The tale of 2 challenger bank models

Accelerated by the pandemic and its economic fallout, the tale of retail challenger bank models across the world has been diverging. In the Americas, Albo, Chime, and Uoala have all reported record user numbers as consumers adapted to a “no-touch” economy. Aspiration and Varo announced successful equity fund raising rounds. In Europe, by contrast, Revolut had to lay off people, Monzo was forced to accept new funding at a 40% lower valuation and N26 had shut its U.K. operations already. What’s going on?

As always, market environment, business model, industry structure, and economics and regulatory context matter. The U.S. has a big domestic market with large, attractive customer segments: Millennials, for example, who have come of age after the financial crisis of 2008-2009 and rely on the debit card as their primary spending vehicle, unlike older and wealthier consumers, who leverage their credit cards. Or issues-conscious consumers, who want to align their savings and spending decisions with their broader values.

Chime has successfully tapped into the former segment, offering a free checking account with no hidden fees and attractive features such as an immediate crediting of paychecks, forgoing the 2-3 days float that mainstream banks benefit from at the expense of their customers. Aspiration is going after the green customer segment, with features such as planting a tree for any rounded-up debit card purchase or offsetting customer carbon footprint at the gas pump.

Average debit card interchange fees in the U.S. at 1.2% of transaction value are high enough to pay for the tech platform. Both Chime and Aspiration function essentially as bank accounts for the customers at the front-end interface but have been able to structure themselves capital-efficiently. Chime’s actual deposit balances are held by back-end banking partners. Aspiration’s core vehicle is a cash management account under a FINRA brokerage license, also administered by a bank partner at the back-end. Varo in the U.S. has been the exception to these capital-light models by pursuing a federal, deposit-taking bank charter from the get-go, which was approved after three years in early 2020.

Similarly, In Latin America, Albo in Mexico or Neon in Brazil target a younger, lower-income segment that is willing to make the challenger bank cards their primary spending vehicle, and the debit interchange fee is high enough to make the economics work.

This is not the case in Europe. With near-instant retail payment settlement among bank current accounts and under tighter regulatory caps, debit card interchange fees are much lower at 0.2% of transaction value. To pay for their platforms, European challenger banks need other sources of revenue. Many are betting on credit — that’s why a number of them, such as Atom and Tandem, acquired full banking licenses before launching, despite the costly and lengthy process. Others, like Starling Bank and Tide, have set their sights on the more lucrative SME banking segment.

By contrast, Monzo and Revolut started with a prepaid card before obtaining a deposit-taking bank license. Both have focused largely on the younger, affluent, cosmopolitan customer segment, who use them as a secondary service to pay friends, spend abroad (at favorable exchange rates) and set budgets. Only 20% of Monzo’s customers use it exclusively, most of the rest rely on traditional banks for their primary account, which may also be why it is difficult to get customers to pay for premium services. Discretionary spending in this target segment, which constituted a bulk of the transactions on Monzo and Revolut, collapsed during the height of the COVID crisis and shutdown, putting relatively more pressure on these two London-based challenger banks.

Asia, Africa and other emerging markets have not seen yet the emergence of challenger banks at meaningful scale. The Monetary Authority of Singapore is currently narrowing a shortlist of applications for digital banking licenses from a variety of players, including a consortium of logistics platform Grab and Singtel, as well as gaming company Razer. In India, open banking is emerging along the lines of distinctive user segments.

SME neobanking is the most advanced with the likes of Bankopen (Open Technologies). On the consumer side, startups are focusing on segments such as blue-collar workers or rural populations addressing pain points encountered with traditional banking such as small transaction sizes or low account balances and catering to needs such as domestic remittances or goal-based savings. In Africa, the first wave of digital banks, like Carbon and FairMoney are emerging in Nigeria.

These emerging market challenger banks will have to look carefully at the market conditions, possible target segments, a sustainable revenue source, the initial product offerings that could lead to engagement and rapid growth, and the regulatory structure that best supports the desired business model.

