Mexico-Born Jeeves Becomes a $2.1B Unicorn After a $180M Tencent-Led Series C Round

From Y Combinator to a unicorn in a blink of an eye, fintech infrastructure startup Jeeves wants to beef up in Brazil

Jeeves CEO and founder Dileep Thazhmon. Courtesy/Jeeves
March 22, 2022 | 10:20 AM

Jeeves, the expense management and corporate card platform for global companies, announced on Tuesday that it has raised a $180 million Series C round, lifting its valuation to $2.1 billion, a 21-fold increase since its first fundraising.

The unicorn-making round was led by Tencent, but the list of investors is large. Participating in the round were GIC, Stanford University, Andreessen Horowitz, CRV, Silicon Valley Bank, FT Partners, Clocktower Ventures, Urban Innovation Fund, Haven Ventures, Gaingels, Spike Ventures, and family offices of the founders of Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google, as well as Carlos Enrico, president of Mastercard for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The infrastructure fintech has four main products. The first one is the corporate card, which accounts for 45% of revenues. Its Mexican counterpart, Clara, also operates with corporate cards, and also quickly achieved unicorn status, only eight months after it started operating in Mexico. Like Jeeves, Clara followed the same path of launching in Mexico and, after the billion-dollar valuation, expanded to Brazil.

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Jeeves’ second product is B2B business payments, like Brazil’s PIX instant payment system, including all things related to non-card payments. The third is working capital lending, and the fourth is venture debt, as Brazilian/Mexican fintech a55 also offers.

Since Bloomberg Línea spoke to Jeeves in September last year, Dileep Thazhmon, CEO and founder of the startup, said the company has grown by between 10- and 15-fold since then. “In fact, in the last two months, January and February, we earned more revenue than we did in the entire 2021,” Thazhmon says.

Back then, when it closed its CRV-led Series B, the company had 40 employees. The company now has 150 employees and hopes to have 400 by the end of this year. According to Thazhmon, the idea is to have at least 50 people in the four regions in which it operates. Region one is Spanish-speaking Latin America, including Mexico, Colombia, Chile, and Peru. Region two is the U.S. and Canada, region three is UK/Europe, and region four is Brazil.

Even though the company started its operations with a focus on startups, today Jeeves’ customers include fast-growing companies, be they startups, SMEs, and even large enterprises, including Bitso, Kavak, Belvo, Runa, Moons, Platzi. Jeeves aims to operate in over 40 countries over the next three years.

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Jeeves’ rounds:

  • Series A: Jun/2021
  • B Series: Sep/2021
  • Series C: March/2022

“The idea is that we can do the underwriting, and provide capital in your local currency, pesos, dollars,” says Thazhmon, in an interview with Bloomberg Línea. “If you’re a company with an office in Brazil, and an office in Mexico, you need multiple salespeople. You need someone with a local business card in Brazil, someone with a local business card in Mexico, someone with local payments like PIX in Brazil, so different vendors with completely different systems. You need the accounting team to integrate, or you can just jump to Jeeves and we can provide everything you need in one box, including multi-currency support without any exchange fee,” he pledges.

If the company uses Jeeves’ solution for local payments, there is no FX fee. Jeeves’ application links with its own infrastructure and connects with different banking components issued in each country. In Mexico, the startup has its own local card with Mastercard as the issuing company.

“When you get a card in Mexico, it’s completely local. What we do is unique, in that we can exchange it centrally. Most fintechs connect to a bank or a third party. We connect with our infrastructure, that’s why we can move so quickly because we have our full-stack, we don’t need a bunch of other vendors for that.”

In the last year alone, Jeeves raised more than $380 million. The startup says it has doubled its customer base to more than 3,000 companies and has more than 30,000 companies on its waiting list. It started as remote-first and today has employees spread across 10 countries.

“Personally, I’ve moved to Miami, and will be here for at least a year, figuring out what to do for the company’s headquarters,” says the CEO.

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The company has grown revenues by 900% since its Series B. It also announced that it has surpassed $1 billion in gross annual transaction volume (GTV) just 11 months after its public launch in March 2021, with an average month-on-month growth of 76% since it began operations.

“It’s a pretty indicator. It’s proof that the market is ready for the product. Some things are not timed, it just happens.”

As people now live in one region, work in another, and get paid in a third region, the post-Covid era having increased globalization may be one explanation for Jeeves’ growth, according to the CEO.

The company’s revenue model depends on the interchange fee on the card and it also charges subscription fees for the non-card products. “We provide working capital loans, much faster than a local bank, so we charge for that, the same thing for using local payments, we will charge for that.”

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The startup originates the credit it provides, it has a full facility in local currency in each region. “It’s key for what we do, the full-stack. We do the currency, we originate the credit, we do the underwriting, we do the collection, we then provide the payment, so you get everything in one.”

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For the CEO, investors will raise the scrutiny bar for infrastructure fintechs

There’s a lot of investor interest in infrastructure companies that provide an alternative to existing solutions, like Pomelo, Kamino, Trace Finance. “I think the demand is very strong in terms of what we can do. I think that what people are missing is that actually building out operational and technical capacity isn’t very easy to do. This year there’s going to be a lot more scrutiny around the technology, the business model if it is really a sustainable business before investors invest with the same velocity that they did last year,” says the CEO.

Closing Series C this month, he said he saw a much more detailed diligence round compared to Series B. The exec thinks there will be more scrutiny this year and it’s not certain how much time is going to take for companies to be able to raise the same amount of money rounds as last year.

“There were real questions about the operating model, contribution margin, gross margin, net income, to see if it’s more than scale. That said, I do think the potential for fintech specifically is very massive because you’re really working with payments, and payments are basically money. There will be capital, people want to invest, but the bar is going to be higher than last year,” he says.

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Jeeves’ new proceeds are going to hiring, and launching in new markets with new products. The exec says Jeeves is also looking at some working in the crypto space, adding to the product portfolio this year.

“It has grown so quickly we have expanded our credit facility origination, that is a big driver for doing this round because it helps us know how we are going to grow. We didn’t need to do this round to equity size, we needed for the next year, especially how aggressively we will be.”

Jeeves’ first market was Mexico, and the CEO says it is still probably the largest one. But Thazhmon thinks Brazil is going to be the largest one now that the company has officially launched there. “Given the market size, I expect by the end of the year that Brazil would be a top country in the region. We have a waitlist of about 3,000 companies in Brazil. For us, the goal is to onboard companies but we want to onboard them with good experience. Monthly we might take 100-200 companies, focused on high-growth ones.”

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The startup expects to have at least 1,000 companies as clients in Brazil.

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