Brazilian fintech Cora raises $116M Series B as Tiger Global, Tencent sign on as investors alongside Greenoaks

Cora, a Brazilian digital lender to small-and-medium-sized businesses, has raised $116 million in a Series B round led by Greenoaks Capital.

This is a large Series B by any standards, but particularly so for a Latin American startup. It’s also notable that São Paulo-based Cora only raised its $26.7 million Series A round — led by Silicon Valley VC firm Ribbit Capital — in early April. The startup has now raised a total of $152.7 million since its 2019 inception.

The company wasn’t actively in the market, according to CEO and co-founder Igor Senra, but was approached by existing backer Greenoaks and other investors.

In fact, Tiger Global and Tencent are first-time backers in Cora with this latest round, joining existing investors Greenoaks, Kaszek, QED and Ribbit Capital.

“Greenoaks came to us and said they were very impressed, and ready to lead our Series B,” Senra said. “Their main goal was they didn’t want us to spend time on fundraising, but instead stay focused on building the company.”

The pattern is similar to previous ones for Cora, which saw existing backers lead its previous rounds as well, which the company sees as a “strong signal that everything is going in the right direction.” The company declined to comment on valuation.

Last year, Cora got its license approved from the Central Bank of Brazil, making it a 403 bank. The fintech then launched its product in October 2020 and today offers a checking account combined with a software layer that aims to help SMBs manage their financials. It is currently in beta with a limited group of users for a corporate credit card. 

Image Credits: Cora

“Credit limits in general increase as customers use their accounts to receive money and pay their expenses,” he said. “We see this product evolving over time to solve all the financial needs that a small business owner could have.”

Since its launch last October, Cora has been growing its customers 40% per month, according to Senra. During that same period, the company has seen its transaction value/revenue grow by nearly 60% monthly. Today, the startup has more than 120,000 customers.

“It’s nice to see that volume is growing even higher than our customer base,” Senra told TechCrunch. “Our business must gain trust in order to gain volume. Once our customer base believes we are doing a good job serving them, the way to demonstrate that is to give us more volume.”

The company says it is not yet profitable because it’s focused on growth.

“But we already have a positive unit economics per customer,” Senra added.

Like a number of other fintechs, Cora’s model is that most of its offerings are free for its customers but it mostly makes money off of interchange fees.

For now, the company is focused on growing in Brazil, which is large and complex enough, Senra noted. It may consider going abroad in three to four years, he said.

Currently, Cora has 150 employees, up from 68 at the end of last year and 40 a year ago. About 130 of its employees are “partners” in the company, Senra said.

Looking ahead, the startup plans to use its new capital toward product development, growth, operations and building out a credit offering. It is using the data it is generating “to provide way better credit” for its customers, Senra said, starting with credit cards, then receivables and other kinds of credit such as emergency credit or credit for investments.

 “We’re trying to deeply understand our customers’ needs and trying to create products they love,” Senra told TechCrunch. “We consider ourselves the opposite of traditional banks, which are usually not good at taking care of their customers.”

For now, Cora is focused on the B2B service providers, but Senra expects that by the beginning of next year, it can start exploring “other segments” such as other kinds of SMBs.

“There is a total addressable market of 5 million companies, so there is a lot of room to grow,” he added. “But we are pushing ourselves to expand other verticals.”

For its part, Patrick Backhouse of Greenoaks Capital believes that Brazil has an “enormous” SME economy that has historically been “underserved by incumbent banks.”

“Existing services are expensive and inefficient, creating opportunities for technology enabled service providers to offer better and cheaper services,” he said. “We believe Cora is a once in a generation company building efficient digital finance tools for small businesses. Since investing in the company’s Series A, we’ve seen accelerated momentum and proof that this is an enormous addressable market.”

Ribbit Capital leads $26.7M round for Brazilian fintech Cora

Cora, a São Paulo-based technology-enabled lender to small-and-medium-sized businesses, has raised $26.7 million in a Series A round led by Silicon Valley VC firm Ribbit Capital.

Kaszek Ventures, QED Investors and Greenoaks Capital also participated in the financing, which brings the startup’s total raised to $36.7 million since its 2019 inception. Kaszek led Cora’s $10 million seed round (believed at that time to be one of the largest seed investments in LatAm) in December 2019 with Ribbit then following.

Last year, Cora got its license approved from the Central Bank of Brazil, making it a 403 bank. The fintech then launched its product in October 2020 and has since grown to have about 60,000 customers and 110 employees.

Cora offers a variety of solutions, ranging from a digital checking account, Visa debit card and management tools such as an invoice manager and cashflow dashboard. With the checking account, customers have the ability to sending and receive money as well as pay bills digitally.

This isn’t the first venture for Cora co-founders Igor Senra and Leo Mendes. The paid had worked together before — founding their first online payments company, MOIP, in 2005. That company sold to Germany’s WireCard in 2016 (with a 3 million customer base) and after three years the founders were able to strike out again.

