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Hear E-Prix Champion di Grassi on the future of electric motor sports (including scooters)

Lucas di Grassi is returning to TechCrunch’s stage, and we’re going to talk racing electric vehicles. Again. Because electric is the future of motoring including motorsports.

There’s a lot to talk about with di Grassi. He’s an outspoken proponent of electric vehicles, previously helping to develop Formula E, push forward the AI racing circuit Roborace and is now developing an international electric race scooter series. He’s seemingly focused on justifying the benefits of electric vehicles in the name of the environment and acts as a Clear Air Advocate for the U.N. and is organizing a technology and business event for a zero-carbon future in Latin America called Zero Summit.

Di Grassi is a racer in Formula E and a former champion, taking the podium in 2016. Before racing for the series, he helped develop the vehicles used in Formula E. Now, even with his plate full of other projects, he continues to compete in the electric F1 series.

The last time he spoke at a TechCrunch event, he talked extensively on Roborace’s development and arrival. At the time he was the CEO of Roborace, and now, nearly two years later, Roborace still seems like a far-fetched idea.

Di Grassi teamed up with former F1 driver Alex Wurz for a different racing series involving electric scooters. Called eSkootr Championship, the series is said to feature purpose-built scooters that are capable of speeds up to 100 km/h. The pair, along with motorsport entrepreneur CEO Hrag Sarikissian, and COO Khalil Beschir, an F1 broadcaster and former A1 GP racing driver, hope the series’ lower cost of entry will draw racers from different backgrounds and disciplines.

We hope you can join us at our TC: Sessions Mobility event on October 6 and 7 to hear from di Grassi and other icons trying to change the face of mobility. Tickets are currently on sale and available at an Early Bird rate until September 4, 11:59 p.m. (PDT).

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The H-1B visa ban is creating nearshore business partnership opportunities

In June, President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily suspending work visas for H-1B holders, which includes skilled workers like software developers.

Considering that 71% of workers in Silicon Valley and other tech hubs are international, the order poses a number of logistical and business challenges for startups.

While nearshoring was an option before the virus struck, the urgency to nearshore due to the visa ban, combined with the remote revolution taking place, has meant companies are reconsidering it as a solution. As a result, the suspension presents an opportunity for companies to bring on board software development capabilities from abroad.

Nearshoring is a way to hire teams in locations that share similar time zones and are easily accessible. Nearshoring also enables U.S. companies to utilize services from close locations, where the talent, working conditions, and salaries are more favorable. In fact, it can save businesses up to 80% on costs, while providing employees with flexibility, autonomy and better career development pathways.

Not only is nearshoring a pragmatic response to the visa ban, it has the potential to be a long-term hiring alternative for businesses. Here’s how:

Laying the groundwork for remote teams

Amid the pandemic, demand for developers has remained high, no doubt due to companies needing teams to build, maintain and optimize digital platforms as they transition to online services. The visa ban means that businesses in foreign markets can help meet such demand, particularly as tech talent from other countries comes with a fresh, different skill set that empowers companies to solve problems in new ways.

In the past, moving to the U.S. and living the American Dream oriented many foreign businesses’ professional paths. However, the trend has changed. The appeal of the United States was slipping prior to the virus — it ranked 46th out of 66 for “perceived friendliest to expats” — and post-COVID-19 may be even more detrimental.

In a more connected world, businesses and individuals can reap the benefits of U.S. opportunities — top technology stack, access to exciting companies and world-class research — without having to actually live in the country. In this respect, nearshoring means foreign teams have the best of both worlds: the comfort of home and ties to an international powerhouse.

The remote shift is demonstrating that teams can function well at a distance; some studies have even revealed that employee productivity and happiness benefit from remote work. In the global remote shift, nearshoring is being seen as an accepted and advantageous model. Companies that opt to nearshore in response to the visa ban can take advantage of the changing tides and use this time to lay the groundwork for best practices within remote teams. For instance, by devising policies for things like communication, tracking progress, vacation and development plans according to the new conditions and specific mission statements. As a result, businesses can seamlessly build professional partnerships.

Another advantage of nearshoring is that the flexible teams contribute to a ready-to-scale model for startups. By having development partners located in different countries, companies can network on a wider level and grow faster among local markets. Rather than start from scratch when expanding, nearshoring gives companies a presence — no matter how small — across regions, which can later be built upon.

