Em Conversa looks to uncover the secrets in Latin America (LatAm) that have caused the fintech market to boom, from being worth less than $50million in 2016, to $2.1billion in 2022. Andy Myers, general manager of Kushki Mundial spoke with us about growing a company in LatAm and how one can achieve unicorn status.
In June 2022, the Ecuadorian payment technology company, Kushki announced it had reached unicorn status following a $100million funding round. The company employs 750 people, operates in five countries, and leverages local teams to deliver customised solutions for clients in each country.
The funds of that round were used to accelerate Kushki‘s development of a modern payment infrastructure for Latin America, facilitating payment transactions of any type in any country. In 2021, the company opened Kushki Mundial as it expanded into more countries.
As digitisation continues to be prioritised by those looking to enter the market, The Fintech Times sat down with Andy Myers, general manager of Kushki Mundial to learn about the company’s success and how others might look to emulate it.
Can you tell me more about the company and your role within it?
Kushki is an Ecuadorian company that seeks to connect Latin America through digital payments and enable entry into the new era of money flow. The organisation helps businesses in Latin America to reduce the costs and complexity of digital transactions, increasing acceptance rates and reducing the risk of fraud.
Founded in 2016 the company began its expansion in June 2017 with its entry into the Colombian market. Subsequently, in June 2019, we made it to Peru, and by August of the same year, we began operations in Chile. By the end of that period, we were able to establish a presence in five Latin American countries. In May 2020, operations began in Mexico, and later, in December 2021, Kushki Mundial opened.
At Kushki I’m the general manager of Kushki Mundial, a Kushki business division and payment solution that strengthens Kushki’s value proposition. It enables global payment companies, orchestration layers, and global payment service providers to engage locally across Latin America for payments with ease and speed.
How does a company founded in LatAm achieve unicorn status? What are some unique challenges the region brings?
Kushki made it into unicorn status after reaching a valuation above $1billion after securing a $100million extension to its series B funding round. The latter includes input from new and old investors, including Kaszek Ventures, Clocktower Ventures, SoftBank Latin America Fund, and DILA Capital, bringing a combined Series B raised to $186million.
The company reached this milestone just five years after its founding. Establishing itself as a key payments ally in the region, it demonstrated the incredible capacity of Latin America to create the best businesses and attract investment to the area.
However, there are still some challenges to overcome. Such as internet accessibility in Latin America, the distrust that persists in some scenarios regarding electronic commerce as a consequence of bank fraud, and the adaptation of different regulatory systems for the flourishing of fintech, among others.
How long should it take before a company looks to expand into another country?
This decision depends a lot on each company. For Kushki, we were clear from the beginning that our objective had a regional vision: to build a solid payment infrastructure that would connect all of Latin America. As a part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, we know that discipline and perseverance are two determining qualities to advance on a path of growth and expansion. It has not been a perfect path; it has been full of challenges, ambitions, and great lessons that have led us to be a better company.
Kushki’s mission is to connect Latin America through digital payments. Where businesses can integrate our solutions to strengthen regional trade dynamics. We have had a fantastic team of collaborators that has allowed us to be disruptive and much more ambitious in developing and expanding our solutions and infrastructure, a critical vision for an organisation to project itself into new markets.
Although we have faced challenges such as understanding the differences related to the regulations of the five countries in which we operate. However, the need for consumers and businesses is the same throughout Latin America: to have a payment infrastructure that offers a solution with high-performance standards and guarantees the security of transactions made through digital payments to have more significant profit from multiple businesses.
We have adapted in each territory, offering a differential value. Part of the decision to expand quickly focuses on getting out of our comfort zone, considering challenging scenarios that allow us to get the best out of the organization and the teams, and learning new lessons that add experience and maturity to the business.
What have been some key changes seen in the LatAm market in the last few years?
In recent years, fintech companies have taken advantage of technology to promote bank access in Latin America and have managed to reach, in a complementary and disruptive way, a public far from traditional banking.
