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.

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Homebrew leads Z1’s effort to bring digital banking to Latin America’s teens

Z1, a Sao Paulo-based digital bank aimed at Latin American GenZers, has raised $2.5 million in a round led by U.S.-based Homebrew.

A number of other investors also participated in the financing including Clocktower Ventures, Mantis – the VC firm owned by The Chainsmokers, Goodwater, Gaingels, Soma Capital and Rebel Fund. Notably, Mantis has also backed Step, a teen-focused fintech based in the U.S., and Goodwater has also invested in Greenlight, which too has a similar offering as Z1.

Z1 participated in Y Combinator’s Winter ‘21 batch earlier this year, and at the time got $125,000 in funding from the accelerator. Maya Capital led its $700,000 seed round in March of 2020.

Put simply, Z1 is a digital bank app built for teenagers and young adults. The company was founded on the notion that by using its app and linked prepaid card, Brazilian and Latin American teenagers can become more financially independent.

João Pedro Thompson and Thiago Achatz started the company in late 2019 and soon after,  Mateus Craveiro and Sophie Secaf joined as co-founders. In its early days, Z1 is focused on Brazil but the startup has plans to expand into other countries in Latin America over time.

“Z1 is what we’re building to be the go to bank of the next generation, and not just be a digital bank for teens,” Achatz told TechCrunch. “We want to grow with him and one day, be the biggest bank in Brazil and LatAm.” 

Thompson agrees. 

“We’re acquiring users really early and creating brand loyalty with the intention of being their bank for life,” he said. “We will still meet their needs as they grow into adulthood.”

Image Credits: Z1

While Z1’s offering is not completely unlike that of Greenlight here in the U.S. the founders agree that its products have been adapted more to the Brazil-specific cultural and market situation.

For example, points out Thompson, most teenagers in Brazil use cash because they don’t have access to other financial services, whether they be traditional or digital.

“We offer an account where they can deposit money, cash out money via an instant payment system in Brazil or spend through a prepaid credit card,” he said. “Most sites don’t accept debit cards so this is a big step compared to what teens already have.”

Part of the company’s use for the capital is to make its product more robust so they can do things like save money for big purchases such as an iPhone and earn interest on their accounts.

Another big difference between Brazil and the U.S., the company believes, is that many parents in general in Latin America haven’t had a true financial education that they can pass down to their kids.

“We’re not top down like Greenlight,” Achatz said. “That approach doesn’t make sense in Latin America. Here, many are independent from an early age and already work whether it’s through a microbusiness, a side job or selling things on Instagram. They’re much more self-taught and the income they earn is often outside of their parents.”

Z1 has grown 30% per week and 200% per month since launch, spending “very little” on marketing and relying mostly on word-of-mouth. For example, the company is following the lead of its U.S. counterparts and turning to TikTok to spread the word about its offering. 

“Step has around 200,000 followers on TikTok, and we have a little under half of that,” the company says. “We’re well-positioned in terms of branding.”

For lead investor Homebrew, the opportunity to educate and provide financial services to Gen Z in Latin America is even more exciting than the opportunity in the US., notes partner Satya Patel.

Over one third of LatAm Gen Z’ers have a “side hustle,” generating their own income independent from their parents, he said.

“While millennials grew up during an economic boom, Gen Z grew up during recessions – 3 in Brazil over the last decade – and wants to become financially independent as soon as possible. They’re becoming economically educated and active much earlier than previous generations,” Patel added.

He also believes the desire to transact online, for gaming and entertainment in particular, creates a groundswell of GenZ demand in Brazil for credit card and digital payments products.

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Austin-based iFly.vc closes $46M second fund from legendary tech founders

To compete with the myriad venture capital firms in Silicon Valley, iFly.vc has a unique vantage point.

Its founder Han Shen has straddled the United States and China for several decades. He was the first hire on the investment team of Formation 8, the VC firm co-founded by Palantir’s Joe Lonsdale. After iFly.vc backed Weee! in a Series A round in 2018, Shen arranged for the grocery startup to meet with China’s produce delivery leaders — two of which recently went public in the U.S. — to learn what was applicable to the American market.

Weee! has since become the go-to grocery app for America’s Asian communities and raised hundreds of millions of dollars from Lightspeed Venture Partners, DST Global, Blackstone, Tiger Global and other major institutions. IFly.vc is still Weee!’s second-largest shareholder, and its first fund recorded a 10x rate of return, Shen told TechCrunch during an interview.

On the back of its cross-continental experiences and portfolio performance, iFly.vc recently closed its second fund with over $46 million, boosting the firm’s assets under management to more than $95 million.

