Aplazo takes in $27M to increase adoption of BNPL in Mexico

Four months after securing a $5.25 million seed round, Mexican buy now, pay later startup Aplazo is back with an even bigger round to expand adoption of the payment plan approach across that country.

Angel Peña and Alex Wieland co-founded the company in 2020. Prior to Aplazo, Peña lived in New York and worked at Morgan Stanley investing in credit in Mexico, while Wieland had been launching businesses across Latin America after spending time at companies like Uber and Lime.

Aplazo plugs into a merchant’s payment process, online or offline, and enables users to purchase items and pay in five equal installments without needing a credit card.

That offline component, in particular, is what Peña says differentiates the company from competitors, as 95% of purchases are still made offline in Mexico. Typically, you need to have a credit card in order to take advantage of installments. However, credit penetration in Mexico is low, less than 10%, due to lack of trust in the banking system, he added. The more popular payment methods are still cash or a debit card.

“That means 90% of people are unaddressed,” Peña told TechCrunch. “There is huge adoption for it, but the roadblocks are the banks who have been super profitable, but have not democratized installment credit.”

The merchant is charged a fee to use the tool, but customers are not, and Alplazo takes on the risk of installment payments and chargebacks. The merchant then benefits from increased conversion rates and higher average order values, while also maintaining a consumer relationship.

Due to about 40% of the population not having a credit history, Aplazo uses alternative data, such as open banking and telecom data, to gauge consumers’ creditworthiness and level of affordability, optimizing approval rates and providing fair credit products to underserved consumers, Peña said.

Today, they announced $27 million in Series A investment led by Oak HC/FT, with participation from existing investors Kaszek and Picus Capital. This gives the company total funds of over $35 million.

Peña says the new funding was unexpected since the company had enough capital from its seed round. However, the opportunity provided the company a chance to accelerate its mission, which includes technology and product development and investing in merchant success. In addition, the company intends to double its 50-person team by February and launch in two additional countries in 2022.

Since the seed round, Aplazo grew its total processing volume more than eight times and in less than a year has partnered with over 1,000 merchants that operate in lifestyle products like fashion, footwear and beauty. Peña estimates these categories represent some $70 billion in spending in both online and offline purchases.

Aplazo is the latest startup going after the BNPL space that has been dominated by companies like Afterpay, which was bought by Square earlier this summer, Klarna and Affirm. There has been a lot of activity in the past year, between M&A with Afterpay and companies like ShopBack, which agreed to acquire Hoolah, and funding rounds for BNPL companies. For example, Billie, Nelo and Scalapay raised recently.

“We have been fascinated by the global phenomenon that is buy now, pay later,” Allen Miller, principal at Oak HC/FT, said. “We wanted to make an investment in Latin America and thought that buy now, pay later would be an interesting entry point. The industry has the same appetite as the U.S., but is on steroids, and with the limited access to credit opportunity for buy now, pay later to be successful, Angel and Alex fit the mold.”

Miller expects the future of buy now, pay later in Latin America to be a bright one for a couple of reasons: one, fewer millennials are getting credit cards and are instead relying on debit cards. Two, merchants want to access a whole swath of people, but can’t due to the large amount of people who don’t have access to credit. Aplazo is building an infrastructure around both of those elements and “has been able to attract talent from best brands, and when we saw that momentum, that was exciting,” he added.