Gogoprint raises $7.7M to expand its online printing business in Asia Pacific

Gogoprint, a startup that is aiming to disrupt the traditional printing industry in Southeast Asia, has pulled in a $7.7 million investment as prepares to expand its business in Asia Pacific. We first profiled Gogoprint in 2016 soon after its launch the previous year, and since then the Bangkok-based company has expanded beyond Thailand and […]

Gogoprint, a startup that is aiming to disrupt the traditional printing industry in Southeast Asia, has pulled in a $7.7 million investment as prepares to expand its business in Asia Pacific.

We first profiled Gogoprint in 2016 soon after its launch the previous year, and since then the Bangkok-based company has expanded beyond Thailand and into Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Now, the company is looking to go beyond Southeast Asia and enter Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and other markets over the coming 12 months.

Those moves will be funded by this Series A round, which is led by existing Gogoprint backer OPG (Online Printing Group), an investment firm from Kai Hagenbuch who was an early backer of Brazil-based Printi. Printi previously sold a chunk of its business to printing giant VistaPrint through a 2014 investment and it is generally heralded as a startup success within its space.

Gogoprint claims to have worked with 45,000 companies to date. Its core services include printed business cards, flyers, booklets, posters and more, in addition to marketing collateral such as promotional pens, other stationary and flash drives.

Printing isn’t a particularly sexy space from the outside, but Gogoprint is aiming to upend the industry in Southeast Asia using something known as ‘batching.’ That involves bundling a range of customer orders together for each print run to ensure that each sheet that’s sent to the printer is filled to capacity, or near capacity.

That sounds obvious, but traditional printing batches were almost always below capacity because each customer ordered individually with little option for batching. Gogoprint uses the internet to reach a wider number of customers which, using technology to batch jobs, means that it can handle more orders with fewer printer runs. That translates to cost savings for its business and lower prices for its customers. There are also benefits for the printers themselves since they are guaranteed volume, which is no sure thing in today’s increasingly digital world.

Gogoprint joint managing director David Berghaeuser — who founded the company with fellow co-founder Alexander Suess — told TechCrunch that the company main pivot has been away from the idea it needed to own its printing facility in-house.

“When we started, we had this impression that as an online printer eventually we needed to own and operate our own machinery. But over one or two years we had a mindset shift when we realized there’s this option to operate this model as a pure marketplace — we’re definitely a marketplace and do not plan to own any printing machinery” he explained.

A large part of that is because in Southeast Asia it simply isn’t practical to ship products overseas, both in terms of time and also the cost and hassle of importing. So Gogoprint has local partners in each market that it works with. Rather than “disrupting” the system, Berghaeuser argued that his company is making the process more efficient.

Gogoprint staff at the company’s office in Bangkok, Thailand

Gogoprint currently has around 125 staff and there are plans to grow that number by an additional 30. In particular, Berghaeuser said the company is building out an internal structure that will enable it to scale — that includes the recent hiring of a CTO.

Berghaeuser explained that the company focuses on larger clients — such as Honda, Lazada and Lion Air — because of their higher average basket size and a higher chance of repeat custom, which he revealed is 60 percent on average. That’s achieved with a few tricks, which includes no design software on the website. Instead, Gogoprint customers upload their completed designs in any format. While he conceded the formats can be a pain, Berghaeuser clarified that the approach minimizes more hobbyist-type business, although he did say that the company is happy to work with customers of all sizes.

Gogoprint claims it grew its customer numbers by 200 percent over the past year but it declined to provide revenue details. Berghaeuser did say that the company has a path to profitability that’s helped by “healthy” profit margins of 30-80 percent depending on the product.

Hagenbuch, the early backer of Printi in Brazil, is convinced that Gogoprint is on to a good thing in Asia.

“There are a handful of big-name online printers operating in the region. However, each of them has localized operations as they have been unable to truly expand regionally into Southeast Asia due to operational and market form factors,” he said in a statement

“Gogoprint has found the right formula to win more and more customers by creating true value: providing something that’s better at a cheaper price point, and with enhanced speed to market,” Hagenbuch added.

Brazil’s healthtech sector is new hot spot

Like recent Brazilian investment booms focused on fintech innovation and new on-demand business models, there’s been a recent explosion in healthtech startups in Brazil.

Solving big problems for many people is the kind of opportunity that both entrepreneurs and investors love. Like recent Brazilian investment booms focused on fintech innovation and new on-demand business models, there’s been a recent explosion in healthtech startups in Brazil. With tens of millions of the country’s people impacted by gigantic inequities in access to health services, some serious quality problems, burdensome costs and inefficiencies on all sides, entrepreneurs’ plates are full in bringing healthtech innovations to the market.

In a recent study by Liga Ventures, there are now more than 250 health-focused startups in Brazil, the world’s seventh-largest health market with more than $42 billion spent annually on private healthcare. Yet, with more than $18 billion wasted due to inefficiencies, and health-related costs doubling in the country during the last five years (with accumulated inflation at 38 percent), Brazilian healthcare is ripe for disruption. Healthtech startups are one of the five featured verticals at Cubo Itaú, one of world’s largest entrepreneurial hubs based in Vila Olímpia, in the southern zone of São Paulo.

