Porsche’s new synthetic gasoline may fuel Formula 1 races

70 percent of the cars Porsche has ever built are still on the road. Since it wants to keep it that way, its developing a synthetic fuel that emits 90 percent less CO2 than gasoline derived from fossil fuels.

Enlarge / 70 percent of the cars Porsche has ever built are still on the road. Since it wants to keep it that way, its developing a synthetic fuel that emits 90 percent less CO2 than gasoline derived from fossil fuels. (credit: Porsche)

Even with the best will in the world, it will be many years before we entirely decarbonize our transport. The UK, France, China, and even California have announced plans to phase out the sale of new vehicles with internal combustion engines in the late 2030s, but to our knowledge, none of these plans include a ban on vehicles already on the road. If those cars and trucks are going to keep driving for a while longer, it behooves us to get creative when it comes to the fuel they’ll burn.

Which is why I’m a little excited about a collaboration between Porsche and Siemens to do just that. As we reported earlier this year, Porsche and Siemens are developing a low-carbon synthetic fuel that combines green hydrogen (produced by wind-powered electrolysis) with carbon dioxide (filtered from the atmosphere) to form methane, which is in turn then turned into gasoline.

On Friday, the two organizations broke ground on the Haru Oni manufacturing plant near Punto Arenas in Chile. Assuming all goes to plan, the plant should be able to produce 34,000 gallons (130,000 L) of synthetic fuel in 2022, before scaling up to 14.5 million gallons (55 million L) by 2024 and 145 million gallons (550 million L) by 2026, at a cost of around $7.6 per gallon ($2 per L).

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#cars, #chile, #formula-1, #fuel, #gasoline, #internal-combustion-engines, #low-carbon-fuel, #porsche, #siemens, #synthetic-fuel

Whether Dancing or Still, the Body in ‘Ema’ Tells the Story

In Pablo Larraín’s unsettling film, Mariana Di Girolamo stars as a dancer who finds freedom through reggaeton dance.

#chile, #dancing, #di-girolamo-mariana, #ema-movie, #larrain-pablo, #movies

Covid Ravaged South America. Then Came a Sharp Drop in Infections.

South America was the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic early this year. Experts are trying to find out why new infections and deaths are falling so fast.

#argentina, #bolsonaro-jair-1955, #brazil, #chile, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-delta-variant, #disease-rates, #south-america, #vaccination-and-immunization

Foreign investors have a bigger role to play in growing Latin America’s startup ecosystem

There has been significant hype around Latin America’s startup success. For good reason, too: Startups have raised $9.3 billion in just the first half of 2021, almost double the amount in all of 2020, and mega-rounds are a growing trend.

But while the industry hails the rise of the region’s ecosystem and its growing fleet of unicorns, Latin America’s startup story has a far longer past. And it’s one we should keep in mind as entrepreneurs and investors around the world forge the region’s future.

People often ask me: How are consumers different in Brazil? How does the Peruvian market behave compared to the United States? These questions don’t really see each country for its inherent value, but instead gear people up to expect the unexpected from a historically economically disadvantaged region.

In fact, the evolution of business shares far more similarities across countries than we might expect. Latin America’s market has evolved over a very long time — as long as Silicon Valley and any other hub. This region has a global outlook, spectacular universities, a diverse population and an army of entrepreneurs.

It’s important for investors outside of Latin America to get involved in fundraising at earlier stages, when founders need extra support from everyone around.

That’s why the unicorns and megadeals should come as no surprise: They’re the natural evolution of the ecosystem, of more capital generating more success after years of hard work.

As Latin America has grown, competition has grown even more intense in the United States. VCs have more money than ever, and it’s getting increasingly expensive to invest in North America. So they’re looking to diversify their investments with high-potential opportunities abroad. Big funds are now dedicating resources to exclusively targeting Latin America, from SoftBank creating a region-specific fund, to Sequoia saying it will pay more attention to the region.

These incoming investors must bring more than money to ensure that entrepreneurship continues to grow in a healthy manner, rather than set it off balance. Investors should bring a local strategy that makes them an asset to Latin America’s startup ecosystem.

Investors should look for younger markets

Most Latin American companies reaching unicorn status and going public now were started around 2012. This is not very different from the timeline of businesses in other markets such as the United States. For instance, e-commerce giant MercadoLibre launched in Argentina around the time eBay was emerging.

What this tells us is that foreign investors would do well to keep a sharp eye on emerging opportunities beyond heavily covered markets like Brazil and Mexico. There is a huge opportunity to do what local investors did in Brazil and Mexico years ago, and play a significant role in the next chapter of countries with blossoming markets like Colombia, Peru or Uruguay.

U.S. investors remain shy

The amount of VC capital being funneled into Latin American startups has surged since 2017, with angel investment close behind. However, much of this investment comes from local and regional investors. Every top university in Brazil has a pool of angels. Investors in the Andean region cover Peru, Chile and Colombia. If today’s ecosystem is flourishing, it’s largely because native investors are lighting the spark.

Meanwhile, U.S. investor presence at the early stages is still low and risk averse. It’s much harder for a pre-seed or seed startup to get foreign investor interest than when they’ve already reached Series A or B. Investors also tend to come in on an ad hoc basis or as outliers brought about by a mutual contact. Foreign investors are the exception, not the rule.

It’s important for investors outside of Latin America to get involved in fundraising at earlier stages, when founders need extra support from everyone around. Investors should be pursuing a long-term strategy that will bring more consistency to the local ecosystem as a whole.

Money is not enough, investors should bring dedicated resources

Your contribution as an investor is largely about the resources you can offer. That’s especially challenging for a foreigner who has less of an understanding of the local industry and lacks a network and people on the ground.

While investors may say their your regular value offering is enough — network and U.S. customers — in truth, this won’t necessarily be of much use. Your hiring network might not be ideal for a Latin American company, and your thorough understanding of the U.S. market might not reflect developments in Latin America.

Remember that the region has a plethora of VC organizations who have worked with local startups over the course of a decade. Latin America is a very welcoming and open market, and local investors and accelerators will happily work with foreign investors, including in deal-sharing opportunities.

It’s crucial to create incentives within the ecosystem, which — like in the United States — largely means matching founders with unique opportunities. In North America, this often happens organically, because people are on the ground and actively engaged with what’s happening in the region, from networking events, to awards, and grants and partnership opportunities.

To create this in Latin America, foreign investors need to dedicate a team and money to their regional commitments. They will have to understand the local industry and be available to mentor founders with diverse perspectives.

In my experience helping EA, Pinterest and Facebook land in Latin America, we always had someone on the ground or working remotely but fully dedicated to the region. We had people focused on localizing the product, and we had research teams studying similarities and differences in user behavior. That’s how corporations land their products; it’s how VCs should land their money.

Only disrupt when it adds value

The idea is for foreign investors to strike a balance locally while creating disruptions when it helps startups look outward rather than attempting to overhaul steady, positive internal growth. That can mean encouraging companies to incorporate in the United States to make it easier for investors from anywhere to invest or preparing the company to go global. Local investors can help investors new to the region understand the balance of things that should or shouldn’t be disrupted.

Don’t be surprised when Latin America’s apparent “boom” starts happening in other emerging markets like Africa and Asia. This isn’t about a secret hack coming in from the outside. It’s just about creating the right environment for local talent to flourish and ensuring it maintains healthy growth.

#argentina, #brazil, #chile, #colombia, #column, #entrepreneurship, #latin-america, #mexico, #peru, #private-equity, #softbank, #startups, #uruguay, #venture-capital

Spotify expands its radio DJ-like format, Music + Talk, to global creators

Last fall, Spotify introduced a new format that combined spoken word commentary with music, allowing creators to reproduce the  radio-like experience of listening to a DJ or music journalist who shared their perspective on the tracks they would then play. Today, the company is making the format, which it calls “Music + Talk,” available to global creators through its podcasting software Anchor.

Creators who want to offer this sort of blended audio experience can now do so by using the new “Music” tool in Anchor, which provides access to Spotify’s full catalog of 70 million tracks that they can insert into their spoken-word audio programs. Spotify has said this new type of show will continue to compensate the artist when the track is streamed, the same as it would elsewhere on Spotify’s platform. In addition, users can also interact with the music content within the shows as they would otherwise — by liking the song, viewing more information about the track, saving the song, or sharing it, for example.

The shows themselves, meanwhile, will be available to both free and Premium Spotify listeners. Paying subscribers will hear the full tracks when listening to these shows, but free users will only hear a 30-second preview of the songs, due to licensing rights.

