July was a busy month in Latin America, and not only because of soccer. From mergers and acquisitions to funding and expansion news, here are the highlights from the last few weeks.
Bye bye World Cup
All eyes were on Brazil last July 8 when the FIFA World Cup’s host country suffered a crushing 7-1 defeat against Germany, which went on to win the trophy. The match became the most-tweeted sports game ever.
With so many messages every second, you may have missed a nice act of sportsmanship from online retailer Lote42, who did keep its promise to offer an incremental 10% discount for each goal conceded by Brazil, despite the unexpected score.
While Google set up an experimental newsroom in San Francisco to monitor the World Cup to create content around real-time trends, the company did so with a clear editorial bias, focusing on “upbeat” trends rather than negative keywords, NPR reported.
Brazil is still very much on Google’s mind, and the company announced on its blog that São Paulo would be home to Google for Entrepreneurs’ next Campus, joining Campus London, Campus Tel Aviv and recently announced Campus Warsaw. The space is set to open in 2015.
In addition, Google made announcements targeted at Spanish speakers, such as rolling out its Google Play Music All Access service into Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru and Ukraine.
The company also added Spanish support to Google Wallet’s recently updated Android and iOS apps, presumably to target Hispanic consumers, since the service is still US-only.
Brazil and China getting closer
Chinese internet giant Baidu expanded into Brazil after it launched a local-language search engine dubbed ‘Busca’ (which means “Search” in Portuguese). In the words of TNW’s Asia editor Jon Russell, “Baidu Busca includes text, image and video search, and links to its Postbar service. It also features a Google autocomplete-style ‘smart searchbox’ which also previews results as you type. The company has inked deals with a range of players who have embedded content right into the site, while one social feature allows users to ‘like’ their favorite celebrities and sports stars. [...]
[Baidu director for international communications Kaiser] Kuo said Baidu has an office of 18 staff in Brazil and plans to introduce “many of our major products in Brazil.” He revealed that the company is in talks with local universities to establish an R&D center in Brazil, but for now most of the development of products in the country will be handled by Baidu’s China-based teams.”
These announcements were made public while Chinese president Xi Jinping was on an official visit in Brazil, alongside with a Chinese delegation including Baidu’s founder Robin Li. A wave of partnerships and future plans were announced, including a memorandum of agreement between Alibaba Group and Brazil’s national post office Correios to facilitate trade between the two countries.
Meanwhile, NASDAQ-listed Latin American e-commerce heavyweight MercadoLibre issued $330 million in convertible bonds to finance its expansion plans, Cronista reported. According to Diario Financiero, the company recently opened commercial offices in Chile to convince more brands and retailers to open “official stores” on its platform.
Mergers and acquisitions
Brazilian baby products online retailer Bebê Store completed an ongoing transaction to acquire its competitor Baby, Dealbook reported. According to its reporter Vinod Sreeharsha, “financial terms have not been disclosed, but it is not believed to be a very large deal.”
If details are correct, this represents quite a setback for Baby’s backers, including major US-based funds, who invested more than $21 million into the company over the last few years — and perhaps a cautionary tale for Latin America’s startup ecosystem. None of Baby’s employees will join Bebê Store, while former CEO Kimball Thomas will refocus on flash sales spin-off Dinda, backed by the same investors, including Accel Partners, Felicis Ventures, Menlo Ventures, Monashees Capital, SV Angel and Tiger Global Management.
According to Bebê Store’s CEO, Leonardo Simão, quoted by DealBook, “the acquisition will allow the company to become profitable by this December, instead of in April 2015.” Bebê Store’s backers include Atomico and W7 Capital, which were recently joined by Endeavor Catalyst .
On a more positive note, global data center company Equinix acquired the remaining shares it did not already own in ALOG Data Centers of Brazil for US$225 million in cash to integrate the company into its operations, Converge Network Digest reported.
“ALOG’s strong position in Brazil and complementary business model provided Equinix the opportunity to establish a presence in an important emerging market and meet growing demand for data center services in Latin America,” said Karl Strohmeyer, president of the Americas for Equinix.
Online travel company The Priceline Group acquired hotel marketing company Buuteeq, giving an exit to Chilean-based VC firm Equitas Capital, PEHub reported. While Buuteeq is now headquartered in Seattle, it started out in Chile, where one of its co-founders is still based.
In addition, German food delivery company Delivery Hero bought its Colombian counterpart ClickDelivery for $15 million, Hemerotek reported. The startup had raised funding from Axon Partners Group in May 2013, reportedly giving the VC firm a return “of nearly 4x and an IRR above 500%” on its investment.
ClickDelivery operates in Argentina, Colombia and Peru, under local brands domiciliosbogota.com, domiciliosmedellin.com, buenosairesdelivery.com, domicilioscali.com and limadelivery.info.