The acceleration of the world moving toward a “no-touch” economy has provided a new impetus. However, the economics challenge seems to be closer in nature to the European starting point rather than the American industry context.

Flourish Ventures has investments in Albo, Aspiration, Chime, FairMoney, Neon and Tandem.   

OneKey wants to make it easier to work without a desktop by integrating apps into mobile keyboards

“The app that you use the most on your phone and you don’t realize it is your keyboard,” says Christophe Barre the co-founder and chief executive of OneKey.

A member of Y Combinator’s most recent cohort, OneKey has a plan to make work easier on mobile devices by turning the keyboard into a new way to serve up applications like calendars, to-do lists, and, eventually, even Salesforce functionality.

People have keyboards for emojis, other languages, and gifs, but there have been few ways to integrate business apps into the keyboard functionality, says Barre. And he’s out to change that.

Right now, the company’s first trick will be getting a Calendly-like scheduling app onto the keyboard interface. Over time, the company will look to create modules that they can sell in an app-store style marketplace for the keyboard space on smartphones.

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For Barre, the inspiration behind OneKey was the time spent working in Latin America and primarily conducting business through WhatsApp. The tool was great for messaging, but enterprise functionality broke down across for scheduling or other enterprise app integrations.

“People are doing more and more stuff on mobile and it’s happening right now in business,” said Barre. “When you switch from a computer-based world to a mobile phone, a lot of the productivity features disappear.”

Barre, originally from the outskirts of Paris, traveled to Bogota with his partner. She was living there and he was working on a sales automation startup called DeepLook. Together with his DeepLook co-founder (and high school friend), Ulysses Pryjiel, Barre set out to see if he could bring some of the business tools he needed over to the mobile environment.

The big realization for Barre was the under-utilized space on the phone where the keyboard inputs reside. He thinks of OneKey as a sort of browser extension for mobile phones, centered in the keyboard real estate.

“The marketplace for apps is the longterm vision,” said Barre. “That’s how you bring more and more value to people. We started with those features like calendars and lists that brought more value quickly without being too specialized.”

The idea isn’t entirely novel. SwiftKey had a marketplace for wallpapers, Barre said, but nothing as robust as the kinds of apps and services that he envisions.

“If you can do it in a regular app, it’s very likely that you can do it through a keyboard,” Barre said.

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 land 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.

Raising $22.5 million, Liftit looks to expand its logistics services in Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Ecuador

The Colombian trucking and logistics services startup Liftit has raised $22.5 million in a new round of funding to capitalize on its newfound traction in markets across Latin America as responses to the COVID-19 epidemic bring changes to the industry across the region.

“We’re focusing on the five countries that we’re already in,” says Liftit chief executive Brian York.

The company recently hired a head of operations for Mexico and a head of operations for Brazil as it looks to double down on its success in both regions.

Funding for the round was led by Cambridge Capital and included investments from the new Latin American-focused firm H20 Capital along with AC Ventures, the venture arm of the second-largest Coca-Cola bottler in LatAm; 10x Capital, Banyan Tree Ventures, Alpha4 Ventures, the lingerie brand Leonisa; and Mexico’s largest long-haul trucking company, Grupo Transportes Monterrey. Individual investor Jason Radisson, the former chief operating officer of the on-demand ride hailing startup 99, also invested.

The new capital comes on top of Liftit’s $14.3 million Series A from some of the region’s top local investors. Firms like Monashees, Jaguar Ventures and NXTP Ventures all joined the International Finance Corp. in financing the company previously and all returned to back the company again with its new funding.

Investors likely responded to the company’s strong performance in its core markets. Already profitable in Chile and Colombia, Liftit expects to reach profitability across all of its operations before the end of the year. That’s despite the global pandemic.

Of the 220 contracts the company had with shippers, half of them went to zero and the other half spiked significantly, York said. While Liftit’s major Colombian customer stumbled, new business, like Walmart, saw huge spikes in deliveries and usage.

“Managing truck drivers is incredibly difficult, and trucking, in our opinion, is not on-demand,” said York. “At the end of the day the trucking market in all of Latin America is a majority of independent owners. They’re not looking for on-demand work… they’re looking for full-time work.”

