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Latin American Unicorn: Who are they and where are they from?





You can't connect the dots looking forward […] As Steve Jobs said You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. Starting a company is not an easy task, every IPO or unicorn might look like an overnight success, but hard work and consistency are part of the secret recipe to create a successful business.


Since 2009, the Latin American startup ecosystem has benefited from $19B in funding across 2,800 deals. Despite the rise of COVID worldwide, the region has recorded a record of 4.2B in funding across 370 deals. Out of those deals Latam is home of 22 unicorns, in finance and insurance, logistics and transportation, real estate, travel and tourism ecommerce and others.


The following article will dive into the unicorns of the region, revealing which countries developed the right ecosystems for them to grow, as well as which industries these unicorns belong to.


The startup world is all about speculations, hence the explanation of the sources considered for the blog. The data in the following blog was recovered from statista considering the reports published in April 2021, and other startup specialized sources from the region taking into consideration the same period. If there is any question regarding information, or comments feel free to contact us.


Home of the unicorns


According to the Development Bank of Latin America in 2020, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay and Colombia were ranked among the top countries for startups in the region in 2020. Brazil heads the list with 12 unicorns, Argentina follows with 5, Mexico with 3, Colombia with 2, and Uruguay with 1.


In the paragraphs to follow, we’ll share a zoom in on each country in order to know more about each unicorn and their country of birth.


Brazil


Has created the right ecosystem to start and flourish a startup, proof of it are the 12 unicorns the country is home to. Brazil is home to the most valuable unicorn in the region, Nu bank, a challenger for traditional banking, but also it has great players such as Wildlife studios one of the biggest mobile gaming companies, Loft the first real estate unicorns in the region, and many more that will be stated below.


Nu bank

Estimate Value: $25B USD.

Founder: David Vellez, Cristina Junqueira, and Adam Edward Wible.

Nu bank is the biggest digital bank world wide. Fintech makes the process of getting a credit card really easy and quick through thor mobile app registration. It has more than 30 million users and operates in Brazil, Mexico and Colombia.

Wildlife studios

Estimate Value: $3B UDS.

Founders: Arthur Lazarte, Michael Mac-Vicar, and Victor Lazarte.

It is one of the biggest companies developing mobile video games, they have a variety of genres for different kinds of devices. Their game portfolio makes their service one of a kind by being able to satisfy many different users.


Loft

Estimate Value: $2B USD .

Founders: Florian Hagenbuch, Gustavo D. Saraiva, Kristian Huber, Marcus Vinicius Grigoletto, Mariana Paixao, and Mate Pencz.

The web platform allows users to search for properties on sale, rent, and lease. The first real estate unicorns of the region, makes it more efficient to find deals for both the owner and the consumer, making the process more efficient and transparent.


Brazil, the biggest player of startups in the region, has developed the right ecosystem to create a successful place for innovation. In Fintech other players are: C6 bank, Creditas bank loans and Ebanx. The logistics and transportations industry is formed by loggi, iFood, and movile.


Quinto Andar, the second real estate unicorn is challenging loft. Vtex and Madeira Madeira both in ecommerce, the first in payment and transactions, the former in construction material and logistics.


Argentina


Mercado Libre, the strongest player for ecommerce in south america was one of the first unicorns of Latam. Argentina has developed a strong innovation ecosystem which has nurtured many innovators to dream big. 5 unicorns have appeared in the country following Mercado Libre’s path Despegar, Globant, Auth(), and OLX.


Mercado Libre

Estimate Value: 81B USD

Founders: Marcos Galperin, Stelleo Passos Tolda, and Hernán J. Kazah

Started as an online goods store in argentina, fast forward 22 years it has grown into logistics services for delivering its own products and the financial system with mercado pago. It became public in 2007 becoming the first latin company to appear in nasdaq.


Despegar

Founders: Roberto Souviron, Mariano Fiori, Martín Rastellino, Cristian Vilate, and Alejandro Tamer

After a long queue trying to buy a flight ticket, Despgar becomes a reality by letting users buy online tickets. Today Despegar and its subsidiaries are the biggest travel agency in Latin America.


Mexico


2021 has been a great year for the unicorns in Mexico. It has the second most valuable unicorn in the region, and two other unicorns appeared so far this year. This is a great sign of the Mexican ecosystem potential. Since the Fintech law, Mexico’s startups have bloomed, proof 2 out of 3 unicorns of the country are in this industry.


Kavak

Estimate Value: $4B USD.

Founders: Carlos Garcia Ottati, Roger Laughlin Carvallo, and Loreanne Garcia Ottati.

Kavak is the second most valuable unicorn in the region. It is a platform that provides a transparent and safe experience to sell or buy a car. Using real time data, it provides the sellers a just offer to buy their car without leaving the comfort of their home.


Bitso

Estimate Value: $2B USD.

Founders: Pablo Gonzalez and Daniel Vogel.

The second unicorn of Mexico, is a platform designed to exchange cryptocurrencies from the mobile phone. With the boom of the crypto market Bitso has more than 1.5 million users registered in their platform.


Clip

Estimate Value: USD $2B.

Founder: Adolfo Babatz.

Clip came to the world to help small and medium companies accept credit and debit card transactions. The benefit of having clip, is that it accepts payments with all of the cards in the market, also the clip app can process and receive payment through cell phones giving the small and medium companies real time visibility of each transaction.


Colombia


The following in the ranking is Colombia with 2 unicorns, the super app for personal services Rappi , and Life miles, a world-class loyalty program where members earn miles for travel and purchases.


Rappi

Estimate Value: $3.5B USD.

Founders: Felipe Villamarín, Sebastian Mejia, and Simón Borrero.

Rappi is headed to become a super app, an app that provides all the services possible. It provides deliveries on demand connecting consumers to local stores to bring new customers to the local stores. Today Rappi operates in Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil and more than 200 cities.


Lifemiles

Estimate Value: $1.15B USD.

Founders: Avianca Holdings.

Lifemiles is a world-class loyalty program where millions of members earn miles every day for their travels and purchases, operated by avianca airline. It was founded in 2011 and took 6 years for the company to gain unicorns status.


Uruguay


Uruguay has one of South America’s highest GDPs per capita, with a developing middle class backed by strong political and economic stability. As a result It has increased its startups by 66% since 2017.


It is a must to keep an eye on Uruguay in the following years to spot the new unicorn.


dLocal

Estimate Value: $1.2B USD.

Founders: Sebastian Kanovich and Sergio Fogel.

dLocal is a payment processor connecting global merchants with emerging markets. The unicorn provides customers with the service of real estate payments or credit cards, facilitating transactions.


The startup ecosystem in the region is growing, and it is causing many venture capitals to look at Latin American. Finance and insurance is where most unicorns are up to day with 5, following by transportation and logistics with 3, travel, tourism and hospitality 2, real estate 2, e-commerce 2, internet 1 and technology and communication 1.


Emerging economies in the region are working hard to create the right conditions, in regulations and financing, to incentivize startups in the region. Technology is eating the world, it will be no surprise to see the region developing many more successful startups that hopefully reach the unicorns status in the following years.


Latam developing the right conditions for unicorns to emerge


It will be a matter of time until we see more unicorns in the region.


At noga we see the development of the right conditions in the ecosystem for startups to flourish, by working closely with the entrepreneurs and understanding the factors that make Israel the startup nation. It will be an interesting time to look at the region, and be part of the innovation ecosystem that is emerging.


It is the right time to be in Latin America, reach out at info@nogaplus.com; we can help you navigate the deep waters of the region.
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