Inside Fintech belo’s Vision: A Conversation with CEO Manuel Beaudroit

In an exclusive interview with Contxto, Manuel Beaudroit, co-founder and CEO of belo, shares insights into the company’s innovative approach to digital wallets, its expansion strategies, and the future of fintech in Latin America. belo, a rising star in the LatAm fintech scene, is revolutionizing how freelancers and remote workers across the region access global financial services.
Manuel Beaudroit

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In a move set to reshape the landscape of international payments for Latin American freelancers and remote workers, fintech startup belo has announced a significant expansion of its digital wallet services.

The company now offers users in 17 Latin American countries the ability to receive US dollar payments directly from the United States via ACH transfers, marking a pivotal moment in the region’s fintech evolution.

Bridging the Gap for LatAm’s Remote Workforce

The gig economy and remote work have been on a steady rise globally, with Latin America emerging as a hotbed of talent. However, one persistent challenge has been the complexity and cost associated with receiving international payments. belo’s latest offering directly addresses this pain point, providing a streamlined solution that promises to be both efficient and cost-effective.

Manuel Beaudroit, co-founder and CEO of belo, emphasizes the transformative potential of this new feature: “Latin American freelancers now have a single, simple place to receive payments from the United States. We are committed to providing the most time and cost-efficient solution for this growing segment, which has the potential to transform the socioeconomic landscape of the region.”

Key Features of belo’s Expanded Service

  1. Direct ACH Transfers: Users can now receive USD directly into their belo wallets via ACH transfers from US-based entities.
  2. Competitive Pricing: A transaction fee of just 2%, allowing users to retain more of their hard-earned money.
  3. Annual Yield: Users can earn a 3% Annual Percentage Yield (APY) on their USD balances.
  4. Flexibility: Funds can be used for various purposes, including currency exchange, purchases, or withdrawal to local bank accounts in 14 countries across the region.
  5. Wide Acceptance: Payments can be received from US personal bank accounts and popular platforms like Deel, Airbnb, YouTube, Upwork, and Hotmart.

Impact on the LatAm Fintech Ecosystem

This move by belo is not just about providing a new financial service; it’s about empowering a growing segment of the Latin American workforce. By simplifying the process of receiving international payments, belo is effectively removing barriers that have long hindered the growth potential of freelancers and remote workers in the region.

The implications of this service expansion are far-reaching:

  1. Increased Financial Inclusion: By providing an easier way to participate in the global digital economy, belo is contributing to greater financial inclusion in Latin America.
  2. Stimulus for the Gig Economy: The simplified payment process could encourage more Latin Americans to pursue freelance and remote work opportunities with US-based companies.
  3. Competitive Advantage for LatAm Talent: With reduced friction in payments, Latin American professionals become more attractive to US employers, potentially leading to increased opportunities.
  4. Ecosystem Growth: As more money flows more efficiently into the region, it could stimulate further growth in the local tech and startup ecosystems.

Looking Ahead

belo’s ambitions don’t stop here. The company has announced plans to expand its capabilities to include ACH transfers from commercial accounts, which would allow users to receive payments directly from US employers at highly competitive rates. This move could potentially eliminate the need for intermediaries or high-fee transfer services entirely.

As Latin America continues to position itself as a major player in the global digital economy, innovations like belo’s expanded wallet services are crucial. They not only solve immediate problems for users but also pave the way for broader economic transformations.

The fintech landscape in Latin America is evolving rapidly, and belo’s latest move demonstrates the region’s potential for innovative solutions that address real-world challenges. As we watch this space, it’s clear that the combination of technology, financial services, and a deep understanding of local needs is creating exciting opportunities for both users and investors in the Latin American market.

Now, on with the conversation with belo’s CEO Manuel Beaudroit

On Growth and Expansion

Contxto: What are the main expansion strategies belo is implementing to grow in other Latin American markets?

Beaudroit: At belo, we believe in the power of community. We focus on creating value and making the community itself an important component for the organic growth of our solution. When you create a product that solves problems better than any other, the innate human sense of community makes people want to talk about their discovery with others.

Regarding geographic expansion, we like to test entering a market in the most “lean” way possible, usually through an adoption experiment or through an agreement that gives us access to the market. The key is always being able to detect the key indicators to determine the characteristics of the market problem, solution, and communication, as each market is very different from another, although we always see a homogeneous layer that we use to leverage.

Contxto: What specific challenges has belo faced when trying to expand outside of Argentina, and how have you overcome them?

Beaudroit: When planning a market expansion, it’s essential to understand the potential of that market, the competitors, the regulatory regime, and all the necessary aspects to have the most accurate reading that allows us to land in that market.

Being able to do a cost-effective analysis of the market is crucial, especially in a context of scarce resources that we’re going through. Initially, we had decided to move forward with opening operations in Mexico, but the regulatory cost meant that the entire decision had to be delayed to be in compliance with the current fintech law.

