Bitso, a regulated crypto exchange in Latin America, announced today it has raised $250 million in a Series C round of funding that values the company at $2.2 billion.
Tiger Global and Coatue co-led the round, which also included participation from Paradigm, BOND & Valor Capital Group and existing backers QED, Pantera Capital and Kaszek.
The news caught our attention for several reasons. For one, it comes just four months after the startup raised $62 million in a Series B round. Secondly, the company believes the funding makes it the most valuable crypto platform in Latin America. And lastly, it also makes the company one of the most highly valued fintechs in the region.
Last year was a good one for Bitso, which says it processed more than $1.2 billion in international payments — including remittances and payments between companies — during 2020 alone. Bitso says it also has surpassed 2 million users. These two milestones, the company argues, is evidence of the growing use of crypto as an everyday financial tool in the region.
Demand for crypto assets and crypto-enabled financial products have soared in popularity both for individuals and businesses in the region, according to Bitso, which aims to be “the safest, most transparent, and only regulatory compliant platform” in Latin America. The company also says it’s the only player in the region to offer crypto-insurance for its client’s funds.
“The growth of the crypto ecosystem this year has been remarkable. It took Bitso six years to get its first million clients. Now — less than 10 months later — we have reached the 2 million mark,” said Bitso co-founder and CEO Daniel Vogel. But the metrics he is most proud of are that Bitso has also more than doubled the assets on its platform in the last five months and that its transacting volume during the 2021 first quarter exceeded the transaction volume it did in all of 2020.
Bitso was founded in January 2014 and acquired its first customer in April of that year.
Bitso’s mission, put simply, is to build next-generation borderless financial services for consumers and businesses alike. “Cryptocurrencies are the future of finance and Bitso makes the future available today,” the company says.
“Bitso offers products and services for individuals and businesses to use crypto in their everyday life,” Vogel said. “In some parts of the world, crypto is associated with speculation. Bitso’s customers rely on the technology for everyday uses from receiving remittances to engaging in international commerce.”
Bitso says its “global-minded” product offerings fit the needs of local customers in Mexico, Argentina and now Brazil, where it just launched its retail operations. The company plans to use its new capital toward broadening its capabilities and product offering. It also plans to expand its operations in other Latin American countries in the coming months. In January, the Financial Superintendence of Colombia announced Bitso as one of the authorized companies in its Sandbox and crypto pilot program.
Bitso’s upcoming products include a crypto derivatives platform and interest bearing accounts for crypto.
“This is a pivotal moment for the future of finance in Latin America,” Vogel told TechCrunch. “We see a significant amount of traditional financial infrastructure in the region being replaced by crypto. We plan to use this funding to continue that trend by expanding our product offering for individuals and businesses.”
Naturally, Bitso’s investors are bullish on the company’s potential.
QED Investors co-founder and managing partner Nigel Morris admits that in the past he was “a crypto denier.”
“For the longest time, we didn’t see a way [that] crypto fit [into our portfolio]. It wasn’t clear until recently that the use cases for crypto expanded much beyond speculative trading. There are now a whole series of conventional banking products that we can wrap around it,” Morris told TechCrunch.
Bitso’s mission, he said, is to “make crypto useful” and QED believes the company is succeeding at doing just that.
“Daniel and the entire Bitso team is passionate about taking the mystique out of crypto. Crypto is not going away; it’s going to be here for the future,” Morris said. “By sitting at the intersection of crypto and traditional financial institutions, Bitso has a promise to provide lower-cost, friction-free financial services to entire populations of individuals who otherwise would be excluded — a laudable and unique mission indeed.”
Bitso, he added, is learning from the crypto experience in the U.S. and around the world.
“Not making the same mistakes and leaning into the emerging regulatory landscape has been a competitive advantage to Bitso’s success in Mexico,” Morris said. “As Bitso grows throughout the regions, they certainly have a leg up and might even leapfrog crypto adoption in the U.S.”
“Crypto is rapidly gaining adoption in Latin America,” said Tiger Global Partner Scott Shleifer, in a written statement. “We are excited to partner with Bitso and believe they have the right team and platform to increase share in this growing market.”
Founded in 2014, Bitso has more than 300 employees across 25 different countries. That compares to 116 employees last year at this time. In particular, its growth in Brazil is increasing exponentially.
“We’ve gone from 1 to 26 Bitsonauts already based in Brazil, with many more working from abroad, and plan to 3X our number of hires in Brazil by the end of the year,” Vogel said, who acknowledged that the pandemic really impacted his company via the shift to remote work. “As we expand our reach into new territories, it has become a lot easier to meet staffing needs when the requirements are based on knowledge over geography.”
Bitso’s leadership is mostly based in Mexico, but the company also has offices in Buenos Aires, São Paolo and Gibraltar.