Sergio Furio (Sagunto, Valencia, 45 years old) knew that he was not going to be a prophet in his land. He studied business administration and worked at Danone, Deutsche Bank and The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), from where he jumped to New York in 2008 to lead the technological transformation of Compass Bank. There he met his current wife. It was when the founder of Creditas, the fintech Brazilian that in 2020 acquired the status of Unicornhe was thinking about setting up a start-up. And it was precisely in a conversation with her that the idea of her came up. “Silvia is Brazilian and she told me that in her country clients pay an interest rate of 80% or 90% for personal loans and that’s when the alarms went off,” she recalls.
That’s how he decided to move to São Paulo with the idea of helping to solve the problem of the high cost of indebtedness in Brazil. “She gave me a look that said ‘this guy is crazy’ but she asked for the transfer at BCG.” With the $150,000 from his last bonus at the consulting firm and four people, he set up BankFácil in a five-square-meter office: a platform for financial products aimed at the end customer, which in Brazil was beginning to transition to the digital model, and based on agreements with the banks, from which they obtained a commission of 1%. Her idea in 2012 was to lower the prices of banking products by marketing them online. The wage bill managed by the company then did not reach 4,000 dollars a month, Furio recalls by videoconference from the Brazilian financial capital. “Although the beginning was very humble, we always dreamed big: to change the credit market in Latin America.”
However, the founder of Creditas was unable to convince the 40 investors he met at the time to back his business. “The first year and a half was really hard, counting the dollars in the account and how much I could spend,” he admits. Until they found the product: collateralized loans, initially real estate, which were little known, but much cheaper and longer term than personal loans or credit cards. And they convinced a series of medium-sized banks without a distribution channel to market them. They invested in technology and focused on that one product. And their commissions went up to 2%, 3%, 4%. And there they stood.
At that point they decided to bypass the banks and look for fixed income investors who wanted to put their money into the collateralized loans to turn them into funds. 2016 was the turning point, says Furio, “BankFácil became Creditas and the most important thing is that we changed the size of our dream.” They raised $7.5 million in financing and added a second product to their portfolio: auto-secured loans, which reduced the average size of the transaction from $45,000 for homes to $6,000 for cars and increased the potential of their clientele. It is currently their flagship product.
That was the key to success, according to the founder of Creditas, who assures that then the fintech it began to triple in size annually (now doubles) and to improve its margins. And what is better: investors began to join their bet. In 2017 they supported them with two rounds of 20 and 50 million dollars. In 2019, when they launched their third product (the payroll loan), they were already 230 million. In 2020, it was 255 million and at the beginning of this year, when the market began to show signs of change due to the rise in interest rates, 260 million dollars. Of course, Furio has lost most of the capital along the way, distributed among renowned investment funds such as Fidelity, SoftBank, QED Investors, VEF, Kaszek Ventures, Lightock, Headline or Wellington Management. Between all of them they have disbursed 829 million dollars in the company.
In 10 years, Creditas has gone on to have a loan portfolio of 1,000 million dollars, to have 4,000 people on staff distributed throughout its offices and technology centers in Brazil, Mexico and Spain and to generate revenues of 174 million dollars in 2021 In 2020 it was classified as a unicorn and, after this year’s investment round, it has been valued at 4,800 million dollars (4,000 million euros). “We were very lucky. The market changed radically and technology became the engine for investors in Brazil”, appreciates Furio, who assures that his inspiration for the Spanish that is going to make the Americas came from the big Spanish banks, Santander and BBVA. Today 90% of its clients come from other entities where they have personal loans that Creditas refinances at a cost that is reduced by half, says Furio.
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
Your next step is to jump into the Stock Market. Surely to Walll Street because his investors are in the United States, points out the entrepreneur who, however, does not believe it will be before 2023 because the market is not going through its best moment. Precisely the year in which he aspires to achieve benefits. Your long-term goal is to achieve a 20% margin.
Furio says that “difficult times are ahead” because the idyll between investors and entrepreneurs has cooled. “It has long been anticipated that investment in start-ups was going to crash. It did not arrive, but finally it has been suddenly. There is a change in the mentality of investors, who are less willing to invest in dreams and look for companies that have good economics. They don’t have to be profitable, but they do need to be fast-growing and high-quality,” he says.
Meanwhile, the fintech will continue its path of growth. This year it will bring its revenue to $400 million. And will go out and buy a new one start-up Brazilian that he has in his sights. Although it does not reveal more information about the operation, the acquisitions are part of its strategy: in 2019 it took over Creditoo (specialized in payroll loans), in 2021 with Bcredi (real estate), 40% of Voltz (manufacturer of electric motorcycles), Minute Seguros (car insurance) and Volanty (marketplace of cars). “Our philosophy is to bet on small companies that we help with technology to accelerate their growth. Voltz made 150 bikes a month and now he makes 2,000″. start-ups that at a relatively low cost allow them to grow faster. In 2023 they intend to enter 800 million dollars.
Voltz will be the gateway for Creditas in Spain, where Furio wants to operate with his own business in order to later be able to deploy the loans. Since last year, his strategy has gone beyond the financial product, he says. They have realized that a person who takes a liquidity loan with the car as collateral, two years later changes the car. That is why they bought the Volanty trading platform. And they have entered the motorcycle market through Voltz, which in one year has gained 2% of the market share in Brazil, the fourth largest market in the world. “We created a direct channel for attracting loans,” says Furio, wanting to operate in his country, where “out of nostalgia,” he opened a technology center in Valencia in 2019.