The limited partners in Fund II include family offices across the U.S. and Asia as well as high-profile entrepreneurs such as Zhang Tao, founder of China’s Yelp counterpart Dianping, Free Wu, a founding member of Tencent who now manages Welight Capital, Joe Lonsdale, co-founder of Palantir, and Aayush Phumbhra, co-founder of Chegg.

IFly.vc made another big move during the pandemic, relocating its office from San Francisco to Austin, joining a wave of Californians fleeing the expensive area.

When it comes to investment focus, Shen said he tries to seek out the underdogs in North America’s trillion-dollar consumer market.

“On the one hand, enterprise services are growing very quickly. But on the other hand, the rise of enterprise software is helping consumer tech to grow even more quickly and easily. The consumer market is very diverse and serves an array of minority groups, so there is always a new opportunity.”

With this premise in mind, iFly.vc recently invested in Cheese Financial‘s seed round, a digital bank that started out by serving the underbanked Asian American populations.

IFly.vc prefers backing startups early on and seeing them through by providing hands-on, post-investment support. Rather than spray and pray, iFly.vc has invested in just about a dozen companies five years after its founding.

Shen’s background of growing up in China and working in Silicon Valley, where he eventually became a partner at Formation 8, led him to appreciate entrepreneurs with a similarly international background because they can learn from mistakes and successes on both sides. They also know how to leverage the different fields of talent across the world.

Cheese Financial, for instance, is setting up an engineering force in the founder’s hometown, Shenzhen, to take advantage of the Chinese city’s large pool of engineers at costs much lower than those of Silicon Valley.

It’s not just about hiring cheaper programmers, though. As Shen puts it: “In the past, American companies were simply outsourcing technical tasks to China. Now Chinese engineers actually have valuable lessons to bring to American companies because many have worked at large, successful Chinese tech companies themselves.”

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Tiger Global leads $42M Series B in Nigerian credit-led neobank FairMoney

Neobanks have led the charge as regards venture capital funding for consumer fintech startups. But while they have collectively dominated the fintech space, they don’t operate a monolithic model.

There are five distinct models, and the one adopted by Nubank, the $30 billion behemoth, is the credit-led model. Neobanks operating this model start by offering credit via cards or on an app and subsequently offer bank accounts as a gateway to other services.

Nigerian fintech startup FairMoney operates this model. Today, it is announcing a $42 million Series B raise to diversify its offerings and expand to “become the financial hub for its users.” 

Tiger Global Management led the round. Existing investors from the company’s previous rounds, DST Partners, Flourish Ventures, Newfund, and Speedinvest, participated. The investment comes after FairMoney raised €10 million Series A two years ago and €1.2 million seed in 2018.

Founded in 2017 by Laurin Hainy, Matthieu Gendreau, and Nicolas Berthozat, FairMoney started as an online lender that provides instant loans and bill payments to customers in Nigeria.

When CEO Hainy spoke to TechCrunch in February, the company was six months into its expansion to India. One of the highlights of that discussion was FairMoney’s impressive numbers in 2020. Last year, the company disbursed a total loan volume of $93 million to over 1.3 million users who made more than 6.5 million loan applications

The company also made some progress on the India front, processing more than 500,000 loan applications from over 100,000 unique users.

So what has changed since then? For one, Hainy says FairMoney ticked one of the goals which was acquiring a microfinance bank license. The license allows FairMoney to operate as a financial service provider in Nigeria.

“We have received our MFB banking license which now enables us to open current accounts for our users, and we’re doing that on quite a big scale,” Hainy said to TechCrunch. “We opened accounts for our repeated and new customers, which I think is quite a unique company strategy because we don’t need to burn millions of dollars of customer acquisition cost on users like other competitors. I think all of that has enabled us to become sort of the largest digital bank in Nigeria.”

Quite the claim but behind it are figures to back it up. Of the company’s current 3.5 million registered users, 1.3 million are unique bank account holders. The company says it is projecting to disburse $300 million worth of loans to them this year. How will it finance that? By raising bonds. FairMoney’s loan book is grown by its capital markets activity and has convinced some investment banks to invest a substantial amount in its unlisted bond

The credit-led neobank offers loans to individuals from ₦1,500 (~$3) to ₦500,000 (~$1,000) ranging from days to six months. Small business loans have become a prominent service most digital banks have begun to offer in Nigeria’s retail sector, and FairMoney sees an opportunity there. Hainy states that from now on, the company will start servicing loans to registered SMEs in Nigeria. In the works also is the issuance of cards. However, unlike the credit cards operated by Nubank, FairMoney is shipping debit cards, the more prevalent one in the Nigerian market.

“The ambition is that by the end of the year, the customer has the full-fledged banking experience from P2P transfers and lending to debit cards and current accounts. In addition to that, we are working on a number of additional services from savings products, stock trading, and crypto-trading products potentially depending on where regulation is heading,” Hainy added

But while most African companies, after completing a Series B raise, think about expansion, it’s a different case for FairMoney. Hainy calls this a ‘focus round’ and says FairMoney wants to consolidate its position in Nigeria and India; therefore, it is not considering any expansion to other markets.