Cora co-founders Léo Mendes and Igor Senra; Image courtesy of Cora

With Cora, the pair’s long-term goals is to “provide everything that a SMB will need in a bank.”

Looking ahead, the pair has the ambitious goal of being “the fastest growing neobank focused on SMBs in the world.” It plans to use the new capital to add new features and improve existing ones; on operations and launching a portfolio of credit products.

In particular, Cora wants to go even deeper in certain segments such as B2B professional services such as law and accounting firms; real estate brokerage and education.

Ribbit Capital Partner Nikolay Kostov believes that Cora has embarked on “an ambitious mission” to change how small businesses in Brazil are able to access and experience banking.

“While the consumer banking experience has undergone a massive transformation thanks to new digital experiences over the last decade, this is, sadly, still not the case on the small business side,” he said.

For example, Kostov points out, opening a traditional small business bank account in Brazil takes weeks, “reels of paper, and often comes with low limits, poor service, and antiquated digital interfaces.”

Meanwhile, the number of new small businesses in the country continues to grow.

“The combination of these factors makes Brazil an especially attractive market for Cora to launch in and disrupt,” Kostov told TechCrunch. “The Cora founding team is uniquely qualified and deeply attuned to the challenges of small businesses in the country, having spent their entire careers building digital products to serve their needs.”

Since Ribbit’s start in 2012, he added, LatAm has been a core focus geography for the firm “given the magnitude of challenges, and opportunities, in the region to reinvent financial services and serve customers better.”

Ribbit has invested in 15 companies in the region and continues to look for more to back.

“We fully expect that several fintech companies born in the region will become global champions that serve to inspire other entrepreneurs across the globe,” Kostov said.

Five CEOs on their evolution in the femtech space

With women-specific health needs long ignored by tech giants, FLEX, the tampon replacement, raised $4 million and Nurx, the birth control delivery web platform, raised $5.3 million in 2016 (and went on to raise $93.4 million). Both companies became one of the top 10 companies out of more than 100 to raise the most money during their Demo Days at Y Combinator that year. By March 2017, it was reported that femtech companies had raised $1.1 billion since 2014, and the growth has only continued.

We spoke to CEOs and founders Gina Bartasi of Kindbody, Jill Angelo of Gennev, Kate Torgersen of Milk Stork, Molly Hayward of Cora and Liz Klinger of Lioness about how their companies have evolved from first entering the space and feeling like an island to now — a community of women changing the world for women.

“Investors would say, ‘Well, what lets the air out of the balloon? What can derail the business?,'” CEO and founder of the New York-based tech-enabled fertility company Kindbody, Gina Bartasi said. “And I would say, ‘Well, I guess if women went back to the old way of having children and they didn’t go to graduate school and they didn’t go to med school or business school and they started having babies again in their early 20s — then, that’s what would cause the fertility world to come crashing into the ground.’”

She flatly says that’s highly unlikely. Kindbody is Bartasi’s third fertility startup. She launched them all after going through her own fertility journey.

Torgersen started her first-of-its-kind breast milk shipping service after a four-day work trip during which she had to pump and fly home in her carry-on bag two gallons of breast milk for her eight-month-old fraternal twins.

These options didn’t exist before, and even where there was demand, it wasn’t recognized enough.

“It’s been really amazing over the last four or five years that we’ve been around to see the different areas of women’s lives sort of being addressed through commerce, through business, through business solutions — everything from fertility to breastfeeding and sexual wellness, pleasure, all of these things,” Hayward, who founded Cora, the period and bladder care brand, said.

Femtech isn’t just for women

There is, however, some gray area in femtech. Fertility, for example, has always been a mainstay in the space. Kindbody is actually Bartasi’s third fertility startup, but she notes fertility is not solely a women’s health concern.

“Remember that 50% of all fertility issues are male-related,” she says. “It does directly affect them and they don’t talk about it. Women do. She adds that they’re seeing a rise in same-sex couples leveraging Kindbody rather than adopting.

Women’s sexual health and wellness brands sometimes are excluded (primarily from those outside of it) or are criticized for being included. For example, CB Insights, the market intelligence company used by many investors, routinely shares data on its own idea of femtech.

“For the most part, Lioness and pretty much anything sexual-pleasure-related is not on those maps,” Liz Klinger, the CEO and co-founder of Lioness, the world’s first smart vibrator brand, shared with TechCrunch.

We reached out to the insights company for an updated femtech map. There isn’t one pleasure-centered (or even pleasure-adjacent) women’s health startup on the most up to date map for women’s health startups. For a site that touts itself as “loved by the smartest companies” for sharing “insights on probability, not punditry,” it is interesting that the $30 billion sex tech industry didn’t make it on this map. The only place we did find women’s pleasure brands was on a market map for “Valentine’s Day” tech in 2020.

