Fox-owned Tubi expands its free streaming service to five Latin American countries

Tubi, the free ad-supported streaming service owned by Fox, is now available in Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama — an expansion that has doubled its global footprint and signals the company’s interest in capturing more Latin American viewers.

Consumers in these five Latin American countries now have access to Tubi’s library and will be able to watch titles — with either subtitles or dubbed in Spanish — on a variety of devices such as desktops, iPhones, iPads, Apple TVs, LG TVs, Samsung TVs, Roku TVs, Amazon Fire TV Stick devices, VIDAA Smart OS on Hisense TVs, Google TVs and other Android TV OS devices, plus Microsoft Store on Windows. Ecuador is the only country where Roku is not supported.

In addition to free movies like “The Green Hornet,” “Hellboy,” “American Psycho” and others — viewers in the five countries can also stream regionally produced TV series such as “Bienvenida Realidad,” “Atrapada” and “El Sexo Debil,” plus local versions of “The Nanny,” “Bewitched” and “Married with Children.” Tubi will also offer TV series “L.A.’s Finest” and “Masters of Sex.”

Tubi has been slower to expand to other countries than its competitors. Disney+ has launched in more than 80 countries and is aiming for a total of 160 countries by 2023. Netflix is streaming in 190 countries. Tubi is available in the United States, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and Australia, as well as the aforementioned additional five Latin American countries.

Tubi’s expansion in Latin America puts it in a better position in the race for world expansion as Latin America is a growing market and a big focus for streaming services. LABS (Latin America Business Stories) predicted that Latin America’s streaming subscriptions will more than double in the next three years, reaching 110 million viewers in 2025. The company told TechCrunch that further expansion in Latin America is not yet determined.

“We’re delighted to launch our platform in these five Latin American countries, bringing viewers a mix of locally-produced content, Spanish-language favorites, and Hollywood titles,” Adam Lewinson, Tubi’s chief content officer, said in a statement. “We’re eager to expand deeper into Latin America after the stellar success of Tubi in Mexico, which has seen tremendous growth in such a short amount of time.”

Tubi launched in Mexico in 2021, bringing viewers a localized Spanish-language app in partnership with TV Azteca, a media company in Mexico with four television networks. Tubi boasted in Thursday’s announcement that the streaming service saw total viewing time in Mexico rise 60% year-over-year and total viewers increase 40% year-over-year.

Fox reported in its fourth-quarter earnings yesterday that Tubi saw an increase in monthly active users (MAUs) of nearly 40%. In the quarter prior, the streamer announced a total of 51 million active users. Last year, Tubi had 33 million.

CEO Lachlan Murdoch remarked in Wednesday’s earnings call, “We will continue to invest judiciously in Tubi with our sights set on achieving $1 billion in revenue run rate in the next couple of years.”

Fox acquired Tubi in 2020 for $440 million and will continue to invest in the platform. In the past year, the service saw a 45% growth in revenue.

DEUNA enters Latin America’s crowded one-click checkout sector flush with $37M

DEUNA, a Mexico-based one-click checkout commerce startup, is officially joining Latin America’s nearly $100 billion e-commerce sector with $30 million in Series A funding after largely staying under the radar since being founded in late 2020.

Co-founders Roberto Enrique Kafati Santos and Jose Maria Serrano started the company after a career at McKinsey leading digital payments for Kafati Santos and at delivery company JOKR for Serrano. They also recently brought on Jose Jorge Molina, who was previously chief marketing officer for Bitso, to join the founding team to lead marketing.

“People were looking for help digitizing their businesses, and as we started looking into this, realized that brands needed help selling online,” Kafati Santos told TechCrunch. “At the time, we didn’t understand the opportunity to do an e-commerce platform, but the decision was obvious, and we have done payments ever since. We helped several brands last year and have now increased our sales five times.”

E-commerce is a hot market in Latin America, with the founders estimating it will grow 30% each year. However, they say the market continues to be plagued by three challenges: customer acceptance, conversion and fraud.