The format is somewhat reminiscent of Pandora’s Stories, which was also a combination of music and podcasting, introduced in 2019. However, in Pandora’s case, the focus had been on allowing artists to add their own commentary to music — like talking about the inspiration for a song — while Spotify is making it possible for anyone to annotate their favorite playlists with audio commentary.

Since launching last year, the product has been tweaked somewhat in response to user feedback, Spotify says. The shows now offer clearer visual distinction between the music and talk segments during an episode, and they include music previews on episode pages.

The ability to create Music + Talk shows was previously available in select markets ahead of this global rollout, including in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

With the expansion, creators in a number of other major markets are now gaining access, including Japan, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Colombia. Alongside the expansion, Spotify’s catalog of Music + Talk original programs will also grow today, as new shows from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, India, Japan, and the Philippines will be added.

Spotify will also begin to more heavily market the feature with the launch of its own Spotify Original called “Music + Talk: Unlocked,” which will offer tips and ideas for creators interested in trying out the format.

#argentina, #artist, #australia, #brazil, #canada, #chile, #colombia, #france, #germany, #india, #indonesia, #ireland, #italy, #japan, #media, #mexico, #microsoft-windows, #netherlands, #new-zealand, #operating-systems, #pandora, #philippines, #podcast, #software, #spain, #spotify, #sweden, #united-kingdom, #united-states

Chilean fintech Xepelin secures $230M in debt and equity from Kaszek, high-profile angels

Chilean startup Xepelin, which has created a financial services platform for SMEs in Latin America, has secured $30 million in equity and $200 million in credit facilities.

LatAm venture fund Kaszek Ventures led the equity portion of the financing, which also included participation from partners of DST Global and a slew of other firms and founders/angel investors. LatAm- and U.S.-based asset managers and hedge funds — including Chilean pension funds — provided the credit facilities. In total over its lifetime, Xepelin has raised over $36 million in equity and $250 million in asset-backed facilities.

Also participating in the round were Picus Capital; Kayak Ventures; Cathay Innovation; MSA Capital; Amarena; FJ Labs; Gilgamesh and Kavak founder and CEO Carlos Garcia; Jackie Reses, executive chairman of Square Financial Services; Justo founder and CEO Ricardo Weder; Tiger Global Management Partner John Curtius; GGV’s Hans Tung; and Gerry Giacoman, founder and CEO of Clara, among others.

Nicolás de Camino and Sebastian Kreis founded Xepelin in mid-2019 with the mission of changing the fact that “only 5% of companies in all LatAm countries have access to recurring financial services.”

“We want all SMEs in LatAm to have access to financial services and capital in a fair and efficient way,” the pair said.

Xepelin is built on a SaaS model designed to give SMEs a way to organize their financial information in real time. Embedded in its software is a way for companies to apply for short-term working capital loans “with just three clicks, and receive the capital in a matter of hours,” the company claimed.

It has developed an AI-driven underwriting engine, which the execs said gives it the ability to make real-time loan approval decisions.

“Any company in LatAm can onboard in just a few minutes and immediately access a free software that helps them organize their information in real time, including cash flow, revenue, sales, tax, bureau info — sort of a free CFO SaaS,” de Camino said. “The circle is virtuous: SMEs use Xepelin to improve their financial habits, obtain more efficient financing, pay their obligations, and collaborate effectively with clients and suppliers, generating relevant impacts in their industries.”

The fintech currently has over 4,000 clients in Chile and Mexico, which currently has a growth rate “four times faster” than when Xepelin started in Chile. Over the past 22 months, it has loaned more than $400 million to SMBs in the two countries. It currently has a portfolio of active loans for $120 million and an asset-backed facility for more than $250 million.

Overall, the company has been seeing a growth rate of 30% per month, the founders said. It has 110 employees, up from 20 a year ago.

Xepelin has more than 60 partnerships (a number that it said is growing each week) with midmarket corporate companies, allowing for their suppliers to onboard to its platform for free and gain access to accounts payable, revenue-based financing. The company also sells its portfolio of non-recourse loans to financial partners, which it says mitigates credit risk exposure and enhances its platform and data play.

“When we talk about creating the largest digital bank for SMEs in LatAm, we are not saying that our goal is to create a bank; perhaps we will never ask for the license to have one, and to be honest, everything we do, we do it differently from the banks, something like a non-bank, a concept used today to exemplify focus,” the founders said.

Both de Camino and Kreis said they share a passion for making financial services more accessible to SMEs all across Latin America and have backgrounds rooted deep in different areas of finance.

“Our goal is to scale a platform that can solve the true pains of all SMEs in LatAm, all in one place that also connects them with their entire ecosystem, and above all, democratized in such a way that everyone can access it,” Kreis said, “regardless of whether you are a company that sells billions of dollars or just a thousand dollars, getting the same service and conditions.”

For now, the company is nearly exclusively focused on the B2B space, but in the future, it believes several of its services “will be very useful for all SMEs and companies in LatAm.” 

“Xepelin has developed technology and data science engines to deliver financing to SMBs in Latin America in a seamless way,” Nicolas Szekasy, co-founder and managing partner at Kaszek Ventures, said in a statement.The team has deep experience in the sector and has proven a perfect fit of their user-friendly product with the needs of the market.”

Chile was home to another large funding earlier this week. NotCo, a food technology company making plant-based milk and meat replacements, closed on a $235 million Series D round that gives it a $1.5 billion valuation.

#chile, #digital-bank, #dst-global, #finance, #financial-services, #fintech, #free-software, #funding, #fundings-exits, #hans-tung, #justo, #kaszek-ventures, #latin-america, #mexico, #msa-capital, #picus-capital, #recent-funding, #ricardo-weder, #saas, #square-financial-services, #startups, #tiger-global-management, #venture-capital

Stumbling Upon Greatness: Discovering Sergio Larrain

The magical images of the reclusive Chilean photographer deserve wider recognition.

#aperture-foundation, #art, #chile, #content-type-personal-profile, #larrain-sergio-1932-2012, #photography, #santiago-chile, #valparaiso-chile

Last-mile delivery in Latin America is ready to take off

In the United States, same-day and next-day Amazon Prime deliveries have become the de facto standard in e-commerce. People want convenience and instant gratification, evidenced by the fact that an astonishing ~45% of U.S. consumers are Amazon Prime members.

Most major retailers are scrambling to catch up to Amazon by partnering with last-mile delivery startups. Walmart has become a major investor in Cruise for autonomous-vehicle deliveries, and Target acquired Shipt and Deliv last-mile delivery startups to increase its delivery speed. Costco partnered with Instacart for same-day deliveries, and even Domino’s Pizza has jumped in by partnering with Nuro for last-mile delivery using autonomous vehicles.

E-commerce in LatAm has taken off at a compound annual industry growth rate of 16% over the past five years.

The holdout: Latin America

Venture capitalists have been investing heavily in last-mile delivery over the past five years on a global scale, but Latin America (LatAm) has lagged behind. Over $11 billion has been invested globally in last-mile logistics over the past decade, but Latin America only saw about $1 billion over the same period (Source: PitchBook and WIND Ventures research).

Within this, only about $300 million was in Spanish-speaking Latin America — a surprisingly small amount for a region that has 110 million more consumers than in the U.S.

Brazil-based Loggi accounts for about 60% of last-mile VC investment in Latin America, but it only operates in Brazil. That leaves major Spanish countries like Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Argentina without a leading independent last-mile logistics company.

In these countries, about 60% of the last-mile delivery market is dominated by small, informal companies or independent drivers using their own trucks. This results in inefficiencies due to a lack of technologies such as route optimization as well as a lack of operating scale. These issues are quickly becoming more pronounced as e-commerce in LatAm has taken off at a compound annual industry growth rate of 16% over the past five years.

Retailers are missing an opportunity to give customers what they want. Customers today expect free, reliable same- or next-day delivery — on-time, all the time, and without damage or theft. All of these are challenging in LatAm. Theft, in particular, is a significant problem, because unprofessional drivers often steal products out for delivery and then sell them for a profit. Cost is a problem, too, because free same- and next-day deliveries are simply not available in many places.

Operational and technological roadblocks abound

Why does Latin America lag when it comes to the last mile? First, traditional LatAm e-commerce delivery involves multiple time-consuming steps: Products are picked up from the retailer, delivered to a cross-dock, distributed to a warehouse, delivered to a second cross-dock, and then finally delivered to the customer.

By comparison, modern delivery operations are much simpler. Products are picked up from the retailer, delivered to a cross-dock, and then delivered directly to the customer. There’s no need for warehousing and an extra pre-warehouse cross-dock.

And those are just the operational challenges. Lack of technology also plays a significant role. Most delivery coordination and routing in LatAm are still done via a spreadsheet or pen and paper.

