Investors Said No to A Brazilian Entrepreneur. He Pivoted, Now His Startup Is Worth $2.6B

Brazil-based idtech unico will use the $100 million Golman Sachs-led Series D for global expansion

Facial recognition tools are increasingly getting more  funding.
April 13, 2022 | 10:15 AM

Sao Paulo — Diego Martins, CEO, and founder of Brazilian startup unico, was mentored by General Atlantic’s Martín Escobari by Endeavor 12 years ago. Back then, he tried to receive capital from GA. Escobari said the business didn’t work and Martins asked if he could come back once every six months to try to capture it. “I give three recommendations, if you implement two, you can come back,” Escobari said at the time. The company was still called Acesso Digital. Martins returned for nine years. In the tenth year, in 2020, GA invested BRL 580 million in Série B with SoftBank. Two years later, rebranded unico, the company is valued at $2.6 billion after a $100 million Series D led by Goldman Sachs, with participation from SoftBank Latin America Fund.

“Acesso Digital had a completely different model, where you stored documents. Instead of the company having physical documents, it stored them in the cloud, with digital access. But this is a model that is eventually doomed to failure over time. So, the company started to take - with the authorization of all people - documents, and biometrics and created the largest database to prevent fraud in Brazil”, said Rodrigo Catunda, General Atlantic’s manager in Brazil.

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Acesso Digital was born in 2007 and became unico at the end of 2020 and obtained unicorn status in August 2021, after an investment of R$625 million from GA with SoftBank. Now, with funding led by Goldman Sachs Asset Management, unico becomes the second most valuable SaaS enterprise company in Latin America and targets international expansion.

“The new investment marks the growth journey we are on and confirms our enormous potential for expansion. We are now entering a new phase of our business. The partnership with Goldman Sachs favors the projection of unico into new international markets and brings us closer to the future in which we will be increasingly present in the lives of consumers,” said Martins, in a press statement.

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unico says it carries out about 25 million identity authentication transactions per month, including access to banks, digital wallets, fintechs, retail and e-commerce. “The identity and digital security solutions market is promising and we believe unico is very well positioned to develop the technology and the business model to make Brazil a role model in the segment,” added Natan Reinig, Vice President within the Growth Equity business within Goldman Sachs Asset Management, in a press release. unico ended 2021 with a 180% increase in revenue, expanding its workforce by 230%, reaching a total headcount of 1,000, and closing one deal per business day.