Attracting fresh investment

Similar to having a readiness to scale, the H-1B visa suspension positions nearshoring as a viable way to strategically partner with foreign development studios. In contrast to offshoring, nearshored businesses are often more vested in the projects they work on because they share time zones and are thus able to work more closely and with greater agility. Within startups, such agility is essential to continuously test, iterate and pivot products or services. Outsourced teams often have defined outputs to achieve, while freelancers are split across several projects, so aren’t completely ingrained in companies’ visions.

With nearshoring, startups can target partners that have experience in a particular area of business or with a specific tech feature and accelerate their time to market. Instead of building systems from zero, they can launch into version 2.0 because the wider choice of experts means there’s a higher chance of partnering with teams who already understand how the industry functions. Nearshore partners also have vast knowledge across industrial fields at a level that is impossible for direct hires to have. Companies therefore don’t have to tackle the difficulty of curating a great team, because nearshore partners are an already solid pairing.

When it comes to funding, this synchronicity, agility and preparedness indicates that a startup has momentum. For investors, nearshoring shows that the company has on-the-ground insights about potential markets to disrupt, and that the business model can thrive using remote teams. As the world braces itself to go fully digital, startups that have already adopted remote processes that catalyze growth will no doubt catch the attention of investors.

Promoting greater diversity in teams

Latin America is a clear choice for U.S. businesses looking to nearshore. The region’s proximity, increasing internet penetration, and impressive number of highly skilled developers are all a significant draw.

It’s also worth noting that diversity plays a core role in nearshoring. Currently within tech, Hispanic workers are noticeably underrepresented, making up a mere 16.7% of jobs. Despite the physical distance, nearshoring in Latin America can bring people from different social and economic backgrounds into companies, boosting their visibility in industries as a whole, and setting a firm foundation for equality.

Studies also show that diversity influences creativity among teams, as well as increases company revenue.

Moreover, nearshoring accelerates diversity in a manner that isn’t disruptive. Foreign team members don’t have to sacrifice their home, friends and family to further their professional career. Relocating to the U.S. can be daunting for people who haven’t previously worked abroad, especially when factoring the change in living costs and new culture norms. Nearshoring means teams can work from locations they’re familiar with, so need less time to get up to speed on business processes. They additionally have the emotional support of their social circles nearby, which in the current climate is important for employees’ personal and professional wellbeing.

Leveraging the right partnership

Research is key to successfully find a nearshore company, and startups don’t always have the time and resources to conduct an in-depth analysis of locations and their ecosystems. The most practical manner to nearshore the right talent is with a nearshoring partner that is responsible for scouting, vetting and communicating with foreign developers.

To find an appropriate partner, ensure that they have previous experience in your industry and positive testimonials from startups in your location. They should also have a clear presence in the regions they operate in; try checking online for their press releases, events they sponsor and general content that validates they are active and respected.

Once you’ve found an appropriate nearshore partner, rely on them to know what teams in your preferred locations need in terms of culture. Nearshore partners will essentially be your development partner — you can leverage them to be your whole Research and Development department. They can guide you on the tech side of your business, advise you on the right team at the right time, give you direction on stack and methodology, and curate the right environment for the team to be productive. In contrast, hiring freelancers comes with risks because you won’t necessarily know the specific needs of the location they’re in. Be aware — if there’s a cultural disconnect, you risk not finding a partner, but a vendor that’s buying into a superficial version of your startup, as opposed to your real startup vision.

Once you’ve settled on a well-fitting nearshoring partner, ensure you have detailed contracts with all team members, as well as nondisclosure agreements. Nearshoring requires a level of mutual trust, however, at such an early stage of your company’s lifecycle, you need to know that your processes and data will not be revealed to competitors. Check that your nearshore partner’s financial status is secure and sufficient for a long-term model. Correspondingly, service level agreements will set the parameters for job responsibilities and deliverables. After all the formalities are covered, you can focus on curating fruitful, long-term relationships.

Acclimatizing in the new normal

The COVID-19 crisis has made recruitment a remote-dominated sphere. Traditional modes of hiring are being reassessed, and companies are realizing that teams don’t have to be in an office to be productive. In fact, not having to cover visa and administration fees for foreign employees is much more cost-effective for companies.

As time passes and businesses develop habits best-suited to remote work, nearshoring will become increasingly popular. People are prioritizing joining teams where their career development, well-being and ethics are protected, all of which nearshoring can offer with the added benefit of not completely upheaving workers’ lives.