That’s why they say they are building a “Commerce 3.0” that will tackle all three of those. DEUNA provides a payments infrastructure that integrates with major payment providers and alternative payment methods and provides merchants access to more than 3 million users. In addition, merchants can use the tools to handle payment orchestration, payment processing, fraud prevention and lifecycle management based on actionable user real-time analytics.

In particular, to combat acceptance, DEUNA will offer multiple payment methods, which Kafati Santos believes will also help solve the problem of conversion, where some 70% of customers abandon their cart at checkout. The company has been able to increase acceptance rates by 40% and prove out about three times higher conversion rates, he said.

In Latin America, that is often due to about half of customers not having their payment method of choice approved. On top of that, those whose payment is approved, one in 20 payments are fraudulent, for example, a payment made with a stolen credit card, he added. That’s why DEUNA is building its own fraud tech with custom rules for merchants that cuts down on payment fraud and denials.

With a rather large e-commerce market, a lot of one-click competitors have entered, mainly driven by the consumer buying behavior shift that took place over the past two years. We recently saw Sleek raise $1.7 million to get started in a space that is dominated by companies like Ownit, Bolt,, OurPass and Rapyd, which have collectively raised more than $3 billion in investments within the past 18 months. During that time, Colombia-based Addi said it was getting into the one-click space after taking in a $75 million extension to its Series B.

Kafati Santos said DEUNA has been able to differentiate itself from many of the players in that it is solving the whole acceptance-conversion-fraud triangle, whereas others are just going after pieces of it.

Over the past two years, Kafati Santos and Serrano had bootstrapped the business for the most part, with the exception of a $7 million seed round in October 2021. They have grown revenue 120 times in the last year and brought on clients, including KFC, Pappos and Dunkin’ Donuts.

This new investment of $30 million was led by Activant Capital, with participation from Valor Capital, Abstract Ventures, Acrew Capital, Upload Ventures and a group of individual founder investors from companies including Plaid, Kavak, Jeeves, Xepelin, iFood and R2. The company raised a total of $37 million.

The founders plan to use the new capital to expand its presence in Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador and Chile, product development, go-to-market, adding employees to its team of 90 and entering new countries, like Brazil, in the coming months.

David Yang, partner at Activant Capital, said his firm has invested in a number of fintech companies and believes DEUNA is doing something unique.

“Raising a $30M Series A is hard in any market, but with their backdrop, we had high conviction in what they are doing,” Yang said. “This is a big market opportunity, in some ways more compelling than the U.S. DEUNA’s approach is also holistic rather than just pieces of the market. The team, and the vision they had with Jose (Molina) joining, has had strong execution to date.”

Ecuadorian payments infrastructure startup Kushki lands $100M at a $1.5B valuation

Ecuadorian payments infrastructure company Kushki has raised $100 million in an extension to its Series B round, more than doubling its valuation to $1.5 billion.

The startup had raised $86 million in the first tranche of the financing in June of 2021 at a post-money valuation of $600 million. It has raised nearly $200 million since its 2017 inception, according to Crunchbase.

Raising an extension as opposed to a new round made more sense because it was the same investors doubling down, according to CEO and co-founder Aron Schwarzkopf. Those backers include Kaszek Ventures, Clocktower Ventures, SoftBank Latin America Fund and DILA Capital, among others.

“Since then, we have just gotten more ambitious and continued to grow so we needed more money to fuel more growth,” Schwarzkopf said in an interview with TechCrunch. “The only things that changed were the economics and speed of business.”

The raise comes after a year in which Kushki saw 200% revenue growth, he said, declining to reveal hard revenue figures. It also follows a quarter in which the company grew by 100% year over year. 

Put simply, Kushki aims to help make it easier, cheaper and more secure for businesses across LatAm to send and receive/process digital payments. Specifically, it enables LatAm businesses to accept payments globally and receive money in their local currency. The end goal is to help these businesses — such as digital banks — grow faster online and drive consumer adoption of digital payments. At the same time, Kushki claims its infrastructure can help boost acceptance rates and reduce fraud.

In more technical speak, Kushki has developed an API that gives businesses a way to interact with “all the information” they need to integrate its payment technology to their business. 

Kushki has “hundreds” of customers, including Telefónica, Claro, Credijusto, Colombian on-demand delivery unicorn Rappi, Santander and others.

