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Kushki Becomes Ecuador’s First Unicorn

The fintech specialized in digital payments, aimed at democratizing the movement of money in the region, has achieved a valuation above $1 billion

Co-founder Sebastián Castro with his team.
June 07, 2022 | 10:45 am

QUITO — Ecuadorian ‘paytech’ Kushki has announced the closing of a Series B funding of $186 million that pushes the startup’s valuation past $1 billion, making it the country’s first unicorn.

The financing round featured the participation of Kaszek Ventures, Clocktower Ventures, SoftBank Latin America Fund and DILA Capital, among others.

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Kushki, which means ‘money’ in the Ecuadorian Kichwa language, is an online payment company founded in 2016 by Aron Schwarzkopf and Sebastián Castro, and which now operates in five Latin American countries.

“We bring you the great news that Kushki is a unicorn. We are super proud of all the work the team has done to bring the company to this point”

Sebastián Castro, co-founder of Kushki.

During the official announcement on Tuesday, Castro said that, despite what has been achieved, the company still has “the great mission of connecting Latin America with payments” ahead of it.

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Schwarzkopf commented that the biggest challenge they have had so far “has been to create a Latin American company, which is not an easy thing to do, because despite sharing a culture, all the countries are completely different”. And although they are aware that unicorns in the region are currently facing difficult times, they are facing this moment “with humility”, and with the intention of continuing to grow in Latin America.

Achieving this milestone in times of economic uncertainty is evidence of the quality and the resilience of all of our team, and of the enormous Latin American talent that exists in the region”.

Aron Schwarzkopf, CEO and co-founder of Kushki.

Para 2021, según el Radar Tech Startup 13.0 de BuenTrip Hub, en Ecuador existían 55 fintech, un 77% más que en 2017. La mayoría enfocadas en servicios de gestión financiera empresarial (38%), pagos digitales (15%) y crowdfunding o fondo colaborativo (11%). Kushki se ubica en la segunda categoría.

How the funds will be used

The new funds will be used to accelerate Kushki’s evolution into a modern payments infrastructure for all of Latin America, facilitating digital payment transactions of any category, regardless of country.

This infrastructure will play a key role in accelerating digital transformation and economic growth in the region by enabling businesses to grow faster online to drive consumer adoption of digital payments, according to the company.

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How it started

Although Schwarzkopf and Castro developed the idea in 2016 in Ecuador, its formal founding occurred in 2017 in New York. There they set out to democratize the movement of money for both businesses and consumers across the region, and provide state-of-the-art, standardized and scalable infrastructure across Latin America so that a digital economy can be built upon it for decades to come.

How does Kushki work?

The company’s technology platform for digital payments allows companies to execute their collections quickly and securely. Kushki was born with the mission of connecting the region with payments through the development of a robust technological infrastructure, seeking to simplify the movement of money and pushing the development of the region’s digital economy and impacting the lives of millions of Latinos.

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It currently has operations in Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, Peru and Mexico, and will soon launch in Brazil and Central America. Kushki has more than 500 clients in its portfolio, including Rappi, Wom, Claro, SURA, Telefónica and Banco Santander, among others. According to its figures, it handles an average of 75,000 transactions per second, and processes more than $30 billion per year.

Financing rounds

In 2020, Kushki closed an $8 million Series A round with the participation of Dila Capital, Magma Partners, Kaszek Ventures and Clocktower Ventures.

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In 2021 the company made news again with the closing of a $86 million Series B, pushing it to a $600 million valuation, this time for consolidation and expansion, backed by an undisclosed global high-growth fund and Japanese fund Softbank. During 2021, the paytech’s revenues grew by 200% in the region.

Human talent, the company’s strength

With employees known as “kushkeanos”, the company started operations with three staff and currently employs 750 people working remotely from 14 countries and contributing from different areas. One of the company’s characteristics is the benefits it provides to its employees, such as the remote working option, flexible working hours, part-time work on Fridays, a career plan, mentoring and training, health insurance, yoga classes, and computer ownership after two years in the company, among others.