Dileep Thazhmon, an American entrepreneur, designed a solution to deliver modern financial services to startups and SMEs with 50 employees or more, known as Jeeves.
Since 2019, they worked for a year and a half to create a global financial platform with its own technological backbone. From day one, they wanted to bridge the gap between the need for business credit and access and to solve the problem of cross-border payments.
In four years, Jeeves has achieved unicorn status with a valuation of USD$2.1 billion and serves more than 3,000 companies in 22 countries across North America, Europe, and Latin America. Among its clients are startups and unicorns such as Kavak, Bitso, Merama, Moons and Platzi.
“We entered 2023 with USD$40 million in annualized revenue and a growth of 250% year over year”, said Dileep Thazhmon, CEO and Founder of Jeeves in an interview with Contxto. The entrepreneur also boasts his most recent launch: cross-border payments, crucial for international trade.
Jeeves and cross-border payments
As part of this new offering, Jeeves will allow customers to move funds into and out of Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico in less than 24 hours, a significant improvement over the traditional process, which can take up to 7 days. Jeeves clients can now pay their suppliers in more than 150 countries in local currencies, backed by multi-language invoice scanning technology.
“One of the major requests we got from the clients using us was the ability to make cross-border payments in Jeeves because they had one provider for the corporate card and expenses and then another provider for local payments and another for cross-border payments,” says the serial entrepreneur, who had previously created two startups.
Businesses are now more global than ever. That’s why Thazhmon assures:
“We are responding to the market, very focused on contributing benefits and also ensuring that we continue to grow in a healthy way by adding products that tend to have higher margins like cross-border payments.”
“Our goal is to try and build as much of that infrastructure directly,” Thazhmon points out. This process took about 18 months.
In addition to cross-border payments, Jeeves’ full suite includes a credit platform, a corporate card, and Jeeves Pay, which connects a revolving credit with the SPEI system in Mexico, the first country where they started this service.
“The offering becomes much more robust,” Thazhmon boasts. Especially for global companies that operate in more than one country. This sets him apart from his competitors, like the also American Tribal or the Mexican Clara.
Regarding his expectations with this new business vertical, Thazhmon said he expects cross-border payments to account for at least 50% of their growth and revenue this year.
“I believe that in the long run, when you think about cross-border payments, it’s a much larger market than expense management, right? When we think about what we offer, we don’t see ourselves as an expense management provider or a corporate card provider; we see ourselves as a financial platform,” emphasizes the CEO.
Facing the Adverse Context
Over the past year, due to the shortage of venture capital, Jeeves has seen increased demand in corporate credit, as many of its clients are startups that need capital to keep growing.
Given the rising demand, Thazhmon says they have become stricter in terms of how many companies they approve. “We have to be very good managers with the capital we have and ensure that we also have a runway today; we have more than three years of landing strip and we need to keep that runway going.”
Latin America is one of the regions most affected by the economic crisis, which is why Jeeves’ solution here makes more sense. Therefore, Jeeves began its operations in Mexico, which is now its largest market, representing around 40% of the business.
In this part of the world, the beta test for cross-border payments will soon begin.
“I think of us as a global product, but we will always be linked to Latin America, because I believe that’s where we show the real product-market fit; right now, it’s our biggest region”.
In a reality where several startups, like Jeeves, have unicorn status, the fintech has also “tightened its belt.”
“We have been laser-focused on reducing operating costs just like most companies in the cycle. We have focused on reducing them between 40% and 50%”, shares the CEO.
But right now, he wants to strengthen through its executive team. “We have added three high-level leaders”, says Thazhmon, referring to Alex Melikian, formerly Payoneer, who joined as Chief Financial Officer, Daniel Adams, formerly Marqeta, who joined as Chief Compliance Officer, and Lowell Isaacs, formerly Capital One, who joined as Vice President of Credit Risk.
It’s important to strengthen, because Thazhmon predicts that by the end of 2023 and in 2024 we will see many players potentially entering the cross-border payments and corporate credit market.
Jeeves’ Growth and Investor Drive
Jeeves’ growth has been very rapid. When the fintech emerged, it was not common for companies to have access to digital platforms to manage their finances. There was a latent business opportunity that looked more attractive at a time when the flow of venture capital was abundant in Latin America.
The corporate expense management platform was built in a context where the percentage of internal credit allocated to private sector companies as a proportion of GDP in Latin America and the Caribbean was 55%, compared to the 98% global average, according to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in 2020.
Less than a year after Jeeves was founded, they were part of the summer generation of Y Combinator in 2020, the world’s most famous startup acceleration program, where they received USD$5 million.
By June 2021, they announced their Series A, comprised of USD$26 million in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz and by USD$100 million in debt. It hadn’t even been half a year when they announced their Series B for USD$57 million and a valuation of US$500 million, already in the soonicorn category.
One semester later, Jeeves’ valuation quadrupled when it received a Series C for USD$180 million and was valued at USD$2.1 billion.
In a statement, the company said that, by then, its revenues had increased up to 900% since the Series B funding round and that it already exceeded USD$1 billion in gross transactions.
Jeeves has received investment from Chinese tech giant Tencent and from funds GIC, Stanford University, Andreessen Horowitz, CRV, Silicon Valley Bank, FT Partners, Clocktower Ventures, Urban Innovation Fund, Haven Ventures, Gaingels, Spike Ventures, and Mexican Wollef, as well as other angel investors among whom are Carlos García, founder and CEO of Kavak, Daniel Vogel, founder and CEO of Bitso, and Adolfo Babatz, CEO of the unicorn Clip.
In the 5 rounds Jeeves has received, it has raised a total of USD$368 million, according to CrunchBase.
Since the inception of Jeeves, Thazhmon dreamed of having a cross-border service that would work in different countries and continents.
“By 2024 we will focus much more on growth and expanding the base we have because our goal is to ensure we build a long-lasting company, thanks to the great investors who have supported us”, concludes Thazhmon.