Additionally, the development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem is crucial to the business fabric and economic recovery worldwide. For reference, data from Statista indicates that in 2018 there were close to 12,000 Fintech companies globally. By the end of 2021, this figure reached over 26,000. The number of companies dedicated to this sector doubled in just two years.
These data points indicate the business potential worldwide.
It stands out that the Americas region has the most significant presence of this type of company, with close to 10,000 by the end of 2021, followed closely by Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In the case of Latin America, Brazil (771), Mexico (512), and Colombia (279) are the countries with the greatest presence of this type of organisation at the regional level and that currently enjoy the benefits of having a fintech ecosystem in constant growth.
How does Kushki plan to connect LatAm through payments?
We look forward to building a core infrastructure for digital payments in Latin America. It will play a key role in accelerating digital transformation and economic growth in the region, enabling businesses to grow faster through the internet to drive the consumer adoption of digital payments.
And the centre of our strategy is the importance that we consider digital payments have for the digital transformation of society. From the perspective of merchants, digital payments offer multiple options for users to make their purchases, leaving administrative and bureaucratic issues (such as verification of the transaction’s validity, disbursements, and even refunds) in the hands of a business partner.
Likewise, through digital payments, users can access fast and immediate transactions, enabling the possibility of interacting with national commerce without the traditional dependence on cash or the need to make a consignment in a physical branch.
The digitisation of payments allows for a considerable improvement in the quality of life of people. When using physical payment methods, users often encounter traditional barriers at material points: a long waiting time, dependence on cash, and inexhaustible ranks, among others.
At Kushki, we create a financial technology infrastructure to securely digitize the citizens of Latin America that supports the growth of e-commerce and Internet adoption in the region.
Why are so many external companies looking to expand into the region?
Currently, the sectors that have registered significant growth in recent years are e-commerce and fintech. Fintech companies have taken advantage of technology to promote bank access in Latin America and have reached, in a complementary way, a public far from traditional banking.
In time, Latin America has gone from being a sleepy, cash-heavy region to a vibrant digital ecosystem. This transformation is most evident in three growth areas: e-commerce, whose volume has expanded by almost five times since 2017; the reduced use of cash, which is down to less than 50 per cent of retail volume in 2022 compared to +70 per cent in 2019; and the size and diversity of the fintech ecosystem, which has doubled since 2018.
In this context, it has become fundamental to bet on the consolidation of digital payments to achieve their complete integration into commerce. This phenomenon occurs at all levels: from consumers who distrusted electronic transactions to businesses that limit themselves to having a catalog on their website without the possibility of purchasing it, a reality Fintech companies are gradually transforming.
In the coming years, it will be critical to strengthen the digital payment infrastructure to respond to the needs of companies with a virtual presence, both nationally and in Latin America, which will be a compelling factor in boosting the region’s competitiveness.
What do Kushki’s road map and growth plan look like?
Our main objective is to build the most solid digital payment infrastructure in Latin America. We dream of a continent united through digital payments and where businesses can integrate our solutions to strengthen regional trade dynamics.
For this reason, we want to promote the development of our commercial offer to meet its objective of building the central infrastructure of digital payments in Latin America, including expanding the company to other countries in the region and consolidating ourselves as the leader in payment processing in Latin America by the end of 2023.
Likewise, in the five countries where we operate, there are differences related to regulation, and acquisition models, among others. However, the need for consumers and companies is the same throughout Latin America: to have a payment platform that offers a solution with high-performance standards and guarantees the security of transactions made through digital payments.
For this reason, despite the differences between countries, our commitment is focused on adapting to be fully aligned with the legal framework of each country where we operate and offering solutions to help boost electronic commerce.
What does the future of the LatAm market look like?
The fundamental component of the growth and evolution of the region is digitisation. It has become an essential pillar for the entire business fabric because it has allowed organizations to find new ways to serve their customers, transform their processes and boost their businesses, keeping them competitive in this new era.
We know that it is a challenging moment for humanity, but we see Latin America as one of the fastest-growing regions; the world is looking at it as one of the markets with the greatest exposure