Less than 1% of the company’s deliveries come from on-demand orders; instead, it’s a service comprised of scheduled shipments with optimized routes and efficiencies that are bringing customers to Liftit’s virtual door. 

“We do scheduled trucking delivery so we integrate with existing systems that shippers have and start planning how many trucks they’re going to need and the routes they’re going to take and … tee it up exactly what is going to happen regardless what the traffic conditions are so we have been able to reduce the delivery times for the trucks,” said York. 

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.

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.

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. 

La Haus is bringing US tech services to Latin America’s real estate market

The alchemy for a successful startup can be hard to parse. Sometimes, it’s who you know. Sometimes it’s where you go to school. And sometimes it’s what you do. In the case of La Haus, a startup that wants to bring US tech-enabled real estate services to the Latin American real estate market, it’s all three.

The company was founded by Jerónimo Uribe and Rodrigo Sánchez Ríos, both graduates of Stanford University who previously founded and ran Jaguar Capital, a Colombian real estate development firm which had built over $350 million worth of retail and residential projects in the country.

Uribe, son of the controversial Colombian President Daniel Uribe (who has been accused of financing paramilitary forces during Colombia’s long-running civil war and wire-tapping journalists and negotiators during the peace talks to end the conflict) and Sánchez Ríos, a former private equity professional at the multi-billion dollar firm Lindsey Goldberg were exposed to the perils and promise of real estate development with their former firm.

Now the two entrepreneurs are using their know-how, connections, and a new technology stack to streamline the home-buying process.

It’s that ambition that caught the attention of Pete Flint, the founder of Trulia and now an investor at the venture capital firm NfX. Flint, an early investor in La Haus saw the potential in La Haus to help the Latin American real estate market leapfrog the services available in the US. Spencer Rascoff, the co-founder of Zillow also invested in the company.

“Latin America is very early on in its infancy of having really professional agents and really professional brokerages,” said Flint.

LaHaus, with a product that guides homebuyers through every stage of the process with its own agents and salespeople selling properties sourced from the company’s developer connections.

“The average hone in the US sells in six weeks or less,” said La Haus chief financial officer Sánchez Ríos in an interview. “That timing in Latin America is fourteen months. That’s the dramatic difference. There is no infrastructure in Latin America as a whole.”

La Haus began by reaching out to the founders’ old colleagues in the real estate development industry and started listing new developments on its service. Now the company has a mix of existing and new properties for sale on its site and an expanded geographic footprint in both Colombia and Mexico.

“We have a portal… that acts as a lead generating machine,” said Sánchez Ríos. “We aggregate listings, we vet them. We focus on new developers.”

The company has about 500 developers using the service to list properties in Colombia and another 200 in Mexico. So far, the company has facilitated over 2000 transactions through its platform in three years.

“Real estate now is turning fully digital and also in this market professionalizing,” said Flint. “The publicly traded online real estate companies are approaching all time highs. People are just prizing the space that they spend their time in… the technologies from VR and digital walkthroughs to digital closes become not just a nice to have but a necessity. “

Capitalizing on the open field in the market, La Haus recently closed on $10 million in financing led by Kaszek Ventures, one of the leading funds in Latin America. That funding will be used to accelerate the company’s geographic expansion in response to increasing demand for digital solutions in response to the COVID-19 epidemic.

“Because of Covid-19, consumers’ willingness to conduct real estate transactions online has gone through the roof,” said Sánchez Ríos, in a statement. “Fortunately we were in the position to enable that, and we expect to see a permanent shift online in how people conduct all, or at least most, of the home-buying process. This funding gives us ample runway to build the end-to-end real estate experience for the post-Covid Latin America.”

Joining NFX, Rascoff, and Kaszek Ventures are a slew of investors including Acrew Capital, IMO Ventures and Beresford Ventures. Entrepreneurs like Nubank founder David Velez; Brian Requarth, the founder of Vivareal (now GrupoZap); and Hadi Partovi, CEO and founder of Code.org also participated in the financing.

