With Carnival now behind us, March was an eventful month for Latin America’s tech scene, which saw some long-expected deals fall into place. Here’s the news you don’t want to miss:
Google Play Movies is now available in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. Last December, Google had already rolled out the book section of its Google Play store in several Latin American countries.
Amazon announced a textbook distribution agreement with Brazil’s Ministry of Education which sees the US convert print textbooks into e-books and distribute them to teachers via government-owned tablets, Mediabistro reported.
However, specialized media outlet Publishing Perspectives points out that the deal may not be as big as it sounds: it is not exclusive and the figure of “40 million copies” reportedly distributed so far has been questioned in the publishing industry. “Making a long story short, Amazon scored a goal with the government, but it is far from winning the championship or even the match,”Publishing Perspectives concluded.
Spotify now has pretty much everything in place to launch in Brazil, according to Brazilian tech blog Ztop. As a matter of fact, users who already run the music streaming app have spotted a localized version of the interface, a pricing page and even local advertisers.
What’s missing for a full and official rollout? Talking to Ztop, a Spotify spokesperson explained that the company would soon start sending invites to Facebook fans and to its email waiting list. It seems to be waiting on music licensing deals to open the doors more widely (translation ours): “When Spotify launches in a specific country, especially one with a rich music heritage like Brazil, we want to ensure that the experience will answer local expectations, by incorporating an extensive selection of local music,” the company wrote.
Spanish cloud hosting company Gigas has raised a €2 million investment round (around $2.76 million USD)with participation from Caixa Capital Risc, Cabiedes and Bonsai Venture Capital, WebCapitalRiesgo reported. The company plans to use some of this funding to consolidate its internationalization strategy, with an eye on Latin America where it already has offices in Chile, Colombia and Peru.
Duolingo’s popular language learning platform now features new pairs, including Spanish for Portuguese speakers and Portuguese for Spanish speakers, which should help its footprint in Latin America. In an interview with TNW last year, CEO Luis von Ahn has mentioned that the company was particularly interested in the region.
Brazilian platform UOL and South Korea’s Gyeonggi province announced a memorandum of understanding agreement to promote each other’s online content, e-commerce, entertainment and games industries. This should make it easier for Brazilian games and other content to reach South Korea, and vice-versa.
…and new launches
Telefónica’s carrier Vivo has launched an online pharmacy service that lets users order drugs through its iOS app, which is connected to existing platform Netfarma, INFO reported. Farmácia Vivo boasts free delivery across Brazil within certain weight limits, plus express delivery under 4 hours in the Great São Paulo.
Argentina has been in the spotlight this March with the launch of Popcorn Time, a movie platform that combined a Netflix-like streaming interface with P2P torrents, controversially giving users all around the world an easy access to a vast selection of illegally uploaded films and TV shows. While the app has been shut down by its founders due to legal concerns, its open source code has already given birth to new versions, including one named Storm, by fellow Argentine platform Cuevana (see our previous article on Cuevana).
Some got acquired…
Miami- and Bogota-based tech company .CO Internet is set to be acquired for $109 million by publicly traded company Neustar, CEO Juan Diego Calle announced in a blog post. As you may remember, .CO had been in charge of administering the top-level domain for Colombia, .co, which it managed to turn into a desirable extension in the startup world.
As the Miami Herald points out, “the acquisition of .CO Internet expands Neustar’s registry services, which maintains the .biz and .us domains and has been selected to provide services for up to 350 new domain extensions as a result of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ (ICANN) ongoing global domain name expansion.”
Fantasy soccer league TheFanLeague has been acquired by BeGood SA, a provider of corporate and mobile entertainment solutions in Latin America ahead of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, PulsoSocial reported. This makes it the fifth exit of Argentina-based NXTP Labs, which invested in the company last year as part of its acceleration program (disclosure: NXTP Labs is an investor in my startup, MonoLibre).
US digital signature heavyweight DocuSign has acquired its Brazilian counterpart Comprova for an undisclosed amount, Startupi reported. In a press release, the companies noted that the deal would “[provide] a foundation for delivering digital signatures and transactions on DocuSign Inc.’s Global Trust Network in Latin America.” A few weeks ago, we learned that DocuSign had raised an $85 million round, its largest to date.
…and some got funded
Brazil’s Hotel Urbano picked up a $50 million investment from the powerhouse investment firm Tiger Global Management and previous backer Insight Venture Partners, TechCrunch reported. It plans to use this capital to accelerate its negotiations with Brazilian hotels, while boosting its sales and marketing efforts towards foreign clients.
Argentine entrepreneur Wences Casares, who sold his Lemon digital wallet platform to LifeLock for $43 million a few months ago, has raised $20 million in funding for a new bitcoin-related venture named Xapo. According to its website, Xapo “combines the convenience of an everyday Wallet with the security of a cold-storage Vault.” The round was led by Benchmark, with Fortress Investment Group and Ribbit Capital also partipating.
Bebê Store has raised a new financing round of $12.3 million led by Atomico with participation from W7 Brazil Capital. According to DealBook, “two-thirds of that amount is venture capital and one-third is a bridge loan.” Both firms are previous backers of the online baby and maternal goods retailer, which has raised $30.5 million to date and hopes to break even this year.