Dispatchers have to manually pick up a phone to call drivers and dispatch them. In the U.S., computerized optimization algorithms dramatically cut both delivery cost and time by automatically finding the most efficient route (e.g., packing the most deliveries possible on a truck along the route) and automatically dispatching the driver that can most efficiently complete the route based on current location, capacity and experience with the route. These algorithms are almost unheard of in the Latin America retail logistics sector.

Major retail brands are the last-mile catalyst

#amazon, #amazon-prime, #argentina, #brazil, #chile, #colombia, #column, #costco, #doordash, #e-commerce, #ec-column, #ec-latin-america-and-caribbean, #ec-manufacturing-and-supply-chain, #ecommerce, #food-delivery, #instacart, #latin-america, #logistics, #lyft, #mercado-libre, #mexico, #nuro, #startups, #transportation, #uber, #walmart

Nowports raises $16M to build the OS for LatAm’s shipping industry

Nowports, an automated digital freight forwarder in Latin America, has raised $16 million in Series A funding.

Mouro Capital — a venture capital fund focused on fintechs and adjacent businesses that is backed by Banco Santanderled the round for the Monterrey, Mexico-based startup. Foundation Capital also participated in the financing, which included participation from existing backers Broadhaven Ventures, InvestoVC, Monashees, Base10 Partners and Y Combinator.

A number of angels also put money in the round, including Justo.mx founder Ricardo Weder, Luuna’s Carlos Salinas from Luuna and Tinder co-founder Justin Mateen. The investment brings Nowports’ total raised since its 2018 inception to over $24 million.

Nowports raised its initial seed round in 2019 after graduating from Y Combinator’s Winter 2019 batch with a mission to innovate the freight forwarding industry by helping companies improve the import process. Its software and services track freight shipments from ports to destinations across Latin America. Over time, it has expanded its offerings and now also automates insurance policies for, and provides financing, to its clients. 

“In this way, we allow our clients to import and export more, which helps them grow their businesses and improves the foreign trade conditions of the region,” said Nowports CEO and co-founder Alfonso de los Rios.

2020 was a good year for Nowports, which saw its revenue climb by 605% compared to 2019.

“Our 2021 goal is 400% to 600%,” de los Rios told TechCrunch.

The company currently has offices in Mexico, Chile, Colombia, and Uruguay. Nowports plans to use its new capital in part to expand its 160-person team to China, according to de los Rios. It also plans to expand its logistics and financial services and to “solidify its most important routes.”

Image Credits: CEO and co-founder Alfonso de los Rios / Nowports

“With platforms, algorithms with AI and integrations, our platform allows companies to take control of their shipments and plan and predict the best timing to move the freight based on the needs of their own company,” he said at the time of the company’s seed raise. “Our goal with the series A is to position ourselves as the biggest digital freight forwarder in the region and expand our venture financing solution.”

Tens of millions of containers are imported and exported from Latin America each year, and nearly half of them are either delayed or lost due to mismanagement. And, an estimated 50% of shipping containers suffer delays due to disorganized processes or errors during transport, which ends up costing companies billions per year. It’s a big opportunity. And, Nowports pledges to shippers that its digital management software will keep track of each container. 

“Slow, inefficient, and manual processes in international logistics are disassociated from today’s technological world”, said Nowports co-founder and COO Maximiliano Casal. “Customers are looking for solutions that can improve their logistics processes adapted to current challenges of international trade.”

The two co-founders of Nowports met at a program at Stanford University, with de los Rios hailing from a family with deep ties to the shipping industry. He and Casal linked up and the two began plotting a way to make the deeply inefficient industry more modern and transparent. To familiarize himself with the market for which he’d be developing a technology, Casal worked with a freight forwarder in Kansas City that had been operating for more than 30 years.

Michael Sidgmore, co-founder and partner of seed round lead investor Broadhaven Ventures, described the team as “visionaries in the freight forwarding industry who see the ability to build the operating system for the shipping industry, much like Carta has done for equity ownership.”

The need to track and digitize the supply chain process was never more apparent than with the recent blockage of the Suez Canal by the Ever Given, which became a meme that represented the impacts of inefficiencies in the supply chain, Sidgmore said. 

“Nowports has created industry leading technology to help its customers know when to turn starboard or port side,” he added.

Chris Gottschalk, senior advisor of Mouro Capital, said the Nowports platform brings both “transparency and technology” to a global client base.

#articles, #base10-partners, #chile, #china, #co-founder, #colombia, #finance, #financial-services, #foundation-capital, #freight-forwarding, #funding, #fundings-exits, #insurance-policies, #justin-mateen, #kansas-city, #latin-america, #logistics, #mexico, #mouro-capital, #nowports, #operating-system, #recent-funding, #ricardo-weder, #stanford-university, #startup, #startups, #supply-chain, #transport, #uruguay, #venture-capital, #y-combinator

Gympass, the corporate wellness unicorn, raises a $220M series E

Gympass, the exercise and corporate wellness unicorn that originated in Brazil, today announced a $220 million Series E. The company has seen tremendous growth in the last few months, as more and more people are vaccinated and flocking back to the gym.

Gympass is like ClassPass, but on steroids. However, unlike ClassPass’ BTC model, Gympass partners with employers who then pay a flat fee for the platform (an app) which then allows their employees to choose from several wellbeing plans that give them access to myriad in-person gyms and studios, and a directory of health apps, such as Calm. The offerings are broken up into the following categories: physical health, emotional health, nutrition and sleep.

According to the company, in May, Gympass saw a record 4 million monthly check-ins across its network of more than 50,000 global partners. In fact, for some of the partners, usage hit above pre-COVID levels. 

Between increased anxiety rates and documented weight gain during the pandemic, it’s clear that people are eager to get active again with the hopes of improving their mental health and their waistlines.

GymPass is the brainchild of Cesar Carvalho, a former McKinsey & Company consultant in Brazil who was always on the road and yearned for a corporate wellness product that would comply with his hectic work schedule.

“Some days I worked from home, other days I worked from the office, and then there was the time I was traveling. I could never go to the gym in one place,” Carvalho told TechCrunch. “I realized that my needs were the same as others,” he said.

He decided to pursue his business idea while he was at Harvard Business School.

“I’m one of those crazy entrepreneurs that drops out of their MBA to start a company, but looking back now, it worked out okay,” he said, later telling TechCrunch that Gympass is now in Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, the U.S., Germany, Spain, Italy, Ireland, and the U.K. 

Since its launch in São Paulo in 2012, the company achieved product-market fit fairly quickly, and its growth and expansion have been largely organic.

Originally, Gympass was a BTC concept, and one of its first clients was an executive at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Brazil. He liked the product so much that he eventually said to Carvalho, “Can’t I communicate this to my 5000 employees in all the cities where we have offices in Brazil?” With that question – and offer – Carvalho saw the need to pivot and build a B2B company.

After only three years in Brazil, one of his biggest Brazilian clients asked Carvalho to expand to Mexico, because his company had a large presence there and he wanted to offer Gympass to its employees. And so follows most of the expansion stories.

“We expanded to Spain, because we worked with a Spanish bank in Mexico, and they wanted their employees in Spain to have access to our product,” he said.

This round, which doubles the company’s valuation to $2.2 billion, includes participation from SoftBank, General Atlantic, More Strategic Ventures, Kaszek Ventures and Valor. Carvalho plans to use the money to grow the company in the U.S., expand its offerings, and work on making the tech smarter. 

“We want [the app] to be able to recommend the best partners for your complete well-being journey based on your workout patterns, for example: ‘This is the best meditation app for you to use with your workout profile,’” Carvalho said.

 

#argentina, #brazil, #chile, #classpass, #general-atlantic, #germany, #harvard-business-school, #ireland, #italy, #kaszek-ventures, #mckinsey-company, #mexico, #pricewaterhousecoopers, #softbank, #softbank-group, #spain, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states

Kaszek Ventures leads a $15 million round in Chilean asset management startup, Fintual

Like other financial sectors in Latin America, the retail investing space is getting a facelift by local tech startups that are cashing in on the untapped potential for democratizing asset management in the region. One of those startups is Chilean-based Fintual, which today announced a $15 million round led by Kaszek Ventures, the largest fund in Latin America.

Fintual is an automated passive investment platform that allows the average person in Chile or Mexico to invest in mutual funds containing ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds), investment vehicles that aren’t as well known, or as readily accessible in Latin America.

“The idea that got to me was that we were allowing people to invest in the long term, we enable them to invest in instruments they didn’t have access to before,” said Pedro Pineda, co-founder and CEO of Fintual.