Contxto: How does belo plan to adapt its business model to the different regulatory and economic environments in the countries where it plans to operate?

Beaudroit: Part of belo’s expansion strategy in different countries consists precisely of carrying out an in-depth analysis of the regulatory aspect and what the conditions and requirements are to start operating. Generally, we take 3 months to carry out this analysis carefully and patiently, talking with various players, including law firms, accountants, and other startups. We try to put together a mental map of what it means to operate and what are all the necessary variables to be operational with a model that can be incremental. It’s important, especially in the startup world, not to aim to go from 0 to 100 immediately, but to grow little by little because sometimes regulatory processes, as we see in the case of Mexico, are very expensive and take a lot of time.

Contxto: What role do strategic alliances play in belo’s expansion, and what types of partners are you looking for?

Beaudroit: Partners are fundamental. On one hand, they represent a great way to approach the target customer, using and leveraging the other’s brand to reach users. On the other hand, they are a very cost-effective method both for acquiring customers and for learning about the market. Sometimes, partnering with a company that does speak the language of the market allows you to save yourself a lot of headaches. Generally, we look for partners who can add value to our users, who offer complementarity and occupy niches that perhaps we don’t occupy, but also from an economic point of view it makes sense.

On Technology and Product

Contxto: What technological innovations distinguish belo’s digital wallet from other fintechs in the market?

Beaudroit: What differentiates us is being a very efficient product in terms of all the solutions it gives you, simple and with a lot of agility. We provide the user with great autonomy to choose what to do, offering a variety of different collection and payment methodologies, such as having an account in your name in Dollars or Euros, being able to receive money via Payoneer or AirTM, as well as being able to move in cryptocurrencies like BTC, ETH, USDC, USDT, being able to obtain returns on them, as well as the possibility of having a connection with local payments in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico Peru, Panama, Paraguay, Venezuela, Uruguay, USA, Europe, United Kingdom and Australia.

So being able to make this “blend” between the traditional fiat world and the crypto world in a way that crypto is not complicated for the end user, is part of our innovation and what distinguishes us as a company.

Contxto: How does belo ensure the security of transactions and the protection of user data on its platform?

Beaudroit: belo complies with global standards regarding information privacy and data security. We use everything that is cloud infrastructure, password management and authentication to ensure that we maintain the highest standards, we even test ourselves every day to see if we are prone to being attacked. We take security very seriously, carrying out actions that analyze the behavior of the team from the point of view of social engineering, carrying out penetration tests (pentesting) on the product, the application, the APIs and the infrastructure. We apply the best global standards for the protection of user money. In addition, we are very jealous about who are the partners and suppliers with whom we associate, which also contributes significantly to user security.

Contxto: What plans do you have to integrate new functionalities in the belo app and what impact do you expect these to have on the user experience?

Beaudroit: We would like to continue adding options for everything that has to do precisely with how to move money and how to be present in each of the markets. We believe that, above all, the local part, of being able to give them the best cash in and cash out in the different markets where we are going to be, is fundamental. That’s why we are in an expansion process to countries like Brazil and Mexico and soon other countries in the region, but there is a lot of heavy lifting. I mean, really being able to have a local operation is very expensive and takes a long time.

Other issues that interest us are how to give users more savings and investment options. We want to somehow avoid them having to go to other places to make the best use of their money. We believe that there is still a lot of potential to improve the efficiency in the financial management of our users. This includes new savings and investment options, improving the visualization and understanding of spending information, offering relevant recommendations and facilitating tax compliance, given that we all have obligations with the local tax authorities. Our goal is to help make that part much easier and with “fewer ghosts”, let’s put it in those terms. In essence, what we seek is that, to really generate a product that is super efficient in the life of the remote worker.

On Business Model and Finances

Contxto: How does belo monetize its services and what are its main sources of income?

Beaudroit: Generally, our income comes from commissions or differences in the exchange rate. When customers buy or sell cryptocurrencies with us, we don’t charge a direct commission; instead, we make money through the difference between buy and sell prices. Additionally, in some specific services, such as sending money abroad through bank transfer, we charge a commission for each transaction. This is how we generate our income.

Contxto: What is belo’s strategy to maintain a balance between profitability and accelerated growth?

Beaudroit: The truth is that we aim much more at profitability and efficiency, we prefer to grow a little slower, but not be burning more capital than necessary. Although this obviously can go against accelerated growth, history has shown us that what is also important in the entrepreneurial world is to survive, right? We have already been profitable since last year and we maintain this profitability month by month. We reinvest that profit to grow, not burning money in an uncontrolled way, but really in a way that is sustainable and that is very aligned with the mission we have ahead, which is to simplify access to finance and improve the life of remote workers.