Cloud-based HR platform GoIntegro raised a $5 million from Riverwood Capital, Kaszek Ventures and Endeavor, as part of a new financing round to continue is expansion plan across Latin America, with primary focus on Brazil and Mexico. GoIntegro serves more than 300 corporate customers, including names such as Coca-Cola, Citibank, Santander Bank and Kimberly-Clark.
Online luxury fashion retailer OQVestir has raised a new round of funding, reportedly worth approximately R$30 million ($13.2 million USD). Backers include TMG Capital and Kaszek Ventures, which had previously invested in the startup alongside Tiger Global.
High-end travel website Vontrip has raised $500k from Mexican fund (and Clickonero Viajes owner) Variv Capital, PulsoSocial reported. The company already operates in Argentina and Mexico, with plans to expand into Uruguay, Colombia, Peru and Chile. It had previously received seed funding from NXTP Labs and 500 Startups.
Brazilian management service for recurring payments Vindi has received R$1 million ($440k USD) from an unnamed investor, Startupi reported. According to its CEO Rodrigo Dantas, Vindi is less than one year old and currently has around 50 corporate clients such as SaaS platforms and online subscription services.
Grupo Neuquén‘s subsidiary LemonHead has taken a 20% stake in mobile plan comparison platform LookUp at a $1 million valuation, the Chilean startup announced last month (see our previous article about LookUp).
More acceleration and incubation
Minas Gerais’ public funded incubation program SEED has unveiled the list of foreign and Brazilian startups that will form its next batch, which is set to start in Belo Horizonte next May. The 40 projects have been shortlisted by from a list of more than 1,400 applications, as part of a selection process handled by partner Startup Farm.
The program also took the opportunity to disclose some numbers about its first batch (see our previous article). Out of 37 startups, 20 already increased their staff, 15 pivoted, 15 had sales and 10 closed strategic partnerships. While it is too early to get investment data, it will be interesting to see how many exits they will generate in the next few years.
Flybridge Capital Partners has raised a new $125 million fund, Fortune reported. However, this won’t result in new deals in Brazil: according to Dan Primark, “the firm has scaled back its investment focus, by no longer participating in healthcare or Latin American deals.”
Flybridge may be leaving, but funding isn’t necessarily drying out for Brazilian startups: in the same month, Bozano Investimentos launched a new venture capital fund called BR Education Ventures. As its name suggests, it targets Brazilian education startups. It will have Bertelsmann as its main investor, with a total fund size goal of R$100 million ($44 million USD). While the fund is newly announced, its portfolio already includes two companies: corporate TV platform Evolve and online learning platform QMágico.
NXTP Labs is set to open offices in Silicon Valley next May to help Latin American startups move there, Caracol reported. The program, known as NXTP Gateway, will include $100k in additional seed funding for invited teams, which will also receive further assistance from NXTP’s local network.
Awards & events
Invite-only group Brazil Founders held its first Awards Gala in São Paulo last month to highlight and reward outstanding contributions to Brazil’s tech ecosystem. Nominations and votes were only open to the group’s 455 select members, who picked the following winners:
Best Investor: Kaszek Ventures; most innovative company or product: Ingresse.com; best B2B company: Printi; best B2C company: iFood; best International company: Zendesk; best accelerator: Aceleratech; company making the biggest impact on Brazil: Buscapé; entrepreneur of the year: VivaReal’s founder Brian Requarth.
Brazilian payments management startup Pagar.me won the ‘Best in Show’ award at specialized conference Pymnts Innovators Expo, which took place at Harvard last month. As a result, its team is set to receive a $25k cash prize, which it plans to use to boost the growth of its Stripe-like SaaS solution in the Brazilian market.
StartupBus México completed its third annual trip/hackathon to SXSW. Two Mexican teams make it to the pitching stage – offline communications app Bridgefy and privacy-focused Chrome extension Trustmail – but none of them won the competition, whose main award went to New York project SmartHost.
In the eye of the law
Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies has approved a landmark bill project known as the Marco Civil, which had been under negotiation for more than four years and covers principles such as net neutrality, freedom of expression and right to privacy. Despite intensive lobbying from telcos, the approved version still shares a lot with the original project Internet activists have been pushing for, and doesn’t include controversial measures such as mandatory local data storage. However, it will still have to be approved in the Brazilian Senate before it can be signed into law.
Also on TNW:
- No longer just a clone factory, Rocket Internet has huge plans for global e-commerce
- You can now make a book out of all your Facebook messages with Memeoirs
Good reads from across the Web:
- At a Glimpse: Brazil’s Payment Market in 2014 [PulsoSocial]
- Homem de 70 anos vence o Startup Weekend – Rio Favela [Startupi, in Portuguese]
- Honduras: Algo está pasando [UpGlobal, in Spanish]
- Innovación, inspiración y copycats en LatAm [Latam.VC, in Spanish]
- Me-Too Startups [Sergio Romo, in Spanish]
- Nextel faces challenges in Brazil [ZDNet]
- Perdida la guerra de los clones, por qué tenemos que apostar a la innovación real [Geek, in Spanish]
- Qué proyectan los cinco emprendedores web más destacados de la Argentina [Apertura, in Spanish]
- SP pagará hackers para melhorar trânsito; salário é de até R$ 5,9 mil [G1, in Portuguese]
- Survey – Startup business accelerator in Brazil [Baptista Luz Advogados]
Image credit: Shutterstock
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.
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