Its acquisition will give Delivery Hero an even stronger presence in the Andean region as part of its expansion into Latin America. As you may remember, Delivery Hero announced last June that it had acquired Uruguayan-born company PedidosYa, which is present in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.
Two startups backed by Rocket Internet and operating in Latin America raised multi-million amounts of money this July: e-commerce company Linio and taxi booking service Easy Taxi. According to Venture Village, Linio’s new round of over €58 million ($79 million) was led by Northgate Capital and Access Industries.
As for Easy Taxi, its $40 million series D round was led by Phenomen Ventures with participation from Tengelmann Ventures. According to TechCrunch, it will use it to boost in growth not only in Latin America, but also in Asia. A few weeks ago, the startup announced that Singaporean users could now book a taxi directly from popular messaging app WeChat as part of a pilot program between the two companies.
Bitcoin vault and wallet startup Xapo raised a $20 million series A-1 round led by Greylock Partners and Index Ventures, with participation from Emergence Capital Partners, Max Levchin, Yuri Milner and Jerry Yang, Fortune reported. As you may remember, Xapo had already raised another $20 million last March. According to the Wall Street Journal, this means that the company founded by Argentine entrepreneur Wences Casares is now valued “at roughly north of $100 million.”
Social intelligence company Wayin raised $13.1 million to help more brands engage with online conversations, PandoDaily reported. While headquartered in Denver, Wayin has several overseas offices, including in Brazil and Argentina, where it acquired second-screen startup Comenta.tv last January.
In addition to issuing bonds, MercadoLibre invested in the $12 million ARS round (around $1.47 million USD) raised by Emporio Compras, alongside logistics group Andreani. Emporio Compras is an Argentine e-commerce website launched in July 2013. According to iProfesional, it plans to use this new funding to expand into new verticals and scale its logistics.
Mobile point-of-sale payment service Sr. Pago raised $1 million in funding, TechCrunch reported. This announcement comes only a few weeks after the Mexican company launched Sr. Pago Card System, “the first service in the Americas that combines a smartphone chip credit card reader with a debit card that can be reloaded with payments accepted through the card reader.”
Marketplace for real estate, vehicles and second-hand items XMarket raised $850k in seed funding from angel investors for its upcoming website and apps. Interestingly, Brazil is the company’s sole target at this stage, with a launch scheduled for Q4 2014.
According to its CEO and former Investing.com’s founder Lonny Szneiberg, XMarket’s differential will be simplicity: “It is really surprising that in Brazil, a consumer still has to go through a long, complicated and exhausting process of finding a car or a house online due to having to use multiple websites. [In contrast,] XMarket is a platform which makes the buying and selling experience fast, easy and secure,” he said.
P2P lending platform Prestadero raised around $670k in Series B funding from anonymous investors described as “international leaders in the financial services sector in Mexico and abroad,” fintech conference Finovate reported.
Argentine startup Wideo raised a $460k investment round from investors including 500 Startups, NXTPLabs and South Ventures (disclosure: NXTPLabs is an investor in my startup, MonoLibre). Wideo plans to use this new funding to boost the popularity of its video making tool among teachers.
Brazilian home services marketplace Blumpa received an undisclosed amount of investment from NH Investimentos, Startupi reported. According to its founder Eduardo Giglio, the startup will use this funding to expand beyond Greater São Paulo.
Five projects produced during regional hackathon La Ruta de Dinero (“The Money Trail”) will receive financial support and mentoring from HacksLabs, IJNet reported. HackLabs is Latin America’s first accelerator for data journalism. The winning projects focus on improving transparency and accountability on a series of public issues in Argentina, Colombia and Chile.
Ride-sharing service BlaBlaCar‘s parent company raised a $100 million Series C round of funding led by Index Ventures. According to the WSJ’s Venture Capital Dispatch, BlaBlaCar plans to launch operations in India, Turkey and Brazil — where it is looking to hire a country manager.
Mobile payments company iZettle plans to use its newly received Series C funding to continue growing existing markets, which include Brazil and Mexico, and to introduce its services in more countries.
German fintech startup Kreditech plans to use some of its $40 million Series B funding to further expand into Latin America, CEO Sebastian Diemer told Gründerszene. In addition to existing operations in Australia, the Czech Republic, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Russia and Spain, it now plans to bring its credit scoring technology into Brazil, Romania and the Dominican Republic.
On a side note, Russian social network VKontakte experienced a boom in Brazil following Google’s decision to close Orkut. “100,000 new Brazilian users were added in the first few days after the Orkut shutdown news,”VK told VentureBeat.