Last year, healthtech was the second-fastest growing tech sector in Latin America, according to “Inside Latin America’s Breakout Year in Tech” published by LAVCA. There was a 250 percent increase in the number of healthtech deals compared to 2016. A $50 million investment in Dr. Consulta, a network of brick-and-mortar clinics in Brazil offering top-quality healthcare at an affordable price, was among the top venture capital deals for 2017.

The healthcare sector is a complex market that connects people, processes and products between patients, intermediaries, care providers, distributors and suppliers. Based on tech innovation in Brazil that’s having the biggest impact, here are some of the key categories and players bringing new business models to market.

Healthcare on demand

About 75 percent of Brazil’s population (approximately 150 million people) only have access to the public healthcare system, which is poorly managed and inefficient. Often times, to schedule a single consultation or exam, a patient needs to wait weeks or even months to see a care provider. Technology-driven startups are springing up to address better, more efficient access to healthcare for a large and aging population.

For example, Dr. Consulta’s chain of low-cost medical clinics have expanded in three years from one to 51 branches and now claim to have the country’s largest clinical data set drawn from more than one million patients. In comparison to other private-sector clinics that cost at least $90, consultations with doctors at Dr. Consulta cost $25. Others offering similar clinical services on demand in Brazil today include Clínica SimDr. Sem FilasDocway and GlobalMed.

Telehealth and mobile health apps

To help make healthcare advice, diagnosis and monitoring more accessible, telehealth services in Brazil are expanding. Brazil Telemedicine (Brasil Telemedicina), for example, provides a variety of services around the clock that include medical exams and doctor consultations, a remote monitoring system and psychological counseling.

Startups with B2B telehealth services to improve patient care include Telelaudo, which provides 24/7 radiology imaging analysis, and Ventrix, which provides specialty devices to monitor heart health, treat vacuum wounds and monitor babies’ breathing and well-being. Another São Paulo-based startup called NEO MED has launched a marketplace to make it easier and faster to generate medical reports for ECG and EEG exams, facilitate improved collaboration between clinics, laboratories and hospitals and support physicians seeking more income and flexibility in where they choose to work.

The key ingredients to create another boom sector like fintech in the region are abundant.

Mobile health apps have grown in popularity in Brazil, in part due to a high prevalence of diseases like diabetes and hypertension and a large number of internet users in the country. For example, a mobile app and online program called Diet and Health (Dieta e Saude) has helped more than 1,600,000 users make better nutrition choices and motivate them to exercise regularly. Youper, founded in Brazil and now based in San Francisco, is a virtual emotional health assistant that helps overcome social anxiety. It helps its users re-formulate thought patterns and arrive at healthier states of mind.

AI and data analytics

Like many industries, AI and data analytics are transforming healthcare in Brazil and beyond from improving the speed of patient diagnoses to managing healthcare costs.

Gesto is one such emerging innovator that’s using machine learning to sift through and make sense of a lot of data on more than 4.5 million patients in its database to help select better insurance plans for corporations that optimize patient care while controlling costs. Intensicare, the largest specialist in intensive care unit management in Brazil, uses AI to speed diagnosis and reduce patient stay time and mortality rates. Epitrack is a Recife-based startup that uses crowdsourced data, AI and predictive analysis to combat outbreaks and epidemics through computational epidemiology.

Electronic medical records

Last year, the Brazilian government launched a project to modernize patient records for more than 42,000 public health clinics across the country by the end of 2018. This digitization of records is estimated to save the federal government about $6.8 billion according to The World Bank. As of late last year, only 30 million Brazilians (out of 208 million) had electronic medical records (EMR), and nearly two-thirds of the family clinics in Brazil didn’t have any way of recording digital information about their patients.

iClinic, a SaaS EMR platform, is one of the top Brazilian startups that has made a big impact on modernizing healthcare. It helps health professionals organize patient records electronically, store all that data in the cloud and retrieve it from any device. iClinic provides an extremely easy-to-use system to make healthcare more efficient, reduce costs and improve the quality of patient care. It’s now used in many parts of Brazil and has begun to spread its usage outside Brazil in more than 20 countries.

Digitizing prescriptions

Another major issue caused by a lack of digitization is that close to 70 percent of medical prescriptions in Brazil have potential for errors, according to the World Health Organization. As a result, Brazil has thousands of deaths per year linked to medication errors. A good number of them could be avoided by scanning. In the U.S., more than 77 percent of prescriptions are already done digitally.

To address this life-and-death issue, Memed has emerged as a key player for managing e-prescriptions in Brazil. Its platform, now used by more than 55,000 doctors from all medical specialties in the country, helps cross-check for allergies and drug interactions, makes treatment adherence easier and improves health outcomes. It’s developed the most complete, reliable and updated drug database in Brazil.

Certainly, healthtech startups in Brazil have emerged as a sector to watch, and we’re only at the tip of the iceberg in terms of problems in the country to be addressed by healthtech innovation. The key ingredients to create another boom sector like fintech in the region are abundant. Healthtech in Brazil will surely remain a hot spot for entrepreneurs, and the investors who believe in them, for many years to come.

Disclosure: Redpoint eventures is an investor in Memed.  

Nubank is now worth $4 billion after Tencent’s $180 million investment

Nubank, the Brazilian financial services company, has raised $180 million from the Chinese internet giant, Tencent. Tencent has long been interested in financial services startups, and with its $90 million direct investment and another $90 million investment in the secondary market, the company now has access to what is arguably the largest digital banking company […]

Nubank, the Brazilian financial services company, has raised $180 million from the Chinese internet giant, Tencent.