Before starting Fintual in 2018 with his three co-founders, Pineda was an astronomer and an entrepreneur, who built and sold a Groupon copycat company in Chile called “Queremos Descuentos” (We Want Discounts) for just over $1 million when he was 28. 

After the exit, he admits he was a bit lost in life. 

“One day I decided that I wanted to do only the things that I wanted to do and with the people I wanted to do it with,” he said.

He traveled for a couple of years, and learned to code, among other things, until Omar Larré, Fintual’s current CIO, presented him with the idea for the business. 

Larré had been a portfolio manager at Banco Itau, Brazil’s biggest bank by total assets, and he saw the gap in the market: investing was not set up for the average person. The annual fees were too high, the minimum amount required to invest was too high, and there was a penalty when you removed your money. Additionally, the transaction takes a certain amount of financial know-how that most people don’t possess.

For Pineda, disrupting the financial sector also seemed like a lot of fun, he thought.

“I liked the idea of challenging the financial banks, and you can’t do that without technology. We have this super tool that my parents didn’t have, and you can disrupt an entire industry,” Pineda told TechCrunch.

While traditional mutual funds in Chile and Mexico charge up to 6.45% and 5% annually, Fintual charges 1% annually of assets managed. Additionally, Fintual doesn’t require a minimum investment nor a minimum amount of time invested, and users can take their money out any time with no penalties. 

“It’s different than the U.S.; we invest way less than you do; by a factor of 10 maybe,” Pineda said, comparing the investment rate in Chile.

In 2018, the company was accepted into Y Combinator and became the first Chilean startup to go through the prestigious accelerator. It has been growing exponentially ever since and today it serves 57,000 clients in Chile and Mexico.

Below is a table that shows their growth including money managed and percent growth each year since launch.

Assets Under Management (USD)* Annual Growth
May 2018              1.2 M
May 2019              12.9 M 1075%
May 2020               87.6 M 679%
May 2021               480.7 m 548%

    *Each figure corresponds to the end of each month.

The current raise will be used to grow the company’s operations in Mexico, expand to other countries — namely Colombia and Peru — and grow its tech team. 

In addition to Kaszek, other investors to date include YC, ALLVP, and angel investors such as Plaid’s CTO, Jean-Denis Greze, and Cornershop’s founder Oskar Hjertonsson. To date, the company has raised about $15.2 million.

Fintual’s impressive growth speaks for itself, but Kaszek’s co-founder and managing partner, Nicolas Szekasy, said the fund has been following Fintual since its early days, and he was impressed with the niche market the team identified and even more impressed with the user experience the company had developed which has, in turn, fueled its growth.

#apps, #asset-management, #bank, #chile, #colombia, #cto, #finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #groupon, #investment, #investment-fund, #kaszek-ventures, #latin-america, #mexico, #mutual-funds, #peru, #plaid, #startup-company, #startups, #united-states, #venture-capital, #y-combinator

Yana’s mental health tool for Spanish speakers nears 5 million users

Andrea Campos has struggled with depression since she was 8 years old. Over the years, she’s tried all sorts of therapies — from behavioral to pharmacotherapy.

In 2017, when Campos was in her early 20s, she learned to program and created a system to help manage her mental health. It started as a personal project but as she talked to more people, Campos realized that many others might benefit from the system as well.

So, she then built an application to provide access to mental health tools to Spanish-speaking people and began testing it with a small group of people. At first, Campos herself was her own chatbot, texting with users who were tired of dealing with depression.

“During the month, I was pretending I was an app, and would send these people a list of activities they had to complete during the day, such as writing in a gratitude journal, and then asking them how those activities made them feel,” Campos recalls.

Her thinking was that sometimes with depression and anxiety comes “a lot of avoidance,” where people resist potential treatment out of fear.

The results from her small experiment were encouraging. So, Campos set out to conduct a bigger sample of experiments, and raised about $10,000 via crowdfunding campaign. With that money, she hired a developer to build a chatbot for her app, which was mostly being used via Facebook Messenger.

Then an earthquake hit Mexico City and that developer lost everything — including his home and computer — and had to relocate.

“I was left with nothing,” Campos says. But that developer introduced her to another, who disappeared with his payment, and again, left Campos, “with nothing.”

“I realized at the beginning of 2019, I was going to have to do this by myself,” Campos said. So she used a site that she described as a “Wix for chatbots,” and created one herself.

After experimenting with the app with a sample of 700 people, Campos was even more encouraged and raised an angel round of funding for Yana, the startup behind her app. (Yana is an acronym for “You Are Not Alone.”) By early 2020, with just three months of runway left, she pivoted to create an app with chatbot integration that wasn’t just limited to use via Facebook Messenger.

Campos ended up launching the app more broadly during the same week that her city in Mexico went into quarantine.

Image Credits: Yana

At first, she said, she saw “normal, steady growth.” But then on Oct. 10, 2020, Apple’s App Store highlighted Yana for International Mental Health Day, and the response was overwhelming.

“It was also my birthday so I was at a spa in a nearby town, relaxing, when I started hearing my cell phone go crazy,” Campos recalls. “Everything went nuts. I had to go back to Mexico City because our servers were exploding since they were not used to having that kind of volume.”

As a result of that exposure, Yana went from having around 80,000 users to reaching 1 million users two weeks later. Soon after that, Google highlighted the app as one of best for personal growth in 2020, and that too led to another spike in users. Today, Yana is about to hit the 5 million-user mark and is also announcing it has raised $1.5 million in funding led by Mexico’s ALLVP, which has also invested in the likes of Cornershop, Flink and Nuvocargo.

When the pandemic hit last year, six of Yana’s 9-person team decided to quarantine together in a “startup house” in Cancun to focus on building the company. Earlier this year, the company had raised $315,000 from investors such as 500 Startups, Magma and Hustle Fund. The company had pitched ALLVP, who was intrigued but wanted to wait until it could write a bigger check. 

That time is now, and Yana is now among the top three downloaded apps in Mexico and 12 countries including Spain, Chile, Ecuador and Venezuela.

With its new capital, Yana is planning to “move away from the depression/anxiety narrative,” according to Campos.

“We want to compete in the wellness space,” she told TechCrunch. “A lot of people were looking for us to deal with crises such as a breakup or a loss but then they didn’t always see a necessity to keep using Yana for longer than the crisis lasted.”

Some of those people would download the app again months later when hit with another crisis.

“We don’t want to be that app anymore,” Campos said. “We want to focus on whole wellness and mental health and transmit something that needs to be built every single day, just like we do with exercise.”

Moving forward, Yana aims to help people with their mental health not just during a crisis but with activities they can do on a daily basis, including a gratitude journal, a mood tracker and meditation — “things that prevent depression and anxiety,” Campos said.

“We want to be a vitamin for our soul, and keeping people mentally healthy on an ongoing basis,” she said. “We also want to include a community inside our application.”

ALLVP’s Federico Antoni is enthusiastic about the startup’s potential. He first met Campos when she was participating in an accelerator program in 2017 and then again recently.

The firm led Yana’s latest round because it “wanted to be on her team.”

“She [Campos] has turned into an amazing leader, and we realized her potential and strength,” he said. “Plus, Yana is an amazing product. When you download it, it’s almost like you can see a soul in there.”

#allvp, #app-store, #apps, #chatbot, #chile, #computing, #ecuador, #facebook, #funding, #fundings-exits, #google, #health, #itunes, #mental-health, #messenger, #mexico, #mexico-city, #operating-systems, #recent-funding, #social-media, #software, #spain, #startup, #startups, #tc, #venezuela, #venture-capital

Google announces the Firmina subsea cable between the U.S. and Argentina

Google today announced its plans to build a new subsea cable that will connect the East Coast of the U.S. and Las Toninas, Argentina — with additional landings in Brazil and Uruguay. The idea here is to provide users in South America with improved low-latency access to Google’s portfolio of consumer and cloud services.

The closest Google data center in the region (and its only one in South America) can be found near Santiago, Chile, which is connected to the U.S. West Coast through Google’s Curie cable.

The Firmina cable, named after Brazilian abolitionist and author Maria Firmina dos Reis, will augment Google’s existing cable investments in the region. The Tannat cable, a joint venture between Antel Uruguay and Google, for example, already connects the same locations while the Monet cable connects the U.S. and Brazil, where Google’s Junior cable already connects various parts of the country.

Image Credits: Google

The new cable doesn’t just add capacity but also resilience to Google’s existing network. Specifically, one technical feat that makes this new cable, which consists of 12 fiver pairs, stand out is the system’s ability to power the cable from a single-end power source.