Payment infrastructure has continued to be resilient despite a global venture slowdown and challenging macroenvironment, and Kushki is no exception. And in Latin America in particular, Schwarzkopf believes, “it’s very low tech, usually very fragmented and unstandardized.”

“I’m not saying we are completely impervious to the downturns but the problem we’re tackling is so, so big right now and what we’ve been able to conquer is so small compared to that,” Schwarzkopf told TechCrunch. “The problem is so big in LatAm, that regardless of whether NASDAQ goes up or down, payments in Latin America will continue to trend up. What we’re building is like a gigantic pillar, not only for us, but for other companies that are building on top of us.”

Today, the startup operates in five countries: Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Colombia and Chile. Its team of 750 employees, up from just over 100 in mid-2020, is composed of 70% product and engineering staff, and the company has offices located all over the world, with staff located in the U.S., Europe, APAC and Brazil. The company plans to use the capital primarily to advance on its mission to develop “a modern payment infrastructure for Latin America that facilitates payment transactions of any type in any country.”

We believe Kushki is just getting started in its mission to connect LatAm with efficient digital payments,” said Hernan Kazah, managing partner at Kaszek, in a written statement. The firm first invested in the company’s Series A round in early 2020.

Latin American startups have been the recipients of an increasing amount of interest, and venture dollars, in recent years. One of the biggest differences between startups in the region, though, and those in the U.S., in Schwarzkopf’s view, is that Latin American startups have often demonstrated significantly more traction than their foreign counterparts at lower valuations.

“A lot of payments companies in the United States have a small portion of what we have in terms of revenue, but have five to 10 times the valuation that we have,” he told TechCrunch.

Just last month, São Paulo–based Dock, which operates a full-stack payments and digital banking “platform” across LatAm, raised $110 million in a growth funding round led by U.K.-based Lightrock and Silver Lake Waterman, bringing its valuation to over $1.5 billion. 

DeltaX wants to digitize the Andean region’s trucking sector

Transportation startup DeltaX is accelerating its plans to digitize the trucking industry in its native Bolivia and beyond thanks to a recent $1 million seed round.

DeltaX operates in the same space as Convoy, Loadsmart and Sennder – freight forwarding (plainly, helping companies move goods from point A to point B). But the startup focuses on a region of Latin America where trucking is still in dire need of a digital transformation, unlike other countries where this transition has already begun and accelerated amid the pandemic.

“We are working to solve a huge logistics problem in the Andean region,” DeltaX CEO Luis Fernando Ortiz said. “Over-the-road transportation in this economic zone is inefficient and expensive, which has enormous implications for the competitiveness of our countries and the well-being of our truck drivers.”

Millions of tons of cargo are transported each year via the Pan-American Highway and its branches across Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Paraguay. The cargo includes commodities, such as minerals from the Lithium Triangle and beyond; grain, fruit, and vegetables; as well as containerized imports. But the process is deficient, and it’s drivers who pay the toll.

There are around 1 million truck drivers in the region, most of them independent, Ortiz said. In its current form, this fragmentation has many downsides, which DeltaX is hoping to address through technology.

There are several layers to DeltaX’s activities: It facilitates communication between parties, automates cargo tracking and reporting, and adds visibility to shipment documentation, with upcoming elements of fintech and machine learning.

“Everyone in our sector follows this model, but we are going to be the first ones to apply it to our region,” Ortiz said.

Adapting to Latin America

Digitization is undeniably a shared need around the world for logistics, a sector that until recently largely operated on phone calls, printouts and faxes. But while this has started to change in many countries, Bolivia still lagged behind.

Ortiz knew this problem firsthand: He used to work for the Chilean port of Arica, a major hub for the region. There, he co-founded a club for truck drivers, most of whom came from neighboring countries and needed more support. This is how he knows that they typically spend 25 days in a row on the road away from their families — and the harm that a lack of work predictability causes to their quality of life.

Thanks to a Fulbright scholarship, Ortiz went on to study in the U.S., obtaining a Master in Business Administration from Babson and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard. Now that he has moved back to Bolivia, both are proving relevant to his new endeavor, where business acumen matters perhaps just as much as an understanding of regulation and of the social context of the drivers.

