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October was a busy and tense month in Latin America, with a turbulent presidential campaign in Brazil that ended with the reelection of Dilma Rousseff, while Mexico made the headlines with gruesome tales of violence. Still, none of these did seem to stop the tech scene from conducting business almost as usual. Here’s the news you don’t want to miss:
Some got acquired…
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In “one of the most important acquisitions to date in the Brazilian internet and technology sector,” Chinese Internet giant Baidu bought a controlling stake in Brazil’s Peixe Urbano, which is still set to operate as a standalone brand. While financial details weren’t disclosed, CEO Julio Vasconcellos noted in an interview with Startupi that the deal also gave an exit to the company’s previous backers (which included Benchmark, Monashees Capital, General Atlantic, Morgan Stanley, T. Rowe Price and Tiger Global Management).
As you may remember, Peixe Urbano beat Groupon to its own game by launching a daily deals website in Brazil in 2009, quickly becoming one of Brazil’s leading Internet companies, in a vertical that soon became hot and overcrowded. When the boom finally ended, the company still managed to stay afloat by branching out into new verticals in the online-to-offline space, and now describes itself as “the largest Brazilian local commerce company.”
According to Johnson Hu, general manager of Baidu’s Global Business Unit, this deal will allow Baidu to accelerate its growth in Brazil, where it has recently launched a localized version of its search engine. “International expansion is a priority for Baidu and in our expansion plans Brazil is a key market, where there are over 50 million people enjoying our services on a daily basis. The acquisition of Peixe Urbano, one of the most recognized and respected companies in the Brazilian internet sector, demonstrates our long-term commitment to invest in the local market.”
German online food ordering platform Delivery Hero bought Brazil-based Subdelivery, which boasts a partnership with sandwich chain Subway. In a statement quoted by TechCrunch, CEO Niklas Östberg informed that Asia and Latin America would “hold a central role in [the company’s] long-term strategy.” Delivery Hero already acquired two Latin American players this year: Clickdelivery and PedidosYa.
Meanwhile, fellow Brazilian food delivery company iFood acquired competitors Alakarte and Papa Rango to reinforce its presence across the country, bringing 18 new cities into its network. “Because of Brazil’s size, delivery services have tended to grow region by region and were largely isolated from each other. iFood is consolidating the best regional food delivery networks into a single and powerful platform,” said iFood’s board chairman Patrick Sigrist. Last month, we reported that Just Eat’s RestauranteWeb and iFood had formed a joint venture owned 50.02% by Movile.
…and some got funded
Online used car marketplace Beepi pulled in $60 million at a $200 million valuation, the WSJ reported. While the company is based in Los Altos, California, its founder and CEO Alejandro Resnik is Argentine, and he told PulsoSocial that Beepi would start expanding internationally by the end of next year.
Brazil-based real estate portal VivaReal raised $41.7 million in Series C funding. Spark Capital led the round, its first investment in Brazil. In 2012, VivaReal had raised a Series B round led by Valiant Capital Partners, with follow-on investments from Kaszek Ventures and Brazilian fund Monashees Capital.
Printing company Vistaprint acquired a $25 million minority stake in Brazil-based Printi. As TechCrunch noted in an interesting article, the deal is not an acquisition and Printi remains independent. “[Vistaprint] wanted to acquire us 100 percent but we wanted to make it closer to what a VC deal would look like,” co-founder and co-CEO Mate Pencz explained. Printi had reached noteworthy milestones soon after its launch in August 2012 and kept on growing steadily since then; it made $3 million in revenue for 2013, and is reportedly on track to exceed $10 million this year.
Student accommodation marketplace Uniplaces raised £2.2 million (around US$3.5 million) in Series A funding, TechCrunch reported. This Start-Up Chile alum had previously raised £700k from current lead investor Octopus Investments. Co-founder Ben Grech told TechCrunch that the new funding would be used to expand into “major student markets” across Europe.
Argentine online real estate site Properati closed a $2 million Series A round from European investment fund NEVEQ II and NXTP Labs (disclosure: NXTP Labs is an investor in my startup, MonoLibre). The company says it plans to use these funds to continue growing in the Latin American region, “especially in the mobile platforms area”. Earlier this year, we had listed Properati as one of 12 Latin American startups to watch in 2014.
Brazilian mobile commerce group Movile invested $2 million in Peruvian movie ticketing platform CinePapaya. As you may remember, this Start-Up Chile and Wayra alum made it to second place at TNW Conference’s Startup Battle in 2012 and went on to raise funding from 500 Startups to finance its regional expansion.
As we reported last August, Movile recently secured $55 million in new funding, which it has been using to finance several acquisitions in the offline-to-online space. Cinepapaya’s CEO and co-founder Manuel Olguin commented on the deal and its potential impact on mobile traffic: “With [Movile’s] mobile expertise we think we can raise the percentage of tickets sold through our app to 70, up from about 20 right now.”
The team behind video messaging app Unda raised $1.2 million for its pivot, an upcoming app called VideoSelfie, which does what its name suggests. According to TechCrunch, the company is removing Unda from Google Play to focus on VideoSelfie on iOS. VideoSelfie’s CEO is Mexican entrepreneur Oscar “Akira” Yasser. The startup is now based in Japan and its seed funding mostly comes from Japanese funds and angels, except for a follow-on investment from 500 Startups.