Tencent has long been interested in financial services startups, and with its $90 million direct investment and another $90 million investment in the secondary market, the company now has access to what is arguably the largest digital banking company in the world.

With the $4 billion valuation, it also makes Nubank one of the most highly valued privately held startups in Latin America.

News of the investment was first reported by The Information, which included the $4 billion figure.

For Nubank co-founders David Velez and Cristina Junqueira, the investment from Tencent means the addition of a strategic partner whose financial services products and transaction platform is unmatched by anything in Western Europe or the U.S.

Velez stressed that Nubank, which had raised $150 million in a February financing round led by DST, did not need the additional capital. “We found so much value in partnering with Tencent,” Velez said. “Particularly everything there is to learn about the Chinese financial market.”

Velez hopes to take those lessons and apply them back to the market in Brazil. China is in the forefront of financial services globally because of its technology companies’ ability to offer multi-product platforms. “They have built the playbook of how to use mobile.”

Through the investment, Tencent will gain an understanding of how Nubank has managed to service 5 million credit card holders, and the game plan the company is deploying to develop its own savings accounts and other banking services.

“Over 20 million people have applied for the card,” said Velez. “There are active, engaged, customers that want to get everything from us.”

Junqueira estimates the company will soon be able to serve tens of millions of Brazilians with either a savings account, a checking account or credit.

The opportunity could be even bigger as Brazil’s central bank investigates the possibility of instant payments as well, looking to India’s experiment with demonetization as an example.

Both Junqueira and Velez said the opportunity for financial services startups to achieve significant scale was far higher in emerging markets like Brazil than in developed markets, because the barriers to banking are so much higher.

Financial services, Velez said, has been controlled by massive oligopolies that have erected unfair obstacles to wealth creation for the masses. Nubank and other companies like it are working to change that.

Now the company has the benefit of Tencent’s guidance as it continues to push the envelope.

How the 22-year-old founders of Brex built a billion-dollar business in less than 2 years

Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi, the co-founders of Brex, have raised $125 million at a $1.1 billion valuation just four months after the startup’s public launch.

When Brazilian-born Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi met at 16 years old, they bonded over a love of coding and mutual frustrations with their strict mothers, who didn’t understand their Mark Zuckerberg-esque ambitions. 

To be fair, their moms’ fear of their hacking habits only escalated after their pre-teen sons received legal notices of patent infringements in the mail. A legal threat from Apple, which Franceschi received after discovering the first jailbreak to the iPhone, is enough to warrant a grounding, at the very least.

Their parents implored them to quit the hacking and stop messing around online.

They didn’t listen.

Today, the now 22-year-olds are announcing a $125 million Series C for their second successful payments business, called Brex, at a $1.1 billion valuation. Greenoaks Capital, DST Global and IVP led the round, which brings their total raised to date to about $200 million.

San Francisco-based Brex provides startup founders access to corporate credit cards without a personal guarantee or deposit. It’s also supported by the likes of PayPal founders Peter Thiel and Max Levchin, the former chief executive officer of Visa Carl Pascarella and a handful of leading venture capital firms. 

Brex is off to one of the most exciting starts we’ve ever seen,” IVP’s Somesh Dash said in a statement.

The financing makes them some of the youngest unicorn founders in history and puts them in a rare class of startups that have galloped into unicorn territory at such a fast clip. Brex was founded in the winter of 2017. It only launched publicly in June 2018.

How’d they do it?

“I’ve had two failed attempts, one successful attempt and one on the way to being a successful attempt,” Brex CEO Dubugras told TechCrunch while reciting a lengthy resume.

At 14, when most of us were worrying about what the first year of high school would bring us, Dubugras was more concerned about what his next business attempt would be. He had already built a successful online game but was forced to shut it down after receiving those patent infringement notices.

Naturally, he used the cash he earned from the game to start a company — an education startup meant to help Brazilian students apply to American schools. He himself was hoping to get into Stanford and had learned quickly how little Brazilian students understood of the U.S. college application process.

In some respects, the company was a success. It garnered 800,000 users but failed to make any money. His small fortune wasn’t enough to scale the business.

“There aren’t a lot of VCs in Brazil that are willing to fund 15-year-olds,” Dubugras told TechCrunch.

Shortly after folding the edtech, he met Franceschi, a Brazilian teen from Rio — Dubugras is from São Paulo — who understood his appetite for innovation and was just as hungry for success. The pair got to talking and because of Franceschi’s interest in payments, they started Pagar.me, the “Stripe of Brazil.”

Pagar.me raised $30 million, amassed a staff of 100 and was processing up to $1.5 billion in transactions when it sold. Finally, they had a real success under their belt. Now it was time to relocate. 

“We wanted to come to Silicon Valley to build stuff because everything here seemed so big and so cool,” Dubugras said.

And come to Silicon Valley they did. In the fall of 2016, the pair enrolled at Stanford. Shortly after that, they entered Y Combinator with big dreams for a virtual reality startup called Beyond. 

“I think three weeks in we gave it up,” Dubugras said. “We realized we aren’t the right founders to start this business.”

He credits Y Combinator with helping him realize what they were good at — payments.

