Fintech

How one Brazilian startup’s pivot to corporate cards has paid off

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Portão 3 founders
Image Credits: Co-founders Bianca Pereira and Fernando Nery / Portão 3

Portão 3 was founded as a corporate travel startup in 2020 and had released its product just as COVID hit Latin America and “all airports closed,” recalls co-founder Bianca Pereira.

Although the timing was “terrible,” she said, the company didn’t give up.

Pereira and fellow founder Fernando Nery concluded that the software that Portão had built could still be used to help enterprise businesses with corporate spend generally.

“We also realized that corporate cards are a great tool,” Pereira, a serial entrepreneur and former Cargill employee, told TechCrunch. “However, CFOs in Brazil hate them, and we get why since all they receive at the end of the month is a transaction statement that is impossible to trace back…CFOs also worry that by decentralizing payments and empowering employees, they will have to deal with fraud, payment reconciliation and an overall mess in operations they will have to fix.”

Portão’s platform combined with its corporate card, according to Pereira, solves the problem by doing two things. Firstly, it builds a company policy configuration into the platform that approves transactions. 

“We call it budgets; each gets configured into where employees can spend money, how much and when,” Pereira explains.

It also connects to a centralized invoice platform, which automatically reads and interprets QR codes on receipts uploaded by employees to match the details for that transaction, cross-examine it to check against fraud and ensure that each item was purchased in line according to company policy.

In 2022 alone, Portão 3 says it facilitated over $60 million worth of transactions and issued more than 1 million physical and virtual cards. Nearly 600 enterprises throughout Latin America are using the technology, including companies such as crypto company Bitso, CredPago, health insurance giant SulAmérica and 123 Milhas. And impressively, Portão claims to have achieved profitability as of December and continuing to grow 20% month-over-month.

Portão 3 says its software decreases 33% of the time spent on payment management processes — with the goal of making it easier for companies to control their employees’ spending on travel, fuel, tolls, meals and any external activities. 

The company participated in Y Combinator’s Summer 2021 cohort, but only recently turned to institutional financing to help grow its business — closing a $3.6 million seed funding round led by Better Tomorrow Ventures. Endeavor Scale Up, Fincapital, Pareto, Flexport and other angel investors also participated in the financing.

For now, according to Pereira, Portão is focused on growing in Brazil, with an eye toward eventually expanding into Latin America as a whole. It plans to use its new capital to hire a product and growth team, and most recently hired an ex-Samsung director to lead sales. Presently, Portão has 30 employees.

Looking ahead, the company wants to focus on new segments of customers in logistics, retail and freight.

Jake Gibson, founding partner of Better Tomorrow Ventures and co-founder of NerdWallet, said that as his firm evaluated the opportunity to invest in Portão 3, it found that enterprise companies in Brazil have access to corporate cards but, as Pereira mentioned, they rarely utilize the products due to concerns around fraud, reconciliation and decentralization of data.

Portão 3’s software aims to solve the  problem for large enterprise companies by offering software that standardizes transaction data, verifies spend on cards to detect fraud and “dramatically reduces” expense reporting times, he said. 

“Given that card issuing itself has become largely commoditized, Portão 3 has focused their efforts on building a financial management platform that provides controls and fraud detection to CFOs,” Gibson added. “By integrating into the various Brazilian government invoice databases and building technology to normalize and standardize that data, Portão 3 can verify any spend on the cards and ensure there are no violations of company expense policy.”

Better Tomorrow Ventures’ investment in Portão 3 is the latest within a broader thesis, Gibson points out. The firm has also invested in Ramp in the U.S. and Mendel in Mexico. 

“We are very familiar with companies that provide software beyond the cards for businesses — it’s a model that we appreciate and see a ton of value in,” he said.

Portão 3’s pivot is similar to that of U.S.-based Navan (formerly TripActions), which also initially started out focused on corporate travel but is now focused on general corporate spend management for enterprises.

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Investors show Latin American fintech startups the money

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