Don't worry, we speak : Español (Spanish), too!
Contxto – 2021 will mark a milestone for the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Latin America. According to a report by CBInsights, US$14.8 billion in VC was poured into the region during the year; up 174% from 2020. In total, 660 deals were closed – 121 more than last year.
There were a few days during 2021 when investment rounds for regional startups were not announced.
The largest influx of capital was funnelled to sectors other than fintech, which had been the most funded industry for years. For example: the largest round – a US$700 million Series E – was received by Kavak, an online used car marketplace. The second and third largest rounds went to the e-commerce storefront builder Tiendanube/Nuvemshop, and the delivery service Rappi.
Regional firms began investing in countries where they hadn’t before, like Kaszek’s first investment in Peru. Others increased their funding, including Innogen Capital Ventures and Platanus Ventures. And, of course, there was a record of new unicorns in the region.
Mexico made its debut as a unicorn maker (we had to say goodbye to KIO Networks, SoftTek, and GBM from this list). It had zero unicorns in January, but by December seven companies had taken this title. One more Chilean unicorn was added to the list; and Brasil, leading with 16 unicorns (21 if we count all those that have already made an exit), made history with one of the decade’s most successful IPOs.
Although the abundance of unicorns doesn’t translate into a success metric for the region in terms of market maturity, it is key to identify these extremely well-financed and high-valued companies to keep an eye on the consolidation of the ecosystem.
Here’s the list of all Latam unicorns in December 2021.
*Disclaimer: Some of these companies went from unicorn to public companies or became acquired by others. These companies will be marked by an asterisk (*). According to Investopedia, unicorns are private companies worth US$1 billion or more; however, we decided to include some public companies to give a more detailed overview of how the ecosystem has evolved.
It’s a cybersecurity and identity authentication startup cofounded by Eugenio Pace and Matías Woloski in 2013. It brings holistic B2B solutions for corporations that want to increase their security protocols. Prior to the U.S-based Okta acquiring them in May 2021, Auth0 had raised a total of US$332.3 million over 10 rounds and had a US$1,9 billion valuation.
Despegar began in 1999 as an online B2C travel agency catering to the Portuguese and Spanish speaking market. Now based in Miami, Florida, it enables users to research travel itineraries, check flight availability and book airfare. People can also secure hotel and car rental reservations online, as well as other travel-related services. They started trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in 2017.
This digitally native company helps partners embrace innovation, design and engineering in order to scale effectively. Since 2003, they have expanded to more than 14 countries. They have worked with corporations such as Google, Southwest Airlines, EA and BBVA. Previously, Globant has been featured as a business case study for Harvard, MIT and Stanford. They became a public company by launching their IPO on the NYSE in 2014.
Beginning in Argentina in 1999, MercadoLibre is perhaps Latin America’s most well-known e-commerce and auction platform. Often compared to eBay, this marketplace allows customers to buy or sell practically anything: ranging from electronics, motor vehicles, to even real estate. They made history when they started trading on Nasdaq in 2007, as they were the first Latam tech company to do so.
Similar to Mercado Libre, OLX began in 2006 as a competing e-commerce platform in Argentina. As expected, users can purchase vehicles, furniture, clothing and many other conveniences. What makes this company a little different is that users can also find jobs or advertise for services.
Always innovating, this company facilitates online transactions, payments, transfers, points of sale, online shopping, billing,
This e-commerce platform was founded in 2010 by current CEO Santiago Sosa, Alejandro Vazquez and Martin Palombo. Eleven years later, they became a unicorn valued at US$3,1 billion. Their latest investment round was a US$500 million Series E last August. Tiendanube, known as Nuvemshop in Brazil, works with more than 90,000 brands to power their online stores with payment and shipping solutions through several sales channels.
A fintech founded by Pierpaolo Basbieri. They operate in Argentina and Mexico and reached unicorn status after raising a US$350 million Series D round led by SoftBank. With this new funding, they acquired the Mexican bank ABC Capital in November 2021 for an undisclosed amount. Among Ualá’s products and services are a prepaid Mastercard, QR code payments, international transfers, investments, credits, and expense analysis.
The popular transportation startup began in São Paulo in 2012. Connecting users with taxi drivers and private drivers, the company sold 99 percent (no pun intended) of its stock to China’s Didi Chuxing for US$900 million.
This Brazilian startup went public at the end of September 2018, raising over US$220 million. The platform offers basic education programs for learning and development. Arco Educação’s technology and services are also available to more than 425 million students. They are currently present in approximately 1,300 private Brazilian schools.
