pandemic-ravaged nations. Brazil, recently hostile to the Chinese company Huawei, has suddenly changed its stance.

#5g-wireless-communications, #bolsonaro-jair-1955, #brazil, #communist-party-of-china, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #huawei-technologies-co-ltd, #latin-america, #sinovac-biotech-ltd, #trump-donald-j, #vaccination-and-immunization

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There’s a Global Plan to Conserve Nature. Indigenous People Could Lead the Way.

Dozens of countries are backing an effort that would protect 30 percent of Earth’s land and water. Native people, often among the most effective stewards of nature, have been disregarded, or worse, in the past.

#biodiversity, #brazil, #canada, #conservation-of-resources, #environment, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #indigenous-people, #papua-new-guinea

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Aruká Juma, Last Man of His Tribe, Is Dead

Mr. Juma, who used the name of his people in Brazil, was in his late 80s when he died of Covid-19.

#amazon-jungle, #brazil, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #deaths-obituaries, #indigenous-people, #juma-aruka-d-2021

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SoftBank-backed Volpe Capital raises $80M to invest in LatAm

In recent years, the tech and venture scene in Latin America has been growing at an accelerated pace. More global investors are backing startups in the region and certain sectors in particular, such as fintech, are exploding.

Global investors are not only pouring money into companies. They’re also investing in funds.

Today, Volpe Capital  announced the $80 million first close of its fund targeting high growth technology investments in Latin America. Notably, Japanese investment conglomerate SoftBank, BTG and Banco Inter affiliates are anchor investors in the new fund, which is targeting aggregate commitments of $100 million with a hard cap of $150 million. Volpe also received a “large anchor investment” from its management team.

Andre Maciel, Gregory Reider and Milena Oliveira are the fund’s founding partners, and are based in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Notably, Maciel is the former managing partner at SoftBank’s $5 billion Latin America-focused innovation fund. He launched Volpe in 2019 primarily with SoftBank’s backing. Reider formerly invested at Warburg Pincus.

Maciel said the fund’s raise was “significantly oversubscribed with firm commitments” and believed to be “among the best capital raises for a first-time fund in its asset class in Latin America.”

Volpe Capital plans to invest in about 15 companies over a two and half year time span, according to Maciel, who expects its average check size to be around $5 billion.

So far, it’s backed Uol Edtech, a subsidiary of Grupo Uol that aims to redefine the digital learning experience in Brazil. 

“We are in no rush,” Maciel told TechCrunch. “We are happy with our first deal and will take capital preservation in consideration. We believe markets are hot now and plan on taking advantage of the cycle by being patient.”

The fund’s strategy is to go after the companies that are not actively raising capital.

We want to invest in companies that are not necessarily raising capital when we approach them,” Maciel said.

The fund views itself as agnostic regarding stage and primary versus secondary.

It is seeking to back early-stage companies with less than $50 million in valuation as well as some later stage, high growth companies. The fund’s first investment — Uol Edtech — falls in the latter category with EBITDA margins above 30%, according to Maciel.

Volpe plans to avoid capital intensive industries, even if related to tech.

“Those are more suitable to investors with deep