Startups who embrace nearshoring early on could find themselves competing with top tech firms that struggle because of recruiting limitations. With the end of the pandemic unknown, and thus no hard deadline for the visa ban, tech companies have to look at alternative modes of building teams. Startups have the advantage of revising their remote product development approach without disturbing workflows too severely. They are also known for pioneering fairer and more innovative workplaces that are enticing for a broader scope of employees.

Nearshoring is mutually beneficial because developers don’t have to give up their culture for a great employment opportunity, and businesses can reap the benefits of diversification. Ultimately, the H-1B visa suspension could stimulate true globalization in tech, where companies can achieve their best performance using global resources.

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How Moovit went from opportunity to a $900M exit in 8 years

Private investor (and former Moovit president) Omar Téllez shares the inside story

In May 2020, Intel announced its purchase of Moovit, a mobility as a service (MaaS) solutions company known for an app that stitched together GPS, traffic, weather, crime and other factors to help mass transit riders reduce their travel times, along with time and worry.

According to a release, Intel believes combining Moovit’s data repository with the autonomous vehicle solution stack for its Mobileye subsidiary will strengthen advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and help create a combined $230 billion total addressable market for data, MaaS and ADAS .

Before he was a member of Niantic’s executive team, private investor Omar Téllez was president of Moovit for the six years leading up to its acquisition. In this guest post for Extra Crunch, he offers a look inside Moovit’s early growth strategy, its efforts to achieve product-market fit and explains how rapid growth in Latin America sparked the company’s rapid ascent.


In late 2011, Uri Levine, a good friend from Silicon Valley and founder of Waze, asked me to visit Israel to meet Nir Erez and Roy Bick, two entrepreneurs who had launched an application they had called “the Waze of public transportation.”

By then, Waze was already in conversations to be sold (Google would finally buy it for $1.1 billion) and Uri was thinking about his next step. He was on the board of directors of Moovit (then called Tranzmate) and thought they could use a lot of help to grow and expand internationally, following Waze’s path.

At the time, I was part of Synchronoss Technologies’ management team. After Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank took us public in 2006, AT&T and Apple presented us with an idea that would change the world. It was so innovative and secret that we had to sign NDAs and personal noncompete agreements to work with them. Apple was preparing to launch the first iPhone and needed a system where users could activate devices from the comfort of their homes. As such, Synchronoss’ stock became very attractive to the capital markets and ours became the best public offering of 2006.

After six years with Synchronoss while also making some forays into the field of entrepreneurship, I was ready for another challenge. With that spirit in mind, I got on the plane for Israel.

I will always remember the landing at Ben Gurion airport. After 12 hours traveling from JFK, I was called to the front of the immigration line:

“Hey! The guy in the Moovit T-shirt, please come forward!”

For a second, I thought I was in trouble, but then the immigration officer said, Welcome to Israel! We are proud of our startups and we want the world to know that we are a high-tech powerhouse,” before he returned my passport and said goodbye.

I was completely amazed by his attitude and wondered if I really knew what I was getting into.

The opportunity in front of Moovit

At first glance, the numbers seemed very attractive. In 2012, there were roughly seven billion people in the world and only a billion vehicles. Thus, many more people used mass public transport than private and users had to face not only the uncertainty of when a transport would arrive, but also what might happen to them while waiting (e.g., personal safety issues, weather, etc.). Adding more uncertainty: Many people did not know the fastest way to get from point A to point B. As designed, mass public transport was a real nightmare for users.

Uri advised us to “fall in love with the problem and not with the solution,” which is what we tried to do at Moovit. Although Waze had spawned a new transportation paradigm and helped reduce traffic in big cities, mass transit was a much bigger monster that consumed an average of two hours of each day for some people, which adds up to 37 days of each year*!

What would you do if someone told you that in addition to your vacation days, an app could help you find 18 extra days off work next year by cutting your transportation time in half?

* Assumes 261 working days a year, 14 productive hours per day.

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The Not Company, a maker of plant-based meat and dairy substitutes in Chile, will soon be worth $250M

The Not Company, Latin America’s leading contender in the plant-based meat and dairy substitute market, is about to close on an $85 million round of funding that would value it at $250 million, according to sources familiar with the company’s plans.

The latest round of funding comes on the heels of a series of successes for the Santiago-based business. In the two years since NotCo launched on the global stage, the company has expanded beyond its mayonnaise product into milk, ice cream and hamburgers. Other products, including a chicken meat substitute, are also on the product roadmap, according to people familiar with the company.

