Welcome to this week’s Brazil tech and innovation round-up. Here is a selection of key developments in Latin America’s largest economy, starting with the end of the Brazilian operations of mobility firm Cabify. Plus: Cloud services firm Locaweb enters the ERP space with the largest acquisition since its public listing, mobile payments firm PicPay readies its IPO, aerospace conglomerate Embraer will develop a national drone with the Brazilian Air Force and other highlights.
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Spanish mobility firm Cabify has announced on Friday (23) that it will end its Brazil operations in June. Among the reasons prompting the decision, the mobility company noted Brazil is “still very affected by its serious healthcare situation and the local socioeconomic crisis caused by Covid-19”. This broader context limits value creation, the startup said, adding that it is “committed to profitability.”
“The company will continue to be attentive to needs and opportunities future mobility in this market”, Cabify said in a statement. Contacted by Forbes, the firm declined to confirm how many employees will be affected by the decision.
Cabify started its operations in Brazil in 2016. Alongside Uber and 99, the first Brazilian startup to reach a $1 billion valuation, it was one of the main mobility players the country. To boost its Brazilian subsidiary, Cabify’s parent Maxi Mobility acquired Easy Taxi, one of the main players in the local mobility segment in 2017.
In January 2019, the company introduced its strategy based on the mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) model, which processes different variables and data to offer different mobility options in different occasions. The idea was to consolidate the ridesharing business and the services of other Maxi Mobility-backed companies such as on-demand delivery service Glovo, onto a single platform.
However, the plans for the Brazilian market quickly lost momentum. Glovo announced the end of its local operations in March of that same year. The company had been developing its Brazilian subsidiary for 12 months, only to conclude the market was too competitive and needed more investment and time than it had anticipated.
Commenting on the decision, the Brazilian Association Online to Offline (ABO2O) described the end of Cabify’s operations in the country as a regretful development. “With the departure of Cabify, which has been operating in the country over the last five years, the sector loses a large company that contributed to the advancement of urban mobility in Brazil”, says Vitor Magnani, president at ABO2O.
According to the association, which has a number of urban mobility startups among its members, competition is a key element for the development of Brazil’s digital economy. “The Covid-19 pandemic posed several challenges for all sectors of the economy and we understand that in order to overcome the crisis, support from the public sector is essential to stimulate competition between platforms and the emergence of new players that can contribute to [the development of the] digital economy in the country”, Magnani notes.
Cabify is present in more than 85 cities in nine countries – the other eight markets in addition to Brazil are Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Spain, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay. According to the firm, all of these other markets have shown satisfactory recovery rates in comparison to pre-pandemic levels.
This week, Brazilian cloud services firm Locaweb has announced its most expensive and transformational deal since going public in February 2020. Announced on Thursday (22), the purchase of software firm Bling for 534.3 million reais ($ 97.5 million) this is the company’s tenth acquisition since its IPO and marks the entry into the enterprise resource planning (ERP) space aimed at small and medium enterprises.
Founded in 2009, Bling serves micro and small multichannel retail companies with a subscription-based integrated platform with purchasing, sales and inventory control as well as invoicing functionality. In line with the move towards the Open Banking model in Brazil, Bling has been expanding its financial services offering to SMEs in recent months, with a digital account integrated to the enterprise software platform, which will be enhanced with features such as instant payments. Alongside the Bling buyout, Locaweb also announced the acquisition of banking-as-a-service firm Pagcerto, which will have its portfolio integrated into Bling’s operation.
According to Locaweb, a large chunk of its e-commerce customers already use some sort of ERP software and the Bling platform has the highest penetration within that segment. As well as the potential of offering enterprise software functionality to Locaweb’s existing 400,000 customers, the deal opens up the possibility of providing a fully integrated service to new accounts. Bling will remain an independent business unit, led by its founder Antônio Nodari. The acquisitions are subject to customary closing conditions.
This Wednesday (21), Brazilian digital wallet PicPay filed an F-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for an IPO on Nasdaq. With 50 million users and the goal of becoming a Western version of WeChat, the Chinese superapp, the company plans to use the proceeds raised in the IPO to develop its ecosystem and move towards profitability.
The strategy includes future acquisitions, the expansion of its product portfolio, and the acceleration of an expansion plan into new markets. PicPay is set to join to other Nasdaq-listed Brazilian companies active in the financial services sector, StoneCo, PagSeguro and XP Inc, which have gone public in recent years.
Almost half of the largest Brazilian investors are planning to broaden their venture capital (VC) investment portfolios, according to a new study published on Tuesday (20). Carried out between January and February this year by Astella Investments and data science consultancy Ilumeo with 50 major individual investors, multi family offices and single family offices, the study has found that 48% of investors will back VC funds in the next 12 months.
According to the study, 60% of the Brazilian investors polled have up to 5% of their equity committed to VC investments, while 30% of the investors surveyed have between 5.1% and 20%. About 9% of participants have more than 20% of their equity invested in that asset class. Key drivers cited for the greater appetite for VC investments are the low interest rates and the potential of higher return on investments. In addition to VC investments via funds, managers are also interested in publicly traded companies (46%), property and real estate funds (33%), direct investments in startups (26%) and private equity funds (26%).
Still on VC investments, the largest round ever raised by a Brazilian startup has been updated this week: real estate marketplace Loft has announced a $100 million extension to its $425 million Series D round raised in March. Baillie Gifford led the deal alongside other global investors and startup founders. Read more in the article below:
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has approved a credit line of up to $1 billion to help drive digital transformation efforts in Brazil. Announced on Tuesday (20), the strategic financing instrument is part of a conditional credit line for investment projects (CCLIP) that will be made available through federal government agencies, state and municipal governments and and national or regional development banks.
Key areas to be supported by the IDB credit line include the adoption of new technologies by the private sector, digital skills creation, and the modernization and improvement of public services. The government of Ceará will be the first to benefit from the initiative, with a $28 million loan to advance the digitalization of the judiciary branch of the state government.
Brazil-headquartered aerospace conglomerate Embraer has announced a memorandum of understanding with the Brazilian Air Force for the development of a national drone. Announced on Friday (23), the cooperation covers the assessment of the capabilities needed for the design and development of an unmanned aerial vehicle that meets the Air Force’s needs.
“This study is of fundamental importance for the maintenance and expansion of Embraer’s competencies in the development of aerial defense systems with high technological content and great integration complexity,” said the chief executive at Embraer Defense & Security, Jackson Schneider, adding that the main challenge related to the project is the integration and the joint operation of the system with other platforms and vehicles, manned or not.