“With submarine cables, data travels as pulses of light inside the cable’s optical fibers,” Google explains. “That light signal is amplified every 100 km with a high-voltage electrical current supplied at landing stations in each country. While shorter cable systems can enjoy the higher availability of power feeding from a single end, recent longer cables with large fiber pair count have made this harder and harder.” To achieve this, the Firmina cable is supplied by a cable with a voltage that is 20% higher than previous cables.

 

 

 

#argentina, #brazil, #chile, #cloud, #east-coast, #google, #south-america, #subsea-cable, #technology, #united-states, #uruguay, #west-coast

99 minutos, Mexico’s last mile delivery startup, raises a $40M Series B

In 2014 Alexis Patjane was at a local hookah bar in Mexico City with some friends and the bar ran out of tobacco. They thought maybe they could buy some online and have it delivered to the bar in real-time, but it turns out that service didn’t exist.

At the time, Patjane was running a food truck-making business, which was responsible for about 80% of all the food trucks in Mexico, so he had experience doing business in the region.

A couple of weeks later, to solve the instant delivery problem he had faced at the hookah bar, Patjane launched 99 minutos, a website that sold products and delivered them within 99 minutes, hence the name.

Today, 99 minutos announced a $40 million Series B from Prosus and Kaszek Ventures which it plans to use to grow its business in Latin America. 

The company currently operates within 40 major markets across Mexico, Chile, Colombia, and Peru and offers four services: less than 99 minutes delivery, same-day delivery, next-day delivery, and CO2-free delivery. 

What started as an e-commerce company with fast delivery quickly became a last-mile delivery service for other e-commerce companies.

“We started to build the API connections and plug-ins, and any e-commerce could add our delivery service to their business,” Patjane told TechCrunch.

99 minutos makes money by charging the customer a flat fee for delivery and then offering the driver a flat rate as well, but today, the volume is so large on each route, that it’s become very lucrative.

“We ship about 60-80 packages per route,” Patjane said, and from the consumer’s perspective, the delivery app works similarly to Waze. “You can pause the delivery, you can change the address. You can say, “Oh, I’m not at home, I’m at the Starbucks on the corner, can you drop it off there?”’ he added.

Patjane said that initially, the company offered delivery only within Mexico City, but it quickly grew to offer its services between cities and now operates between 21 cities in Mexico.

“E-commerce is growing quickly in Latin America, but it is still [the] early days. E-commerce penetration in Latin America is at 6%, while China is reaching 30% and the U.S. is at 20%,” the company said in a statement.

“When we hear big e-commerce players saying that 99 minutos is ‘their most reliable partner’ and that they are ‘the provider with the most potential,’ it tells us that the team is executing extremely well and is on a path to disrupt e-commerce delivery in Latin America,” said Banafsheh Fathieh, Head of Americas Investments at Prosus Ventures.

Part of the funds will also be to speed up their city-to-city deliveries. “We’ll be doing same day [delivery] from city to city and will be using small aircraft to connect the cities,” Patjane said.

#api, #business, #chile, #colombia, #delivery, #distribution, #driver, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #economy, #food-trucks, #funding, #kaszek-ventures, #latin-america, #logistics, #mexico, #mexico-city, #prosus-ventures, #tc, #united-states

Jeeves emerges from stealth with $131M in debt and equity and a16z as a lead investor

Jeeves, which is building an “all-in-one expense management platform” for global startups, is emerging from stealth today with $131 million in total funding, including $31 million in equity and $100 million in debt financing. 

The $31 million in equity consists of a new $26 million Series A and a previously unannounced $5 million seed round.

Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) led the Series A funding, which also included participation from YC Continuity Fund, Jaguar Ventures, Urban Innovation Fund, Uncorrelated Ventures, Clocktower Ventures, Stanford University, 9 Yards Capital and BlockFi Ventures.

A high-profile group of angel investors also put money in the round, including NFL wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and the founders of five LatAm unicorns — Nubank CEO David Velez, Kavak CEO Carlos Garcia, Rappi co-founder Sebastian Mejia, Bitso CEO Daniel Vogel and Loft CEO Florian Hagenbuch. Justo’s Ricardo Weder also participated in this round and Plaid co-founder William Hockey put money in the $5 million seed funding that closed in 2020 after the company completed the YC Summer 2020 batch.

The “fully remote” Jeeves describes itself as the first “cross country, cross currency” expense management platform. The startup’s offering is currently live in Mexico — its largest market — as well as Colombia, Canada and the U.S., and is currently beta testing in Brazil and Chile. 

Dileep Thazhmon and Sherwin Gandhi founded Jeeves last year under the premise that startups have traditionally had to rely on financial infrastructure that is local and country-specific. For example, a company with employees in Mexico and Colombia would require multiple vendors to cover its finance function in each country — a corporate card in Mexico and one in Colombia and another vendor for cross-border payments.

Image Credits: Left to right: Jeeves co-founders Dileep Thazhmon and Sherwin Gandhi

Jeeves claims that by using its platform, any company can spin up their finance function “in minutes” and get access to 30 days of credit on a true corporate card, noncard payment rails, as well as cross-border payments. Customers can also pay back in multiple currencies, reducing FX (foreign transaction) fees.

“We’re building an all-in-one expense management platform for startups in LatAm and global markets — cash, corporate cards, cross-border — all run on our own infrastructure,” Thazhmon said. 

“We’re really building two things — an infrastructure layer that sits across banking institutions in different countries. And then on top of that, we’re building the customer-, or end user-facing app,” he added. “What gives us the ability to launch in countries much quicker is that we own part of that stack ourselves, versus what most fintechs would do, which is plug into a third-party provider in that region.” 

Image Credits: Jeeves

Indeed, the company has seen rapid early growth. Since launching its private beta last October, Jeeves says it has grown its transaction volume (GTV) by 200x and increased revenue by 900% (albeit from a small base). In May alone, Jeeves says it processed more transaction volume than the entire year to date, and more than doubled its customer base. It says that “hundreds of companies,” including Bitso, Belvo, Justo, Runa, Worky, Zinboe, RobinFood and Muncher, “actively” use Jeeves to manage their local and international spend. On top of that, it says, the startup has a waitlist of more than 5,000 companies — which is part of why the company sought to raise debt and equity.

The shift to remote work globally due to the COVID-19 pandemic has played a large role in why Jeeves has seen so much demand, according to Thazhmon.

“Every company is now becoming a global company, and the service to employees in two different countries requires two different systems,” he said. “And then someone’s got to reconcile that system at the end of the month. This has been a big reason why we’re growing so fast.”

One of Jeeves’ biggest accomplishments so far, Thazhmon said, has been receiving approval to issue cards from its own credit BIN (bank identification number) in Mexico. It can also run SPEI payments directly on its infrastructure. (SPEI is a system developed and operated by Banco de México that allows the general public to make electronic payments.)

“This gives us a lot of flexibility and allows us to offer a truly unique product to our customers,” said Thazhmon, who previously co-founded PowerInbox, a
Battery Ventures-backed MarTech company that he says grew to $40 million in annual revenue in three years.

Jeeves says it will use the fresh capital to onboard new companies to the platform from its waitlist, scale its infrastructure to cover more countries and currencies as well as do some hiring and expand its product line.

A16z General Partner Angela Strange, who is joining Jeeves’ board as part of the investment, is extremely bullish on the startup’s potential.

Strange says she met Thazhmon about a year ago and was immediately intrigued.

“Not only were they working to provide the financial operating system within a country, starting in Mexico, they were designing their software platform to scale across multiple countries,” she said. “Finally — a multicountry/currency expense management & payouts platform, where increasingly companies have employees and operations in multiple countries from the start and can use a single company to manage their financials.”

Strange, who has been investing in Latin America for the past few years, notes that most companies in the region are unable to get a corporate credit card.

“That’s only the tip of the iceberg,” she told TechCrunch. “It’s cumbersome for companies to make bank to bank payouts, handle wires, and they usually also have expenses in the U.S. (and often other countries) so there is also FX. And they manage multiple bank accounts. Not only is paying hard, reconciliation on the backend takes weeks.”

As such, Strange said, with every country having their own bank transfer system, rules around who can issue a credit card, approved payment processors, currencies and bank accounts — payments and expense management across countries can be complex.

Jeeves, according to Strange, “gets as close to the networks/payment rails as possible” since it has its own issuing credit BIN versus needing to connect through legacy players.

Providing an orchestration layer on top of all the rails gives Jeeves the ability “to handle all the payment and reconciliation complexity” so “their customers don’t have to think about it,” she added.