Curacao-based Startup Stock Exchange (SSX) announced having raised $1.25 million for its efforts. SSX’s goal is to help small non-US startups raise capital in a novel way, by going public on the Dutch Caribbean Securities Exchange. According to Venture Capital Dispatch, “SSX uses the Dutch exchange as the legal framework for the trading, but all interactions by investors and companies are with SSX, which is a licensed listing adviser, broker and shareholder for the exchange.”
PR-focused startup Publicize raised its first round of funding from Michael Puscar’s venture firm GITP Ventures, whose previous investments include Medellin-based startup MYTIC and English news publication Colombia Reports. Publicize was founded by Colombian entrepreneur Conrad Egusa, who is also co-owner of Colombia Reports.
Brazilian tutoring marketplace Portal Profes received an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Grid Investimentos and angel investors, Startupi reported. The startup previously received backing from CIETEC, Aceleratech and Start-Up Brasil.
Brazilian online shoe store for women with small feet 33e34.com.br raised R$300k in seed funding (around US$121k) syndicated by angel investor João Kepler through Anjos do Brasil’s partnership with startup funding platform Gust.
The other side of the table
500 Startups promoted Bedy Yang and Khailee Ng from partners to managing partners. Chinese-Brazilian Yang made a name for herself as the founder of entrepreneurship-fostering organization Brazil Innovators (see our 2011 story). Her role at 500 has been to contribute to the fund’s global outreach, with a particular focus on finding deal flow and partnerships in Latin America.
Axon Partners Group is bringing the size of its digital economy growth fund Amerigo Ventures to $100 million and expanding into Mexico and Peru. According to the firm, reaching these two countries will “enable broader expansion strategies for its investments with tickets ranging from some hundred thousand dollars to over [$15 million].”
Google is launching a YouTube Space in the Brazilian city of São Paulo, where it will serve as a filming location and training center for video-makers. The company already operates similar studios in LA, Tokyo, New York and London.
The company launched a simplified version of its browser in Brazil. Aimed at slow mobile connections, which it detects automatically, it removes superfluous visual elements from its search results, with maps and images only displayed when deemed necessary.
In addition, Google is working more deeply on bringing fast and steady connections to Latin America. As you may have read, it is funding a new undersea fiber optic cable between Florida and Brazil. As ZDNet reports, “work will start immediately on the project, which has a completion date set for late 2016.”
Expansions and new launches
Bluesmart’s crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo impressively reached its initial goal in only 2 hours and 1 minute. Launched from New York by a team including several Argentine entrepreneurs, Bluesmart promises to deliver the “world’s first smart carry-on suitcase,” boasting features such as location tracking, built-in scale and device charger, not to mention its companion app.
Managed cloud company Rackspace opened offices in Mexico City, co-founder and chairman Graham Weston explained in a blog post. The Austin-based firm had acquired a number of significant Mexican customers over the years and wanted to build closer relationships with them. “We hope to open similar offices in other important business capitals in Latin America,” Weston added.
Amazon is set to hire 1,000 staffers at its new service center in Costa Rica, where it already operates 3 units, Nearshore Americas reported. The retail giant first entered this Latin American country in 2008.
Spanish mobile operator Tuenti landed in Peru, shortly after its expansion into Mexico. As Novobrief noted, “the company started off as a social network in the mid-2000s and was acquired by Telefónica in 2012.” It since then pivoted into an MVNO targeted at young customers.
Rocket Internet’s cleaning startup Helpling launched in Brazil, only 9 months after its inception. According to VentureBeat, Helpling now has 200 employees and operates in 140 cities spread across 8 countries.
Brazilian-based digital payments company UOL BoaCompra announced it would now support local currencies and payment options available on game distribution platform Steam in both Mexico and Turkey. Steam is owned by Valve Corporation, which has been partnering with UOL BoaCompra since 2012 to provide Brazilian gamers with similar payment options.
Also on TNW:
- Apple’s iPhone 6 to go on sale in 36 more countries this month, including India and China
- Compass Monitor helps investors track the health of their portfolio startups
- Google Play downloads now exceed Apple’s App Store by 60 percent, but iOS apps still make more money
- Vine now has an official Xbox One app
Good reads from across the Web:
- Com dificuldades, aceleradoras de negócios buscam alternativas [Folha de São Paulo, in Portuguese]
- El talento se fuga de Venezuela [ El País, in Spanish]
- Esta es la primera generación de Innovadores Menores de 35 en Centroamérica [Pulso Social, in Spanish]
- Handbook helps Latin American journalists understand and work with data [IJNet]
- La droga Silicon Valley [StoriesOn, in Spanish]
- LatAm Founders’ Pam Granoff: The Networking Guru [Core Impulse]
- Meet OLX, the biggest Web company you’ve never heard of [Fortune]
- O que está por trás da campanha de marketing mais agressiva que o Youtube já fez no Brasil [YouPix, in Portuguese]
- The maker ecosystem in São Paulo [Makery]
- This Brazilian pie maker sold everything to learn game design — and her Oculus Rift game is incredible [VentureBeat]
- Venezuelans turn to bitcoins to bypass socialist currency controls [Reuters]