Understanding the needs of drivers has deeply shaped DeltaX’s technology. When it first launched in February 2020, it was a mobile application for truck drivers. Mobile still plays a key role in its strategy, as does WhatsApp, with bots providing answers to frequent questions on the go.

Better serving the 1,300 drivers affiliated with DeltaX is also why the startup is planning to add an embedded fintech element to its platform, as is now common among Latin American startups. It would take the form of a microcredit lending program for working capital – providing advances on upcoming revenue.

“Truck drivers are underbanked because their income isn’t stable; that’s why the fintech side is important to us,” Ortiz said.

DeltaX also hopes that algorithms will be able to improve its prediction abilities, and therefore the working conditions of drivers. Instead of having to pay intermediaries and not being sure they’ll secure work, Ortiz explained, “A driver can say: I’m staying home this weekend because I know I have a journey planned for Monday.”

Hiring the data scientists who can make this happen is one of the ways DeltaX plans to use the proceeds of its seed round. With a current team of 23, it also plans to add UX experts, software engineers, and product managers to keep on improving its platform.

Neighbors helping neighbors

DeltaX’s seed round was backed by several funds from the U.S. and Latin America: Magma Partners, out of Chile, which led the round; Duro Ventures, from California; 99 Startups, from Mexico; and Cibersons, from Paraguay. Bolivian angel network SC Angeles, which Ortiz co-founded, also participated.

While these names carry quite a bit of weight, as does the fact that DeltaX participated in the Harvard Alumni Entrepreneurs Accelerator, the profile of some of its individual backers is also worth noting. Indeed, several of them have high-level roles in Latin America’s transportation sector, including two startup founders: Nowports CEO Alfonso de los Rios and Nuvocargo CEO Deepak Chhugani.

Ortiz said that DeltaX is complementary to these startups because of its geographic focus and the sub-verticals it is concentrating on. A key aspect is its exclusive focus on over-the-ground transportation, which is tied to a sore point in Bolivia’s history: The country is landlocked, having lost access to the sea in 1884 after a war with Chile.

DeltaX’s fundraising event is an important milestone for Bolivia’s startup scene: It is one of the country’s largest venture capital rounds to date. This shows that the ecosystem is still nascent, but also confirms the progress it has been making over the last few years.

Recent exits include NetComidas’ acquisition by PedidosYa and Venezuelan super app company Yummy buying up Yaigo.

But Bolivia isn’t just fodder for expansion-oriented M&As: It also has startups with regional ambitions, such as TuGerente and Ultra. DeltaX is one of these; in the coming months, it plans to open offices in neighboring countries to expand its operations, starting with Peru.

In the longer term, DeltaX hopes to further expand to Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Paraguay, Ortiz told TechCrunch. Will there be more consolidation in Latin America’s transportation sector in the meantime? It will be interesting to watch.

H Twenty Capital aims to be ‘go-to fund for pre-seed investments’ in Latin America

Venture capital continues to flow into Latin America at a staggering rate. Just over $15 billion went into startups in 2021, according to LAVCA. That was three times more than the association recorded in fiscal year 2019.

Brazil and Mexico continue to lead as regions where many startups are getting funding, but as LAVCA’s statistics show, some of that investor love is being spread around to other countries like Colombia, Argentina and Chile. Venture firms in those countries are also raising funds; for example, this month, Colombia-based Marathon Ventures announced its first fund of $26 million.

H Twenty Capital (H20) co-founders Daniel Lloreda and Mauricio Porras recall getting into the region in 2018, a time Lloreda considered pretty early to be the investment space.

“The market wasn’t so established and meal companies, such as Rappi, were just getting started and reaching their growth phase,” Lloreda added. “Mauricio and I had this bold vision of backing as many disruptive entrepreneurs as we could, and leveraging our previous backgrounds and experiences.”

In 2018, the pair set up a friends and family fund that had about $15 million that Lloreda referred to as “proof of concept fund” that enabled them to invest in the region and establish the thesis of backing pre-seed and seed entrepreneurs in Latin America and in the Hispanic U.S. market in the verticals of e-commerce, marketplaces, fintech and software.

