Disruptor 50 2021

40. Nubank

Founders: David Vélez (CEO), Cristina Junqueira, Edward Wible
Launched: 2013
Headquarters: São Paulo, Brazil
$1.3 billion (PitchBook)
Valuation: $25 billion (PitchBook)
Key technologies:
Cloud computing, machine learning
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 0

Persephone Kavallines

The world's largest and most valuable "challenger bank" is disrupting the Latin American financial ecosystem with over $1 billion of venture capital funding and a Stanford grad's tech-driven vision for the future.

Colombia-born David Vélez founded Nubank in 2013 with a purple no-fee credit card in Sao Paulo, Brazil, a country notorious for its high-fee, low-tech banking system. Less than ten years later, the fintech company has survived a recession and a pandemic, emerging with over 34 million customers across Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico, and a valuation higher than Chime, Robinhood, or SoFi.

To Vélez, the opportunity was obvious: the financial ecosystem in Brazil was inefficient and inaccessible, with five banks controlling over 80% of the country's assets, annual credit card interest rates running up to 300%, and a third of the population unbanked. According to Nubank, bank branches only exist in 60% of Brazil's cities, but a digital platform could support customers regardless of location.

The Covid-19 pandemic has only expedited Latin America's migration to online banking, prompting tens of millions to "go digital" in a matter of months, according to research from Mastercard. Nubank continued to expand as well, distributing government aid, partnering with PayPal and Amazon, and launching fully digital and customizable life insurance at the end of 2020.

With buy-in from backers like Ribbit, Tencent, Invesco, and Vélez's former employer, venture capital firm Sequoia, Nubank is pushing online banking expansion across the LatAm region. To date, the company estimates that it has saved its customers over $2 billion in fees, thanks to Nubank's no-fee structure. At a $25 billion valuation, the company's credit card product has been profitable for four years, though the company overall has not yet hit that financial goal.

Contributed by Cameron Costa

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