NotCo is already selling several products in Chile, Argentina and Latin America’s largest market — Brazil — and has signed a blockbuster deal with Burger King to be the chain’s supplier of plant-based burgers. It’s in this Burger King deal that NotCo’s approach to protein formulation is paying dividends, sources said. The company is responsible for selling 48 sandwiches per store per day in the locations where it’s supplying its products, according to one person familiar with the data. That figure outperforms Impossible Foods per-store sales, the person said.

NotCo is also now selling its burgers in grocery stores in Argentina and Chile. And while the company is not break-even yet, sources said that by December 2021 it could be — or potentially even cash flow positive.

NotCo co-founders Karim Pichara, Matias Muchnick and Pablo Zamora. Image Credit: The Not Company

With the growth both in sales and its diversification into new products, it’s little wonder that investors have taken note.

Sources said that the consumer brand-focused private equity firm L Catterton Partners and the Biz Stone-backed Future Positive were likely investors in the new financing round for the company. Previous investors in NotCo include Bezos Expeditions, the personal investment firm of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos; the London-based CPG investment firm, The Craftory; IndieBio; and SOS Ventures.

Alternatives to animal products are a huge (and still growing) category for venture investors. Earlier this month Perfect Day closed on a second tranche of $160 million for that company’s latest round of financing, bringing that company’s total capital raised to $361.5 million, according to Crunchbase. Perfect Day then turned around and launched a consumer food business called the Urgent Company.


These recent rounds confirm our reporting in Extra Crunch about where investors are focusing their time as they try to create a more sustainable future for the food industry. Read more about the path they’re charting.


Meanwhile, large food chains continue to experiment with plant-based menu items and push even further afield into cell-based meat using cultures from animals. KFC recently announced that it would be expanding its experiment with Beyond Meat’s chicken substitute in the U.S. — and would also be experimenting with cultured meat in Moscow.

Behind all of this activity is an acknowledgement that consumer tastes are changing, interest in plant-based diets are growing, and animal agriculture is having profound effects on the world’s climate.

As the website ClimateNexus notes, animal agriculture is the second-largest contributor to human-made greenhouse gas emissions after fossil fuels. It’s also a leading cause of deforestation, water and air pollution and biodiversity loss.

There are 70 billion animals raised annually for human consumption, which occupy one-third of the planet’s arable and habitable land surface, and consume 16% of the world’s freshwater supply. Reducing meat consumption in the world’s diet could have huge implications for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. If Americans were to replace beef with plant-based substitutes, some studies suggest it would reduce emissions by 1,911 pounds of carbon dioxide.

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Regulatory roadblocks are holding back Colombia’s tech and transportation industries

“You know we don’t drive down that road,” my father said.

I had asked him why we never took the shortest path to the beach. Just eight years old, I was fascinated by maps and was questioning my father’s choice. Years later I would learn the route I suggested was mired with armed groups of all stripes whose interests didn’t align with mine or that of other Colombian families.

You may be familiar with the conflicts that plagued Colombia for decades, but you might not be aware of the progress institutions, advocacy groups and its government have made with regard to building a future where citizens have options and mobility that’s not constrained by armed conflict.

In fact, Colombia has at times improved its “ease of doing business” ranking as measured by the World Bank. The country, its institutions and its leaders have a longer way to go when it comes to ensuring that opportunity reaches all corners of the country, particularly at a time that COVID-19 magnifies the inequities that persist. But one thing is for sure, the path to prosperity would look a lot better if Colombia further embraced innovation.

I have dedicated the last decade to Colombia’s path to prosperity. I have done so by studying at Colombia’s most prestigious Universidad de Los Andes, raising more than $10 million in venture capital and building two companies that generate direct and indirect earnings for more than 70,000 Colombians. I have directly retained hundreds of computer engineers by showing young Colombians that it’s possible to earn a good living without emigrating for professional opportunities. Heck, I’ve even convinced a few past emigrants to return to Colombia and work for me at Picap.

My contribution to Colombia’s prosperity and the contribution of thousands of talented engineers that build technology in Colombia is at risk. It’s at risk because the Colombian authorities and the legislative branch have been slow to update transportation and technology regulation designed for an era when regulation could last decades because the pace of societal innovation was measured in, well, decades.

