Mexico City — Mexican startup Plerk’s raison d’être is to help combat employee burnout and improve their quality of life, and to achieve its mission, the digital membership employee benefits company has landed a $12 million injection from Upload Ventures, SoftBank’s early-stage-investment spin-off, and in which Magma Partners, 500 Startups and MGV Capital also participated.
The Series A round also included angel investors from Rappi, Frubana and Troura, among others.
With this new round of financing, Plerk intends to strengthen its position in the Mexican market and continue consolidating its position in the rest of Spanish-speaking Latin America.
Plerk began operating in January 2021 in Mexico as a proactive response to the radically altered work dynamics as a result of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
But Plerk is also the result of a pivot that its founders Miguel Medina, Angel Arias and Antonio Martinez undertook after being part of the 2020 batch of US-based startup accelerator Y Combinator.
In the midst of the pandemic, the idea of the Mexican entrepreneurs was to build a business travel tool for employees. “It was the worst strategy in the world that we were developing a business travel platform during Covid,” Miguel Medina, co-founder and co-CEO, told Bloomberg Linea.
Angel Arias and Miguel Medina hail from Colombian delivery startup Rappi and were among the company’s first employees in Mexico in 2016, where they were tasked with launching the delivery app in about 45 cities in Latin America.
But they had a desire for entrepreneurship themselves, and left the company in November 2019 to launch their own startup.
Now members of the so-called ‘Rappi mafia’, former employees of the Colombian startup who founded their own businesses, while Medina prefers to call it the “Rappi magia” (Rappi magic), as he says there is a lot of support and camaraderie among his former colleagues and who are now entrepreneurs in their own right.
Their experience helping the Colombian unicorn grow was pivotal in them being accepted into Y Combinator’s summer batch. And it was after that experience that they realized they had to shift the company’s focus.
Y Combinator teaches one premise: “Do what people want,” says Medina, and that’s what they did.
While the entrepreneurs were very much in love with their previous product, they were also in love with the problem, which was to improve the lives of employees. “So, when we realized that we didn’t have to be in love with the product, but with the problem, it was very easy to see the path forward,” he says.
At the end of 2020, “we reconnected with our life mission, which was to improve the quality of life of our employees,” says Medina.
The decision was underpinned by a personal experience. His wife had just suffered a stroke due to work-related stress. “That’s when we realized that we really have to care about people,” Medina recalls.
With Plerk’s all-in-one digital benefits membership, employees have flexible benefits such as telemedicine, wellness, education, entertainment and fitness through a partnership with Brazilian unicorn Gympass.
These benefits help companies comply with NOM-35 and NOM-37, Mexican regulations which ensure workers’ health.
Despite adverse market conditions, Plerk managed to close this Series A investment round, and which “will help us to continue growing in Mexico, where today thousands of users already enjoy the benefits of Plerk,” Medina said.
“We will continue working to be the number one benefits provider in the region by building a product that responds to the demands of the future of work, both for employers and employees. The world has changed, benefits must change too,” he added.
Regardless of the unfavorable VC market conditions, Upload Ventures, the recent SoftBank spin-off fund, said regarding the addition of Plerk to its portfolio of 12 early-stage startups: “We are super excited to have Plerk as our first investment as an independent fund”.
“The benefits market in Mexico, Colombia and Chile are in dire need of better products for companies and employees. Plerk offers benefits like no other. More flexibility and a better level of service, while complying with regulations,” Rodrigo Baer, general partner of Upload Ventures, said.
Angel Arias, Plerk’s co-founder and co-CEO, added: “Our goal is for Plerk to become a company that transcends generations and regions. From the beginning, we conceived Plerk as a global platform. It should be as common to have Plerk as it is to order a cab through an app. In this sense, I am very happy that Upload shares our vision.”
In the last year, Plerk has acquired more than 40,000 users working at more than 350 companies in Mexico, Colombia and Chile, with the help of its 150 employees.