Up until 2020, Mexico was a country that had one of the most booming economies in the region but did not have any unicorn companies. This scenario quickly changed for the Central American country: in the span of one year and some months, Mexico witnessed the birth of some of the most relevant unicorns in Latin America.
By definition, unicorns are privately held, venture-backed startup companies that reach a 1 billion valuation. It is only in recent years that the emergence of unicorns has accelerated in the region, given the increase of capital available with the entry of investment funds such as Softbank to Latin America in 2019. Mexico is a country where unicorns arose in an especially accelerated way: in just one year and a couple of months, they went from zero to eight startups that reached the 1 billion mark. In this article, we’ll review in chronological order the emergence of these eight Mexican unicorns:
- Kavak, gained unicorn status in October 2020:
Kavak is a company that operates as a buying and selling platform for used cars, a model that was strengthened with the reconditioning of vehicles for sale to the public in its own centers.The startup was founded by Carlos García Ottati, Roger Laughlin, and Loreanne García in 2016 in Mexico City where it began operations with only three vehicles. With a funding round of $400M from SoftBank, Greenoaks, DST Global, Kaszek Ventures, QED Investors, General Atlantic and others, Kavak became Mexico’s first unicorn with a valuation of $1.1B.
- Bitso, gained unicorn status in May 2021:
Bitso is a cryptocurrency exchange platform that offers products and services to more than 2 million customers across Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. Users are able to buy, sell, send, or receive Bitcoin and other crypto currencies on the Bitso platform. It was founded in 2014 in Mexico by Daniel Vogel, Pablo González and Ben Peters and became a unicorn after raising a $250M Series C round led by Tiger Global and Coatue. Other investors included Paradigm, BOND Capital, Valor Capital, QED Investors, Pantera Capital and Kaszek. With this funding, Bitso instantly became the most valuable crypto platform in Latin America.
- GBM (Grupo Bursátil Mexicano), gained unicorn status in June 2021:
GBM is a 35-year-old investment platform in the Mexican stock market. The company provides investment services to both individuals and local and global institutions. In recent years, the company has worked to transform the platform’s technology to reach more Mexicans. In particular, in 2020 GBM has grown the number of accounts from 38,000 to more than 650,000. GBM was founded in 1992 as a holding company for financial entities and it reached the 1 billion mark when in June 2021 it raised $150M from Softbank.
- Clip, gained unicorn status in June 2021:
Clip is a fintech company that is working to democratize digital payments through its multiple payments solutions which include debit and credit cards and a credit-card reader that fits into smartphones. Out of the nearly 11 million businesses in Mexico, only around 1 million accept card payments, and Clip’s card reader has been particularly successful among small businesses such as street vendors, tourist guides, and corner stores. It was in 2012 that Adolfo Babatz and Vilash Poovala founded the company that this year reached a $2B valuation after an investment by SoftBank’s Latin America Fund and Viking Global Investors LP.
- Konfio, gained unicorn status in September 2021:
Konfío is a fintech company that provides financial services to small and medium-sized businesses. The company offers credit loan services that give SMEs access to funding and loans vital to their growth and financial stability. Konfío was founded by David Arana and Francisco Padilla, and it reached a $1.3B valuation after raising $110 million in a Series E round extension that was led by Tarsadia Capital and QED Investors, and that included participation of Kaszek Ventures and Softbank.
- Clara, gained unicorn status in December 2021:
Clara is an end-to-end corporate spend management solution for companies. Until now, Clara has more than 2,000 clients, amongst whom there are some prominent regional startups such as JOKR and Casai. They also count with more than 10,000 cards in the market, a number they want to increase five times by 2022. Clara was founded by Diego García and Gerry Giacomán Colyer, and reached a $1B valuation after a Series B financing round of $70 million led by Coatue.
- Incode, gained unicorn status in December 2021:
Incode is an identity verification startup that uses AI technology to verify people’s identities in a quick and easy process. The software is used by companies across Latin America, such as Rappi, Ualá, and Nubank, to facilitate online payments, bookings and registrations, and much more. Incode was founded by Ricardo Amper, and the company reached unicorn status after a $220M Series B funding round led by General Atlantic and Softbank.
- Merama, gained unicorn status in December 2021:
Merama is a Mexican and Brazil based company that acquires or launches Latin American digital brands. The company has to this date more than 180 employees and its portfolio has 20 brands that are based in Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru. This company was founded by Sujay Tyle, Felipe Delgado, Renato Andrade, Domingo Cruzat and Manuel José León. It achieved a $1.2B valuation this December just 12 months after incorporation, in a $60M follow-on round of financing led by Advent International and Softbank.