In Colombia, we need to update regulations governing technology and transportation. The ever present threats that Colombian authorities and regulators have imposed on Uber and Picap are not only futile attempts to put the technology genie back into the bottle, but also delay the critical conversations that would build long-term partnership for mutual success.

It’s urgent that Colombia and countries around the globe construct regulatory frameworks that simultaneously advance the public good and technology innovation. We, in fact, have evidence of the kinds of benefits that can expand when new mobility models and technologies are embraced. Take GoJek or Grab which started, like Picap, as two-wheel ride-hailing platforms. Each is now worth billions and facilitates commerce, financial services and more, all for the benefit of societies which then produce more consumer surplus, formalize economic activity and stimulate new forms of innovation. Picap, and others, can do this in Colombia and more places across Latin America with regulatory advancements.

There are congressional leaders in Colombia who have made considerable efforts to advance their understanding of technology platforms, but their efforts, however laudable, have not advanced. Now, more than ever, Colombia’s leaders must, for example, recognize that private transport services need regulation that works for the citizens that power new mobility options. Every country in the globe faces a reckoning based on how easily COVID-19 weakened state-supported and independent systems of health, mobility and economic activity. Technology will be an inevitable component of strengthening health, mobility and economic activity in every country. We’ve already seen that delivery platforms, including Pibox by Picap, increasingly play a role in helping countries preserve social distancing. And yet there’s an opportunity for states to differentiate and think about not just defensive strategies during the pandemic, but also how to remake themselves for the future.

Colombia can learn from the example of South Korea, which for years positioned itself to fulfill the world’s future demands for the types of silicon chips that subsequently made LG and Samsung household names. South Korea did this not by impeding technological advancement, but by facilitating the development of know-how, investing in education and partnering with technology. As technologists, there’s nothing that would make us prouder than helping Colombia develop the kinds of economic activity that will strengthen the country in the long-term. I’ve seen the future, I practice it daily, and I know that Latin America, and Colombia in particular, need to invest in retaining tech talent and advancing regulatory frameworks that attract technology investment, or our economies will struggle even further in the coming years of potential recovery from COVID-19.

Recently, the Alianza IN, a mobility platform trade group, launched in Colombia with the goal of advancing conversations with Colombian lawmakers and regulators on the principles that the Colombian MinTIC (Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications) could incorporate to help attract more investment, retain talent and proactively prepare for a future in which mobility and technology platforms are critical partners of the country’s economic future. Technology platforms are already a part of the present, and the Alianza IN’s actions are a great step on the path toward ensuring that updated regulatory frameworks serve the millions of Colombian citizens who depend on mobility and technology platforms for income, mobility and improved quality of life.

Last year, Colombian technology companies received more than $1.2 billion of investment capital. I am impressed with the new headlines my generation and Colombian colleagues across technology have achieved in only 20 years. But I can assure you that Colombia’s headlines in the 21st century will be stunted if Colombian politicians and authorities do not address the underlying need to improve regulation that embraces technology and new mobility, including Picap. We have room to grow and show the world how our tenacity and resilience will help address not just Colombian or Latin American challenges, but global challenges.

I look forward to soon meeting the young Colombian woman who in 20 or even three years will have developed a renewable energy or disease-prevention innovation that serves billions of people. We have to remove roadblocks. We’ve begun doing so across Colombia on some fronts; we need to continue to do so on the technology front. I, alongside, my generation, will continue to attract the capital, retain the talent and further develop the competitive advantages that will position Colombia to lead in the 21st century.

I hope that the Colombian government, regulators and the Duque administration does this, as well.

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Mexico City’s Jüsto raises a $12 million bridge round for its delivery-only grocery stores

Jüsto, the Mexico City-based, delivery-only grocery store chain, has raised another $12 million in financing as it looks to expand its now pandemically relevant business of “dark stores” across the country.

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing consumer habits and increasing the use of delivery services across the world, and consumers in Mexico are no different.

A recent Nielsen study cited by the company found that 11 percent of respondents had purchased fresh food online for the first time in 2020, as lockdowns in cities across the world restricted movement for everyone but essential workers — with 70 percent of those surveyed saying they’d do it again within the year.

“Despite Covid-19 dramatically accelerating the curve of adoption of e-commerce, the penetration rate of e-grocers is still less than 1 percent,” in Latin America, according to Jüsto founder and chief executive, Ricardo Weder, in a statement. “That means there’s an enormous opportunity—and all the right conditions—to disrupt the grocery industry in Latin America.”