 

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Kushki, an Ecuador-based fintech, raises $86M to build financial infrastructure in Latam

Just about every week there’s a blockbuster round coming out of South America, but in next door Central America, which mostly is less affluent, things have been more hush hush. However, Kushki, a Quito, Ecuador-based fintech, is bringing attention to the region with today’s announcement of a $86 million Series B and a $600 million valuation.

“We never thought that we would return home [from the U.S.] and build a company that was more valuable in Ecuador than we had built in the U.S.,” said Aron Schwarzkopf, CEO and co-founder of Kushki.

Schwarzkopf and his business partner, Sebastián Castro, had previously built and sold a fintech called Leaf in the U.S. in 2014. The two are originally from Ecuador but moved to Boston for college, where they met watching soccer.

Unlike many other fintechs in Latam that are out to help the unbanked, Kushki works behind the scenes building the tech infrastructure that companies like Nubank use to transfer money. Some of the functionalities they build enable both local and cross-border payment players in credit and debit cards, bank transfers, digital cash, mobile wallets, and other alternative payment methods.

“We realized there was a gigantic opportunity to democratize and create infrastructure to move money,” Schwarzkopf told TechCrunch.

The company, which was founded in 2017, already has operations in Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. The Series B will be used to accelerate growth and expand to Brazil and nine other markets in Central America.

Generally, expanding to Brazil is an expensive proposition, and therefore not a path that all companies can take, even though it can be an extremely profitable move if done right. Some of the challenges include the need to translate everything into Portuguese followed by the varying financial regulations.

That’s why Kushki’s approach has to be somewhat custom in each country.

“We focus on going into the markets and we basically rebuild an entire infrastructure, so we put everything into one API,” said Schwarzkopf.

Products similar to Kushki have been successful in other regions around the world, such as in India with Pine Labs, Africa with Flutterwave, and Checkout.com that now has 15 international offices.

To build all this infrastructure, Kushki, which means “cash” in a native Andes dialect, has raised a total of $100 million from SoftBank, an undisclosed global growth equity firm, as well as previous investors including DILA Capital, Kaszek Ventures, Clocktower Ventures, and Magma Partners.

“From now until 2060, people will need servers and ways to move money, and we knew that the existing payment infrastructure couldn’t support that,” said Schwarzkopf.

#africa, #bank-transfers, #brazil, #central-america, #chile, #clocktower-ventures, #colombia, #dila-capital, #ecuador, #finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #kaszek-ventures, #magma-partners, #mexico, #mobile, #payments, #peru, #softbank, #south-america, #startups, #united-states

Belvo, LatAm’s answer to Plaid, raises $43M to scale its API for financial services

Belvo, a Latin American startup which has built an open finance API platform, announced today it has raised $43 million in a Series A round of funding.

A mix of Silicon Valley and Latin American-based VC firms and angels participated in the financing including Future Positive, Kibo Ventures, FJ Labs, Kaszek, MAYA Capital, Venture Friends, Rappi co-founder and president Sebastián Mejía (Rappi), Harsh Sinha, CTO of Wise (formerly Transferwise) and Nubank CEO and founder David Vélez.

Citing Crunchbase data, Belvo believes the round represents the largest series A ever raised by a Latin American fintech. In May 2020, Belvo raised a $10 million seed round co-led by Silicon Valley’s Founders Fund and Argentina’s Kaszek.

Belvo aims to work with leading fintechs in Latin America, spanning across verticals like the neobanks, credit providers and personal finance products Latin Americans use every day.

The startup’s goal with its developer-first API platform that can be used to access and interpret end-user financial data is to build better, more efficient and more inclusive financial products in Latin America. Developers of popular neobank apps, credit providers and personal finance tools use Belvo’s API to connect bank accounts to their apps to unlock the power of open banking.

As TechCrunch Senior Editor Alex Wilhelm explained in this piece last year, Belvo might be considered similar to U.S.-based Plaid, but more attuned to the Latin American market so it can take in a more diverse set of data to better meet the needs of the various markets it serves. 

So while Belvo’s goals are “similar to the overarching goal[s] of Plaid,” co-founder and co-CEO Pablo Viguera told TechCrunch that Belvo is not merely building a banking API business hoping to connect apps to financial accounts. Instead, Belvo wants to build a finance API, which takes in more information than is normally collected by such systems. Latin America is massively underbanked and unbanked so the more data from more sources, the better.

“In essence, we’re pushing for similar outcomes [as Plaid] in terms of when you think about open banking or open finance,” Viguera said. “We’re working to democratize access to financial data and empower end users to port that data, and share that data with whoever they want.”

The company operates under the premise that just because a significant number of the region’s population is underbanked doesn’t mean that they aren’t still financially active. Belvo’s goal is to link all sorts of accounts together. For example, Viguera told TechCrunch that some gig-economy companies in Latin America are issuing their own cards that allow workers to cash out at small local shops. In time, all those transactions are data that could be linked up using Belvo, casting a far wider net than what we’re used to domestically.

The company’s work to connect banks and non-banks together is key to the company’s goal of allowing “any fintech or any developer to access and interpret user financial data,” according to Viguera.

Viguera and co-CEO Oriol Tintoré founded in May of 2019, and was part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2020 batch. Since launching its platform last year, the company says it has built a customer base of over 60 companies across Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, handling millions of monthly API calls. 

This is important because as Alex noted last year, similar to other players in the API-space, Belvo charges for each API call that its customers use (in this sense, it has a model similar to Twilio’s). 

Image Credits: Co-founders and co-CEOs Oriol Tintore and Pablo Viguera / Belvo

Also, over the past year, Belvo says it expanded its API coverage to over 40 financial institutions, which gives companies the ability to connect to over 90% of personal and business bank accounts in LatAm, as well as to tax authorities (such as the SAT in Mexico) and gig economy platforms.

“Essentially we take unstructured financial data , which an individual might have outside of a bank such as integrations we have with gig economy platforms such as Uber and Rappi. We can take a driver’s information from their Uber app, which is kind of built like a bank app and turn it into meaningful bank-like info which third parties can leverage to make assessments as if it’s data coming from a bank,” Viguera explained.

The startup plans to use its new capital to scale its product offering, continue expanding its geographic footprint and double its current headcount of 70. Specifically, Belvo plans to hire more than 50 engineers in Mexico and Brazil by year’s end. It currently has offices in Mexico City, São Paulo, and Barcelona. The company also aims to  launch its bank-to-bank payment initiation offering in Mexico and Brazil.

Belvo currently operates in Mexico, Colombia and Brazil. 

But it’s seeing “a lot of opportunity” in other markets in Latin America, especially in Chile, Peru and Argentina, Viguera told TechCrunch. “In due course, we will look to pursue expansion there.” 

Fred Blackford, founding partner of Future Positive, believes Belvo represents a “truly transformational opportunity for the region’s financial sector.”

Nicolás Szekasy, co-founder and managing partner of Kaszek, noted that demand for financial services in Latin America is growing at an exponential rate .

“Belvo is developing the infrastructure that will enable both the larger institutions and the emerging generation of younger players to successfully deploy their solutions,” he said. “ Oriol, Pablo, and the Belvo team have been leading the development of a sophisticated platform that resolves very complex technical challenges, and the company’s exponential growth reflects how it is delivering a product that fits perfectly with the requirements of the market.” 

#alex-wilhelm, #api, #argentina, #bank, #banking, #barcelona, #belvo, #brazil, #ceo, #chile, #co-ceo, #colombia, #cto, #david-velez, #driver, #editor, #finance, #financial-services, #fj-labs, #founders-fund, #funding, #fundings-exits, #kaszek, #kibo-ventures, #latin-america, #mexico, #mexico-city, #nubank, #online-food-ordering, #open-banking, #open-finance, #peru, #rappi, #recent-funding, #sao-paulo, #startup, #startups, #tc, #technology, #twilio, #uber, #vc, #venture-capital, #wise, #y-combinator

The LatAm funding boom continues as Kaszek raises $1B across a duo of funds

Long before SoftBank launched its $2 billion Innovation Fund in Latin America, and before Andreessen Horowitz began actively investing in the region, Sao Paulo-based Kaszek has been putting money into promising startups since 2011, helping spawn nine unicorns along the way.

And now, the early-stage VC firm is announcing its largest fund closures to date: Kaszek Ventures V, a $475 million early-stage fund, believed to be the largest vehicle of its kind ever raised in the region, and Kaszek Ventures Opportunity II, a $525 million for later-stage investments.

Over the years, Kaszek has backed 91 companies, which the firm says collectively have raised over $10 billion in capital. 