Some of H20’s early investments from that fund went into companies like Tül, a construction material e-commerce marketplace that is now valued at $800 million after raising a $181 million Series B round in January. It also invested in Brazilian social grocery commerce company Favo, which raised a $26.5 million Series A last October.

For Tül in particular, Lloreda said he and Porras were instrumental in helping the company expand regionally, secure its first country manager in Ecuador and make key strategic partnership introductions to suppliers and investors.

The firm strategically went after a seed and pre-seed market that Lloreda said is going downstream. As a result, the firm is positioned to provide what the entrepreneurs need, and with SoftBank and other growth equity funds coming into the region, it has opened up an opportunity to start investing at the Series A level.

“When we first started doing pre-seed and seed, it was out of necessity,” Porras added. “We were not the biggest or the most seasoned fund, but were emerging managers. We understood that if we wanted to get into the best deals, we needed to come in early and be super aggressive with the value-added support. We honestly had to earn our pricing table.”

H20 is now armed with its second fund, of which they say is poised to reach $65 million. The firm already closed on $50 million toward that goal.

The fund is supported by G Squared Management Co.; Scott Shleifer, co-founder and partner of Tiger Global Management; Sebastián Mejía, co-founder and president of Rappi; Fabián Gómez, co-founder and CEO of Frubana; Roger Laughlin, co-founder of Kavak; and founders of iFood and Mercê do Bairro.

H20 is also backed by board or advisor members, including Laughlin; Stevon Darling, who led the VC team in LatAm for the IFC and is the chief investment officer of H20; Javier Villamizar, operating partner of SoftBank Vision Fund; and Ricardo Martínez Finger, co-founder of Jüsto supermarket.

Eight investments have already been made from the second fund, including into hiring and payments startup OnTop, which raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Tiger and SoftBank.

“We work very closely with Tiger so we’ve become the go-to fund for pre-seed investments in Latin America,” Lloreda said. “The reason why Tiger invested in H20 is because we have identified these early talents in companies, and we’re now working very closely to co-invest with them in the region. We have been very good at not only investing, but bringing the best access to investors and advisors and establishing an operating framework around how H20 adds value — from talent acquisition to go-to-market planning to fundraising connections to strategic partnerships.”

US wins appeal over extradition of WikiLeaks founder

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is facing the prospect of imminent extradition to the US after the UK High Court granted an appeal by the US government against an earlier (January) refusal by a UK judge to extradite him on mental health grounds.

A final decision on whether or not to grant the extradition will be made by the UK secretary of state.

The US wants to put Assange on trial for conspiracy to hack and computer misuse. He also faces a number of charges under the controversial Espionage Act.

In all he faces 18 counts connected with “obtaining and disclosing defence and national security material” through the WikiLeaks website, primarily in 2009 and 2010 but also “to some extent since”, per a court summary.

Defenders of the polarizing figure argue he’s being persecuted for telling truth to power and that his extradition would have a chilling effect on journalism — given the US government is pursuing charges that include publishing classified information.

Assange obtained the information from former US army solider and whistleblower, Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, who disclosed hundreds of thousands of classified or sensitive military and diplomatic documents that Assange then published via WikiLeaks — causing huge embarrassment for the US government.

The leaked material included army reports and videos of airstrikes, including instances of civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables.

In a summary of the judgement issued today, the UK High Court said it has accepted a package of assurances from the US government related to the previous district judge’s concerns that Assange is a suicide risk.

The Court said four assurances have been offered, adding that is “satisfied” the assurances exclude the possibility of Assange being subject to “special administrative measures” — or held at a maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado, USA (either pretrial or after any conviction) vis-a-vis the acts he is currently accused of committing.

The US has also agreed to consent to an application by Assange to be transferred to Australia to serve his sentence if he is convicted; and agreed that while he is in custody in the US he will receive “appropriate clinical and psychological treatment as recommended by a qualified treating clinician at the prison where he is held”, per the Court summary.

“The court rejected various criticisms of those assurances which were argued on Mr Assange’s behalf, and was satisfied that the assurances were sufficient to meet the concerns which led to the DJ’s decision,” it adds.

