Zippi, fintech of weekly credit for self-employed, raises US$ 16 million and attracts Tiger Global | startups

Created by a trio of Brazilians with an academic curriculum at MIT and ITA, fintech Zippi has just raised US$ 16 million in a series A led by Tiger Global. The company, which offers weekly working capital via pix to self-employed professionals and small companies, also received support from Y Combinator, the accelerator that accompanied the beginning of the project, Globo Ventures, Volpe Capital, Rainfall Ventures, Hummingbird, Mantis, MSA Capital and Capital sum.

With the check, the startup wants to scale between six and ten times the operation – which, since January, has already registered an average monthly growth of 78%. “There is a huge population of self-employed professionals moving Brazil’s economy, buying and spending, with a lack of specialized financial products. It’s a very different need from a salaried employee”, says André Bernardes, co-founder and CEO of the startup. About 30% of the country’s economically active population is self-employed, according to the IBGE.

Fintech wants to help accelerate the digitization of this still very informal economy by bringing transactions to Pix. The credit is granted by the automatic payment system, with a limit and weekly invoice, extending working capital for those who have a short payment flow at a rate of 3% on the volume used.

Ludmila Pontremolez, co-founder of Zippi, is one of the rare heads of technology in Brazilian companies — Photo: Celso Doni/Valor

They are hairdressers, gardeners, cooks who, between the time of purchasing the inputs and receiving the service, rarely need more than a week’s deadline for payment. Today, Zippi serves “tens of thousands of customers” and accumulates a queue of more than half a million requests.

“The volume of what is transacted on Pix is ​​incredible. This had been calling our attention and we were looking for some initiative in this direction to invest”, says Gregory Reider, partner at Volpe Capital. “The second factor that led us to enter was the team. Not just the founders, but the professionals they are bringing. At this early stage, there will always be challenges and problems, the question is how to deal with them. This is what sets a great entrepreneur apart.”

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This is the first investment that Volpe makes in 2022. The reasons that attracted the former Softbank house also hooked Globo Ventures. “The Pix ecosystem is in its infancy and, to be more and more functional, this open platform will need innovations, interfaces and apps that use it as a means of payment. Zippi is one of the first companies to do this, in a very interesting and needy niche that is SMEs”, says Luis Lora, executive partner of the manager.

Zippi’s story begins in the United States. Bernardes, a graduate in finance from FGV, met Bruno Lucas, an economist from Cornell, when they attended an MBA together at MIT, the global benchmark in technology. The duo had started to develop plans to undertake something that could serve the great mass of self-employed workers in Brazil, when they met Ludmila Pontremolez.

An engineer graduated from ITA, with the right to an internship at NASA through the public program Science without Borders and also at Microsoft, Ludmila got closer to the finance universe at Square, a Californian payment technology company. Today, as CTO, she heads the team of 20 developers and technicians that make the operation of Zippi-Lucas possible.

Born in São José dos Campos, Pontremolez comes from a family of female exacts. The two sisters are also engineers. “My mother always encouraged us to do what we wanted, to follow our passion for numbers”, she tells entrepreneurs, an exception in a market that is still very male. In my career, I have always been in the minority. As a woman, in the technology field, as a Latina, in the US. Today, at Zippi, we are trying to change that story. The majority of the team is composed of women, including in leadership positions.”

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The history of entrepreneurs opened doors in the American market. In 2019, the startup was selected for the Y Combinator program, which has already accelerated companies such as Airbnb, Coinbase, DoorDash. The pre-seed round, worth US$ 450,000, also included the participation of Brazilian Canary. To date, Zippi has raised about $22 million, already considering Series A.

Fintech has a lean team – it reached Series A with only 24 employees -, but part of the capital received will now be invested in hiring for the technology team. The low cost of the operation favors the company in the face of the low liquidity scenario, according to the partners.

“I believe that, for good opportunities and good teams, capital will continue to flow. We were able to attract strong names as investors thanks to a combination of opportunity, impossible two years ago without Pix, and a very strong and lean team”, says Bernardes. “Our solution is about credit, but also about the ability to manage payments. The bank statement of a micro-entrepreneur is a zone, with several inputs and outputs. There is, above all, a demand for management.”

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