As founders themselves, Dubugras and Franceschi were hyper-aware of a huge problem entrepreneurs face: access to credit. Big banks see small businesses as a risk they aren’t willing to take, so founders are often left at a dead-end. Dubugras and Franceschi not only had a big network of startup entrepreneurs in their Rolodex, but they had the fintech acumen necessary to build a credit card business designed specifically for founders.

So, they scrapped Beyond and in April 2017, Brex was born. The startup picked up momentum quickly, so much so that the pair decided to drop out of Stanford and pursue the business full time.

Simplifying financial access

Brex doesn’t require any kind of personal guarantee or security deposit and it doesn’t use third-party legacy technology; its software platform is built from scratch.

It simplifies a lot of the frustrating parts of corporate expenses by providing companies with a consolidated look at their spending. At the end of each month, for example, a CEO can easily see how much the entire company spent on Uber or Amazon. 

Plus, Brex can give entrepreneurs a credit limit that’s as much as 10 times higher than what they’d receive elsewhere and they can issue cards, virtual cards at least, moments after the online application is complete.

“We have a very similar effect of what Stripe had in the beginning, but much faster because Silicon Valley companies are very good at spending money but making money is harder,” Dubugras explained.

As part of their funding announcement, Brex said it will launch a rewards program built with the needs and spending patterns of founders in mind. Beyond that, they plan to use the capital to hire engineers and figure out how to grow the business’s client base beyond only tech startups.

“We want to dominate corporate credit cards,” Dubugras said. “We want every single company in the world, whenever they do businesses expenses, to do it on a Brex card.”

China’s Didi Chuxing launches taxi-hailing service in Japan

China’s Didi Chuxing is fighting fires at home around passenger safety, but overseas the ride-hailing giant has moved into another new market after its taxi-booking service began operations in Japan. The service has gone live in Osaka, the city of nearly nine million people, and parts of the surrounding area including Kansai International Airport. The Didi […]

China’s Didi Chuxing is fighting fires at home around passenger safety, but overseas the ride-hailing giant has moved into another new market after its taxi-booking service began operations in Japan.

The service has gone live in Osaka, the city of nearly nine million people, and parts of the surrounding area including Kansai International Airport. The Didi Japan app links passengers up with drivers from 10 local taxi companies, and Didi said it will use an AI-based dispatch and fleet management system for efficiency.

Didi, which is valued at $56 billion, entered Japan in partnership with SoftBank, which is of course one of its investors. The company said it plans to expand the service to major cities including “Kyoto, Fukuoka and Tokyo” in the near future.

The company is going to stick to license taxis and not private cars because the latter is banned in Japan. Still, the traditional taxi industry is big business in Japan . The country is the world’s third largest taxi market based on revenue ($13 billion GMV), and it has some 240,000 licensed vehicles.

Uber, meanwhile, is piloting a similar taxi-based approach across Japan, but there are some far bigger players in the space.

JapanTaxi is a ride-hailing startup operated by Ichiro Kawanabe, who runs Japan’s largest taxi operator Nihon Kotsu and heads up the country’s taxi federation. JapanTaxi also has big-name backers, with Toyota the lead investor of a recent $69 million funding round. Beyond that, popular messaging app Line operates a ride-hailing service while Lyft, Uber’s rival in the U.S. market, is considering entering Japan, too.

Didi is hoping to stick out from the competition by appealing to both travelers and locals. To help snag interest from tourists visiting the country, it has created a ‘roaming passport’ that will allow users of other Didi apps — including China, Mexico, Australia, Hong Kong and Taiwan — to use their regular Didi app in Japan.

This Japan launch has been in the offing for some time — SoftBank and Didi announced the joint venture back in February — and this is the fifth expansion that Didi has completed so far this year. The company raised $4 billion at the tail-end of last year and it earmarked that capital for developing AI, core tech and international markets.

Didi hasn’t held back in broadening its business globally. The company has expanded into Mexico and Australia organically, while it acquired Uber rival 99 in Brazil in a $1 billion deal and launched a franchise-based expansion in Taiwan. It global reach also includes investments, and it owns stakes in Uber in the U.S, Ola in India, Grab in Southeast Asia, Careem in the Middle East and Taxify in Europe and Africa.

Base10’s debut fund is the largest-ever for a Black-led VC firm

Adeyemi Ajao, the co-founder and managing director of Base10 Partners, was surprised to hear his firm’s $137 million fund was the largest debut to date for a black-led venture capital firm.

He and his co-founder — managing director TJ Nahigian — found out from none other than their fund’s own limited partners, who told them they should seek out institutions looking to invest in diverse fund managers.

Adeyemi Ajao (above left), the co-founder and managing director of Base10 Partners, was surprised to hear his firm’s $137 million fund was the largest debut to date for a black-led venture capital firm.

He and his co-founder — managing director TJ Nahigian (above right) — found out from none other than their fund’s own limited partners, who told them they should seek out institutions looking to invest in diverse fund managers.

“Oh man, I was like, ‘yeah, I know I’m black but so what?'” Ajao told TechCrunch. “I can be a little bit naive about these things until they become extremely apparent.”

Ajao is African, European, Latin, and now, having spent a decade in San Francisco, American. Growing up in between Spain and Nigeria, it wasn’t until landing in the Bay Area that he was forced to confront a social dynamic absent in his international upbringing: racial inequality and being black in America.

“The U.S. is pretty different about those things,” he said. “I was surprised when at Stanford I got an invitation to a dinner of the Black Business Student Association. I’m like, ‘why would there be a Black Business Student Association? That’s so weird?’ It took me a while, a good, good while, to be like ok, here there’s actually a really entrenched history of a clash and people being treated differently day-to-day.”