With the new bridge round, Jüsto’s financing has hit just over $20 million in less than a year. Part of that can be attributed to the pedigree of the company’s founder.

Weder was instrumental in Cabify’s growth in Latin America, according to Rodolfo Gonzalez, a partner at Foundation Capital, which led the firm’s investments into Jüsto. Gonzalez also saw the opportunity in the company’s business model.

“We’ve seen that type of model of warehouse and D2C for groceries be very successful in other geographies,” Gonzalez told Crunchbase, when Jüsto announced its previous $10 million seed round. “But that model didn’t quite exist in Mexico yet.”

Other investors in Jüsto’s round include Mountain NazcaFEMSA VenturesQuiet Capital, and 500 Startups.

The Mexican company prides itself on selling both local and international brands in categories, including fresh produce, dry goods, personal hygiene and beauty care, home and cleaning goods, beverages, organic food, and pet supplies.

“We have these darkstores and hold the delivery,” says Manolo Fernandez, a spokesperson and member of Jüsto’s founding team. “At traditional supermarkets the fill rates are lower and the product is less fresh. One of our core tenets is to reduce waste. We don’t have fruits and vegetables sitting outside in the store.”

Jüsto also claims that its prices come in at roughly equivalent to those of a regular supermarket. The company has delivery options ranging from express delivery, same day, and next day delivery.

The company isn’t the first startup to look at unused real estate and internet shopping habits and see an opportunity.

Darkstore is a company that has raised nearly $30 million to convert empty space into third-party fulfillment centers. Istanbul’s Getir, which recently raised $25 million from Sequoia’s Michael Moritz, is doing the same thing. And Samokat has adopted a similar strategy in Russia, promising over 3,000 SKUs and an under-45-minute delivery time fulfilled via their urban darkstores.

These companies are focused on being third-party logistics players for delivery rather than creating their own brands, but Jüsto shows that there’s an opportunity for purpose built direct to consumer grocery businesses to use the same infrastructure and create actual brand loyalty.

We have the technology, talent, and infrastructure to scale our expansion to more cities in Mexico and begin our international expansion, beginning with Colombiam” Weder said. 

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Fintech regulations in Latin America could fuel growth or freeze out startups

It may have entered the game later than other leading regions such as Europe and North America, but Latin America’s fintech industry is dynamic and growing fast. The sector was recently given a valuation of more than $150 billion and continues to expand year-on-year.

And while the longer-term impact of COVID-19 on the sector is yet to be determined, there’s no doubt that the demand for certain fintech solutions is on the rise. As smaller financial institutions across the region are under pressure to digitize, many are calling on fintechs to help them along this journey. In addition, a number of SMEs are seeking out digital loan services to help them get through the crisis.

The sector’s speedy expansion has meant that regulators in LatAm are under increasing pressure to enact legislation that addresses the murky waters of fintech activity, providing confidence to consumers and investors alike. However, regulation across the region must be careful to not quash innovation, while startups must figure out how to be agile in an environment which is becoming increasingly regulated. Let’s take a closer look at what impact regulation has had so far in LatAm, and what needs to happen to strike a balance between sector growth and public trust.

The development of fintech regulation across LatAm

Mexico is currently leading the way when it comes to fintech regulation in LatAm, thanks to its comprehensive 2018 fintech Law. The law covers most fintech activities, including crowdfunding, virtual wallet, transactions carried out with cryptocurrencies and open banking. In addition, Mexico has certain financial laws that regulate financial entities in their execution of transactions using fintech. The law also provides a regulatory sandbox for both licensed and non-licensed companies.

Brazil is the furthest ahead after Mexico, as it individually legislates crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending, while a special congressional commission is working on a broader legislative strategy. Brazil’s Central Bank also endeavors to make open banking legislation effective by the third quarter of 2020, which will pave the way for a thriving open banking ecosystem.

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Latin America Roundup: Big rounds, big mergers and a $3.8M pandemic fund from Nubank

Despite the global panic caused by the current pandemic, startups in Latin America have continued to attract international capital. In April, Mexico’s Alphacredit, Colombia’s Frubana and Brazil’s CargoX were among those that raised particularly large rounds to support their growth during this challenging time. All three companies target markets that may have grown since the start of the pandemic, namely lending, food delivery and cargo delivery, respectively.

