Tech in Latin America: All the news you shouldn’t miss from the past month

Tech in Latin America: All the news you shouldn’t miss from the past month

November was an interesting month for anyone curious about Latin America’s tech scene — not only because of the usual funding events and expansions, but also because of some changes that may have a lasting effect on the region’s ecosystem.

One of the most significant events was the election of a new Argentine president, Mauricio Macri, whose entrepreneur-friendly profile has the startup scene expectantly waiting for his first announcements. In the meantime, here’s the news you don’t want to miss:

Black Friday gaining foothold

Latin America’s e-commerce sector celebrated Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales again this year, in what has become somewhat of a successfully imported tradition over the last few years (despite the fact that Thanksgiving itself is foreign to the region).

In Brazil for instance, the operation was deemed a commercial success: despite the economic crisis, sales during both events grew by 44 percent and 56 percent compared to 2014, according to consulting firm E-bit.

This success results from a growing customer interest in these operations. While the first editions were plagued with customer complaints, the ensuing mistrust is starting to wane, although some of it still persists. According to social media monitoring firm Sprinklr and its Brazilian acquiree Scup, which launched a hotsite around Black Friday, online comments were mostly positive, despite 12 percent of negative mentions.

black friday brazil social media

Big players

Google made several announcements impacting Latin America, such as its decision to lower the minimum prices of apps sold through Google Play in 17 countries, including several Latin American ones.

In Brazil, the company also introduced a new offline top-up scheme for Google Play, which lets consumers add credit to their accounts through the same terminal-supported system that let them recharge their pre-paid phones.

The company also made moves related to YouTube, which was at the center of two events in Brazil, FanFest and Brandcast: it rolled out Google Preferred in the country to help brands find popular channels, and held two

In the mapping vertical, Google brought its Indoor Maps to Mexico and rolled out Google Street View in Bolivia and Ecuador, which joined the list of more than 70 countries in which this option is available as part of Google Maps.

google street view la paz

Apple unveiled the Brazilian prices of devices such as the iPad Pro and the iPad mini 4, generating the now usual wave of criticism and reflexion around its pricing policy. As an example, a 32GB iPad Pro retails at R$7299, around $1946 USD.

ipad pro brazil

Twitter Moments launched in Brazil, the first country to get this feature outside of the US. This manually curated section helps users stay informed on major events including breaking news but also TV shows and sports, which makes it potentially attractive for brands.

twitter moments brazil

Exits…

Spanish cloud company Gigas Hosting IPO’ed on Madrid’s sub-market Mercado Alternativo Bursátil (MAB), a move it had been preparing over the last few months. One of the main goals of this operation is to support the company’s growth in Latin America, which already accounted for 21 percent of its 2014 revenue.

US investment firm Insight Venture Partners bought control of Brazilian travel booking site Hotel Urbano, Exame reported. According to Tnooz, it will now own 41 percent of the company, more than the founders’ 35 percent share.

Hotel Urbano was co-founded five years ago by brothers João Ricardo and José Eduardo Mendes, who have announced they would take a sabbatical will Hotel Urbano is set to get a new management team. “This team – together with us – will lead HU to the NEXT LEVEL: international expansion, sustainable growth and an IPO later on down the road,” they wrote in an email quoted by TNooz.

Start-Up Chile alum Epiclist was acquired by adventure brand VAUDE. This is an unexpected turn of events, but probably a welcome one for the founders of this adventure travel app: as you may remember, they had bid farewell in a Medium post in December 2014, explaining that the startup had run out of money.

Thanks to the acquisition, the team now expects to bring updates to Epiclist’s free iOS app, launch an Android version, “and maybe even desktop.”

Epiclist

Brazilian VOD company Looke bought the marketing assets of former competitor Netmovies for an undisclosed amount, taking over its brands, domain names and customer emails. Looke is a Brazilian competitor to Netflix, launched by bookstore chain Grupo Saraiva last September.

…and funding rounds

Argentine e-commerce platform Avenida raised a $30 million Series C round led by Naspers with participation from Tiger Global, TechCrunch reported, noting that both firms are returning investors. Launched by Argentine company builder Quasar Ventures, Avenida was one of our top 12 Latin American companies to watch in 2014.