A final decision on whether to allow Assange’s extradition will now pass to the UK’s home secretary, Priti Patel.

Almost a decade ago the British computer hacker Gary McKinnon was saved from extradition to the US to face charges of hacking into military computers after the then home secretary, Theresa May, denied the application on human rights grounds.

Assange, who holds an Australian passport, is not a British national.

He was previously granted citizenship by Ecuador, in 2018 — in a failed attempt to get him out of the country’s embassy where he had fled in 2012 to avoid being extradited to Sweden where he faced allegations of rape and sexual assault.

Those charges were subsequently dropped but in 2019 Ecuador withdrew his asylum and he was arrested by London’s Met Police for breaching bail conditions in the U.K. by seeking political refuge at the Embassy.

Earlier this year Ecuador also stripped Assange of his citizenship.

Yana’s mental health tool for Spanish speakers nears 5 million users

Andrea Campos has struggled with depression since she was 8 years old. Over the years, she’s tried all sorts of therapies — from behavioral to pharmacotherapy.

In 2017, when Campos was in her early 20s, she learned to program and created a system to help manage her mental health. It started as a personal project but as she talked to more people, Campos realized that many others might benefit from the system as well.

So, she then built an application to provide access to mental health tools to Spanish-speaking people and began testing it with a small group of people. At first, Campos herself was her own chatbot, texting with users who were tired of dealing with depression.

“During the month, I was pretending I was an app, and would send these people a list of activities they had to complete during the day, such as writing in a gratitude journal, and then asking them how those activities made them feel,” Campos recalls.

Her thinking was that sometimes with depression and anxiety comes “a lot of avoidance,” where people resist potential treatment out of fear.

The results from her small experiment were encouraging. So, Campos set out to conduct a bigger sample of experiments, and raised about $10,000 via crowdfunding campaign. With that money, she hired a developer to build a chatbot for her app, which was mostly being used via Facebook Messenger.

Then an earthquake hit Mexico City and that developer lost everything — including his home and computer — and had to relocate.

“I was left with nothing,” Campos says. But that developer introduced her to another, who disappeared with his payment, and again, left Campos, “with nothing.”

“I realized at the beginning of 2019, I was going to have to do this by myself,” Campos said. So she used a site that she described as a “Wix for chatbots,” and created one herself.

After experimenting with the app with a sample of 700 people, Campos was even more encouraged and raised an angel round of funding for Yana, the startup behind her app. (Yana is an acronym for “You Are Not Alone.”) By early 2020, with just three months of runway left, she pivoted to create an app with chatbot integration that wasn’t just limited to use via Facebook Messenger.

Campos ended up launching the app more broadly during the same week that her city in Mexico went into quarantine.

Image Credits: Yana

At first, she said, she saw “normal, steady growth.” But then on Oct. 10, 2020, Apple’s App Store highlighted Yana for International Mental Health Day, and the response was overwhelming.

“It was also my birthday so I was at a spa in a nearby town, relaxing, when I started hearing my cell phone go crazy,” Campos recalls. “Everything went nuts. I had to go back to Mexico City because our servers were exploding since they were not used to having that kind of volume.”

As a result of that exposure, Yana went from having around 80,000 users to reaching 1 million users two weeks later. Soon after that, Google highlighted the app as one of best for personal growth in 2020, and that too led to another spike in users. Today, Yana is about to hit the 5 million-user mark and is also announcing it has raised $1.5 million in funding led by Mexico’s ALLVP, which has also invested in the likes of Cornershop, Flink and Nuvocargo.

When the pandemic hit last year, six of Yana’s 9-person team decided to quarantine together in a “startup house” in Cancun to focus on building the company. Earlier this year, the company had raised $315,000 from investors such as 500 Startups, Magma and Hustle Fund. The company had pitched ALLVP, who was intrigued but wanted to wait until it could write a bigger check. 

That time is now, and Yana is now among the top three downloaded apps in Mexico and 12 countries including Spain, Chile, Ecuador and Venezuela.

With its new capital, Yana is planning to “move away from the depression/anxiety narrative,” according to Campos.

