Sophia Wood is a principal at Magma Partners, a Latin America-focused seed-stage VC firm with offices in Latin America, Asia and the U.S. Sophia is also the co-founder of LatAm List, an English-language Latin American tech news source.
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Brazil continued to churn out unicorns this month, with Curitiba-based Ebanx becoming the first startup from the southern part of the country to top a $1 billion valuation. U.S.-based FTV Capital provided the investment but did not disclose the amount invested nor the exact valuation of Ebanx after the investment.
Ebanx is an end-to-end payment processor that helps international companies receive payments in the Latin American market, similar to Stripe. Their clients include Airbnb, AliExpress, Pipedrive, Spotify, Uber and Wish, and more than 50 million Latin Americans have conducted transactions with more than 1,000 companies through the Ebanx platform. This investment comes on the heels of exciting partnerships with Uber Pay, Shopify, Spotify and Visa to expand cross-border payment processing across the region.
Ebanx has operations in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, and will expand their local payment solution, Ebanx Pay, into Colombia in 2020. The company has grown its user base by offering a full-service product that includes market research, 24/7 customer service and anti-fraud technology.
The Ebanx investment is part of a growing interest in Latin American payments startups. Brazil’s PagSeguro and StoneCo had successful IPOs last year, while Mexico’s Conekta and Ecuador’s Kushki have raised large rounds to try to unite the region under a single processor as Latin America rapidly adopts e-commerce.
Uber acquires Cornershop, takes off where Walmart left off
The acquisition of the Chilean-Mexican grocery delivery startup Cornershop has been an emotional roller coaster for Latin American entrepreneurs and investors throughout 2019. First Walmart announced a $225 million deal that would be one of the bigger exits of the region, then the acquisition was blocked by Mexican antitrust institution COFECE. This announcement dealt a blow to the ecosystem as entrepreneurs and VCs had eagerly awaited this boost in liquidity in the local market.
Last-mile delivery and logistics became a very competitive space in Latin America in 2018.
Then in mid-October 2019, Uber announced it would take a 51% stake in Cornershop for a reported $450 million, quadrupling the startup’s value in the four months since the COFECE decision. This deal will consist of cash, investment in Cornershop’s growth and stock in Uber, which IPO’d earlier this year.
However, this deal must also be approved by the Chilean and Mexican antitrust boards, which are expected to release their decisions within the next two weeks. In the meantime, Cornershop will continue its expansion into the Colombian market after it added Peru and Canada in 2019.
Last-mile delivery and logistics became a very competitive space in Latin America in 2018, and many of the players are sitting on enormous pools of capital. Colombia’s Rappi raised $1 billion from SoftBank in early 2019, breaking records for startup investment for the region. Brazil’s iFood raised $500 million from Naspers at the end of 2018. However, delivery continues to be a cash-intensive business, with many of these companies burning through capital quickly to gain market share. Cornershop was an exception and had raised less than $50 million before the acquisition.
Brazil’s Buser, Olist, raise funding from SoftBank
Despite the WeWork crash, SoftBank has continued investing consistently in Brazilian startups. In early October 2019, the Japanese investor led an undisclosed Series B round for Brazilian collaborative bus chartering startup Buser. Buser’s team will invest more than $73 million in growth over the next 12 months to create new alliances for their network of operating partners.
Buser helps coordinate groups of people to charter buses at convenient times and lower prices, disrupting the bureaucratic, anti-competitive and inefficient bus system. The company has grown 1,500% over the past nine months and serves more than 3,000 people per day. While Buser has been popular with locals, traditional bus drivers are calling for regulation to slow the company’s meteoric growth. Buser plans to add more than 100 direct jobs in 200 cities over the next 12 months, and SoftBank’s most recent investment will help power this growth.
Brazil’s e-commerce marketplace integrator Olist also received investment from SoftBank for its Series C, coming in around $46 million. Redpoint eVentures and Valor Capital also participated in the round.
This investment signals the increased interest by traditional retailers in startups that are slowly chipping away at their market share across the region.
Olist connects small businesses to larger product marketplaces to help entrepreneurs sell their products to a larger customer base. They will reportedly use this investment to investigate the development of financial products and look for collaboration with SoftBank’s other companies, like Rappi and Loggi. Based in Curitiba, Olist was founded in 2015 to help small merchants gain market share across the country through a SaaS licensing model to small brick and mortar businesses.
Today, Olist has more than 7,000 customers and uses a drop-shipping model to send products directly from stores to clients around the country, allowing them to grow with a capital-light model. They will use the investment to add up to 100 new employees.
Carrefour Brazil acquires 49% of Ewally
Ewally improves financial inclusion in Brazil through a mobile wallet app that allows unbanked clients to pay bills and make purchases online through the blockchain. Carrefour will reportedly use the acquisition to accelerate digital transformation and improve online payment mechanisms throughout Brazil.
Carrefour did not disclose the amount invested and the deal is still subject to approval by Brazilian financial regulation authorities. However, this investment signals the increased interest by traditional retailers in startups that are slowly chipping away at their market share across the region.
News and Notes: Early-stage rounds are getting bigger
Startups in Brazil, Colombia and Argentina raised several rounds this month, ranging from $1.5 million to $13 million. Brazil’s Xerpa, Colombia’s Sempli, Brazil’s Gorilla and Argentina’s Bitso and Worcket were among those that raised capital from local and international investors in October 2019.
Brazilian human resource management platform Xerpa raised $13 million from Vostok Emerging Finance to continue to help companies like MercadoLibre, iFood and QuintoAndar provide benefits for their employees. Previous investors include Nubank’s David Velez, Kaszek Ventures and QED Investors.
Sempli, an online lending platform for small businesses in Colombia, raised an $8 million Series A from new investors Oikocredit and Incofin CVSO, as well as previous investors BID LAB, XTPI Fund, Generación Exponencial, and Impulsum Ventures. To date, Sempli has raised more than $24 million in equity funding. The founders will use this round to grow their portfolio and improve their risk assessment technology to provide more small business loans in Colombia.
Brazil’s Quicko, an alternative mobility startup that uses big data, raised $10 million in October from Brazilian transport company CCR. Quicko’s technology integrates all mobility options — from bicycles to Uber and 99 — to help people get where they need to go as quickly and inexpensively as possible.
Also in Brazil, startup Gorilla Invest raised $8.4 million from Ribbit Capital, Monashees and Iporanga. Gorilla aggregates financial assets so that investors can review all their commitments in one place, and currently manages more than $1.2 billion for 40,000 clients.
Mexican cryptocurrency exchange Bitso raised an undisclosed round from Argentine startup Ripple to expand into the Southern Cone, especially Argentina and Brazil. Other investors in the round included Pantera Capital, Digital Currency Group, Jump Capital and Coinbase.
Looking ahead to November, with unsettled politics in several countries across the region, tech startups are growing despite governmental changes. Some of these changes will likely have a positive effect on the regional ecosystem as people push for more sustainable and equal economic growth.
What to watch next? Last year, Q4 was marked by a wave of large investments as funds and startups look to end the year strong. IFood raised its record-breaking $500 million round in December 2018. We may well see a similar uptick this year as mega-funds like SoftBank have been consistently investing multi-million dollar rounds since June. There is no sign international investment in Latin America will slow through the end of the year, so we can likely look forward to several more growth-stage rounds before the year is out.