A Latin American tech company is planting itself in South Florida — and has a fresh round of funding to grow on.
YellowPepper, which provides mobile-banking and payment solutions in the region and recently moved to Miami, announced it has received $15 million in venture funding.
The Series C fund-raising round, which brings the total venture funding to $30 million, was led by Latin Idea Ventures, and included IFC/World Bank and other investors. Serge Elkiner, YellowPepper’s CEO and co-founder, said the funding will be used to sharpen its new focus on the mobile payments industry and initially launch into four key markets: Colombia, Mexico, Ecuador and Peru. After that, YellowPepper may enter other markets — including possibily the United States. “When we decided to enter Mexico, we looked for an investor with deep roots in Mexico who would also see their investment as a regional play with potentially an extention to the U.S.,” Elkiner said in an interview last week.
“We are thrilled to be new investors in YellowPepper, a company that fits into Latin Idea's investment strategy perfectly,” said Alex Rossi, managing partner of Latin Idea Ventures who will be joining the board. “We were attracted by the large market opportunity to roll out mobile banking and mobile payments regionally on a first mover basis matched by a top-notch entrepreneurial management team.”
The company, which has offered mobile banking in eight countries, thinks mobile payments are a logical next step and the way forward is with an app that can be used everywhere — no cards needed.
“We’re trying to make mobile payments a reality in Latin America,” Elkiner said. “Our philosophy is that if you really want to go to mobile payments and replace the card use, you really need to replace it in every single place possible.”
Case in point: YellowPepper’s recent mobile-payment launch in Colombia, a country where there are more cellphones than people, according to the World Bank, but the “unbanked” population is estimated at 35 percent.
“It is the first time in the region and maybe anywhere in the world that there will be a nationwide solution for all the banks to join that is available on every point of sale in the country. Seventy percent of the ATMs in [Colombia] will be compatible by the end of the year, and most of the e-commerce sites will be compatible as well,” Elkiner said. “Our next step is Mexico and Ecuador — we’ll try to do the same thing. A lot of people are craving these kinds of apps.”
For the past four years, YellowPepper has grown 50 percent year over year, Elkiner said. The company currently caters to 6 million users monthly in Latin America and employs about 70 people globally, including five in South Florida. For Elkiner, who lives in South Florida, Miami — and its burgeoning technology community — seemed a logical choice for a base. “Miami is the capital of Latin America — I really believe it is true. We are in the financial business and cater to the different financial players... and all of those headquarters for Latin America are in Miami. It is the business center for the region.”
• LiveNinja’s ninjas have been busy. The Miami-based startup that provides a video-chat platform where users can market and monetize their skills, last week launched the Internet’s first WebRTC-based webinar platform to the public.
Up to now, the platform’s 1,300-plus “Ninjas” have been conducting one-on-one sessions on the video chat marketplace, selling services such as guitar lessons, yoga or business advice. Now they can also host group events and give webinars with hundreds of people per session. The webinar feature is completely browser-based and will not require the download of additional software, unlike other webinar platforms such as WebEX or GoToMeeting, and is far less expensive, said CEO and co-founder Will Weinraub.
Weinraub said the webinar feature was something the company always hoped to offer, but he wanted to make sure customers wanted it. They did. “Since we launched LiveNinja, the ability to give live sessions to a large number of people has been one of our most requested features,” he said.
It’s also a cost-effective solution, the CEO said. Now LiveNinja users can conduct Webinar sessions for up to 50 people for free and webinars of 100 people for $29.99.
Next up for the Wynwood company of six: LiveNinja plans on launching its iPhone app later this fall.
• Modernizing Medicine , creator of a cloud-based electronic medical record system for specialized surgical areas, raked in $14 million in Series C funding from Summit Partners.
Previous funding rounds for Modernizing Medicine were for $7 million and $8 million, bringing total funding to date to $29 million. Modernizing Medicine, based in Boca Raton and launched in 2010, now has 140 employees and plans to add another 30 by year’s end, said CEO Daniel Cane.
Modernizing Medicine’s Electronic Medical Assistant, available in an iPad application or from any web-enabled computer, integrates into the healthcare practice’s work flow, increasing efficiencies for the dermatology, ophthalmology, optometry, orthopedics and plastic and cosmetic surgery markets, said Cane, who also founded Blackboard. Funding will be used to expand into new specialty areas and further develop capabilities with big data.
On the radar
The first annual Mini Maker Faire is coming to Miami in November.
Maker Faire, started in San Diego, is a festival of tech enthusiasts, crafters, makers, engineers, tinkerers and artists gather to show their creations and share what they have learned. Miami’s version will feature both established and emerging local “makers” specializing in robots, drones, hardware hacking, 3D printing, art, music urban farming and sustainability.
For more information, tickets or to apply to present your project: makerfairemiami.eventbrite.com.
Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.