What is Ualá? The fintech that just raised $150m from SoftBank and Tencent

26 Nov 2019

Buenos Aires, Argentina. Image: ©PHOTOPOLITAIN/Stock.adobe.com

Ualá will use the funding to accelerate growth in Argentina, develop more products and triple its workforce.

On Monday (25 November), Argentinian fintech start-up Ualá announced that it has raised $150m in Series C funding. The round was led by Tencent and SoftBank’s Latin America-focused innovation fund.

Executives from both companies will now join Ualá’s board. There were additional contributions to the round from Endeavor Catalyst, Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, Soros Fund Management, Monashees, Ribbit Capital and Jefferies.

Founded by Buenos Aires-native and Harvard graduate Pierpaolo Barbieri, Ualá provides personal mobile banking services that are similar to those offered by Revolut, Monzo, Nubank and N26. Barbeiri now serves as CEO of the company, which aims to disrupt financial services in South America.

The market for fintech in Argentina

In a recent press release, Barbieri said: “Financial services are based on three pillars: payments, credits, and investments. Our goal is to disrupt access to these services, giving more people the ability to create a credit history in an inclusive and transparent manner.”

The company is targeting Barbeiri’s home country, where only 41pc of citizens own a debit card and less than 10pc have applied for loans at traditional financial institutions, according to the World Bank.

Ualá’s primary offering is a prepaid, global Mastercard that allows users to transfer money, invest in mutual funds, request loans, pay bills and do the usual things users have come to expect from neobanks.

Since its launch, Ualá has loaned $1.3m to customers in Argentina and has seen 4pc of the country’s population adopt its services. The company says that 13pc of these people are aged between 18 and 25.

Plans for funding

Ualá has partnerships with companies such as Netflix, delivery start-up Rappi and Spotify, which it plans to strengthen over time. It’s not yet clear if the fintech has plans to join forces with any of Tencent’s companies, like WeChat.

Since the company was launched in August 2016, Ualá has raised $10m in Series A funding and $34m in Series B funding. The $150m Series C round brings the total raised by the company to $194m to date.

The latest funding round will be used to accelerate growth and help the company to develop more product offerings for purchases and savings, as well as financing.

According to Contxto, scaling is also on the horizon for Ualá, as the company aims to triple in size and create 400 new positions over the next year.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic