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.
This week we spoke to Ricardo Sangion, partner at the São Paulo division of TheVentureCity to learn about the startup scene in Brazil and LatAm, and further understand how startups are leading the way to achieve financial stability.
Sangion has 20+ years experience in business development and product management in the Internet and Wireless industries, in addition to strong experience in go to market of new products and growing companies in LatAm.
Can you tell me more about the company and your role within it?
TheVentureCity is a global early-stage venture fund, investing in product-centric startups across the US, Europe and LatAm. As an added value to our portfolio companies, we offer a combination of bespoke data insights and guidance from experienced operators – with product-led growth at our core.
I’m the partner leading our pre-seed and seed investments in Latin America, with tickets from $100K to $500K. I’m responsible for identifying the opportunities in the region, evaluating the companies and making the final decision on investments. After an investment is made, I’ll also make sure that the startup receives the proper support that we offer here at TheVentureCity.
Additionally, I’m the partner who guides our portfolio companies in their growth strategies and the right use of product-led growth tactics, due to my background in growth, product management and business development for companies like Facebook, Pinterest, Microsoft, Claro, and Telefonica/Vivo.
What are some trends in the Brazilian start up ecosystem?
We are seeing more and more startups that are taking advantage of the “open” models that are emerging. It’s common to think about open finance and open banking, but we are now seeing similar innovation happening in other sectors, like open health and open delivery. In addition to that, we also are paying attention to other trends like embedded finance, B2B retail/commerce, and verticalised SaaS/PaaS solving large problems.
How is TheVentureCity committed to improving fintech adoption in the region?
By supporting Latin American founders with financial capital and also international operating experience from our team members, we accelerate innovation and technology adoption both on the business and on the personal side.
We are investors in RecargaPay and Cajero, among the very first in Brazil and Colombia respectively to offer digital wallets and new payment methods that are more accessible to people, as well as investing in B2B companies that are making it easier for small and medium companies to adopt fintech solutions that were only available to the big ones some years ago, like a recent investment we made in Brazil.
On the edge of fintech, we invest in DeFi and crypto solutions, like Belo in Argentina, that will enable a lot of innovations in the near future. Also, within web3, we are investing in decentralised gaming startups like Ola, which eventually can also leverage DeFi solutions to its users
What factors are influencing Brazil’s more positive feelings of financial wellbeing and how is it related to digital wallets?
Digital wallets like RecargaPay were responsible for raising awareness and increasing education around financial services, offering alternatives that were much simpler or faster, even cheaper or more affordable in some cases. They also had a very important role in leading a remote, mobile first and user centric approach, which widened the reach of financial services to millions of people that simply didn’t have access before.
People today have greater and better options to choose from, in many cases for the first time in their lives. At the intersection of wallets and crypto, we find consumer companies like Belo, which allow consumers to seamlessly leverage DeFi to fight inflation, while paying their day to day expenses with a bank card.
What have been some unique challenges the region has presented for both startups and TheVentureCity?
Brazil has seen a big spike in investments in recent years, which was really good for the whole ecosystem since it brought more access to capital to all startups, but also more competition for the best opportunities. More companies in the market also means more competition, so startups need to be more efficient than ever. On a more holistic view, we see an opportunity for successful Brazilian startups to scale internationally more aggressively and to leverage network effects when expanding to the key markets in LatAm.
What are the company’s plans for the future?
We’ll continue to develop resources for founders to drive the industry forward. In fact, we just launched Growth Scanner – a data tool for any startup team to unlock data insights and scale faster.
Some of our portfolio companies would probably tell you that we are pretty unconventional, and that’s mainly because we don’t initially focus only on revenue or ask about the sales team. Instead, we prefer to look at metrics like user retention and user engagement, which are key to the product-led growth approach we strongly believe in. If this resonates with you, we’d love to meet you.