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BizCapital, an online lender based in Brazil, has raised $ 12 million from a clutch of investors including the German development finance institution, the corporate venture capital fund of MercadoLibre and existing investors Quona Capital, Monashees, Chromo INvest and 42K Investments.

“This latest round reinforces investors’ confidence in BizCapital’s ability to innovate in the Latin American credit market amid challenging circumstances caused by Covid-19,” said Francisco Ferreira, the company’s chief executive, in a statement. “We have seen four times as many business credit inquiries on our site year over year, and we are ready to serve them.” 

Founded in 2016, the company pitches itself as a fast and reliable way to access financing for working capital. It already has more than 5,000 customers across 1,200 cities in Brazil, according to a statement.

The company said it would use the money to develop new products for Brazilian small and medium-sized businesses and will expand into new distribution channels.

“With this new round of capital, we will continue to widen our product lineup, helping entrepreneurs during the entire lifecycle of their companies,” said Ferreira, in a statement. “There’s never been a more important time for innovation.” 

In a reflection of their American counterparts, Brazil’s venture capital firms had slowed down the pace of their investments, but now it seems like a slew of new deals are coming to market.

The investment reflects the longterm confidence that investors have in the increasingly central position e-commerce and technology-enabled services will have in the future of the Latin American economy.

 

 


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Remessa Online, the Brazilian money transfer service, said it has closed on $ 20 million in financing from one of the leading Latin American venture capital firms, Kaszek Ventures, and Accel Partners’ Kevin Efrusy, the architect of the famed venture capital firm’s Latin American investments.

Since its launch in 2016, Remessa Online has provided a pipeline for over $ 2 billion worth of international transfers for small and medium-sized businesses in the country. The company now boasts over 300,000 customers from 100 countries and says its fees are typically one eighth the cost of the local money transfer options.

“We understand that transferring money is just the beginning, and we are eager to build a global financial system that will make life easier for global citizens and businesses alike,” Liuzzi said.

Money transfer services are a huge business that startups have spent the last decade trying to improve in Europe and the US. European money transfer company, TransferWise has raised over $ 770 million alone in its bid to unseat the incumbents in the market. Meanwhile, the business-to-business cross-border payment gateway, Payoneer, has raised roughly $ 270 million to provide those services to small businesses.

Remessa Online already boasts a powerful group of investors and advisors including André Penha, the co-founder of apartment rental company Quinto Andar, and the former chief operating officer of Kraft Heinz USA, Fabio Armaganijan. With the new investment from Kaszek, firm co-founder Hernan Kazah, the co-founder of the Latin American e-commerce giant, MercadoLibre, and co-founder of Kaszek Ventures, will take a seat on the company’s board.

“We developed an online solution that is faster and substantially cheaper than traditional banking platforms, with digital and scalable processes and an omnichannel customer support offered by a team of experts”, said Remessa Online’s co-founder and strategy director Alexandre Liuzzi, in a statement.

Last year, the company expanded its money transfer service to the UK and Europe, allowing Brazilians abroad to invest money, pay for education or rent housing without documentation or paperwork. The company’s accounts now come with an International Banking Account Number that allows its customers to receive money in nine currencies.

With the new year, Remessa has added additional services for small and medium-sized businesses and expanded its geographic footprint to include Argentina and Chile.

Latin American countries — especially Brazil — have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. While much of the economy is still reeling, the broad trends that are moving consumers and businesses to adopt ecommerce and mobile payment solutions are just as pronounced in the region as they are in the US, according to investors like Kazah.

“This crisis is accelerating the digitization process of several industries around the world and Remessa Online has taken the lead to transform the cross-border segment in Brazil , specially for SMBs,” he said in a statement.

Founded in 2016,  by Fernando Pavani, Alexandre Liuzzi, Stefano Milo, and Marcio William, Remessa Online was born from the founders own needs to find an easier way to send and receive money from abroad, according to the company.

In 2018, after a $ 4 million investment from Global Founders Capital and MAR Ventures, the company developed international processing capabilities and a more robust compliance tool kit to adhere to international anti-money laundering and know your customer standards. In the latter half of 2019, the company entered the SMB market with the launch of a toolkit for businesses that had been typically ignored by larger financial services institutions in Brazil.

“We believe in a world without physical borders. Our mission is to help our clients with their global financial needs, so that they can focus on what matters: their international dreams,” said Liuzzi.


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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.”


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Asynchronous chat apps like Slack have done their best to kill email, but maybe the key to chat replacing email is just making email look like chat? That’s the idea of Spike, a productivity startup that has built an email app that organizes emails into chat bubbles with an interface that encourages users to keep it short and simple.