Movile‘s relaunched its PlayKids video app, GigaOM reported. In addition to a refreshed UI, its subscription-based service now offers new kids’ content in the countries where it operates. For instance, its catalogue for Latin America now includes Viacom shows such as ‘Dora the Explorer’, ‘Carmen Sandiego , ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’.
Talking to GigaOM, Movile co-founder and head of U.S. operations Eduardo Henrique said that the Brazilian company had initially planned to launch a separate app for older kids, but postponed plans for any additional apps until 2015 due to PlayKids’ success.
Colombian entrepreneur Conrad Egusa launched PR agency Publicize, which aims to rethink PR for startups and make it more affordable with a standard offer priced at $499/month, TechCrunch reported. Publicize will be based in Medellin, where Egusa also leads English news publication Colombia Reports (see our February roundup).
Mexico’s telecoms reshuffle
This story is still developing as we speak, but M&A’s might soon take place in Mexico’s telecoms sector. As a matter of fact, Telefónica publicly declared its interest in buying a Mexican rival, which reports identified as the country’s third largest carrier, Iusacell, the New York Times reported. However, no deal has been reached to date, with Mexican businessman Ricardo Salinas stating that its stake in the company is not for sale.
Still, acquisitions seem imminent in the sector, with Carlos Slim’s América Móvil set to sell parts of its domestic operations. Its objective is to bring its market share below 50% to appease antitrust regulators in the context of Mexico’s Telecom Reform.
As Bloomberg notes, this could have the side result of boosting Slim’s investments in other Latin American countries, particularly Brazil, Colombia and Peru.
Brazil’s Ministry of Justice’s Department of Consumer Protection and Defence fined operator Oi R$3.5 million (around $1.54 million USD),TelaViva reported. The telco is accused of having resold data on its broadband clients’ browsing patterns to advertisers, in partnership with controversial British company Phorm.
Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega sued gaming studio Activision for his unflattering portrayal in ‘Call of Duty,’ the BBC reported. Quite some nerve, considering he is currently imprisoned for his crimes…
One of Samsung’s main manufacturing plants in Brazil suffered a massive robbery that resulted in reported losses of about R$80 million ($36 million USD), ZDNet reported. “We are very concerned about this incident. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. We are fully cooperating with the ongoing police investigation, and we will do our best to avoid it happening again,” Samsung said in a statement quoted by ZDNet.
Security researchers claim to have uncovered a significant cyber crime operation in Brazil that targeted $3.75 billion in transactions, the New York Times reported. While it remains unclear what share of that amount did get stolen, it took aim at a key payment method in Latin America: printable ‘boletos bancários’. As you may know, this system lets customers pay for their online purchases and transactions at offline locations. Its popularity engendered a new kind of fraud, known as “bolware”, of which users will now have to be wary.
Argentine legislators are seeking to regulate the use of drones in the country, Fortunaweb reported. Meanwhile, fiscal authorities have already found a new application for the flying devices: detect undeclared real estate properties and swimming pools.
Technology workers employed by companies based in the state of São Paulo are set to get a pay increase following an IT union strike and a related court battle that lasted several months, ZDNet reported.
Also on TNW:
- Fleksy brings 17 new languages to its smart keyboard app for Android
- Report: US, India and Brazil are top markets for Windows Phone, China ranks sixth
- Silent Circle goes global with its ‘Out-Circle’ encrypted VoIP service, now available in 79 territories
- The power of live content: World Cup 2014 social media winners and losers
- Xbox One August update to add new activity feed, mobile purchases, low battery notification, 3D Blu-ray, more
Good reads from across the Web:
- A look at the state of entrepreneurship in Spain, Southern Europe and Latin America [Tech.eu]
- Comércio eletrônico cresce 26% no primeiro semestre de 2014 [Startupi, in Portuguese]
- El arte sale de las galerías y casas de subastas [Forbes, in Spanish]
- El hombre que pintó México en iconos [Yorokobu, in Spanish]
- Hugo Chávez’s Handwriting Turned Into “Anti-Imperialist” Font [FastCoDesign]
- Is high-growth entrepreneurship in Latin America and the Caribbean driven by innovation? [FOMIN]
- Las Experiencias de los que Hacen [LatAm.VC, in Spanish]
- Oportunidad para emprender [El País]
- Os Vales do Silício brasileiros [O Globo, in Portuguese]
- Pioneiro da web .br revela história dos 25 anos da Internet brasileira [TechTudo, in Portuguese]
- Remote Indigenous Tribe Adopts Wi-Fi Network in Hopes of Survival[Mashable]
- Startups Surge In South America [TechCrunch]
- The 7 Deadly Sins of Startup Brasil [Adam Gonnerman, translated from Alan Meira's post in Portuguese on Medium]
Image credit: Panorama Maracaná Stadium by Jimmy Baikovicius