MercadoLibre co-founder Hernán Kazah and the company’s ex-CFO, Nicolas Szekasy, founded Kaszek a decade ago after leaving LatAm’s answer to Amazon. Fun fact: the firm’s name comes from a combination of their two last names: Ka-Szek. Rounding out the team are Nicolas Berman, former VP at MercadoLibre, Santiago Fossatti, Andy Young and Mariana Donangelo.

Kaszek founded its first fund in 2011, raising $95 million, an impressive sum at that time. Funds II and III closed in 2014 and 2017, raising $135 million and $200 million, respectively. By 2019, Kaszek had closed on its fourth fund, raising $375 million and its first Opportunity Fund, reserving $225 million for later-stage investing in existing portfolio companies.

It’s notable that in its fifth fund, Kaszek is reserving more of its new capital to fund later-stage investments – a testament to its faith in its current portfolio. Both funds, according to Kaszek, were “several times oversubscribed” with demand coming globally from university endowments, global foundations, technology funds and several tech entrepreneurs.

Silicon Valley-based Sequoia Capital has been an LP since day one via Sequoia Heritage, its community investment office. Also, Connecticut-based Wesleyan University is an LP with Chief Investment Officer Anne Martin describing the founding team as “internet pioneers.”

In recent years, there has been an explosion of global investor interest in Latin American startups. The region’s startup scene is seeing a surge of fundraises, with new unicorns emerging with increasing regularity. And Kaszek has been at the heart of it all.

“We have been at the epicenter of the technology ecosystem in Latin America since 1999, first with MercadoLibre and now with Kaszek, and have witnessed firsthand the extraordinary  evolution that the sector has experienced since its infancy,” said managing partner and co-founder Kazah. “When MercadoLibre started, the internet penetration was less than 3% and it was mostly dial-up connections. Today, more than two decades later, technology secular trends are stronger than ever before as we are experiencing an acceleration towards digitalization.”

Kaszek has not yet backed any companies out of its newest investment vehicles, but plans to put money in 20 to 30 companies out of its early-stage fund, with check sizes ranging from $500,000 to $25 million, according to Kazah. Its Opportunity Fund investments will be more concentrated with the firm likely backing 10 to 15 companies with check sizes ranging from $10 million to $35 million. The firm is industry agnostic, with Kazah saying it considers “any industry where technology is playing a transformational role.”

General partner and co-founder Szekasy says that In the firm’s first funds, Kaszek mostly backed first-time entrepreneurs. But in its last early-stage fund, it began backing more teams led by repeat entrepreneurs or by founders spawned out of some of the region’s more successful startups. As many VC firms do, Kaszek describes its investment strategy as providing more than capital, but also becoming partners with the founders of its portfolio companies. For example, Creditas founder and CEO Sergio Furio describes the firm as “the co-founder I did not have.”

While the firm declined to comment on performance, a source with firsthand knowledge of its metrics over the years tells TechCrunch that it’s quite impressive with MOICS ranging from 19.2 for Fund I, 10.5 for Fund II, 4.9 for Fund III and 2.6 for Fund IV.

The firm’s active portfolio currently consists of 71 companies. Kaszek was one of the earliest investors in Brazilian neobank Nubank, just one of 9 unicorns it has helped build over the years. Other unicorns it’s backed include MadeiraMadeira, PedidosYa, proptech startup QuintoAndar, Gympass, Loggi, Creditas, Kavak and Bitso.

The firm’s investments have largely concentrated in Brazil and Mexico (the two startup hotspots of the region) and Colombia but the firm has also backed startups based in other countries in the region such as DigitalHouse (which was formed in Argentina), NotCo (originally founded in Chile) and Kushki (launched first in Ecuador). It has people on the ground in its home base of Brazil as well as Mexico, the United States, Argentina and Uruguay. 

“We have always believed that the strong secular technology trends that we were seeing 20 years ago, evident in the US and a little later in China, were going to happen in Latin America,” Kazah told TechCrunch. “…Everything we predicted back then was going to happen, happened. Maybe it happened later, but it was also much larger and more comprehensive than what we had initially imagined. That is typically what happens with innovations, they take off later than you think, but fly much higher than you ever imagined.” 

#amazon, #andreessen-horowitz, #argentina, #brazil, #business, #ceo, #cfo, #chile, #china, #co-founder, #colombia, #companies, #connecticut, #creditas, #economy, #ecuador, #entrepreneurship, #funding, #fundings-exits, #hernan-kazah, #internet-penetration, #kaszek, #kaszek-ventures, #latin-america, #mercadolibre, #mexico, #nubank, #private-equity, #quintoandar, #sequoia-capital, #silicon-valley, #softbank, #startup, #startup-company, #startups, #tc, #united-states, #uruguay, #venture-capital, #vp

Global Cactus Traffickers Are Cleaning Out the Deserts

A recent raid in Italy involving rare Chilean species highlights the growing scale of a black market in the thorny plants.

#atacama-desert, #black-markets, #cacti-plants, #chile, #endangered-and-extinct-species, #italy, #wildlife-trade-and-poaching, #your-feed-science

Chile-based Kredito raises $4M to help businesses get loans

In the last few months, we’ve seen an explosion in funding for consumer banking startups in Latin America, all eager to reinvent traditional banking in the region. However, the business banking space seems like it’s also undergoing some changes.

Today, Chile-based Kredito announced a $4 million pre-seed round. The company focuses on generating loans for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). 

“What we see is that in our sector people have a bank account but don’t have access to credit,” said Sebastian Robles, co-founder and CEO of Kredito.

Robles explained that in Chile, when you open a business bank account, you don’t get a credit or debit card attached to it, so entrepreneurs usually have to use their personal cards.

“Ninety percent of our customers don’t have access to credit with their bank (but they have a bank account) and thanks to the power of AI they can have access to working capital for the first time,” added Robles.

By using an AI algorithm to underwrite the loans in real time, Kredito does all the heavy lifting and then connects the SMBs with a traditional bank that loans out the money.

“We use proprietary algorithms and alternative data to evaluate credit risk more inclusively than traditional banks,” the company said in a statement. This approach speeds up the process of getting a loan, which traditionally has taken weeks or months to complete.

While in beta, the company used data from more than 10,000 SMBs to train their AI models.

Kredito makes money by serving as lead generation for the traditional banks and charging them a small percentage for each loan they bring in.

In addition to its loan service, Kredito is also developing a debit card product that will be available in the next couple of months. Like other fintechs in the region, the company’s strategy is to launch individual financial products one at a time without having to apply to be a full bank.

“Being a bank is too expensive, so we use pieces of the ecosystem instead,” Robles told TechCrunch.

Kredito launched in March of this year and today the company has more than 2,000 active SMBs on the platform. 

In addition to offering new products, the company is very focused on offering optimal customer service, which is an area that traditional banks are lacking.  

“To open a bank account for our startup was more painful than raising our angel funds, and despite having $4 million in the bank, I still don’t have a line of credit for Kredito,” Robles said.

Investors in the round include a private VC fund from Maurice Khamis and Family, Link Capital Partners, partners from Patio Group, Karim Fajardin and other family offices focused on VC and fintech.

#artificial-intelligence, #bank, #banking, #chile, #debit-card, #economy, #finance, #financial-services, #fintech, #karim-fajardin, #kredito, #latin-america, #link-capital-partners, #maurice-khamis, #patio-group, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc

From Colombia to U.S., Police Violence Pushes Protests Into Mass Movements

In Colombia, and many other countries, security forces’ attacks on protesters have led to nationwide reckonings with injustice.

#alabama, #black-lives-matter-movement, #bogota-colombia, #brown-michael-1996-2014, #chile, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #ferguson-mo, #george-floyd-protests-2020, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #pinochet-ugarte-augusto, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings

Progressives Won Chile’s Election

A new Constitution allowing for broad social and economic reform will be drafted to replace the one approved during the dark days of the Pinochet dictatorship.

#chile, #constitutions, #elections, #income-inequality, #pinera-sebastian, #pinochet-ugarte-augusto

Fresh out of YC, Houm raises $8M to improve the home rental and sales market in LatAm

As a longtime real estate developer based in Chile, Benjamin Labra was able to spot gaps in the buying and renting markets in Latin America. To meet demands, he started Houm, an all-in-one platform that helps homeowners rent and sell their properties in the region.

Fresh out of Y Combinator’s W21 cohort, today Houm announced an $8 million seed round. 

If you think the concept sounds like Brazil’s unicorn, QuintoAndar, it’s because Houm is very similar. While QuintoAndar dominates the Brazilian market, Houm operates in Chile, Mexico and Colombia, and aims to capture the rest of Spanish-speaking LatAm.

Think of Houm as a homeowner-run Zillow meets TaskRabbit. The company offers a marketplace run by the property owners themselves and cuts out the realtor by employing 200 freelancers who prepare the property for sale or to manage it.