Spike’s software began with a focus solely on re-skinning the email experience, but today they’re also launching support for collaborative notes and tasks into their interface as they look to provide a cohesive solution for productivity. The company is fitting an awful lot of functionality into one window, but they hope that streamlining these apps together can leave users spending less time tabbing through separate windows and more time getting stuff done.

“Email is a collection of your tasks, so why should it be separated from where your other tasks are?” asks CEO Dvir Ben-Aroya.

The new functionality widens the ambitions of the software but also refocuses the app on a more complete business use case. Ben-Aroya admits that the company hasn’t pushed monetization very hard in the past, instead looking to scale up its base of free users in an effort to eventually scale up inside organizations. As the app looks to bring small businesses and larger enterprises onboard, the app is keeping its free tier, but to get past limits on message history and note/task creation users are going to have to upgrade to a $ 7.99 per month per user plan ($ 5.99 per month when billed annually).

Alongside its product news, the startup also shared today that it has raised $ 8 million in a Series A round led by Insight Partners . Wix, NFX and Koa Labs also participated in the round. The company plans to use the cash to aggressively scale hiring and double its team this year.

“[W]e see a massive addressable market for centralized communication hubs to connect disparate messaging channels,” Insight Partners VP Daniel Aronovitz said in a statement. “The current climate and associated macro-tailwinds behind remote teamwork have only strengthened our belief that there is a sizable and growing demand for digital collaboration tools.”

The company’s platform is compatible with most email services and the app is available on Android, iOS, Mac and Windows.

Email startups are often privy to some of a user’s most sensitive data and can receive a lot of inquiries regarding privacy. As a result, Ben-Aroya believes his company is far ahead of competitors when it comes to safety. “Unlike many other available email clients, we’re never touching, manipulating, using, reusing or selling any part of the user data,” he says.

Spike has raised $ 16 million in funding to date.


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The upcoming CCPA regulations coming into effect in the US have put a renewed focus on how companies online are handling the issues of data privacy and compliance. Today a startup that’s built a platform to help them navigate those waters more easily is announcing a round of funding to meet that demand.

Ethyca, which lets organisations both identify where sensitive data may be used and then provides an easy set of API tools to create permissions, reporting and analytics around it, has raised $ 13.5 million in financing after picking up a number of major companies, including some high-profile tech companies, as customers.

The crux of the issue that Ethyca is tackling is that online privacy compliance has become a critical issue, in part because of regulations, but mainly because the online world has, before anyone had a chance to blink, become a critical component of our lives so getting things wrong can be disastrous.

“Move fast and break things sounds good on a T-shirt, but the web is effectively society infrastructure now,” explained co-founder and CEO Cillian Kieran, who hails from Ireland but now lives in New York. “If you met a bridge builder wearing a t-shirt saying that you’d panic. So despite the omnipresence of tech we don’t have the tools to deal with privacy issues. The aim here is to build safe systems, and we provide the data and data maps to do that.”

The funding comes on the back of a seed round Ethyca raised in July 2019 and brings the total raised to about $ 20 million. 

IA Ventures, Affirm and PayPal cofounder Max Levchin’s SciFi VC, CAA cofounder Michael Ovitz, Warby Parker cofounders Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa, Harry’s cofounder Jeff Raider, Allbird’s cofounder Joey Zwillinge, Behance cofounder Scott Belsky, former Chief Data Scientist of the US Office of Science and Technology Policy DJ Patil, Lachy Groom, and Abstract Ventures make up the long list of high-profile names and firms that are a part of this latest round, which speaks to some of the traction and attention that New York-based Ethyca has had to date.

On the enterprise side, the company works with a number of large tech businesses including banks and some major tech companies that don’t want their names disclosed, to help them both better map personal data within their systems, as well as create better workflows for extracting that information when it’s requested either by a user, or for the purposes of reporting for data compliance regulations, or more often to make sure that when new products are being built, that they take that existing personal data into account comply with data policies around it.

If it sounds odd that a tech company might need to turn to a third-party startup for privacy services, it’s not so strange. Even at big tech companies, which would have spent years and millions of dollars preparing for privacy regulations, the complexity has meant that not all use cases can be accounted for.

On the smaller end of the scale, it also has a number of well known brands like luggage company Away, Parachute Home and Aspire IQ as well a number of other smaller businesses implementing its tools.

As Kieran describes it, while there are already others out there building tools to navigate data protection and privacy regulations like CCPA and GDPR in Europe (OneTrust and DataGuard being two in the startup arena that have raised big rounds), the aim of Ethyca is to build a layer that makes it quick and relatively easy to implement a compliance layer into a system.

