Mexico City — Just one year since its launch, Argentine fintech Pomelo has been named as one of the 100 global Technology Pioneers by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
The startup is one of only five Latin American companies to appear on the list.
In previous years, the award has been given to companies such as Google, Twitter and Airbnb.
“They choose companies that they believe can have a material impact on economic development,” Gastón Irigoyen, CEO and co-founder of Pomelo, said in an interview with Bloomberg Línea. “The fact that, just over a year since we launched, we have been detected and selected, and that they believe we can have a significant impact on the economic development of Latin America, the truth is that it is a source of pride.”
“It is something unexpected, and a great joy, we believe we can do it because in the end we are still talking about a region that has 300 million people who do not access digital financial services”, Irigoyen added.
The fintech develops technological infrastructure for companies that offer financial services in Latin America, and has so far raised $45 million in investments.
Irigoyen says that, in the Latin America region, “there is no modern financial services infrastructure. The entire flourishing industry that we have seen in the last five to seven years is built on an obsolete infrastructure that was created 40 years ago when payments began in Latin America, but in addition to being obsolete technology, it is physically fragmented”.
Pomelo allows companies to launch financial services in one country and expand them to all other countries in the region with a single partner, and with modern and accessible technology.
Irigoyen explains that the company offers debit cards, prepaid credit or collateralized credit, “which is very interesting, because it is widely used by cryptocurrencies and reinvents the credit business”.
Financial Innovation for Latin América
The startup was founded in April 2021 by Irigoyen, Hernán Corral and Juan Fantoni, former executives of Mercado Pago, Mastercard and Naranja X.
Irigoyen highlights that 95% of the people who work at Pomelo come from creating the most innovative fintechs in Latin America.
Pomelo has a team of more than 280 people, and which will grow to 300 by the end of June, and operates in Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Argentina and has more than 35 clients in the region.
These four markets account for around 85% of Latin America’s GDP, says Irigoyen.
Despite being a startup with Argentine DNA, Irigoyen says that Pomelo “is from Latin America, for Latin America”.
The biggest challenge Pomelo faces, says its CEO, is “to make the platform completely regional, this has never been done before, the financial services infrastructure in Latin America worked in each country with its own regulations, no one has ever proposed to make an infrastructure that is regional with the complexity that this implies, not only at a geographical level, but also with the localization of products for different markets and different use cases, so this is a very big challenge, but obviously it is also a very big opportunity”.
Raymundo Guerrero, Pomelo’s country manager in Mexico, and who previously worked at Mercado Pago, adds that the traditional players in the country that have developed technology are more than 30 years old, so Pomelo’s new technology has helped it position itself in the market quickly.
Pomelo’s technology is designed in-house, and 80% of this fintech’s team works on product design and technology.
For Irigoyen, innovation in financial services is as important as education and health, since these are the structural pillars for the development of countries and the continent.
In that sense, Pomelo complies with the requirements of the WEF’s Technology Pioneers, which are startups from all over the world that use new technology to contribute meaningfully to business and society.
Defining the Future
This year, the companies chosen are defining the future through the advancement of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, robotics, blockchain and biotechnology, among others.
Thanks to its recognition as a Technology Pioneer, Pomelo will be invited to participate in activities, events and debates at the World Economic Forum for the next two years. During this period, Irigoyen will work together with other technology leaders from around the world to address key industry and societal issues.
In the medium term, Irigoyen and Guerrero agree, the plan is to consolidate in the markets where they are present and possibly enter a couple more, with Peru, Chile, Uruguay and Ecuador already in their sights.