“We backed La Haus because we saw many of the same ingredients that resulted in a fantastic outcome for many of our successful companies: A world-class team with complementary skills; a huge addressable market; and an almost religious zeal by the founders to solve a big problem with technology,” said Hernan Kazah, co-founder and managing partner of Kaszek Ventures. 

Pipo Saude raises $4.6 million to bring healthcare benefits management services to Brazil

Pipo Saude, a Brazilian provider of healthcare services for businesses and their employees, has raised $4.6 million in a new round of funding to expand its footprint in Brazil.

“The company’s platform offers recommendations for the healthcare products that fit the team, enabling businesses to improve the quality of life of their employees,” said chief executive and co-founder, Manoela Ribas Mitchell. “We go all the way to the end beneficiaries.”

Pipo Saude helps companies price their insurance appropriately and bring down the medical loss ratio that companies suffer. Medical inflation in Brazil may be worse than in the US, with prices rising at around 20 percent per year.

Like the US, people in Brazil often default to hospitals and urgent care facilities when they’re sick or injured, that “urgent care culture” as Mitchell calls it drives up the cost for providers and employers. “We try to move the needle toward preventive care and specialist doctors” Mitchell said.

Backing the company with a $4.6 million round are two of Latin America’s top investment firms — Monashees and Kaszek Ventures . OneVC, the San Francisco-based investment firm that also invests in Latin American tech companies also participated in the round.

Pipo Saude makes money off of commissions and has a few corollaries in companies like Zenefits (in its earliest days), Amino, or the Canadian care benefit management company, Mitchell said.

The company currently has about thirty employees on staff, and some of the new cash will be used to scale the business.

For co-founders Mitchell, Vinicius Correa, and Thiago Torres, the healthcare market was an obvious choice when they looked to start their own company. Torres and Mitchell had known each other as students at the University of Sao Paolo where they both studied economics. Mitchell and Torres both pursued careers in private equity, where she worked at Temasek and then at Actis, focusing on healthcare, while Torres also went to Agavia Investimentos.

Correa worked in startups, initially as an employee at Nubank where he met Mitchell through a mutual friend.

While healthcare may be a tough knot to unravel — especially for a startup — the size of the Brazilian market alone is enormous. “We’re talking about a $50 billion revenue pool,” says Mitchell. “If we want to build a very robust product we have to focus on Brazil for quite a while.”

Anti-phishing startup Inky raises $20M to ramp up enterprise adoption

Anti-phishing startup Inky has raised $20 million in its Series B round of funding, led by Insight Partners .

The funding will help the company push for greater enterprise adoption and expand to international markets including Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Inky started out a decade ago with a bold mission to reinvent email with its desktop app focused on helping users better organize and filter their inboxes. The company pivoted away from its email improvement efforts in 2018 to focus on its cloud-based anti-phishing technology. A year later, it raised $5.6 million in its Series A round.

This latest investment pushes the total amount Inky raised to $31.6 million.

Phishing is a continual headache for all organizations. These attacks rely on tricking users into thinking an email is genuine and turning over personal information or passwords. Verizon’s yearly data breach report said 22% of all breaches are caused by phishing, a technique used more than any other attack vector. Attackers also use spoofed emails to trick human resources or finance staff into turning over sensitive employee files, like W-2 tax forms, on instructions from senior leadership. These so-called business email scams have cost businesses billions of dollars a year.

Inky’s technology works by hooking into existing email systems, like Exchange, Office 365, and G-Suite and alerting users if an incoming email looks safe, unusual, or malicious. The company uses machine learning and other technologies to detect if an email looks like it’s spam, a phish attempt, or leveraging a security vulnerability like an XSS — or cross-site script — that can be used to steal data.

Inky says it blocks hundred of thousands of suspicious or malicious emails a month for the average customer.

“This Series B funding gives us the resources we need to serve the incredible demand we’re seeing from enterprise customers in particular, and will allow us to expand our go-to-market efforts globally,” said Inky’s co-founder and chief executive Dave Baggett.