Start-Up Chile alum Uniplaces raised a €21 million Series A round (around $22.8 million USD), Loogic reported. This student accommodation marketplace is backed by returning funds Octopus Ventures, Schilling Capital Partners and Caixa Capital as well as several angel investors.

Online automotive parts retailer Itaro raised a second round of funding worth R$10 million (around $2.7 million USD). Most of this amount came from Brazilian fund Astella Investimentos, with participation from German firms Rigi Ventures and JPJ Investments. the company was founded in 2012 by São Paulo-based German entrepreneur Jan Riehle.

Brazilian B2B IT startup Zup received investment from Kaszek Ventures, its first external funding since its creation in 2011. According to its website, the company help other firms digitize their business through its platform systems integration and API manager. It will invest its new capital both on R&D and business development.

Brazilian online fashion brand Amaro received follow-on funding from South Ventures, becoming the first investment of its new syndicated vehicle, SV Global Fund III. In a blog announcement, South Ventures’ founder and CEO Sebastian Ortega referred to Amaro as “Zara 2.0.”

Cisneros Interactive and Velum Ventures invested $2.5 million into influencer marketing company Fluvip. According to El Economista, the funds are meant to boost the startup’s growth in the US, Latin America and Spain.

While the company describes itself as the market leader (screenshot below), it has noteworthy competitors in the Spanish-speaking world, such as Spain’s Influencity and Y Combinator Colombian alum Themidgame (see our previous story).

fluvip

Expansions and product launches

Ridesharing company Blablacar officialized its expansion into Brazil, a move that had been expected at least since July of 2014. In a statement, the French firm referred to the move as “a first step into South America” (translation ours).

São Paulo will be home to its 13th global office, with a local team set to work on marketing and communication to grow its local user base. As you may remember, BlaBlaCar had previously launched into Mexico through the acquisition of Rides.

blablacar brazil

Uber launched into the Dominican Republic’s capital, Santo Domingo, raising criticism and complaints from local taxi cooperatives and federations. Back in Brazil, the company also rolled out its UberX service in the Southern city of Porto Alegre, Gizmodo reported.

Its line of business remains controversial in the country, where new taxi protests took place on November 11th in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia and Belo Horizonte.

More acceleration and competitions

500 Startups welcomed a new batch of companies into the 15th edition of its acceleration program. The list includes Brazilian edtech company QMágico, Argentine sports membership program Clicky, Chilean logistics optimization startup SimpliRoute and Argentina-born WoowUp, a SaaS platform that let Brazilian retailers create and manage customer loyalty programs.

The latest Demo Day of Start-Up Chile doubled as a competition, whose winner was Spoken, a US company that is developing a predictive speech app for aphasia and other communication disorders. The second and third places went to Chilean project Styrocycler and Korean-American startup Stratio.

start-up chile demo day

News from the funds

TOTVS Ventures invested an undisclosed amount of funding into a one-year-old fund called “Brasil Aceleradora de Start-Ups”. Since its creation last year, it has backed accelerator Aceleratech and created a network for post-acceleration seed investments, Acelera Partners. Totvs Ventures is the almost 3-year-old venture arm of Brazilian B2B software firm TOTVS.

Romero RodriguesBrazil-based fund Redpoint e.ventures added entrepreneur Romero Rodrigues as a full-time general partner, DealBook reported. Rodrigues had recently announced his decision to step down from his role of CEO at Buscapé, the company he had co-founded 16 years ago and helped grow into one of Brazil’s largest online firms.

Law and order

Spain and Cuba signed partnership agreements on trade relations and R&D+i investment, such as a commitment to provide financing for technologically innovative projects of common interest in several sectors, including Information and Communication Technologies. As Spanish newspaper El País noted, Spain is Cuba’s third largest commercial partner.

Telefónica’s Mexican subsidiary Pegaso PCS appealed the record fine of some $25 million USD it had been issued by the country’s telecommunications regulator for failing to comply with quality controls. Despite this issue, the Spanish telecommunications giant is reporting “a strong acceleration of the year-on-year growth of quarterly revenues in most countries in the [Hispano-American] region, especially in Mexico and Colombia.”

Meanwhile, its Open Future division is planning to open co-working spaces for Latin American startups in several countries, including Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica and Ecuador. Known as Crowd Working units, they would operate upstream of Telefónica’s accelerator, Wayra.

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Image credit: Tony Valdez/GCBA via Flickr

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