Contxto: How does the volatility of the cryptocurrency market affect your business model and what strategies do you use to mitigate these risks?

Beaudroit: What a great question! At some point our business lives off the volatility of the market, but the important thing there is to have a trained team that knows how to handle these situations, especially in operational terms and maintaining the necessary liquidity to face those ups and downs. As the saying goes: it’s great to have a Ferrari and move forward quickly, but it’s also very important to have the necessary brakes for said machine. So, I think that part of our added value is precisely that, we are a company that goes fast, but we have control over the business we have on our hands.

On Market and Competition

Contxto: How do you evaluate the competitive landscape of fintechs in Latin America and what competitive advantages does belo have over its rivals?

Beaudroit: Super competitive. Latin America has spectacular capacity and talent for all the problems we encounter throughout our lives. This has made us experts in solving problems. I think that, especially in Argentina, we know how to function in situations of economic scarcity, not simply in a scarce economy. I consider that this, in itself, is also a superpower. Currently, what we lack has more to do with more capital to have new opportunities, to experiment with new ideas, more capital to make mistakes and translate it into research. So that’s a bit of the panorama. The truth is that I am very optimistic, although I think that we have not yet finished getting out of the pothole that the post-2022 crisis and the drought in the venture capital market meant. That is why it is also important to be efficient in terms of operation, because you never know when you will be able to raise capital again.

Contxto: What opportunities does belo see in the cryptocurrency and decentralized finance market in the region?

Beaudroit: In our approach, we tend to be very pragmatic regarding the problems that technology can solve. We see that in other regions, there is often a kind of infatuation or in other words an overinvestment in technology, technology in search of a problem, and that is obviously beautiful, but you can only do it when you have almost unlimited resources. I think part of the learning of undertaking in Latin America has to do precisely with that, with how to be efficient, generating solutions from a context of scarcity.

On Team and Culture

Contxto: What characteristics do you look for in new talents joining belo and how do you foster a culture of innovation within the company?

Beaudroit: I think a startup is like a living being that goes through various stages. At belo, from the beginning we look for generalist people, highly motivated and whose values ​​are aligned with our culture. However, as the company structure grows, the need arises to incorporate specialists, people who will bring you certain know-how and who will basically change the company.

We started that path a while ago, we like to develop people internally and at the moment we don’t usually hire junior profiles because they require a very large time from their more senior peers, and in a context of scarcity, you have to be strategic in how you allocate resources. But we firmly believe that intelligence and good values ​​can make up for lack of experience. In Argentina, we say that someone is “manija” when they are a person who wants to change the world, who has a lot of energy, we like manija people who are very invested in the problem to be solved and that it doesn’t matter if it’s a Monday at 11:00 at night, a Sunday or whatever, the person is committed to going and solving the problem.

Contxto: How does belo handle diversity and inclusion within its team, and what impact do you think this has on the company’s performance?

Beaudroit: The truth is that this is a big issue. Something we have been doing lately is trying to diversify the teams. This year we managed to incorporate the first woman into the technology team. Technology, as an industry, tends to be very dominated by men, and managing to add the first woman has been a tremendous milestone for us. Obviously, what interests us above all is bringing in the best, regardless of whether they are men, women, trans or belong to any group. I’m not interested, nor do I make value judgments from the point of view of their sexuality or orientation, because I believe that this does not contribute to having the best team or the best product. What is important is to respect diversity, respect your colleagues, develop them and celebrate diversity, creating spaces where there is psychological and emotional security. Spaces where, regardless of who you are, what your background or inclinations are, you can work in the most comfortable way possible and create the best product on the market with the best team.

On Investments and Future

Contxto: What are the main achievements you would like to see belo achieve in the next five years?

Beaudroit: What a good question. Honestly, I would like to be able to make a global product. In general, I like to go fast, I like things to move and I like to reach big milestones quickly with a small team. It sounds quite paradoxical or complex what I am proposing, but I believe that we have the potential at the company level and it is a problem big enough to be able to operate globally. And well, it seems to me that, especially when you are an entrepreneur, you have that irrational optimism that not only drives you, but also attracts other people and it is precisely that team in continuous formation that will allow you to achieve those objectives.

Contxto: What advice would you give to other fintech entrepreneurs looking to grow in Latin America and attract the attention of investment funds?

Beaudroit: Well, first of all, it is essential that they look for a BIG problem to solve; that is, that they don’t fall in love with the idea or a technology, but that they understand that the problem will determine how big the opportunity is and that they dedicate themselves completely to it. We live in a society where it is difficult for us to focus and commit to something in the long term. That’s why finding something that really excites us is crucial, and also, it’s important to remember that passion is built over time, like any relationship. So my advice is that, don’t give up and dedicate many hours to it, since time is the multiplier of the equation.

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