In the business of venture capital, the gap in funding for black founders and other underrepresented entrepreneurs is jarring. There’s not a lot of good data out there to illustrate the gap, but one recent study by digitalundivided showed the median amount of funding raised by black women founders is $0, because most companies founded by black women receive no money.  

Ajao certainly hadn’t thought the color of his skin would impact his fundraising process, and, in retrospect, he doesn’t think it did. Still, he recognizes that pattern recognition and implicit bias continue to be barriers for diverse founders and investors.

Now, he plans to leverage his unique worldview to identify the next wave of unicorns others VCs are missing. Base10 doesn’t have a diversity thesis per say but it plans to invest in global companies fixing problems that affect 99 percent of the world, not the Silicon Valley 1 percent. 

I sat down with Ajao in Base10’s San Francisco office to discuss his background, the firm’s investment focus and the importance of looking beyond the Silicon Valley bubble.

Automation of the real economy

Base10 is writing seed and Series A checks between 500,000 and $5 million. It’s completed 10 investments so far, including in Brazilian mobility startups Grin and Yellow, which closed a $63 million Series A last week.

The firm is looking for entrepreneurs who have spent years in their industries, whether that be agriculture, logistics, waste management, construction, real estate or otherwise, and are trying to solve problems they’ve experienced first-hand.

“We are much more likely to fund someone that actually worked for eight years on a construction site and was like, ‘you know what, I think this could be done better and maybe I can make my life easier with automation,’ rather than a Ph.D. in AI out of the Stanford lab that says ‘I think construction is inefficient and it can be done without people,'” Ajao said. “[We are] kind of flipping the paradigm in that sense.”

The firm has also backed birth control delivery startup The Pill Club, on-demand staffing company Wonolo and Tokensoft, a platform for compliant token sales. 

Beyond the bubble

Ajao and Nahigian have a mix of operational and investing experience.

On the VC side, Nahigian, a Los Angeles native, spent seven years investing via Summit Partners, Accel, then Coatue Management. In 2014, he co-founded Jobr, a mobile job platform that was later acquired by Monster, where he became the VP of product and head of mobile.

Ajao was most recently a VP at Workday where he led the launch of Workday Ventures, a VC fund focused on AI for enterprise software. He joined Workday after the company acquired his startup, Identified, in what was his second successful exit to date. Before that, he co-founded Spanish social media company Tuenti, which Telefonica paid $100 million for in 2010

He also helped incubate and launch Cabify, a Spanish ride-hailing company based in Madrid. The Uber competitor raised $160 million at a $1.4 billion valuation earlier this year.

Ajao was Nahigian’s first investor in Jobr, which was also backed by Tim Draper, Redpoint Ventures, Eniac Ventures, Lowercase Capital and more. The pair stayed in touch, discussed startups and potential deals, ultimately deciding to go into business together. 

They agreed Base10 should support companies solving real problems and that as investors, they needed to be able to see beyond the Silicon Valley bubble.

Do we feel a little bit of a responsibility? Like … ‘hey, you should help Silicon Valley be more aware of global issues.’ Yes,” Ajao said. “I try to spend a lot of time meeting with founders that either look different or are trying to make it here and I try to be super open about my journey and my travels.”

His piece of advice to other VCs is one that countless diverse founders and investors have been shouting at the top of their lungs: Invest in underrepresented founders, it’s just good business.

“If you have the same company and one is run by a female and one is run by a male, and it’s the same stuff, you should probably invest in the female, because that person probably had a harder time getting there,” he said. “It’s actually good business. I believe that.”

“The more open and comfortable we get about talking about these things, the better it is for both parties.”

Brazilian startup Yellow raises $63M — the largest Series A ever for a Latin American startup

After selling their ridesharing startup, 99, to Didi Chuxing for $1 billion last year, Ariel Lambrecht and Renato Freitas didn’t waste any time throwing their hats back in the ring. Months after their big exit, the pair joined forces with Eduardo Musa, who spent two decades in the bicycle industry, to start another São Paulo-based mobility startup. […]

After selling their ridesharing startup, 99, to Didi Chuxing for $1 billion last year, Ariel Lambrecht and Renato Freitas didn’t waste any time throwing their hats back in the ring.

Months after their big exit, the pair joined forces with Eduardo Musa, who spent two decades in the bicycle industry, to start another São Paulo-based mobility startup. Yellow, a bike- and scooter-sharing service, quickly captured the attention of venture capitalists, raising a $9 million seed round in April and now, the company is announcing the close of a $63 million Series A.

The round is the largest Series A financing ever for a startup in Latin America, where tech investment, especially from U.S.-based firms, has historically remained low. 2017, however, was a banner year for Latin American startups; 2018, it seems, is following suit. More than $600 million was invested in the first quarter of 2018, partly as a result of increased activity from international investors. And just last month, on-demand delivery startup Rappi brought in $200 million to become the second Latin American company to garner a billion-dollar valuation.

GGV Capital has led the round for Yellow . The Silicon Valley firm is a backer of several other mobility companies, including Grab, Hellobike and Didi Chuxing. Yellow represents the firm’s first foray into the Latin American tech ecosystem. Brazilian VC firm Monashees, Grishin Robotics, Base10 Partners and Class 5 also participated.