Source: CB Insights

In talking to some former and current employees, Klinger discovered rumors about potential reasons for the exclusion.

“I heard that there is a bit of pushback, both a combination of personal and also that some of their larger clients are Fortune 500.” They don’t think it’s relevant to those clients.

As these challenges are seemingly par for the course for companies focused on women’s sexual pleasure, Klinger noted the most pleasant surprise in fundraising was how black and white it was when it came to who was going to invest and who wasn’t.

Bartasi pointed to undeniable macroeconomic trends that have emerged since she entered the space in 2008 with her first company Fertility Authority, making fundraising easier now than in the past (in addition to her second company, Progyny, being valued at nearly $2 billion before coronavirus).

“Heterosexual couples are waiting to have children and waiting to get married, and more and more same-sex couples are having children, which is relatively new,” says Bartasi. “Same-sex couples five and 10 years ago potentially adopted, but today they’re going through fertility at a rapid clip.”

She also notes the number of single women who are making the decision to freeze their eggs, opting against the traditional marriage-then-baby route.

Jill Angelo, CEO and founder of Gennev, the first-ever online clinic for women in menopause, also highlights mainstream media and the conversation around women shifting in general.

“You’ve got J. Lo doing the Super Bowl Halftime Show at 50-plus. You’ve got Laura Dern and Renée Zellweger, 50-plus, winning Oscars at the top of their game in their careers. You’ve got Gwyneth Paltrow talking about menopause on Goop.”

Education is instrumental to femtech’s growth

While companies in the space point to a diverse set of challenges with fundraising, each CEO discussed how essential it is to educate investors around women’s healthcare.

“It felt like — in my pitches — I was educating more than pitching, because it was a space people just didn’t know about,” Angelo recalls about when she first started raising money for Gennev in 2015.

This highlights the glaring gap in our education system in reference to health and sexual reproduction.

“What you’re trained on is how not to get pregnant, not how to get pregnant,” Bartasi pointed out. “And really, what nobody knows, even with the most fertile woman and fertile man having sex when she’s ovulating and when they’re supposed to, the chances of natural conception every month are only 20%. It’s not 50% or 60%.”

Molly Hayward’s Cora was launched as a social impact initiative to provide organic feminine products to women and girls who did not have access to them. Their inability to obtain the products caused them to miss school, the result being they would fall behind the boys.

“You have to do a lot more work as an entrepreneur to explain the experience, how broken it is and why there’s an opportunity to change that,” Hayward says.

Similarly, Klinger found that those who presumably were the least aware of pleasure were the most interested.

“Our investors are from traditionally conservative places like Thailand — where sex toys are illegal — and Texas. Once I figured out people were looking for pleasure and education, it was a lot easier to figure out who to talk to.”

As education is at the core of activism, the extra legwork doesn’t come without at least some sense of reward.

“When I am explaining this and people are actually listening and paying attention — regardless of whether they’re going to make an investment or not — the fact that I’ve had this conversation with them, I do walk away feeling we’re raising awareness and normalizing breastfeeding,” Torgersen shared.

The mother of three hopes that as more people become educated on breastfeeding, it will make other mothers’ lives easier.

In 2020, women are the majority of the U.S. workforce

As nearly half the labor force is women and more than half of all management positions are women, companies looking to retain employees have to accommodate women’s health needs in ways they haven’t in the past. Femtech is on the front lines of providing not only solutions but data and information that hasn’t been available (or even established) elsewhere.

This is how Milk Stork had its big break quickly after launch. “Our first press release actually hit with Fortune and within 10 days we were contacted by one of the largest consulting firms in the world wanting to bring us in as a benefit for their North American employees,” Torgersen said.

She credits moms and predominantly female-staffed human resources departments. “What I think is truly amazing is that it was moms who are raising awareness. They were using Milk Stork on the retail side and then asking their employers to reimburse them for it or to provide it as a benefit for the other women at their company.”

Within a month, Torgersen’s team put together an enterprise solution to offer Milk Stork as a benefit, something that wasn’t fully established at their launch. “The experiences women in femtech are solving have been invisible for so long.”

Bartasi discussed how doctors will share learnings within a practice about their patients to better understand trends in terms of medication, prescriptions and outcome. Kindbody is making these learnings more available to patients than ever before.

“We actually have predictive algorithms that the patient sees. It’s completely transparent. You enter your age, your pregnancy history, what your ovarian reserve is — which is tested through our blood work — and it’s going to generate your chances of success. How many eggs you’re predicted to get. There’s data that allows for total transparency, which increases the confidence and the trust between patient and the doctor.”

Klinger’s Lioness is centered on never-before-seen data tracking orgasms, and for those who don’t see the value in simply learning more about pleasure, she pointed out medical uses for the information available using the vibrator.

