Another day, another Brazilian Financial Technology company that is on a mission to redesign the landscape for banking in the country. On May 4th Brazilian digital bank or neobank alt.bank announced a US $5.5 million Series A funding round led by Union Square Ventures (USV). Earlier this year, Brazil’s Nubank raised US $400 million in a Series G funding round and last month fintech PicPay filed for its Initial Public Offering, adding to the boom in venture capital for the South American giant.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that Brazil’s banking system is poised for disruption when you consider that current traditional banks pay little attention to customer service and have exorbitant fee structures that leaves most Brazilians unbanked. Alt.bank is just the latest company to try and take home some market share from these conglomerates.
Following in Nubank’s footsteps of launching a bank with colors that are very un-bank-like, signaling that they do things differently, alt.bank similarly launched its first financial product in 2019 — a fluorescent-yellow debit card which the locals have endearingly dubbed, “o amarelinho,” meaning, “the little yellow card.”
The company was founded by Brad Liebmann, a serial entrepreneur, and follows the founder’s $480 million exit of Simply Business, which was acquired by U.S. insurance giant Travelers in 2017. Alt.bank has a strong social mission and pays commissions for referrals that last for the customer’s lifetime, which is very unlike how most fintech’s are run. “Most fintechs just help wealthy people get wealthier, so I thought let’s do something with a social mission,” Liebmann said in an interview.
Mr. Libermann and his team of 80 employees back that up by designing an app that can be used by the illiterate. Instead of words, users can follow color-coded prompts to complete a transaction. The company also plans to launch credit products soon. According, to the digital bank almost a million Brazilians have downloaded the app on android since it launched in 2019. These numbers are very impressive but Liebman declined to disclose how many active users the company actually has, which is a troubling sign.
In total, the bank offers many of the core products of a traditional bank including a debit card, a prepaid credit card, Pix (similar to Zelle), a savings account, and even telemedicine visits via a partnership with Dr. Consulta, a network of healthcare clinics throughout the country. The credit card offered is key to alt.bank’s business as online stores in Brazil don’t accept debit card purchases. The bank also has partnered with three major drugstores, allowing their users to get 5-30% off any item at the stores, including medication.
USV’s investment in alt.bank is its first in South America and has continued the trend of major U.S. investors who only in the last several years have started looking to Latin America for deals. “The bar was high for our first investment in South America,” said Union Square Ventures partner John Buttrick. “The combination of the alt.bank business model and world-class management team enticed us to expand our geographic focus to help build the leading digital bank targeting the 100 million Brazilians who are currently being neglected by traditional lenders,” he added in a statement.
McCarthy, Marcella. “Alt.Bank, Brazil’s Latest Fintech Targeting the Unbanked, Raises $5.5M.” Tech Crunch, 4 May 2021, techcrunch.com/2021/05/04/alt-bank-brazils-latest-fintech-targeting-the-unbanked-raises-5-5m.