Since launching in 2010 in São Paulo, this Brazilian startup has become the largest data center in Latin America. Currently, they have 17 data centers around the world. Ascenty raised an undisclosed amount of money during their last investment round in June 2017. Nevertheless, we know that their current majority stockholders
C6 Bank is a full-service digital bank offering a broad range of banking services to individuals and SMEs. It became Brazil’s thirteenth unicorn in December 2020, after raising a massive US$1,3 billion round. After the transaction, the startup raised a market value of US$2,1 billion.
They offer end-to-end localized payments to some of the world’s most renowned brands. They partner with international companies wanting to enter lucrative regional markets, such as Brazil. To allow this, the company provides clients with over 100 local payment options as well as over 50 Latin American banks and payment processors.
They work as a marketplace for shipping companies and drivers; a sort of on-demand platform of drivers and cars. The company received a US$200 million round led by SoftBank and Tencent in 2021. This happened almost a decade after their first endeavor into the logtech industry. Other investors involved in the company are the International Development Bank’s investment arm, as well as Jeb Bush, Florida’s former governor.
Founded in 2011 by Brazilian entrepreneurs João Pedro Resende and Mateus Bicalhos, this company is becoming quite relevant because it helps creators monetize their online content. Hotmart is a platform to host videos and courses with an easy-to-use sales and payments system. It has more than 30 million users, most of them in Latam. The amount of its latest investment round wasn’t made public, but the company declared itself a unicorn after it.
This food delivery platform started in May 2011 in São Paulo, Brazil. Its last investment round, a Series G worth US$500 million, happened in November 2018. Out of the total amount, US$400 million were committed by Innova Capital and Naspers to iFood’s holding, Movile, in order to further invest in the startup.
Loggi, like other delivery apps, is attempting to secure next-day delivery anywhere in Brazil. They raised US$100 million from SoftBank to accomplish this. Businesses use Loggi’s “logistics-as-a-service” platform to send out delivery requests, which automatically calculates the route and price.
It is a proptech created in 2018. They work as a real estate marketplace that, as a broker between individuals and agents, facilitates a property’s sale or acquisition. By the end of 2021, they had received an accumulated investment of US$788 million in six rounds.
Also from São Paulo, this startup was founded in 2006. Since then, Pagseguro has created innovative solutions for both users and companies in regards to payments, purchase automation, sales
Created in 2009 by Daniel Scandian, Marcelo Scandian, and Robson Privado. The company can be considered as Brazil’s Ikea: a home goods marketplace with a broad catalog for building, renovating, and decorating. Their HQ is in Curitiba, and some of its largest investors are SoftBank, monashees, and Endeavor Catalyst. It became a unicorn after raising a US$190 million late-stage Series in January 2021.
This crypto exchange is considered to be the largest of its kind in Latam because it is linked to more than 25 exchanges. They allow their 3 million customers to trade crypto assets and other tokens. It was founded in 2013, being one of the region’s pioneering companies to venture into crypto. SoftBank, of course, is one of its main investors.
Nubank originally began as Solucoes de Pagamento in May 2013. It is currently considered to be the world’s largest digital banks outside of Asia, and the largest fintech in Latam. The company was founded by David Velez, Cristina Junqueira, and Edward Wible. They currently operate in Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia, and service more than 48 million customers. It started trading on the NYSE in early December 2021 with a market value of US$41,5 billion.
A SaaS company that increases e-commerce sales for retailers through software and contracts with marketplaces. They entered the unicorn category after a US$186 million Series E round led by Wellington Management. From this, they now have a US$1,5 billion valuation. SoftBank, Goldman Sachs, Globo Ventures, Corton Capital and Valor Capital Group are some of their investors.
Following a big SoftBank investment, this Brazilian proptech became a unicorn in September 2019. Its online platform provides a marketplace for users to either purchase or sell properties. Allegedly great for property liquidation; the platform allows subscribers to monitor listings, keep tabs of financial transactions between tenants and landlords and create binding contracts.
Stone Pagamentos sprang its payment processing services with debit and credit cards in 2012. Following its IPO worth US$1.1 billion, the Brazilian startup managed to earn an
TOTVS started in 1983 as a software company in Brazil. They focus on the relationship, management and support side of the industry; and specialize in software development. They just recently sold their hardware production unit, Bematech, to Elgin.