The company has APIs but also now has introduced a self-service version of its product for smaller businesses, which he says means that “any customer can turn it on and follow the automated process in a TurboTax type of way.”

CCPA compliance can take 8-10 weeks to implement, and you often need consultants and more technical talent to get the work done and run services afterwards, he said. “Now it can be done in as little as an hour for an average midsized business.” Larger companies may take a few days, he added.

Kieran and his co-founder Miguel Burger-Calderon know first-hand about some of the issues that brands and other online businesses might face when it comes to identifying what kind of data might fall under these newer regulations, and the challenges of navigating that once you do. BrandCommerce, a previous company that the two founded, helps brands and businesses build and run D2C operations online. (You can also see, therefore, why Ethyca may have in part picked up the particular investors that it has.)

“Companies can no longer simply strive to be compliant and get by – enterprises need to think long-term and show their customers that they can be trusted with their data,” said Roger Ehrenberg of IA Ventures in a statement. “Forward-thinking companies have recognised the value of Ethyca’s product to their bottom line as you can see from looking at the growing set of blue-chip brands and technology customers so far.”

 


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Propzy, a Vietnam-based startup that guides consumers through the entire process of a real estate transaction, announced it has raised a $ 25 million Series A led by Gaw Capital and SoftBank Ventures Asia, the early-stage venture arm of SoftBank Group. Other investors included Next Billion Ventures, RHL Ventures, Breeze, FEBE Ventures, RSquare and Insignia.

Instead of proptech, Propzy founder and CEO John Le prefers the term “firetech” to describe the startup, using “fire” as an acronym for financial, insurance and real estate technology. Founded in 2016, Propzy’s technology covers almost every stage of a real estate transaction, from brick-and-mortar sales centers to an online marketplace for listings, financial products like mortgage lending and, finally, enterprise software for property managers and tenants.

The company’s Series A will be used to grow its product line and provide a balance sheet for its expansion into direct mortgage financing. Most of Propzy’s current operations are in Ho Chi Minh City. It plans to expand into Hanoi through the rest of this year and 2021, before exploring other Southeast Asian markets, including potentially Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Propzy currently has 30 brick-and-mortar sales centers, with a total of 400 sales staff. Over the 18 months, it expects to increase those numbers to 70 sales centers and 1,300 sales staff.

The sales centers complement Propzy’s online marketplace, with tens of thousands of properties pre-screened by its staff before they are entered into listings. Le said Propzy has handled more than $ 1 billion in property transactions since its launch, making it the largest offline-to-online real estate network in Vietnam.

Le is a serial entrepreneur and his past startups include LoanTrader, a mortgage trading platform that was backed by Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and GE Capital. In 2009, he went to Vietnam to launch an international credit bureau with TransUnion. During that time, he realized how burdensome the process of renting or buying property can be there.

In the United States, consumers benefit from listing platforms like Zillow and Trulia, licensed real estate agents and escrow offices. In Vietnam, however, Le said many listings are on classified sites, similar to Craigslist, and are often not handled by licensed agents. There is also no standardized listing data, which makes comparing multiple properties difficult for consumers.

To replicate the U.S. experience in Vietnam, “you can’t just launch a website and put properties on it,” Le said. “We built an offline agency, but you need to utilize tech to increase its efficiency and performance, so we are an offline-to-online platform. That high-touch customer service needs to go all the way, not just for property matchmaking but to help both parties successfully close and settle transactions.”

Propzy built an automated valuation model using data it has gathered over the last four years to assess homes, help recommend prices and show customers comparable properties. On the financing side, the model is also used by Propzy’s partner banks to help customers get pre-approved for loans based on property value.

After buyers move into an apartment unit, they can use Propzy’s tenant software to report issues or book maintenance services and amenities. If they decide to sell or rent the property, they can also do so through the platform.

The pandemic has put downward pressure on Vietnam’s real estate market, with a 70% reduction in Propzy’s business during the country’s nationwide lockdown in April. On the other hand, more people were doing searches online and inquiring about selling property, Le said.

“We’re carrying an all-time high pipeline of deals, as consumers start to have more confidence and know where the market will be in two to three months,” Le added. “People still need houses, so deals in the pipeline are three times over the fourth-quarter average. We expect them to close quickly, so we are on a good path to hitting our numbers at the end of the year.”

In a press statement about the investment, Gaw Capital managing partner Humbert Pang said, “Given the favorable macroeconomics exhibited by Vietnam and Gaw’s conviction in offline-to-online business models in real estate, we are excited by our investment into Propzy. We see the value proposition and steadfast vision that Propzy and its management team brings to the table and are therefore very optimistic in Propzy’s business and the market within which it operates.”


