March was a fairly eventful month for Latin America’s tech scene, with several noteworthy launches and announcements. Here’s the news you don’t want to miss:
Facebook announced that marketers would now be able to use its ads to target expats from and within a few countries, including Brazil. On a different note, the company saw the departure of its main executive in Brazil, Alexandre Hohagen, who stepped down after four years. “I loved building Facebook’s in Latin America, however, now its time to pursue other dreams. I want to dedicate more time to my family and also use my experience and knowledge to help young Latin American entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations in the region,” he wrote on Facebook.
As for Google, it made several announcements related to Latin America. The main one is that Google.org will dedicate $1 million to tech education across the region. To do so, it will partner with associations in Argentina, Colombia and Mexico, with a focus on women and youngsters.
In addition, Google Street View now features beautiful images from Brazil’s Fernando de Noronha and Atol das Rocas islands, as well as zip line views of the Amazon:
Mexican startup Sidengo was acquired by US local ad agency OwnLocal,VentureBeat reported. Sidengo was best known for its site building tools for SMBs. It had moved from Monterrey, Mexico to Austin, Texas, where OwnLocal is also based. In a blog post, co-founders Gabriel Garza and Jorge González said they were “overjoyed that Sidengo will continue to grow into something larger than we are capable of doing by ourselves.”
Accenture acquired Brazilian data analytics provider Gapso, which will join its Accenture Analytics division, Nearshore Americas reported. Gapso was based in Rio de Janeiro and focused on providing data analytics services for supply chain and logistics applications.
Veteran Brazilian tech blog Startupi announced its own acquisition by event organizer Beats Brasil, responsible among others for the DEMO Brasil conference. Co-founder and former editor Diego Remus will continue contributing to the blog, whose new owners promise will keep on being “independent and impartial.”
Brazil’s antitrust body CADE gave Telefónica the green light to acquire broadband provider GVT from its previous owner Vivendi, Bloomberg reported. The approval came with one noteworthy restriction: “that Telefónica unwind any stake in Milan-based Telecom Italia SpA,” Bloomberg noted.
PE fund Riverwood bought Naspers’ 27.7% stake in Brazilian e-commerce platform provider VTEX for an undisclosed amount, Época Negócios reported. VTEX operates across Latin America, and counted the South African group as a shareholder since April 2012.
Rocket Internet’s global food delivery company Foodpanda raised a €104 million round (around $110 million USD) from new and existing investors, TechCrunch reported. Foodpanda is better known in Latin America under its “Hellofood” brand. Meanwhile, fellow Rocket startup Helpling secured €43 million ($47 million USD) to further grow its home cleaning marketplace, which landed in Brazil last October.
Brazilian online retailer Netshoes raised $45 million in equity investment from Riverwood Capital and IFC, a member of the World Bank Group. Netshoes specializes in sports apparel, and previously raised a whopping $170 million funding round led by Singapore’s sovereign fund GIC. This new capital injection is expected “to support and help accelerate Netshoes’ expansion in Latin America, with growing operations in Argentina and Mexico in addition to Brazil, as well as in developing new business verticals, including the recent launch of Zattini, an e-commerce retailer specialized in the fashion segment.”
Argentine startup Satellogic raised a round of funding led by São Paulo-based Pitanga Fund. While its amount wasn’t made public, Pitanga had previously disclosed that its average ticket would be R$15 million (around $4.7 million USD). As you may remember, Satellogic’s goal is to launch nanosatellites to allow customers to get “an image of any place on Earth in high-resolution and in real-time” for multiple purposes.
Brazilian content marketing startup Rock Content received a R$6 million investment (around $1.85 million USD) from Digital News Ventures and e.Bricks Digital, Exame reported. As we reported in 2013, Rock Content was already backed by the latter, which belongs to Southern media group Grupo RBS. Rock Content is based in Belo Horizonte and was born from the merger of Everwrite and Textcorner. It has 65 employees and plans to expand to other Latin American countries by next year.
Latin American startup and Alchemist Accelerator alum Playvox raised $1.5 million from FCP Innovación, a corporate venture investor in Colombia, the WSJ reported. Playvox’s goal is to gamify call centers to improve staff’s satisfaction and reduce turnover (see our previous story).
Spanish natural language processing (NLP) company Sentisis raised a $1.3 million Series A round led by Axon Partners and the Entrecanales Foundation (FJME), with participation from Starcaps Ventures and 500 Startups, Novobrief reported. Sentisis’ social media monitoring system focuses on conversations taking place in Spanish, and the company already has an office in Mexico, where it participated in 500 Mexico’s acceleration program. It now plans to further expand into the US and Colombia.
