Driven by the good moment of the construction and real state sector in emerging markets, Colombia‘s Tul, a B2B e-commerce platform that serves the supply chain of building materials, kicks off 2022 by landing in Brazil after securing a $181 million Series B round led by the venture capital firm 8VC and followed by Avenir Growth Capital.
Brazil is the fourth market Tul is expanding into. Founded in March 2020 in Bogota, Colombia, by Enrique Villamarin (CEO), Juan Carlos Narvaez (CGO), and Nicolás Villegas (CTO), the startup has already brought its business to Mexico, where it is present in Mexico City and Guadalajara; and to Ecuador, where it operates in seven cities. In Brazil, Tul starts with operations in the São Paulo city and plans to serve the metropolitan areas of Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte by the end of the year. Tul’s goal is to reach 10,000 customers in Brazil in the first year in the country.
The fast growth beyond Colombia, explained Bruno Raposo, Tul’s country manager in Brazil, in an interview with LABS, is due to a winning combination: the startup runs in an industry that has had almost no innovation in the last century and is barely served by startups in Latin America; also, its business model meets a long-standing demand from emerging markets in Latin America.
The startup saw an opportunity in the supply chain gaps that affect small construction materials stores located in regions far from large urban centers. These are stores that are not very digitized, with many of their inventory and invoicing operations still analog, and that, because of their small-scale operations and location, face problems acquiring inventory from traditional suppliers.
Tul works as a B2B one-stop shop of construction materials. The startup buys all sorts of construction items – “From A to Z, from screws to rebar,” Raposo said – from diverse suppliers and brands and resells this catalog of products on its own e-commerce platform at competitive prices. Tul has its own large warehouses – at least one in each city where it is present – and is responsible for the entire logistics and last-mile delivery operation, with the promise of delivery within one day.
Through the Tul app, building material stores are able to make their inventory shopping on a single platform, eliminating from the process the contact with dozens of suppliers and the requirement of minimum order, a very common practice in this industry. In addition, the startup‘s customers have access to credit for the purchases and to the invoicing flow and order tracking until delivery.
The startup partnered with some of the largest construction materials suppliers, including Gerdau, ArcelorMittal, Ternium, Sika, Amanco Wavin, Henkel, Belgo Bekaert, Tigre, Tramontina, Bosch and Cemex, among others.
About to turn two years old, Tul already has about 40,000 clients registered on the platform and has already handled $60 million in sales. The startup does not disclose its revenue.
The funds raised in Series B will be invested mainly to leverage the Brazilian operation. “Brazil is the largest market in Latin America and is expected to be Tul’s largest market. We will understand the speed with which we can offer more efficient access to products and value-added services to small local building supplies stores. The company is well-capitalized to grow at the pace that makes sense for our market,” Raposo concluded.