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Automation is the name of the game in enterprise IT at the moment: we now have a plethora of solutions on the market to speed up your workflow, simplify a process, and perform more repetitive tasks without humans getting involved. Now, a startup that is helping non-technical people get more directly involved in how to make automation work better for their tasks is announcing some funding to seize the opportunity.

Bryter — a no-code platform based in Berlin that lets workers in departments like accounting, legal, compliance and marketing who do not have any special technical or developer skills build tools like chatbots, trigger automated database and document actions and risk assessors — is today announcing that it has raised $ 16 million. This is a Series A round and it’s being co-led by Accel and Dawn Capital, with Notion Capital and Chalfen Ventures also participating.

The funding comes less than a year after Bryter raised a seed round — $ 6 million in November 2019 — and it was oversubscribed, with term sheets coming in from many of the bigger VCs in Europe and the US. With this funding, the company has now raised around $ 25 million, and while the valuation is considerably up on the last round, Bryter is not disclosing what it is.

Michael Grupp, the CEO who co-founded the company with Micha-Manuel Bues and Michael Hübl (pictured below), said that the whole Series A process took no more than a month to initiate and close, an impressive turnaround considering the chilling effect that the COVID-19 health pandemic has had on dealmaking.

Part of the reason for the enthusiasm is because of the traction that Bryter has had since launching in 2018. Its 50 enterprise customers include the likes of McDonalds, Telefónica, banks, healthcare and industrial companies, and professional services firms PwC, KPMG and Deloitte (who in turn use it for themselves as well as for clients). (Note: because of its target users being large enterprises, the company doesn’t publish per-person pricing on its site as such.)

Bryter’s been seeing a lot of attention from customers and investors because its platform speaks to a big opportunity within the wider world of software today.

Enterprise IT has long been thought of as the less-fun end of technology: it’s all about getting work done, and a lot of the software used in a business environment is complex and often requires technical knowledge to implement, use, fix and adapt in any way.

This may still the case for a lot of it, especially for the most sophisticated tools, but at the same time we have seen a lot of “consumerization” come into IT, where user-friendly hardware and software built for consumers — specifically non-technical consumers — either inspires new enterprise services, or are simply directly imported into the workplace environment.

No-code software — like automation, another big trend in enterprise IT right now — plays a big role in how enterprise tools are becoming more user-friendly. One of the biggest roadblocks in a lot of office environments is that when workers identify things that don’t work, or could work much better than they do, they need to file tickets and get IT teams — also often overworked — to do the fixing for them. No-code platforms can help circumvent some of that work — so long as the roadblock of IT approves the use, that is.

Bryter’s conception and existence comes out of the no-code trend. It plays on the same ideas as IFTTT or Zapier but is very firmly aimed at users who might use pieces of enterprise software as part of their jobs, but have never had to delve into figuring out how they actually work.

There are already a lot of “low-code” (minimal coding) and other no-code on the market today for business (not consumer) use cases. They include Blender.io, Zapier, Tray.io (a London-founded startup that itself raised a big round last autumn), n8n (also German, backed by Sequoia), and also biggies like MuleSoft (acquired by Salesforce in 2018 at a $ 6.5 billion valuation).

Bryter’s contention is that many of these actually need more technical know-how than they initially claim. Grupp pointed out that the earliest automation tools for enterprise have been around for decades at this point, but even most of the very modern descendants of those “will require some coding.” Bryter’s toolbox essentially lets users create dialogues with users — which they can program based on the expertise that they will have in their particular fields — which then sources data they can then plug into other software via the Bryter platform in order to “perform” different tasks more quickly.

Grupp’s contention is that while these kinds of tools have long been used, they will be in even more demand going forward.

“After COVID-19 workers will be even more distributed,” he said. “Teams and individuals will need to access information in a faster way, and the only way for big organizations to distribute that knowledge is through more digital tools.” The idea is that Bryter can essentially help bridge those gaps in a more efficient way.

Bryter’s target user and its approach underscores why investors like Accel see accessible, no-code solutions as a big opportunity.

“No-code software is really reducing the barriers of adoption,” Luca Bocchio, a partner at Accel, said in an interview. “If people like you and I can use the software, then that means demand can multiply by big numbers.” That’s in contrast to a lot of enterprise software today, which very limited in how it can grow, he added. “Plus, enterprises these days want to see more future visibility in terms of the products they adopt. They want to make sure something will stick around, and so they tend not to want to work with super young startups. But it’s happening for Bryter, and the is a testament to Bryter and to the market potential.”


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