Opening a business bank account should be relatively easy, but after seeing firsthand how difficult it is, Salomon Zaruk and Sebastian Ortiz decided they did not want another Latin American business to face the same difficulty.
The two, who worked together at Tpaga in Colombia, moved to Mexico a few years ago to start a mobile wallet company there, and let’s just say Zaruk was less impressed with the experience. In fact, he told TechCrunch that opening a bank account for the company was “a mess.”
What they came up with was Mono, which means “monkey” in Spanish, a fintech company that provides corporate or business accounts to startups in Colombia. Zaruk and Ortiz, along with Juan Camilo Poveda and Jose Thomas Lobo, launched Mono in January as they crossed the Y Combinator.
Like Zarruk and Ortiz, Poveda has banking experience, having previously developed credit and banking products for Nubank. Meanwhile, Lobo has experience in technical operations and execution.
The company’s name is inspired by what is happening after a forest fire, Lobo explained. Although the whole earth is black and full of ashes, it is still fertile, and when monkeys begin to move from tree to tree to eat seeds, they drop many of the seeds on the ground, which turn into new growth.
“These seeds are reborn in the forest, and we like this analogy because it’s what small businesses do for the economy – entrepreneurs come and make changes in the economy,” he added.
Zaruk called Mono “the first bank without banking” for start-ups and small businesses in Latin America, providing financial services and fully digital bank accounts that can be opened in about 15 minutes compared to an average of two weeks in an existing bank.
He explained that fintech could be called “the first” because he believes the company was the first to build a bank for entrepreneurs in Latin America, which he described as an autopilot bank that automates several accounting services that are highly manual today. In fact, when Mono tried to open a bank account at one of Colombia’s largest banks after completing the paperwork, it still did not have an account two months later, Zaruk added.
From a bank account perspective, he argues that Mono is different from competitors, who instead approach business accounts with credit cards, payment terminals or cash management products.
Mono works with a local banking partner in Colombia and builds its own technology stack. It currently offers bank accounts with physical and virtual debit cards, the ability to make and receive bank transfers and make payments.
“Speed is our motivation because we want to help small businesses compete with current employees,” Zaruk said.
Much of the company’s growth is organic. By March, Mono had attracted more than 300 customers and achieved $ 1 million in total payments. Its workforce has grown to 25 employees and the company expects to complete its top management next year.
To maintain this momentum, the company announced an initial $ 6 million funding led by Tiger Global (interestingly, Tiger also supports African fintech, also called Mono). Soma Capital and Y Combinator also took part in the round. Mono has a team of angel investors, but the highlights for this round are Monzo founder Tom Blomfield, Jamie Devlin of Revolut and the founders of Fintual and Belvo.
The new funds will allow Mono to plan future expansion to other countries, such as Mexico, Peru, Chile and Brazil.
“We estimate that we have about 24 months of track and the most important thing right now is product development,” Zaruk said. “We are building a strong technology package for integration with third countries so that we can start offering several accounting functions, such as taxes, receivables and due processes, which are currently difficult to implement.