Companies are starting to scale in Latin America. In this story, we bring you a FinTech company’s journey from its bootstrapped beginnings to validation, venture financing, and scaling.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your story. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Sergio Furio: I’m Spanish. I graduated in 2000 in Business Administration. I spent five years in Deutsche Bank doing investment banking.
Sramana Mitra: In Spain?
Sergio Furio: Yes. That was between 2000 and 2005. Then in 2005, I moved from banking to consulting. I started working in BCG in strategy consulting. I specialized in retail banks. I was advising large banks first in Spain, and then moved to New York. I was based in New York until 2012. I was doing these strategic plans for big banks supporting them in growth strategies, technology transformations, and operational excellence.
In 2010, I was doing the technology transformation of one of the big banks in the US. At the peak, there were 1,000 people involved in the project. I said, “There needs to be a better way to do this.” Software development needs to be matched cheaper. The customer interface needs to be much more user-friendly rather than thinking about the product. I started thinking more deeply about doing a project in tech.
At that point, I was dating this Brazilian girl who told me about the huge interest rates in Brazil. It got me interested in the topic. I started analyzing the Brazilian market. Then I decided that I wanted to move to Brazil and set up a company focusing on reducing the interest rates that Brazilians are paying for the loans they take. That’s the foundation of the company. After doing a very short research, I bought a ticket to Sao Paolo and spent a day talking to three or four people and decided that I wanted to move there.
Sramana Mitra: Wow! That’s drastic.
Sergio Furio: I always said that if I think about it twice, I wouldn’t do it. I didn’t have expertise in the country, but I did have the financial background. I moved in March 2012.
Sramana Mitra: Did you understand exactly what the company would be when you started this company, or are you still doing the same thing that you thought you would do?
Sergio Furio: That’s a very interesting question. What I had was a rough idea that if we provide a technology that thinks about the customer and the problems of that customer, we could find a spot in the market to make that relationship between borrowers and lenders much better than what it was at that point in time. We wanted to build something that connected financial institutions with customers. That was the initial ambition that we had. It was broad. I bootstrapped at that point.
I took my savings and decided that I wanted to have a 12-month runway. I hired a team of seven people and had 12 months to make it happen. Those 12 months was, in reality, more like an actual research and testing and trying to find the right way of doing it. The initial business model was a lead generator. We were finding customers online and trying to figure out their needs. Then we referred those customers to financial institutions.