One of Brazil’s most successful and controversial unicorns; a mobile videogame development company created in 2011. Some of its most successful games, like Zooba and Tennis Clash, have been downloaded by billions. By the end of 2021, the total capital raised by the company was US$180 million from investors like GE32 Capital and Vulcan Capital, and they had a US$3 billion valuation.
It’s an identity protection digital solutions company created in 2007. It became a unicorn in August of 2021, and General Atlantic and SoftBank are some of the investors. The cybersecurity market is becoming increasingly relevant as more companies are undergoing a digital transformation. This is motivated both by the pandemic and the need to stay technologically relevant.
From Colombia, this startup proudly represents the city of Bogotá. Founded in 2015, the famous marketplace application connects users with drivers able to deliver almost anything. I actually believe they do deliver anything. The startup’s latest funding round was a US$200 million Series D led by DST Global with the
This grocery delivery company was founded in Santiago de Chile in 2015 by Juan Pablo Cuevas, Oskar Hjertonsson, and Daniel Undurraga. They quickly took it to the Mexican market and began raising regional and international capital from there. In 2021, after a failed acquisition attempt by Walmart Mexico, Uber acquired Cornershop in one of the best deals seen in the region: an all-stock US$1,4 billion transaction.
It’s a foodtech creating plant-based products. It uses Giuseppe, an in-house AI able to find plant combinations that replicate animal products in a sustainable and, reportedly, delicious way. The company was founded in 2015 and operates in Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, and the U.S. They entered unicorn territory in mid-2021, after getting a US$1,5 billion valuation in a US$235 million Series D round led by Tiger Global. Kaszek and Bezos Expeditions are some of their other investors.
The largest Mexican crypto exchange is increasingly having more presence in the region. Pablo Gonzalez and Ben Peters founded it in 2014, and its current CEO is Daniel Vogel. They had a blockbuster 2021: they grew one million users in just 5 months; became the provider of El Salvador’s government-backed crypto wallet; and officially sponsored a major league Mexican soccer team. This last achievement is not a mere fun fact; having that sort of visibility is part of their strategy to take crypto assets mainstream.
They offer corporate credit cards and expense management services. They became a unicorn after raising a US$70 million Series B round led by Coatue, a firm that has also invested in TikTok, Deel, and Bitso.
This fintech company was founded by Adolfo Babatz and Vilash Poovala. They met when Babatz worked at PayPal, and together had the vision to bring a similar payments service to Mexico in 2013. Clip is a payments aggregator with a mobile point-of-sale terminal and an app to accept credit and debit cards from a smartphone or tablet. After a long-awaited debut as a unicorn, it became one in 2021 after a round led by SoftBank and Viking Global Investors.
The online used car financing marketplace emerged from Mexico City in 2016. Its business model was quite disruptive in a largely unattended market. Its quick growth made it the first Mexican unicorn. Kavak was founded by CEO Carlos Garcia Otatti, Loreanne Garcia, and Roger Laughlin. With a valuation of US$8,7 billion, it is Latam’s most valuable company after Nubank.
Konfío is a financial solutions company for SMEs, which are the most common companies in Mexico. It became a unicorn with a US$1,3 billion valuation after a US$110 million Series E round. Tarsadia Capital, QED Investors, SoftBank, VEF, Kaszek Ventures, IFC, and Lightrock are among its very impressive array of investors.
Ricardo Amper founded this biometric ID and authentication company. It got a surprising US$1,25 billion valuation in early December of 2021. This was after a US$220 million Series B round led by General Atlantic and SoftBank. It has very broad potential, as its services can be used in finance, banking, government, hospitality, crypto, health, transportation, retail, and e-commerce. Citi, Banorte, Nubank, Rappi, Telefónica and Ualá are among its customers.
Merama is one of the e-commerce companies that have best used this market’s growth to its favor. It works by acquiring the largest stake in companies that sell more than US$2 million online every year, and it optimizes costs to grow them internationally. It became a unicorn after getting a US$1,2 billion valuation – and, to no one’s surprise, it also has SoftBank as an investor.
Uruguay’s first addition to the ranks of Latin America’s unicorns! After a US$200 million investment led by General Atlantic and Addition, dLocal reached a valuation of US$1.2 billion. As a payments fintech, dLocal not only covers a wide geographical area; it also claims to be the “only 360 payments technology platform designed to handle mass online payments in emerging markets across LATAM, APAC, and EMEA.”
Written by Victor Cortés, César Miramontes, Alex González Ormerod, Jacob Atkins, Sandra Pérez, Paola Villarreal, Carolina Zepeda and Daniela Dib.