Houmers, as they are called, go to the owner’s home, take photos and then help possible buyers or renters view the property. For their work, Houmers are compensated each time a home they worked on sells or gets rented.

However, Houm’s selling proposition isn’t just the ease of use it provides; instead, it also serves as a guarantor in my ways, making the buying process more accessible.

“In Colombia and Mexico, for someone to be your guarantor, they have to have a property that’s free of mortgage so it can be used as collateral,” Labra told TechCrunch.

On the flip side, the company also guarantees that renters will get paid every month, and if a tenant falters, Houm covers the cost. “You really have nothing to lose if you use Houm,” Labra said.

You can imagine that a company like Houm now has all sorts of data on the real estate market, especially around sales and rental prices. As a result, Houm uses this data in an algorithm that helps the homeowner determine a fair price for their property, but the listed price remains up to the owner.

The company, which was founded in 2018 and is based in Chile, now has about 200 full-time employees, in addition to their freelance team. While Labra declined to say how many active users it has, he said Houm is now showing a property every eight minutes.

The current funding round had no lead investor but includes Y Combinator, Goodwater Ventures, OneVC, Vast VC, Liquid2 and Myelin. The company plans to use the money to expand within the region, perfect its algorithm and generally speed up growth.

 

#brazil, #chile, #funding, #goodwater-ventures, #houm, #latin-america, #liquid2-ventures, #prop-tech, #property, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #startups, #taskrabbit, #websites, #y-combinator, #zillow

Diginex launches ESG reporting platform aimed at small businesses

As ESG reporting goes up the agenda for large companies, it’s also increasingly doing so for smaller companies as well. But right now, tracking things like your company’s CO2 emissions is mainly the preserve of large corporations. Now a startup hopes to address this.

Diginex Solutions has a self-guided tool which claims to generate ESG reports six times faster than competitors and comes in at a relatively affordable $99 per month.

The blockchain-enabled reporting tool also generates reports, giving companies the ability to demonstrate their ESG creds.

DiginexESG is certified by the GRI, an international independent standards organization and now operates in the US, UK, Luxembourg, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Chile. It is currently raising venture backing largely from strategic corporate investors.

Competitors include Turnkey Group, NASDAQ Onereport, Enablon (raised $15M) and World-favour.

Mark Blick, CEO at Diginex Solutions said, “The current landscape of ESG reporting is challenging for many organizations – particularly SMEs – requiring huge consultancy fees, time and resources that distracts from day-to-day activity. The DiginexESG platform quite simply takes away those challenges and does all the heavy lifting for them. It’s like Docusign, Dropbox, TurboTax or Slack hardcoded for ESG reporting.”

#ceo, #chile, #docusign, #enablon, #environmentalism, #esg, #luxembourg, #singapore, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #world

Be It a $10 Wine, or Much More, the Judgments Come Free

Inexpensive wines can be just fine. They also illuminate the harsh opinions that some people seem to cherish about the preferences of others.

#chile, #content-type-service, #france, #italy, #prices-fares-fees-and-rates, #wines

Armed with $160M in funding, LatAm’s Merama enters the e-commerce land grab

Merama, a five-month old e-commerce startup focused on Latin America, announced today that it has raised $60 million in seed and Series A funding and $100 million in debt.

The money was raised “at well over a $200 million valuation,” according to co-founder and CEO Sujay Tyle.  

“We are receiving significant inbound for a Series B already,” he said.

LatAm firms Valor Capital and Monashees Capital and U.K.-based Balderton Capital co-led the “massively oversubscribed” funding round, which also included participation from Silicon Valley-based TriplePoint Capital and the CEOs of four unicorns in Latin America, including Uala, Loggi, Rappi and Madeira Madeira. 

Tyle, Felipe Delgado, Olivier Scialom, Renato Andrade and Guilherme Nosralla started Merama in December 2020 with a vision to be the “largest and best-selling set of brands in Latin America.” The company has dual headquarters in Mexico City and São Paulo.

Merama partners with e-commerce product sellers in Latin America by purchasing a stake in the businesses and working with their teams to help them “exponentially” grow and boost their technology while providing them with nondilutive working capital. CEO Tyle describes the company’s model as “wildly different” from that of Thras.io, Perch and other similar companies such as Valoreo because it does not aggregate dozens of brands.

“We will work with very few brands over time, and only the best, and work with our entire team to scale and expand these few businesses,” Tyle told TechCrunch. “We’re more similar to The Hut Group in the EU.”

Merama expects to sell $100 million across the region this year, more than two times the year before. It is currently focused on Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Chile. Already, the company operates “very profitably,” according to Tyle. So the cash raised will go primarily toward partnering with more brands, investing in building its technology platform “to aid in the automation of several facets” of its partners’ brands and in working capital for product innovation and inventory purchases. 

The 42-person team is made up of e-commerce leaders from companies such as Amazon, Mercado Libre and Facebook, among others. Tyle knows a thing or two about growing and building new startups, having co-founded Frontier Car Group, which sold to OLX/Naspers for about $700 million in 2019. He is also currently a venture partner at Balderton. 

It’s a fact that Latin American e-commerce has boomed, particularly during the pandemic. Mexico was the fastest-growing e-commerce market in 2020 worldwide, yet is still in its infancy, Tyle said. Overall, the $85 billion e-commerce market in Latin America is growing rapidly, with projections of it reaching $116.2 billion in 2023.

“Merchants are seeing hypergrowth but still struggle with fundamental problems, which creates a ceiling in their potential,” Tyle told TechCrunch. “For example, they are unable to expand internationally, get reliable and cost-effective working capital and build technology tools to support their own online presence. This is where Merama comes in. We seek to give our partners an unfair advantage. When we decide to work with a team, it is because we believe they will be the de facto category leader and can become a $1 billion business on their own.”

Merama collaborates with e-commerce giants such as Amazon and Mercado Libre, and several executives from both companies have invested in the startup, as well.

Daniel Waterhouse, partner at Balderton Capital, says his firm sees “huge potential” in Merama.

“In our two decades scaling businesses in Europe, we have seen firsthand what defines eCommerce category leaders,” he said in a written statement. “What they have already achieved is breathtaking, and it is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Valor Capital founding partner Scott Sobel believes that creating superior products that connect with consumers is the first key challenge D2C companies face.

“That is why we like Merama’s approach to partnering with these established brands and provide them unparalleled support to scale their operations in an efficient way,” he added.

#amazon, #argentina, #balderton-capital, #brazil, #chile, #daniel-waterhouse, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #europe, #european-union, #facebook, #frontier-car-group, #funding, #fundings-exits, #latin-america, #merama, #mercado-libre, #mercadolibre, #mexico, #mexico-city, #monashees-capital, #naspers, #olx, #paypal, #rappi, #recent-funding, #retailers, #sao-paulo, #silicon-valley, #startup, #startups, #sujay-tyle, #tc, #techcrunch, #the-hut-group, #triplepoint-capital, #unicorn, #valor-capital, #venture-capital, #websites

BTS Fans Mobilize to Denounce Anti-Asian Jokes Targeting the Boy Band

A global outcry fueled by a sketch on a Chilean comedy show reflected a growing sensitivity to racist, particularly anti-Asian, speech.

#bts-music-group, #chile, #discrimination, #k-pop, #social-media

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

After Meghan and Harry’s Interview: Sympathy and Cynicism

A British reader relates how “our love was eroded” by Meghan’s public actions. Also: Censoring Dr. Seuss; gay adoption; when birth control fails.

#abrams-floyd, #adoptions, #birth-control-and-family-planning, #censorship, #chile, #geisel-theodor-seuss, #harry-duke-of-sussex, #homosexuality-and-bisexuality, #markle-meghan, #winfrey-oprah

Defective Birth Control Blamed for Scores of Unwanted Pregnancies in Chile

The public health system delivered, and then quietly recalled, 276,890 potentially flawed packets of birth control pills. At least 140 women believe they got pregnant because of the error.

#abortion, #birth-control-and-family-planning, #chile, #pinera-sebastian, #pregnancy-and-childbirth, #women-and-girls, #womens-rights

Chile Police Shooting Leads to Protests in Southern Town

Buildings were burned in the southern town of Panguipulli after the fatal shooting, which was captured on video.

#chile, #fires-and-firefighters, #police-brutality-misconduct-and-shootings

20 Wines Under $20: Postcards From Around the World

In a pandemic era, when traveling is largely out of the question, these wines, good values all, can take you on a trip around the globe.

#argentina, #australia, #austria, #california, #chile, #france, #grapes, #greece, #italy, #portugal, #wines