After a few months flirting with the Brazilian market, Clara, a Mexican corporate spend-management fintech, finally debuts its operations in Brazil boosted by a new $70 million funding in a Series B round led by Coatue – investment manager who has also bet on names such as Bytedance (TikTok), Cloudwalk, Deel and Bitso. Clara’s previous investors also participated in the round: DST, monashees, General Catalyst, Avid Ventures, Global Founders Capital, Alter Global, among others. The new round brings Clara’s valuation to $ 1 billion, making the fintech the newest Mexican unicorn – and, according to the company, the first Latin American startup to reach unicorn status in less than one year of operations.
The new round came only five months after the $30 million Series A. In an interview with LABS, Clara’s country manager in Brazil, Layon Costa, said that the company did not need capital, but that, with the good results it had in Mexico and the launch in Brazil, investors’ appetite for the fintech increased. “The more capital, the more talented people [we can attract], expanding faster,” he said.
Founded by Gerry Giacomán and Diego García in 2020, the startup began its operations in Mexico in March 2021 with an eye on the potential of the B2B financial solutions market. Clara offers an end-to-end solution for spending management for companies. In October, it announced a partnership with Mastercard to issue corporate cards to its customers – the operations in Brazil will also be supported by the payments giant. In addition to corporate credit cards in physical and virtual formats with no annual fee and customizable limits and restrictions, the company has a platform for controlling expenses.
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In eight months of operation, Clara has about 1,000 corporate clients in Mexico — a third of them are high-growth technology companies such as Creditas, Kavak, Casai, and Valoreo. The startup says it has seen the volume transacted through its platform increase more than a hundredfold since March. Clara earns its revenue from interchange fees on each credit card transaction, but it does not charge its customers.
The debut in Brazil marks the beginning of a new phase for Clara. Costa, an executive who has worked at companies such as QuintoAndar and Rappi and will lead the fintech‘s expansion in Brazil, said that the company already has more than 100 clients interested in using the platform in the country.
“We were already managing to set up a smooth operation in Brazil, and now we are going to accelerate even more the hiring [of talents], the local marketing efforts, [investing] in a technology team to have a skillfully constructed product,” he said. Before the operation in Mexico started, Costa was already at Clara because the plan was always to have someone in Brazil.
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The fintech expects to reach 200-300 customers in Brazil‘s first year of operation. Despite the vast and yet-to-be-explored potential of the Brazilian B2B market, Clara will face strong competitors, such as Cora and Conta Simples. “Our value proposition is unique [compared to other companies]. We are a spending-management platform for companies that offers a credit card product right from the start,” he said.
Seeking to add more services to its platform, Clara launched in August a functionality that allows customers to manage not only credit card expenses and refunds but also invoices, their list of suppliers, and accounts payable. With all expenses organized in one place, Clara’s customers can use the platform as a starting point to apply for credit based on their future transactions.
“Companies will be able to control everything within the platform, making hundreds of payments with a click and directly from the platform, managing a list of vendors, and connecting them with their tax account information. Notifications can be automatically sent to these vendors, helping companies to keep their entire operation on schedule—all in real-time. No bank can offer a solution similar to this one,” Giacomán told LABS recently.
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With the receivables market gaining new traction after regulatory changes and an open banking regulation being implemented, Brazil could be a major turning point for Clara. With the Series B round, the fintech plans to continue expanding its product portfolio. The idea is to be a Brex (the U.S.-based corporate credit card startup founded by Brazilians currently valued at over $7 billion) for Latin America.
“We want to eliminate the bureaucracy of the employee having to attach a receipt to request a refund. Instead, on the platform, you can see graphs of each department or each regional business unit, where they are spending money, all linked to their credit card”.
Colombia and Chile are on Clara’s roadmap of upcoming markets. “Next year, we intend to have [operations] in at least seven countries in Latin America,” said Costa.