Alphacredit, a Mexican lending startup, raised a $100 million equity round from SoftBank and previous investors to continue to expand its digital banking services across Mexico. This round comes just months after the startup received a $125 million Series B round from SoftBank in January of this year. Alphacredit’s CEO explained that the round would enable the company to help clients during the current liquidity crisis, increasing financial inclusion in Mexico.

Meanwhile, fresh produce delivery platform Frubana raised a $25 million Series A led by GGV and Monashees, with support from SoftBank, Tiger Global and several other private investors. The startup delivers fresh produce to restaurants and small retailers directly from farmers across Colombia, and participated in Y Combinator in 2019.

Frubana has seen a boom in demand for its products since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. People have shied away from visiting large grocery stores, preferring to visit local mom-and-pop shops that receive the startup’s deliveries. Frubana raised $12 million in mid-2019 to help scale into Mexico and Brazil after it hit a monthly growth rate of 50% in the Colombian market. The startup’s founder, Fabián Gomez, started Frubana after serving as head of Expansion at Rappi, one of Latin America’s fastest-growing startups and Colombia’s first unicorn.

Finally, Brazil’s “Uber for Trucks,” CargoX raised an $80 million Series E round led by LGT Lightstone Latin America, with contributions from Valor Capital, Goldman Sachs and Farallon Capital. The startup has quietly grown to become one of the largest players in Brazil’s inefficient trucking industry, managing a fleet of nearly 400,000 truck drivers, without owning a single truck.

This investment brings CargoX’s total capital raised to $176 million and has enabled the company to launch a $5.6 million fund for the delivery of essential goods in Brazil during COVID-19. This fund will help CargoX keep drivers employed and ensure the proper delivery of essential goods like medication, food and cleaning products.

Nubank launches $3.8 million COVID-19 fund to support clients

Brazil’s largest neobank, Nubank, announced a $3.8 million (R$20 million) fund to help its clients survive the current pandemic. The fund also relies on partnerships with iFood, Rappi, Hospital Sírio-Libanês and Zenklub to help struggling clients access food, supplies, medical care and online psychological treatment throughout the pandemic.

Nubank will use the fund to grant credits to people who cannot leave their home, providing them with discounted groceries and free delivery service. Through the partnership with Hospital Sírio-Libanês, the neobank will pay for more than 1,000 free online consultations with doctors for its home-bound clients.

Nubank has more than 20 million clients across Brazil and Mexico, where it launched in 2019. CEO David Velez stated that he believed the fund could serve tens of thousands of people in need by the end of April. Customers who wished to receive these benefits were directed to reach out to Nubank via phone, email or chat to be connected with a representative who could grant the appropriate credits.

iFood merges with Domicilios to fight Rappi in its home territory

Brazil’s largest food deliverer, iFood, recently announced a partnership with Delivery Hero to merge with their Colombian subsidiary, Domicilios. The parties did not disclose the price of the deal but have shared that iFood is now the majority shareholder in Domicilios, holding 51% of the company.

IFood operates in Mexico and Colombia, as well as Brazil, but has struggled to gain traction in Spanish-speaking Latin America. This merger makes iFood geographically the largest food delivery company in the country, with more than 12,000 restaurants in its network. However, local last-mile delivery startup Rappi continues to dominate the market, using SoftBank backing to blitzscale across the region.

By comparison, iFood has focused on developing its technology, using artificial intelligence to improve the user experience across its platforms in Mexico, Colombia and Brazil. Using these systems, iFood processes more than 26 million deliveries each month, helping restaurants across the region adapt to the new protocols caused by the virus and social-distancing policies. IFood hopes the merger will help provide a more competitive delivery service for Colombians, as well as helping boost growth for local restaurants.

News and Notes: Nuvocargo, Kueski, Magma Partners, SouSmile

Freight-forwarding startup Nuvocargo raised $5.3 million in seed funding to support the growth of its trade routes across the U.S.-Mexico border. Founded by Ecuadorian-born Deepak Chhugani in 2018, Nuvocargo has grown quickly since participating in Y Combinator, although this funding was their first institutional round. The round drew investors from both sides of the border, including Mexico’s ALLVP. Nuvocargo also marks the first investment by new partner Antonia Rojas Eing. Nuvocargo is working hard to ensure its truck drivers are safe as they continue to deliver essential supplies across the border through the pandemic.