“We want to compete in the wellness space,” she told TechCrunch. “A lot of people were looking for us to deal with crises such as a breakup or a loss but then they didn’t always see a necessity to keep using Yana for longer than the crisis lasted.”

Some of those people would download the app again months later when hit with another crisis.

“We don’t want to be that app anymore,” Campos said. “We want to focus on whole wellness and mental health and transmit something that needs to be built every single day, just like we do with exercise.”

Moving forward, Yana aims to help people with their mental health not just during a crisis but with activities they can do on a daily basis, including a gratitude journal, a mood tracker and meditation — “things that prevent depression and anxiety,” Campos said.

“We want to be a vitamin for our soul, and keeping people mentally healthy on an ongoing basis,” she said. “We also want to include a community inside our application.”

ALLVP’s Federico Antoni is enthusiastic about the startup’s potential. He first met Campos when she was participating in an accelerator program in 2017 and then again recently.

The firm led Yana’s latest round because it “wanted to be on her team.”

“She [Campos] has turned into an amazing leader, and we realized her potential and strength,” he said. “Plus, Yana is an amazing product. When you download it, it’s almost like you can see a soul in there.”

Kushki, an Ecuador-based fintech, raises $86M to build financial infrastructure in Latam

Just about every week there’s a blockbuster round coming out of South America, but in next door Central America, which mostly is less affluent, things have been more hush hush. However, Kushki, a Quito, Ecuador-based fintech, is bringing attention to the region with today’s announcement of a $86 million Series B and a $600 million valuation.

“We never thought that we would return home [from the U.S.] and build a company that was more valuable in Ecuador than we had built in the U.S.,” said Aron Schwarzkopf, CEO and co-founder of Kushki.

Schwarzkopf and his business partner, Sebastián Castro, had previously built and sold a fintech called Leaf in the U.S. in 2014. The two are originally from Ecuador but moved to Boston for college, where they met watching soccer.

Unlike many other fintechs in Latam that are out to help the unbanked, Kushki works behind the scenes building the tech infrastructure that companies like Nubank use to transfer money. Some of the functionalities they build enable both local and cross-border payment players in credit and debit cards, bank transfers, digital cash, mobile wallets, and other alternative payment methods.

“We realized there was a gigantic opportunity to democratize and create infrastructure to move money,” Schwarzkopf told TechCrunch.

The company, which was founded in 2017, already has operations in Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. The Series B will be used to accelerate growth and expand to Brazil and nine other markets in Central America.

Generally, expanding to Brazil is an expensive proposition, and therefore not a path that all companies can take, even though it can be an extremely profitable move if done right. Some of the challenges include the need to translate everything into Portuguese followed by the varying financial regulations.

That’s why Kushki’s approach has to be somewhat custom in each country.

“We focus on going into the markets and we basically rebuild an entire infrastructure, so we put everything into one API,” said Schwarzkopf.

Products similar to Kushki have been successful in other regions around the world, such as in India with Pine Labs, Africa with Flutterwave, and that now has 15 international offices.

To build all this infrastructure, Kushki, which means “cash” in a native Andes dialect, has raised a total of $100 million from SoftBank, an undisclosed global growth equity firm, as well as previous investors including DILA Capital, Kaszek Ventures, Clocktower Ventures, and Magma Partners.

“From now until 2060, people will need servers and ways to move money, and we knew that the existing payment infrastructure couldn’t support that,” said Schwarzkopf.

The LatAm funding boom continues as Kaszek raises $1B across a duo of funds

Long before SoftBank launched its $2 billion Innovation Fund in Latin America, and before Andreessen Horowitz began actively investing in the region, Sao Paulo-based Kaszek has been putting money into promising startups since 2011, helping spawn nine unicorns along the way.

And now, the early-stage VC firm is announcing its largest fund closures to date: Kaszek Ventures V, a $475 million early-stage fund, believed to be the largest vehicle of its kind ever raised in the region, and Kaszek Ventures Opportunity II, a $525 million for later-stage investments.

Over the years, Kaszek has backed 91 companies, which the firm says collectively have raised over $10 billion in capital. 