“For some people, it’s also tracking how certain medications or certain conditions might be affecting their pleasure and vice versa.” This can be extremely helpful as women’s sexual performance anxiety goes largely undiscussed.

Gennev, on the other hand, released the first-ever menopausal assessment, and it’s available for everyone. “There’s no ‘what to expect when you’re expecting’ for menopause,” Angelo says.

Using the data from the questionnaire, they’re providing that. “We’re creating that roadmap and using technology to predict and help them see where they’re headed in the journey and where they’re at right now.”

Gennev has also already begun working on solutions for our new normal of sheltering in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this month, the company launched HealthFix, an initiative to provide remote access to doctors, in addition to what their telemedicine membership already offered.

“We’re expanding our HealthFix membership to go beyond just working with health coaches and behavioral changes in life to manage menopause to also include the doctors, our OB-GYN,” Angelo says.

“We have a team of 25 of them, and so that means you’ll have your medical team, your coach and your doctor all in one via a regular membership that’s affordable, so that we’re not just for the top 1% of the 1%, but for every woman.”

Right now, it feels like the future of a lot of things has been paused, but even with discussions on the new normal beginning to start, rest assured the consistent growth in femtech will only continue following years of neglect.

“Competition is good when you’re in a space that people know nothing about because it raises the profile for everybody,” Angelo shared, a sentiment echoed by each CEO we spoke to.

And of the competition, Bartasi said, “The camaraderie and the lifting off of each other is remarkable and a testament to this group of women where we all do really share in opportunity and in helping each other.”

The proof is in the numbers. Femtech raised nearly $750 million in 2019, and it’s founded by women who want healthcare experiences they desire but didn’t find. And, because womanhood isn’t an insular experience, there is room and demand for a diverse set of solutions, as women continue to take up more spaces in which they’ve historically only been a minority.

Wisk signs deal to deploy an air taxi trial in New Zealand

Air mobility company Wisk has singed an agreement with the New Zealand government to set up and run an air taxi trial in the region of Canterbury, with the goal of flying passengers once its Cora aircraft is certified to do so by the country’s aviation authority. Cora is an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft with space for two passengers that works primarily autonomously, with a remote pilot as backup.

Cora was originally a project developed by Sebastian Thrun’s Kitty Hawk, which it revealed in 2018, and actually began testing quietly in New Zealand in 2017 with an eye towards eventual certification. Kitty Hawk partnered with Boeing on the project, and ultimately the two formed a more formal joint venture that became Wisk, while Kitty Hawk shifted focus to its Heaviside land-anywhere electric vehicle.

The aircraft features a 12-rotor flight system, which provides redundancy and vertical lifts, with one large fixed prop that kicks in post-take off to propel it around 100 miles per hour through the air. It’s definitely designed for short hops, with a range for around 25 miles initially, but the point is that it’s for getting around more flexibly in urban and more densely developed areas, replacing cars and other forms of ground transportation.

If this trial gets underway relatively quickly, it’ll be the first major initiative of its kind active in the world, which would be a significant step towards commercial short-hop air taxi service and definitely something closely watched by the rest of the aviation and mobility industry.

Brazil’s new fintech startup Cora raised $10 million on the strength of its founding team

It didn’t take much for the founders of Cora, Brazil’s newest startup to tackle some aspect of the broken financial services industry in the country, to raise their first $10 million.

Igor Senra and Leo Mendes had worked together before — founding their first online payments company, MOIP, in 2005. That company sold to WireCard in 2016 and after three years the founders were able to strike out again.

They built their initial business servicing the small and medium sized businesses that make up roughly two-thirds of the Brazilian economy and represent some trillion dollars worth of transactions. But at WireCard, they increasingly were told to approach larger customers that didn’t have the same kind of demand for their services, according to Mendes.

So they built Cora — a technology enabled lender to the small and medium-sized businesses that they knew sowell.

The round was led by Kaszek Ventures, one of Latin America’s largest and most successful investment funds, with participation from Ribbit Capital — one of the most influential early-stage fintech investment firms globally.

“We created Cora to pursue our life purpose, which is to solve the financial problems faced by small and medium businesses. These businesses produce 67% of the Brazilian GDP but are totally underserved by the traditional banks”, said Senra, the company’s chief executive, in a statement.

The company is currently operating in closed beta and plans to launch its first product, a free SME-only mobile account in the first half of 2020, according to the statement. Cora will later release a portfolio of payments, credit related products, and financial management tools that are currently being developed.

“So far, large financial institutions have mainly built products that focus either on individuals or on large corporate clients and have totally ignored small and medium sized enterprises, who are the most relevant creators of value in our economies,” said Mendes in a statement. “We want to offer a high-quality, customer-centric suite of financial products that address the specific underserved needs of our clients’ businesses.”