Mexican online credit platform Kueski announced that it would lay off employees due to the economic crunch caused by COVID-19. Kueski provides microloans to more than 500,000 Mexicans and has been struggling financially as business slows during the pandemic. While Kueski did not disclose an official number, it is estimated that they laid off around 90 employees.

Latin American venture capital firm Magma Partners acquired Guadalajara-based accelerator Rampa Ventures to intensify its investments in Mexico. Rampa’s headquarters will serve as a Mexican base for Magma Partners as it continues to invest in the country, where it already has 12 startups in its portfolio. As a part of the deal, Rampa’s founder Mak Gutierrez will take over as CEO of Magma Partners’ internal agency, Magma Infrastructure, which helps startups grow and market themselves in the region.

The Brazilian direct to consumer dental tech startup SouSmile raised a $10 million Series A this month, closing the deal before investors began to show concerns about COVID-19. SouSmile uses 3D scanners to rapidly create invisible alignment devices for customers to provide them with affordable orthodontics for 60% cheaper than current models. This model has proved highly successful in Latin America, where access to orthodontics is quite low and cost-prohibitive.

Despite an impending global economic crisis, startup investment in Latin America showed signs of resilience in April. Startups in industries like delivery, healthcare and essential services have seen growth this month, and many are providing support to their customers and suppliers in this challenging time.

It is hard to predict what the world will look like for startups, let alone for anyone, by the end of next month. The resilience of Latin America’s startups provides hope that some businesses will bounce back and continue to support their customers throughout the global recovery from this pandemic.

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Autofleet raises $7.5M to help fleets put idle vehicles into drive

On-demand mobility, when done successfully, strikes a balance between demand and supply while providing reliable service and making a profit. It’s a sweet spot that can be difficult, if not impossible, to find.

Autofleet, a startup that develops fleet optimization software to redirect underused vehicles into ride-hailing and delivery services, wants to solve that mission impossible. Now, the company founded by former Avis and Gett employees, has raised $7.5 million in seed and Series A funding to expand into international markets and grow its research and development team.

The Series A was led by MizMaa Ventures with participation from Maniv Mobility, Next Gear Ventures and Liil Ventures. Its seed financing was led by Maniv Mobility.

Autofleet developed a fleet management platform that can be used by rental car companies, car sharing operators and automakers to launch or better manage mobility services. The platform includes a booking app and integrations to delivery services, demand prediction, pooling and optimization algorithms as well as a driver app, and control center. The company also has developed a simulator tool that lets operators plan how a fleet will be deployed before a single vehicle hits the road.

For example, a rental company with abundant inventory and little demand for traditional multi-day contracts could use the platform to launch and then manage a car-sharing service. Autofleet already has partnerships with Avis Budget Group, Zipcar, Keolis and Suzuki .

That focus on managing supply side constraints is what attracted Maniv Mobility to invest in the seeding and Series A rounds, according the firm’s general partner Olaf Sakkers.

Autofleet’s biggest markets today are in Europe and the U.S., CEO Kobi Eisenberg told TechCrunch . The company is seeing early traction and fast growth in Latin America and Asia-Pacific. Eisenberg said they plan to double down on these markets. The company also expects to announce a partnership in Asia to accelerate growth in that region.

Autofleet is also looking for new opportunities for how vehicle fleets can be used, including ways to help micromobility companies improve their unit economics, according to Eisenberg.

In this age of COVID-19 — when asset-heavy businesses like rental car companies have seen their businesses upended — Autofleet has already discovered new uses for its platform. The platform is being used to help companies shift fleets to meet today’s demand for logistics and medical transportation. Autofleet is also selling its platform to companies looking to leverage their vehicle assets for their delivery services.

“We’re hearing from fleet partners around the globe who are experiencing dramatic drops in demand, and therefore significant portions of their fleet and drivers are un-utilized,” Eisenberg said. “At the same time, we have seen a sharp increase in demand for delivery services from businesses across all verticals: retail and supermarkets, restaurants.”

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Latin America Roundup: Grupo ZAP, Grow Mobility, Wavy get acquired; Credijusto adds $100M; Cornershop, iFood brace for delivery boom

Sophia Wood
Contributor

Sophia Wood is a Venture Partner at Magma Partners. Sophia is also the co-founder of LatAm List, an English-language Latin American tech news source.

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As the world locks down borders and capital flows to brace for the impact of coronavirus, Brazilian startups continue to attract international attention. Three large acquisition deals dominated the Latin American tech headlines this month, all …

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