Despite a failed Kickstarter campaign, Argentine smart bicycle GI Bike is still on track to become a reality, thanks to a $1 million investment it secured through Argentine company builder Incutex. According to Pulso Social, its key features include smartphone integration and an anti-theft remote locking system.
Discount club for foodies ChefsClub received a R$3 million investment (around $925k USD) from Brazilian fund Confrapar, Exame reported. ChefsClub boasts access to 1,200 restaurants across Brazil, and is also backed by angel fund Altivia Ventures.
Twitter bio monitoring service BioIsChanged cancelled its decision to shut down after finding a sponsor. Argentine benefactor Ariel Meilich plans to use the app’s data to study the behavior of Twitter users.
Acceleration and competitions
Government program Start-Up Brasil refreshed its list of partner accelerators to incorporate São Paulo-based Gema Ventures and Jump Brasil from Recife’s Porto Digital. The initiative also has a new manager, Vitor Andrade, replacing Felipe Matos who had been leading the program since its inception.
While the transition at Start-Up Brasil has been smooth, the same can’t be said of regional startup fostering program SEED-MG, promoted by the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais (see our previous story). Several signs seem to indicate that the initiative is under threat following a change of government.
SEED-MG was inspired by Start-Up Chile, which did survive its home country’s change of government, and recently showcased the best startups from its 11th generation. The Demo Day doubled as a competition, won by IoT platform Fracttal.
In addition, industry network Latam Founders held the second edition of its annual awards gala. The winners were the following:
- Best Investor: Kaszek Ventures
- Best B2C: Guia Bolso
- Best B2B: Printi
- Best International Company: Airbnb
- Most Innovative Companies: Nubank; Intelipost (People’s Choice)
- Most Impactful Company: Endeavor
- Best Accelerator: Aceleratech
- Entrepreneur of the Year: Printi’s co-founder Florian Hagenbuch
Tokyo-based video messaging app VideoSelfie released an Android app, TechInAsia reported. Its iOS app also received an update to incorporate new social features. VideoSelfie was previously known as Unda, and its CEO is Mexican entrepreneur Oscar ‘Akira’ Yasser.
Algorithmia‘s marketplace for algorithms went out of private beta, TechCrunch informed. As we previously reported, the startup raised a $2.4 million investment round led by Madrona Venture Group, with participation from Deep Fork Capital, Rakuten Ventures and angel investors Oren Etzioni and Charles Fitzgerald. Its CEO is Uruguayan entrepreneur Diego Oppenheimer.
… and expansions
Chinese manufacturer Huawei is opening a research and teaching lab in Campina Grande, Brazil, Nearshore Americas reported. It will train students in cloud computing and app development, in partnership with the local federal university.
Canadian social media management company Hootsuite opened offices in Brazil and is planning to do the same in Mexico, ZDNet reported. In the meantime, a team of 25 staffers in São Paulo will be in charge of running its operations across Latin America.
South Korean Internet company Naver started operating in Brazil, ZDNet also informed. It also launched its caller ID app Whoscall in the country, where operations are led by former Movile project manager Marcos Gomes.
Second-hand marketplace Gone now operates across the US thanks to a partnership with UPS, TechCrunch reported. Gone is based in San Francisco and led by Argentine entrepreneurs. It first made its iOS app available last year to users in SF and Austin.
Also on TNW:
- Dropbox partners with Adyen to accept Direct Debit payments in Europe
- Facebook and Internet.org are building drones to bring the Web to remote places
- How Platzi bootstrapped its way into Y Combinator to build the future of education
- The complete guide to making your product international
- TNW Startup Competition winner Jampp secures $7 million in Series A funding
- Uber will help you get your lost Bluesmart ‘smart suitcase’ back
- Would you watch ads in exchange for extra data? Telefonica hopes you might
Good reads from across the Web:
- An Object Of Desire: Hope And Yearning For The Internet In Cuba
- Beyond The Maquiladora: A Look At Mexico’s Startup Scene [TechCrunch]
- “El bitcoin es la moneda de la Red” [El Pais – in Spanish]
- Facebook Taps Entrepreneurs in Brazil’s Favelas [WSJ]
- How This Young, Female and Latina Investor Broke Into a Middle-Aged, Male and White Industry [Hunter Walk]
- La falta de dólares retrasa el 4G y el ingreso de los nuevos móviles [La Nación – in Spanish]
- Latam Accelerator Report 2014 [Fundacity]
- This Wearable Game For Visually Impaired Kids Aims To Help Cognitive Development [TechCrunch]
- Why Y Combinator funded a radical political party in Argentina [FastCompany]
Image credit: Start-Up Chile