Ualá is a personal financial management mobile app that allows the user to have a prepaid card that can be used at any merchant or website that accepts Mastercard. Since its founding, its growth has been spectacular, leading this startup to achieve unicorn status in just over four years.
What is Ualá
Ualá was founded in Argentina in October 2017 by entrepreneur Pierpaolo Barbieri, who was looking for a way to improve financial inclusion in the country by offering a low-cost experience that moved away from the complexity of banks. With just a few clicks and some identity verification steps, anyone can create an account without any opening, maintenance, closing, or renewal fees.
“Starting in 2015, with a couple of team members, we began to think about how to revolutionize the Argentine financial system. We were ashamed that more than 50% of the country had never had access to the formal financial system and wanted to change that (…) We worked for more than a year and a half, almost 2 years, without being able to launch the product because we had to build the entire structure that would allow us to do what we wanted to do,” Barbieri explains in a YouTube video from Ualá.
The app not only allows access to a prepaid card; thanks to it, you can send and receive money between users, bank accounts (CBU) and virtual accounts (CVU) for free and instantly, and also allows you to recharge phone, cable TV, etc. services. Today it serves in Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico.
The 10th unicorn of Argentina
In its early days, financial institutions in Argentina assured that Ualá was an impossible project to carry out, but today some of its services have been copied due to its great success and now the fintech has consolidated itself as one of the ten unicorns of Argentina.
A unicorn company refers to those that have exceeded a market valuation of $1 billion and that are not yet listed on the stock exchange. That is, they are companies that were born under modest conditions and have achieved unimaginable success. Today Ualá is part of the fintech unicorns with a valuation of $2.45 billion and represents the largest private investment round received by an Argentine company.
Ualá became a unicorn after receiving a series D investment round led by SoftBank Latin America Fund and Tencent in August 2021. This type of round aims mainly to make the project achieve high expansion and improvement in its structure to enhance its results. Ualá received $350 million to invest in Argentina and Mexico.
This round of investment was not the first received by the fintech and in January 2018, Soros Fund Management LLC, Jefferies LLC, Point72 Ventures, Greyhound Capital, and entrepreneur Kevin Ryan granted it 10 million dollars in a series A, which refers to a budget that exceeds seed capital and is intended to hire employees and consolidate the business model.
In September of that same year, the series B investment arrived with 34 million dollars granted by Goldman Sachs Asset Management with participation from Ribbit Capital and Monashees. This type of monetary injection was intended to increase the value of the company and its market value is beginning to be analyzed to begin its expansion.
In 2019 it received two investments, one in April from Tencent of which there are no public data and another in November of series C for 150 million dollars from the SoftBank Latin America Fund, Tencent, Endeavor Catalyst, and other investors. This type of series is intended for the development of new products, acquisitions, and developing new business units to consolidate itself as a reference in its sector.
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