January in Latin America: All the tech news you shouldn’t miss from last month

January in Latin America: All the tech news you shouldn’t miss from last month

Despite really warm summer weather in most of Latin America, January was actually a fairly busy month for the region’s tech scene, including some interesting M&A. Here are the news you don’t want to miss:

Facebook’s Internet.org coming to Latin America

Facebook made its Internet.org app available in Colombia, the first Latin American country where it rolled out. The announcement was made by Mark Zuckerberg and President Juan Manuel Santos during an event in BogotĂĄ on January 14th.

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colombia-facebook-internet org
The app is available only to customers of mobile carrier Tigo, who can freely browse some government services as well as some commercial platforms, including Spanish online reading site 24symbols.

“Making the internet accessible through a set of basic services can lead to more people getting online and discovering services they might not have otherwise. We’ll continue to add additional services and bring the app to other parts of the world,” Facebook commented in its official release.

Mergers and acquisitions

AT&T is set to buy Nextel Mexico for $1.875 billion, Bloomberg reported. The US carrier intends to take control NII Holdings Inc.’s assets in the country, including retail stores, licenses and a customer base of 3 million clients.

Latin American online job portal Bumeran bought its Chilean competitor Laborum.com to consolidate its presence across the region, Start-Ups Argentina reported. Bumeran already operates sites in 12 countries.

bumeran

Latin America’s eBay counterpart MercadoLibre acqui-hired an Argentine software factory called BVision to boost its development capacities, PulsoSocial reported. It will incorporate its staff of around 160 employees, based in Buenos Aires.

US accounting software heavyweight Intuit acquired ZeroPaper “to help address the growing small business market in Brazil” and establish its presence in this country, the company announced in a blog post. ZeroPaper was backed by Rio-based accelerator 21212 (see our previous story).

21212 intuit zeropaper
eBay acquired the Mexican subsidiary of classifieds portal Vivastreet from its parent company W3, FrenchWeb reported. Vivanuncios.com.mx was first launched around 18 months ago.

Still in the classifieds space, Norway’s Schibsted Media Group announced joint ventures in four markets – Bangladesh, Brazil, Indonesia and Thailand. In Brazil, a new company will be formed for Bomnegocio.com and OLX.com.br to join forces.

According to the official announcement, the venture “will be 50 percent owned by SnT Classifieds (an equal shareholding joint venture between Schibsted and Telenor), the parent company of bomnegocio.com and 50 percent owned by Naspers, the parent company of OLX.com.br. The new company will operate under the olx.com.br name and will be headed by the CEO of Bomnegocio, Andries Oudshoorn.”

Funding rounds

Rocket Internet-backed ridesharing startup Tripda raised $11 million, mostly from Rocket itself, VentureBeat reported. Tripda has been expanding fast across several regions, including Latin America, where it operates in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay.

Bessemer Venture Parners led a R$18 million investment round (around $6.65 million USD) in Brazilian e-commerce startup Enjoei. Enjoei is a marketplace for secondhand fashion items, which previously raised funding from Monashees Capital.

enjoei

Smart luggage startup Bluesmart announced being part of Y Combinator’s latest batch. The startup’s flag product is a connected suitcase, first launched a few weeks ago through a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, which accounts for most of the $2 million it has raised so far.

Bluesmart’s CEO is Argentine entrepreneur Diego Saez-Gil. As you may remember, Saez-Gil previously founded budget accommodation booking platform WeHostels, acquired by StudentUniverse in 2013.

Brazil-based freight startup Sontra Cargo raised a R$ 5 million Series A round (around $1.83 million USD) led by Brazilian-American fund Valor Capital Group, Startupi reported. Sontra is the company that acquired TransportarOnline in 2013.

Freelancing marketplace Nubelo raised a €2.5 million round (around $2.83 million USD) from Caixa Capital Risc, Nero Ventures, Nazca Ventures and Plan Avanza, Novobrief reported. It plans to use this funding to fuel its growth in the Spanish-speaking world. Nubelo was one of our 12 Latin American startups to look out for in 2014.

Discount coupons startups Cuponeria raised an investment of R$800k (around $295k USD) from Verus Group, the venture firm announced in a press release. Verus Group also participated in a round of funding for e-commerce jewelry site Sophie & Juliete, led by existing backers IG ExpansiĂłn and Redpoint e.ventures. Astella Investimentos also joined as a new entrant.

New launches and expansions

Puerto Rico will be the first location to get Google’s modular Project Ara phone, thanks to a pilot program scheduled to start later this year. Google is partnering with Open Mobile and Claro for the pilot launch, and hoping to take advantage of the island’s high mobile engagement.

why puerto rico google project ara

A new digital entertainment venture called FAV! Network announced its official launch, Portada Online reported. Targeted at Latino millennials, it will create video content in English, Spanish and Portuguese, to be distributed through YouTube channels and similar platforms.

Bitcoin startup Xapo made its secure offline storage service free for all users by waiving its annual fee, VentureBeat informed. As we previously reported, Xapo is a Bitcoin wallet and vault founded by Argentine entrepreneur Wences Casares; it has raised a whopping $40 million in funding.

IBM expanded its presence in Latin America with the opening of a SoftLayer data center in Querétaro, Mexico, Business Cloud reported. This move is part of a $1.2 billion expansion program, which already saw the company open new locations in Europe to attend local storage demand from its clients.

Venezuelan express delivery startup TuMotorizado expanded into Chile and began its regional expansion as Zhipcode.com, the Wayra and Start-Up Chile alum told us. According to its CEO Marcel Imery, it focuses on the “Achilles’ heel’ of e-commerce in Latin America, where it is difficult and often impossible to immediately receive online purchases.

In addition to moto couriers, Zhipcode will work with other means of transportation, including cars and bikes. The company is also implementing several benefits and services to improve the quality of life of its delivery workers, whom it calls ‘Zhipemprendedores’ (Zhip-entrepreneurs).

platziOnline education platform Mejorando.la changed its name to Platzi to reflect its global ambitions, its CEO John Freddy Vega announced in a blog post. Platzi was previously the name of the technology that enabled Mejorando.la’s video streaming and real-time collaboration between students and teachers.

Ready to accelerate

Bluesmart aside, another Argentine-led venture joined Y Combinator’s winter batch: DemocracyOS, an ambitious civic initiative which describes its upcoming platform as “software for collaborative decision-making and the easy governance of communities.” It also has an “offline component”, as it calls it: The Net Party, better known as ‘Partido de la Red’ in Argentina, where it ran for a seat in the local parliament of Buenos Aires (see TNW’s previous story).

500 Startups announced the 12th batch of startups that will join its San Francisco program. Its selection includes two Brazilian startups: Contentools and Linte.

Meanwhile, Start-Up Chile is currently reviewing applications for its 12th edition, with selected companies to be notified next April. In addition, it launched a follow-on fund called SCALE to provide capital to its alumni and try to compensate existing gaps, TechCrunch reported:

“Through the follow-on fund, Start-Up Chile will offer 60 million Chilean pesos (about $100k USD) in new financing to three graduates per batch of 30 upon completion of the three-month program. Just like the accelerator, the SCALE funding is equity-free. Of course, there’s a catch — the money will be given through a co-financed grant, in which the $100k will account for 70 percent of the total funding and the recipient of the grant must put up the remaining 30 percent,” CrunchBase’s Christine Magee explained.

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