“We think there’s a new economy emerging in Latin America,” GGV managing partner Hans Tung told TechCrunch. “A lot of people are more cautious but what we’ve seen with our experience in China, when internet penetration started to happen, a new economy started to emerge that’s more efficient.”

Yellow’s bikes and e-scooters are only available in São Paulo. With the investment, the startup plans to expand to Mexico City, Colombia, Chile and Argentina, as well as add e-bikes to its portfolio of micro-mobility options.

The company also plans to tap into local resources by building a scooter manufacturing facility in the region. Yellow CEO Eduardo Musa told me the company doesn’t want to be reliant on Chinese manufacturers to import scooters and that a local supplier is a whole lot cheaper. The company’s bikes are already sourced locally.

“Since the beginning, we wanted to be vertically integrated,” Musa told TechCrunch. “We definitely believe you need a constant inflow of hardware and you need control and management over the supply chain … not only because of the cost but also because of the quality control.”

Yellow is one of several e-scooter startups to raise VC in 2018. Bird and Lime, for example, both raised large rounds of capital at billion-dollar valuations. A good chunk of that capital has gone into building more scooters, placing a huge demand on the few Chinese manufacturers that’ve tapped into the market.

“There was simply not available capacity or factories prepared to fulfill the demand that arose from the other scooter sharing companies,” Musa said. “This became, very, very quickly, a major bottleneck for this industry.”

 

 

Latin America is the next stage in the race for dominance in the ride-hailing market

Nathan Lustig Contributor Nathan Lustig is an entrepreneur and managing partner at Magma Partners, a seed-stage investment fund in Santiago, Chile. More posts by this contributor Latin America’s Movile is quietly building a mobile empire Latin America’s Groupon Mafia As the number of competitors in the ride-hailing industry dwindles, geographic expansion is emerging as the […]

As the number of competitors in the ride-hailing industry dwindles, geographic expansion is emerging as the next proving ground to determine who will be the victor in the ride-hailing market.

The race for control of the industry, which is estimated by Goldman Sachs to grow eightfold to $285 billion by 2030, is escalating with China’s Didi Chuxing already surpassing Uber as the most valuable startup in the world. With a recent valuation of approximately $56 billion, compared to Uber’s $48 billion, Didi is posing a real threat to Uber’s operations and shows no signs of slowing down. Cementing its position as the top ride-hailing service in China, Didi is now turning its attention to another region of the world that is still filled with vast opportunities and not yet dominated by a single taxi alternative: Latin America.

While many ride-hailing and sharing services have already sprung up and faced regulation in cities across Latin America such as Mexico City, Montevideo, and São Paulo, the region still presents an enormous opportunity for the companies that can adapt and move fast enough.

The current opportunities in Latin America

Unlike many other regions of the world, Latin America is still very much reliant on traditional forms of public transportation such as buses, trains, and subway systems. What’s more, larger cities such as São Paulo, Mexico City, and Bogota simply cannot support any more vehicles on the road without an infrastructure overhaul. Large metro areas are already at or above maximum capacity during peak hours, making owning and commuting with a car more of a hassle than a luxury. As a result, many commuters across Latin America are putting less importance on owning a vehicle and opting to use alternative modes of transportation and on-demand services instead.

Beyond the rising demand for alternative transportation options, it’s also worth noting that Latin America is the world’s second-fastest-growing mobile market. In a region of approximately 640 million people, there are more than 200 million smartphone users. By 2020, predictions say that 63% of Latin America’s population will have access to the mobile Internet. Latin American smartphone users have quickly adopted global apps, such as Uber and Facebook. However, tech companies have yet to fully tap into the region’s potential.

Chilean taxi drivers demonstrate along Alameda Avenue against US on-demand ride service giant Uber, in Santiago, on July 10, 2017.
Uber smartphone app has faced stiff resistance from traditional taxi drivers the world over, as well as bans in some places over safety concerns and questions over legal issues, including taxes. (MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images)

The key players

Uber

According to a Dalia survey, Latin Americans with smartphones that live in urban areas are the most likely to have used a ride-hailing app or site. Overall, 45% have used an app, with Mexico taking the top position in the region at 58%.

Uber entered Latin America in 2013 and claims to have more than 36 million active users in the region, proving employment for more than a million drivers. The company quickly dominated Mexico, which is now its second-largest market after the U.S. In fact, up until recently Uber claimed a near monopoly on ride-sharing in Mexico with few competitors. Uber also has operations in more than 16 Latin American countries.

99 (formerly 99Taxis)

With an urban population of approximately 180 million, Brazil is the ultimate prize for ride-hailing and taxi companies with several services competing for market share. Most notably, 99 (formerly “99Taxis”) was able to gain momentum early on with exclusive services that extended beyond basic ride-hailing (such as its 99 TOP and 99 POP services) and better tools for its drivers.

With over 200,000 drivers and 14 million users, 99 attracted the attention of investors worldwide, including that of China’s Didi Chuxing. Didi invested $100 million into 99 in January 2018 before acquiring 99 entirely months later for nearly $1 billion to take on Uber in Latin America, shortly after it acquired Uber’s operations in China.