“We feel that with India and Nigeria, we have tons of work to do and tons of problems to solve. We are doubling down on the Nigerian opportunity, which is building out more banking services and becoming one of the commercial banks in the country. And then India by building a large credit book there,” the CEO combined.

African fintech startups have attracted a lot of capital this year and they continue to do so. So far, the continent has seen three nine-figure raises, all from fintech companies Flutterwave, TymeBank and Chipper Cash. There’s also one reportedly in the works from OPay.

Nigerian fintechs are leading the crop as exciting startups keep coming from the country week in week out, gaining access to capital at an astonishing rate.

It is not news that while local investors are cutting checks at pre-seed and seed levels, and sometimes Series A, international investors control the continent’s latter stages. TymeBank cited U.K. and Philippines venture capital firms as investors. For Chipper Cash, it was SVB Capital, Ribbit, and Bezos Expeditions, while Avenir Growth Capital and Tiger Global invested in Flutterwave.

In FairMoney, Tiger Global has made a return to the continent. Per public knowledge, it is the first time the U.S. hedge fund is investing in two African startups in a year after backing Flutterwave in March. “We are excited to partner with FairMoney as they build a better financial hub for customers in Nigeria and India,” Scott Shleifer, partner at Tiger Global, said in a statement. “We were impressed by the team and the strong growth to date and look forward to supporting FairMoney as they continue to scale.”

Hainy calls the investment a great industry signaling for the continent. He believes Tiger Global decided to back FairMoney because the company has been able to scale tremendously and shown that it can operate banking and lending while running a profitable business when most of its counterparts are not.

“I think what most people have been discussing is the question of sustainability. How long can digital banks operate as financial service providers while making losses? So I think that’s another great signal for the market that we’ve actually managed to do that in a profitable manner, providing upside for our shareholders and also showing our clients that they can actually bank on us in the future,” Hainy added.

And to achieve its goal to become a financial hub for its customers’ banking needs, the CEO said the company is embarking on a hiring spree for top talent. “We are hiring worldwide, and there are 150 open positions out there right now that we’re trying to fill with strong talent to help us build the financial app for Nigerians.”

#africa, #digital-bank, #fairmoney, #finance, #funding, #india, #neobank, #nigeria, #nubank, #online-lending, #tc, #tiger-global-management

PayMaya owner Voyager Innovation raises $167M from KKR, Tencent and IFC, to launch digital bank in the Philippines

Voyager Innovations, the Manila-based owner of PayMaya, one of the Philippines’ most popular payment and financial services apps, announced today it has raised $167 million in new funding to launch more financial services, including a digital bank.

The raise includes $121 million in new funding, and $46 million from previously committed funds. Voyager announced in April 2020 that it had secured up to $120 million in investment commitments from PLDT, KKR, Tencent, the International Finance Group (IFC) and the IFC Emerging Asia Fund.

The latest capital came from existing shareholders PLDT, one of the country’s largest telecoms, KKR and Tencent, and new investors including IFC Financial Institutions Growth Fund, managed by IFC AMC, a member of the World bank Group (another one of Voyager’s investors).

Voyager’s total raised since 2018 now stands at $452 million.

Along with competitors GCash and Coins, PayMaya is one of the most popular financial “super apps” in the Philippines. Its services include a digital wallet, online remittances, bill payments, bank transfers, prepaid cards and an e-commerce feature called PayMaya Mall that connects consumers to 350 merchants.

In its funding announcement today, Voyager said it has applied for a digital bank license with Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the Philippines’ central bank. A representative for the Voyager said the neobank will launch about six months after Voyager secures its license.

PayMaya has more than 250,000 digital-finance access touchpoints, like convenience stores, where users can top-up their accounts. Voyager says this is seven times the number of ATM and bank branches in the Philippines, making PayMaya more accessible than traditional banks, especially in remote or rural areas.

According to the BSP, about 71% of Filipinos were unbanked as of 2019. The BSP has set financial inclusion goals it wants to achieve by 2023, including onboarding 70% of Filipino adults to payment or transaction accounts, and converting 50% of total retail payments into digital form.

PayMaya and Smart Padala by PayMaya, its remittance service, claim its total registered users doubled over 18 months to 38 million as of June 2021. This year, Voyager also began expanding PayMaya’s services with working capital loans for micro- to mid-sized businesses through PayMaya Lending Corp, and PayMaya Protect insurance policies for health coverage and devices.

#asia, #digital-bank, #financial-services, #fundings-exits, #ifc, #kkr, #neobank, #paymaya, #philippines, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #tencent, #voyager-innovations