MercadoLibre co-founder Hernán Kazah and the company’s ex-CFO, Nicolas Szekasy, founded Kaszek a decade ago after leaving LatAm’s answer to Amazon. Fun fact: the firm’s name comes from a combination of their two last names: Ka-Szek. Rounding out the team are Nicolas Berman, former VP at MercadoLibre, Santiago Fossatti, Andy Young and Mariana Donangelo.

Kaszek founded its first fund in 2011, raising $95 million, an impressive sum at that time. Funds II and III closed in 2014 and 2017, raising $135 million and $200 million, respectively. By 2019, Kaszek had closed on its fourth fund, raising $375 million and its first Opportunity Fund, reserving $225 million for later-stage investing in existing portfolio companies.

It’s notable that in its fifth fund, Kaszek is reserving more of its new capital to fund later-stage investments – a testament to its faith in its current portfolio. Both funds, according to Kaszek, were “several times oversubscribed” with demand coming globally from university endowments, global foundations, technology funds and several tech entrepreneurs.

Silicon Valley-based Sequoia Capital has been an LP since day one via Sequoia Heritage, its community investment office. Also, Connecticut-based Wesleyan University is an LP with Chief Investment Officer Anne Martin describing the founding team as “internet pioneers.”

In recent years, there has been an explosion of global investor interest in Latin American startups. The region’s startup scene is seeing a surge of fundraises, with new unicorns emerging with increasing regularity. And Kaszek has been at the heart of it all.

“We have been at the epicenter of the technology ecosystem in Latin America since 1999, first with MercadoLibre and now with Kaszek, and have witnessed firsthand the extraordinary  evolution that the sector has experienced since its infancy,” said managing partner and co-founder Kazah. “When MercadoLibre started, the internet penetration was less than 3% and it was mostly dial-up connections. Today, more than two decades later, technology secular trends are stronger than ever before as we are experiencing an acceleration towards digitalization.”

Kaszek has not yet backed any companies out of its newest investment vehicles, but plans to put money in 20 to 30 companies out of its early-stage fund, with check sizes ranging from $500,000 to $25 million, according to Kazah. Its Opportunity Fund investments will be more concentrated with the firm likely backing 10 to 15 companies with check sizes ranging from $10 million to $35 million. The firm is industry agnostic, with Kazah saying it considers “any industry where technology is playing a transformational role.”

General partner and co-founder Szekasy says that In the firm’s first funds, Kaszek mostly backed first-time entrepreneurs. But in its last early-stage fund, it began backing more teams led by repeat entrepreneurs or by founders spawned out of some of the region’s more successful startups. As many VC firms do, Kaszek describes its investment strategy as providing more than capital, but also becoming partners with the founders of its portfolio companies. For example, Creditas founder and CEO Sergio Furio describes the firm as “the co-founder I did not have.”

While the firm declined to comment on performance, a source with firsthand knowledge of its metrics over the years tells TechCrunch that it’s quite impressive with MOICS ranging from 19.2 for Fund I, 10.5 for Fund II, 4.9 for Fund III and 2.6 for Fund IV – with an aggregate IRR for all funds above 55%

The firm’s active portfolio currently consists of 71 companies. Kaszek was one of the earliest investors in Brazilian neobank Nubank, just one of 9 unicorns it has helped build over the years. Other unicorns it’s backed include MadeiraMadeira, PedidosYa, proptech startup QuintoAndar, Gympass, Loggi, Creditas, Kavak and Bitso.

The firm’s investments have largely concentrated in Brazil and Mexico (the two startup hotspots of the region) and Colombia but the firm has also backed startups based in other countries in the region such as DigitalHouse (which was formed in Argentina), NotCo (originally founded in Chile) and Kushki (launched first in Ecuador). It has people on the ground in its home base of Brazil as well as Mexico, the United States, Argentina and Uruguay. 

“We have always believed that the strong secular technology trends that we were seeing 20 years ago, evident in the US and a little later in China, were going to happen in Latin America,” Kazah told TechCrunch. “…Everything we predicted back then was going to happen, happened. Maybe it happened later, but it was also much larger and more comprehensive than what we had initially imagined. That is typically what happens with innovations, they take off later than you think, but fly much higher than you ever imagined.”