Easy Taxi

Rocket Internet -backed taxi booking service, Easy Taxi, started in Latin America in 2011, two years after Uber first started in San Francisco. The company provides an easy way to book a taxi and track it in real-time. Today, the company is owned by Maxi Mobility, which acquired the company from Rocket Internet in 2017 for an undisclosed amount. Maxi Mobility also owns Cabify, and operates across many Latin American markets, including Argentina, Mexico, Bolivia, Panama, Brazil, Peru, and Chile, in addition to a handful of markets elsewhere.

To solidify its position in the region, Easy Taxi merged with Colombian taxi-booking app Tappsi in 2015. Tappsi launched in Bogotá in 2012 and was doing quite well in the Colombian market. The merger allowed the companies to pool their resources just as other competitors, such as Uber, began entering the region.

Easy Taxi maintains impressive traction, raising more than $75 million to date. But as the ride-hailing battle in Latin America pushes forward, the company is rumored to be a likely investment or acquisition target for Uber, Didi, or the largest global investor in this space, Softbank.

Cabify

Cabify is a Spanish company that provides private vehicles for hire via its smartphone app. Although founded in Madrid, Cabify has always positioned itself as a Latin American company, investing heavily across the region. The company was able to gain a strong foothold due to some significant funding raised by its parent company, Maxi Mobility. In January 2018, Maxi Mobility raised another $160 million and said the funding would be used to accelerate both of its companies, Cabify and Easy Taxi, in the 130 cities where they operate throughout Spain, Portugal, and Latin America.

Cabify reported it has over 13 million users and grew its installed-base by 500% between 2016 and 2017, tripling its user base and fulfilling six times more trips in 2017.

Cabify competes directly with Uber, 99, and Easy Taxi in Brazil; however, it reportedly has around 40% market share in Sao Pãolo, one of the largest cities in all of Latin America.

Smaller players to watch

Beat (Formerly Taxibeat)

Beat is a profitable ride-hailing service founded in Athens, Greece that also operates in Peru. Beat is slowly expanding its operations across Latin America, though expansion appears to be limited to Chile for now.

As of January 2017, Beat had around 15,000 drivers and 800,000 customers in Peru.

Nekso

Toronto-based Nekso bet on the Latin American taxi-hailing market before its home market with a pilot launch in Venezuela in 2016. Nekso was able to gain acceptance from the taxi industries in Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Panama with its slightly different approach to ride-hailing.

The company connects a network of 550+ licensed taxi companies with thousands of drivers and allows users to flag down a cab off the street and without using in-app requests. Nekso also uses artificial intelligence technology to offer drivers real-time updates on weather, events, and traffic data to predict areas of a city which may need more drivers. The company claims taxi drivers can spend up to two-thirds of their day looking for or waiting for riders and that Nekso technology helps drivers increase their daily rides by more than 25% percent.

At the end of 2017, Nekso boasted around 150,000 users and facilitated approximately 400,000 rides per month. Now, the company plans to make its debut in Canada as well as expand to more countries in South America, including Argentina, Colombia, Chile, and Peru.

Didi, 99, and the next phase

99’s new owner, Didi, which dominates the Asian market and was able to defeat Uber in China, has big plans for international expansion. Its acquisition of 99 reveals the potential it sees in Latin America but also adds to the complicated web of global ride-hailing services.

After Didi shut down and acquired Uber’s assets in China, it also bought a stake in Uber for $1 billion. Uber, Didi, and 99 are all backed by Softbank. However, everywhere outside of China, Didi and Uber are competing with each other. Didi’s full plans for 99 are not yet obvious, but the company has already set up an office in Mexico and begun poaching staff from Uber in Mexico.

With an infusion of capital, Latin America’s ride-hailing industry is multiplying. That said, companies that want to compete in the region will need to use an aggressive and strategic approach that can withstand the uniqueness of commuters and transportation options in the region. It’s only a matter of time until we see if these companies continue ramping up their operations for geographic domination, or if we see more and more partner up to advance their technologies and address other looming threats – such as bike sharing, scooter sharing, and even autonomous vehicles.

Two of the founders of 99, who sold their company to Didi, have already launched a dockless bike sharing startup called Yellow in Brazil and raised $9 million to grow its operations. No other scooter company has taken the plunge into Latin America yet besides Grin Scooters in Mexico City, but other larger cities such as Buenos Aires, Bogota, Santiago, and Lima would be ideal markets if the companies can figure out pricing as well as security and safety issues first.

Didi’s activity in Brazil and Mexico is sure to trigger a new wave of competition between existing ride-hailing players and create an even more tangled web of alliances and acquisitions. Whether or not these companies can adapt and move fast enough to rise to the top, and deal with the other looming alternative modes of transportation, remains to be seen.

India’s Uber rival Ola is headed to Europe with ride-hailing launch in the UK

The UK is getting a new alternative to Uber after India-based ride-hailing company Ola announced plans to expand to the country, which will become its first market in Europe. Ola was founded in 2010 and it covers over 110 cities in India where it offers licensed taxis, private hire cars and rickshaws through a network […]

The UK is getting a new alternative to Uber after India-based ride-hailing company Ola announced plans to expand to the country, which will become its first market in Europe.

Ola was founded in 2010 and it covers over 110 cities in India where it offers licensed taxis, private hire cars and rickshaws through a network of over one million drivers. The company has raised around $3 billion from investors that include SoftBank, Chinese duo Tencent and Didi Chuxing and DST Global . It was last valued at $7 billion. Ola ventured overseas for the first time when it launched in Australia earlier this year — it is now in seven cities there — and its move into the UK signals a further expansion into Europe.

