Bringing Digital Commerce to Hundreds of Millions of Global Customers
How LatAm’s EBANX grew into a worldwide cross-border payments leader.
EBANX is one of the world’s fastest-growing fintech companies, providing a way for global companies to accept over 100 different types of local payments from customers in 18 countries in Latin America, and now also Africa where it recently expanded. The company got started in Brazil in 2012 when co-founders Alphonse Voigt, João Del Valle, and Wagner Ruiz noticed a huge problem – many Brazilians wanted to purchase goods and services online, but they didn’t have international credit cards (enabled to process foreign currencies) or even bank accounts. This left e-commerce companies with no way to accept their payments, locking hundreds of millions of people out of the internet revolution.
Today, over 1,000 brands, including Amazon, Spotify and Uber, use EBANX to securely accept payments from consumers in Latin America. The EBANX cloud platform – directly integrated with over 70 acquirers, banks, payment methods and processors – allows merchants from several verticals like SaaS/cloud, digital games, streaming and online retail to process payments from all potential customers in Latin America and Africa, from micropayments to large amounts.
FTV first invested in EBANX in 2017, providing the company’s first outside capital, and has continued to support the company through follow-on funding, as well as ongoing strategic guidance, commercial introductions and operational resources. We recently spoke with EBANX CEO João Del Valle about how solving a burning societal need led to EBANX becoming a fintech unicorn.
EBANX is now one of the world’s largest fintechs, enabling global brands to accept payments in local currencies from consumers in 18 countries across Latin America and Africa. Tell us one key early decision the founding team made that led to this huge success?
A key decision that shaped our trajectory was to go after global businesses from day one. We approached companies like Spotify, Amazon and AliExpress, thinking big from the outset. And, very importantly, we prioritized winning and serving our customers over raising funding. For the first five years we were entirely bootstrapped, focusing relentlessly on our customers.
When we eventually raised capital in 2017, we did so because we were at a crucial point in our growth journey and didn’t just want money, but also connections, expertise and help with strategy. FTV was the perfect partner in that respect due to their deep connections in the fintech space. As founders, we’re so busy driving the company forward that we don’t always have a higher-level perspective on what to do next. FTV is a true strategic partner that has helped us multiply our vision.
EBANX brings digital commerce to every consumer and company in Latin America and Africa, even underbanked populations. Why was it important to include the underbanked in your business model?
Our mission is to provide Latin Americans and Africans access to the world, not just to digital commerce but to all the opportunities the internet affords. People who don’t have credit cards or even bank accounts shouldn’t be excluded. From day one our main mission was to provide online payment options to every person in Latin America, and on the other side, to connect the world’s largest digital commerce companies to hundreds of millions of Latin Americans. It was a bold goal, but it keeps us going. And it’s gratifying to see that our early mission is still the driving force in everything we do.
You’re a co-founder and previously served as CTO and COO, becoming CEO in May 2021. What do you like best about leading the company as CEO, and, on the flip side, what’s the most challenging aspect of the job?
The most challenging part of being a CEO is that, in the end, everything stops with you. You need to solve all kinds of issues, from people and investments, to the board and large customers.
The best part about being CEO is seeing the accomplishments of your team – how together they created this great company in less than a decade. Having been CTO, I know the depth of the product inside and out and all the technical challenges and successes we’ve faced. As COO, I oversaw the day-to-day operations of the entire company, being involved in every strategic decision in every department. So those previous roles really inform how I work as CEO. The mission is to create access, through best-in-class, consistent services. Having top leadership as well as a strong board and high-level executives and teams allows us to always increase our strategic and execution capabilities.
EBANX has grown incredibly fast and now has more than 1,000 employees in seven offices worldwide. What is one aspect of your culture that has stayed constant and what steps did you take to maintain it over the years?
Being open-minded and diverse are our two guiding principles. So when we onboard a new employee from China, Chile, the United States or anywhere else, we always try to bring out the best of that person and honor their culture and background. We look for rich complementary characteristics and diversity of thought and perspective among our employees. We also believe in commitment, persistence and pursuing knowledge. We clearly defined our value system 10 years ago and continue to constantly communicate it. These values mean that EBANX is very global, multicultural and collaborative. We don’t experience culture clash, instead we celebrate the richness of each team member.
What is one of the biggest challenges EBANX has faced during its growth journey and how did you overcome it?
One of the biggest challenges is being in a market that’s new. Cross-border payments were totally new when we started, and we had to almost create the market ourselves. We’ve been actively shaping this space for a decade, and yet things are always changing, requiring us to adapt. Standards and regulations shift all the time and are different in every country. Our customers aren’t even totally sure what the competitive landscape looks like because there are so few main players and so many upstarts. But this uncertainty has helped us in a way because we are one of the largest companies in the space, and we work to educate merchants as much as possible.
Even amid today’s uncertain economic times, EBANX is growing quickly. You recently expanded into Africa. Where do you see the company in 18 months, and, looking farther out, in five years?
Our mission statement says a lot about our future: we are the leading payments partner in rising markets for global companies. That’s what we do now, and that’s what we’ll do in the future. In the next 18 months, we’ll go into new countries, deepen our operations in our existing markets and become the best-performing cross-border payments company in every market where we operate. In five years, we’ll be doing this in many more countries worldwide.
As a founder of a hugely successful company in a complex financial industry, international payments, what is one piece of advice you’d give founders just starting on the journey to build a fintech?
Focus on client traction. If you don’t have it early on, you won’t be able to solve your problems in the long term. So make sure your product solves a very real and very useful problem. You can’t get client traction without that core principle. Decide exactly what you are going after and get your early GTM right. And, one more piece of advice. In the fintech space, to succeed, you need to work with big, established financial services companies. Have the courage to approach them. Banks are very open to speaking to fintechs today because they have problems they want to solve and are looking for solutions. So help them solve their problems. I always say, dreaming big takes the same effort as dreaming small, so just do it.
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