Miami — To buy something and pay later in installments has traditionally required a credit card, but accessing credit in Mexico, and Latin America at large, isn’t always easy. In fact, in Mexico, only 11% of the population has a credit card. And while many other fintechs in the region such as Nubank and alt.bank are creating credit cards with lower limits in order to reach a wider audience, Aplazo, a new Mexican startup, is going about it differently.
The company instead offers an omnichannel buy now pay later (BNPL) platform that allows users to pay in equal installments online or in store, without the use of a credit card like other online payment platforms such as PayPal.
Today the startup, which is less than one-year-old, announced the closing of its seed round of $5.25 million led by Kaszek Ventures with participation from Picus Capital, and Woodson Capital.
“We see our platform as the basis for democratizing credit in Latin America,” said Angel Peña, CEO and co-founder of Aplazo.
In order to select customers who will pay the installments on time, Aplazo uses Open Banking underwriting to gauge the creditworthiness of consumers and determine the level of affordability, to provide fair credit products to underserved consumers. This approach also benefits the merchants, by providing them with increased conversion rates and higher average order values.
Like many other credit products, Aplazo comes at a cost, albeit a small one. “We charge merchants a processing fee while we sometimes charge a fixed fee to users, depending on the merchant agreement,” Pena told Bloomberg Línea.
The average buyer that uses Aplazo is 33 years, and about 45% of Aplazo’s customers are women.
The company was founded in April 2020 and launched in November of that year. In this short period of time, it has established itself as a hyper growth company, even in its infancy. Aplazo has already partnered with more than 500 merchants in Mexico, is growing 40% month over month, and has 32 employees.
“We are enabling merchants to connect with consumers, many of who do not have credit cards and limited credit history...Aplazo is already an indispensable payment method of our partner merchants, taking a significant share of their transaction volume, and helping them increase repeat purchases and conversion,” said Peña.
Peña previously managed emerging market credit portfolios at Morgan Stanley in New York, and his co-founder, Alex Wieland, led operations and sales teams at fast growing startups in LatAm such as Uber, Lime Scooters and Oyo. Between the two, they had the right skill-set and connections to build Aplazo and tackle a major problem in the region.
The “access to credit” problem is one that plagues most of Latin America and that is being tackled in various ways across the region, depending on the different customer sets’ needs. Instead of jumping the gun and launching Aplazo across LatAm, the team has decided to build out more features and strengthen their core product before expanding to other countries, though launching internationally is in their “medium-term” plans, Peña said.
“It is a huge space that is ripe for disruption and the team is taking the right approach to building a consumer lending payments platform that is very customer-centric and data-driven to help add tremendous value to merchants,” said Mariana Donangelo, partner at Kaszek.