Ola’s UK service isn’t live right now, but the company said it will begin offering licensed taxi and private hire bookings initially in South Wales and Greater Manchester “soon.” Ola plans to expand that coverage nationwide before the end of this year. That will eventually mean taking on Uber and potentially Taxify another unicorn startup backed by Didi which is looking to relaunch in the UK — in London and other major cities.

So, why the UK?

Ola CEO and co-founder Bhavish Aggarwal called the country “a fantastic place to do business” and added that he “look[s] forward to providing a responsible, compelling, new service that can help the country meet its ever demanding mobility needs.”

It’s no secret that Uber has struggled in London, where its gung-ho attitude to business — ‘launch first, apologize later’ — has seen it run into issues with regulators. Uber (just about) won a provisional 15-month transport license earlier this year following an appeal against the city’s transportation regulator, Transport for London (TfL) earlier rejected its application.

The’ New Uber’ — under CEO Dara Khosrowshahi — is trying to right the wrongs of the past, but compliance with regulators takes time and requires wholesale changes to business, operations and company culture.

Ola isn’t commenting directly on its rivalry with Uber — we did ask, but got a predictable “no comment” — but the tone of its announcement today shows it is focused on being a more collaborative player than Uber.

Indeed, there’s been much groundwork. Aggarwal met with regulators in London last year and he said in a statement released today that he plans “continued engagement with policymakers and regulators” as the Ola service expands across the UK.

International expansion is very much part of Ola’s ambition to go public, which Aggarwal recently said could happen in the next three to four years. But Ola isn’t alone in looking overseas. Didi, the firm that defeated Uber in China and has backed Ola, Taxify and many others, has also been busy moving into new markets.

Last year, the firm raised $4 billion to double down on technology, AI and go overseas and it has come good on that promise by entering MexicoAustralia and Taiwan. It also landed Brazil through the acquisition of local player and Uber rival 99 and it is preparing to go live in Japan, where it will operate a taxi-booking service through a joint venture with SoftBank.

China’s Didi pumps $1B into its rebranded driver services business

Didi Chuxing is going pedal to the metal for its automobile services business after it announced it will invest $1 billion into the division, which is also getting a rebrand. The Chinese ride-hailing firm had been tipped to spin out the business and raise $1.5 billion from investors ahead of an IPO, according to a recent Reuters […]

Didi Chuxing is going pedal to the metal for its automobile services business after it announced it will invest $1 billion into the division, which is also getting a rebrand.

The Chinese ride-hailing firm had been tipped to spin out the business and raise $1.5 billion from investors ahead of an IPO, according to a recent Reuters report. The business itself hasn’t spun out, however, but it has been renamed to Xiaoju Automobile Solutions and given more autonomy with the introduction of its own general manager.

The division handles services for registered Didi drivers, such as leasing and purchase financing, insurance, repairs, refueling, car-sharing and more. Essentially, with its huge army of drivers, Didi can get preferential rates from service providers, which means better deals for its drivers. That, in turn, is helpful for recruiting new drivers and growing the business. (Didi claims to support 30 million drivers, but that covers food delivery as well as more basic point-to-point transportation.)

Rather than outsiders — SoftBank had been linked with an investment at a valuation of up to $3 billion — Xiaoju is getting its capital boost direct from Didi. The company said it injected $1 billion to “support its business in providing Didi drivers and the broader car-owner community with convenient, flexible, economical, and reliable one-stop auto services.”

Of course, these factors don’t preclude Didi from spinning the business out in the future and listing it separately to the parent Didi firm. That’s the reasoning Reuters made in its previous story, and it still stands to reason that if Didi is (as widely expected) planning a public listing of its own then it might be keen to break out this asset-heavy part of its business.

Didi didn’t respond to our request for comment on those future plans.

Didi Chuxing’s rebranded Xiaoju driver services division includes a refueling program for its drivers.

The company is saying more about the Xiaoju business itself. It said the services support drivers in over 257 cities through a network of 7,500 partners and distributors. There are some caveats, though: the auto care service is currently limited to seven cities in China.

Didi also went on the record with some financial data. The company claimed that annualized GMV for Xiaoju has jumped from 37 billion RMB ($5.4 billion) in April 2018 to 60 billion RMB ($8.76 billion) as of today. That’s impressive growth of 62 percent, and the forecast is that it will easily pass its previous goal of 90 billion RMB ($13.15 billion) for 2018 before this year is finished.

GMV, in this case, refers to the total value of goods and services crossing the Xiaoju platform. That help gives an idea of how active it is, but it doesn’t translate to revenue or profit/loss for Didi. The company didn’t provide information for either revenue or profitability for Xiaoju.

This year has been a notable one as the company has expanded its horizons for the first time by venturing outside of China.

Last year, Didi raised $4 billion to double down on technology, AI and move into new markets, and it has come good on that promise by entering MexicoAustralia and Taiwan. It also landed Brazil through the acquisition of local player and Uber rival 99 and it is preparing to go live in Japan, where it will operate a taxi-booking service through a joint venture with SoftBank.

Beyond that massive $4 billion raise, Didi recently landed a $500 million investment from Booking Holdings that’s aimed at providing strategic alliances between the Didi and the travel giant’s range of services. The company has raised over $17 billion from investors to date and it was last valued at $56 billion.