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The 18 Latin American unicorns galloping to success

This post is also available in: esEspañol (Spanish)

Written by Victor Cortés, César Miramontes and Jacob Atkins

Contxto – With Latin America growing as an important axis for the entrepreneurship ecosystem, hardly a day goes by without a breaking news story about a Latin American startup funding round.

At Contxto, we’re always trying to showcase what’s going well in Latin America. With the same purpose, there’s no better way to exemplify the wonders of this geographic region than the startups that have managed to break the US$1 billion mark. Here’s a list of some of the area’s blessed unicorns.

99

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.

Pagseguro

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 and transfers. The startup raised US$2.27 billion through its NYSE IPO.

Nubank

Nubank originally began as Solucoes de Pagamento in May 2013. In less than two months, it changed its name and began to seriously challenge traditional banks and their exhausting bureaucratic processes. The Brazilian company acquired a value of US$4 billion after selling a minority stake for US$180 million to Tencent Holdings.

Rappi

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 participation of Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz and Endeavor Catalyst.

Ascenty

Since beginning in 2010 in São Paulo, this Brazilian startup has become the largest data center in Latin America. Currently, it has 17 data centers around the world. Ascenty raised an undisclosed amount of money during its last investment round in June 2017. Nevertheless, we know that their current majority stockholders, Great Hill Partners, bought their stake for US$1.8 billion.

Stone

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 estimated annual revenue of US$5 million. A couple of days ago, it filed for a follow-on offering aiming to raise US$700 million.

Arco Educação

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 and it’s present in approximately 1,300 private Brazilian schools.

iFood

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.

Gympass

Since 2012, Gympass has been connecting employees from partnering organizations with a hefty network of 30,000 fitness facilities. Nowadays, Crunchbase is reporting more than 141,000 monthly app downloads across 15 different countries. Last February, the startup raised US$500 million from Softbank, at a US$1.1 billion valuation.

Prisma Medios de Pago

Always innovating, this company facilitates online transactions, payments, transfers, points of sale, online shopping, billing and money management. Prisma launched in 2014 back in its hometown of Buenos Aires, Argentina. To the surprise of many, it became a unicorn in 2019 after Advent’s capital infusion of US$700 million.

Despegar.com

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, as well as book airfare. People can also secure hotel and car rental reservations online, in addition to travel-related services, including access to airlines, car rental companies, etc.

MercadoLibre

Also, 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. It has held five funding rounds according to Crunchspace, bringing its current valuation to US$1.9 billion.

Globant

This digitally native company helps partners embrace innovation, design, and engineering to effectively scale. Since 2003, it has expanded to more than 14 countries and worked with corporations such as Google, Southwest Airlines, EA and BBVA. Previously, Globant has been previously featured as a business case study for Harvard, MIT and Stanford.

Softtek

This Mexican company from Monterrey has been providing IT solutions since 1982. Active across the world, Softtek offers time-to-business solutions, decreases costs of existing applications, engineers and tests applications, and helps top-tier corporations in 20 countries to produce optimal outcomes. One way or another, this firm helps raise the business value of IT among its many partners.

KIO Networks

“Kio” means “mirror” and symbolized duality and redundancy in Swahili. Well, those are two relevant words for this Mexican business and its ample portfolio of IT services. It began in 2002 and has since provided the necessary infrastructure to over 40 Data Centers in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and Europe.

OLX

Similar to Mercado Libre, OLX began in 2006 as a competing e-commerce platform in Argentina. As expected, users can purchase vehicles, furniture, clothing, plus many other conveniences. What makes this company a little different is that users can also find jobs or advertise for services.

TOTVS

TOTVS started in 1983 as a software company in Brazil, focusing on the relationship, management and support side of the industry. It specializes in software development, and just recently sold its hardware production unit, Bematech, to Elgin.

Auth0

Latin America’s most recent unicorn, Auth0, is a cybersecurity and authentication startup from Argentina. It provides holistic B2B solutions for corporations seeking to improve their security protocols.

These proud Latin Americans have set the bar very high. All of them exemplify a thirst for innovation and keen business senses, which we love to see. New technologies will surely come from them, and Contxto will be there to let you know all about it.

-VC, CM & JA

Victor Cortéshttps://www.contxto.com/
CEO & Co-Founder of Contxto. Passionate about tech, startups and venture capital. I eat sushi five times a week.

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