Goldman Sachs has joined George Soros and Steve Cohen in backing an Argentinian mobile banking startup

  • Ualá, an Argentinian mobile banking startup, has raised $US34 million in a new round of funding led by Goldman Sachs’s venture unit, along with investors including billionaire George Soros’ family office and Point72 Ventures, the early-stage VC firm funded by Steve Cohen.
  • The company – which offers a financial management app and a fee-free prepaid MasterCard – aims to disrupt the traditional retail banking infrastructure, according to Pierpaolo Barbieri, founder and CEO of Ualá.

Goldman Sachs’ venture unit is leading a new round of investment in an Argentinian fintech company backed by billionaire investors George Soros and Steven Cohen.

Ualá, the one-year-old mobile banking startup, raised $US34 million in its series B round led by Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, along with existing investors including a private fund managed by Soros Fund Management, Jefferies, the venture arm of Steve Cohen’s Point72, and entrepreneur Kevin Ryan, according to an announcement seen by Business Insider.

Goldman Sachs provided over half of the capital, according to Pierpaolo Barbieri, founder and CEO of Ualá.

The Buenos Aires-based startup offers a personal financial management app that is linked to a prepaid Mastercard, which doesn’t charge opening fees, transaction fees, and renewal fees. In the span of one year, the company has issued 400,000 cards, which allow users to top up mobile phones, make purchases, and conduct P2P money transfers.

“Our goal is to replace the traditional retail banking infrastructure with Ualá,” Barbieri said.

Over 50% of people in Argentina had never had a card before and are only operating in cash, so the company aims to provide these people financial inclusion by giving them access to financial system, he added.

“Ualá’s product offering reduces both cost and friction, while providing a great consumer experience,” said Christopher Dawe, cohead of Goldman Sachs Investment Partners venture capital & growth equity team. “We are excited by the company’s mission of improving access to critical financial services and look forward to partnering with the Ualá team on their next phase of growth.”

Ualá will tap into the new fund to boost its user growth, expand its headcount, and execute the launch of a credit and savings platforms, according to the announcement.

International appetite in Latin American startups hit a peak last year, with global venture capital investments in the region surpassing $US1 billion in 2017 for the first time, according to The Association for Private Capital Investment in Latin America.


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