Over the last few years, Brazilian retail giant Via Varejo has been teaming up with Boston-based FinTech startup Airfox on payments and banking initiatives for the underbanked in Brazil.
Via Varejo operates nearly 1,000 physical and virtual stores, 26 distribution centers, and a database of more than 60 million Brazilian consumers. Founded in 2016, Airfox partnered with Via Varejo in 2018 to offer the former’s digital “neobank” app to the country’s 50 million underserved consumers, giving them a free way to complete daily financial tasks such as buying goods, paying bills, transferring money, and recharging public transit cards from their mobile phones. And last year, Airfox announced the launch of banQi, its free digital challenger bank developed with Via Varejo.
banQi went on to be named Best Consumer Bank and Best Mobile App in Brazil in World Finance Magazine’s 2019 Digital Banking Awards. In addition, Via Varejo recently revealed that in the first quarter of this year, it saw a 100 percent increase in new banQi accounts, as well as 1 million downloads of the banQi app, a 300 percent increase in use of bill payments and a 117 percent increase in use for Casas Bahia CDC carnês, which are in-store loans used to purchase large-ticket items.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Via Varejo has now made the decision to acquire Airfox for an undisclosed amount. While Airfox will still be based in Boston, the deal will boost further banQi integration into Via Varejo store operations and distribution channels.
“I’m incredibly proud of what Airfox has accomplished so quickly and forever grateful to our ingenious and dedicated team members for all their hard work,” said Airfox cofounder Victor Santos. “With Via Varejo’s support, we’ll continue to lead the charge in leveraging today’s technology for tomorrow’s solutions and securing greater financial inclusion for all.”
As a result of the impending deal, Airfox is currently looking to fill several roles in both Boston and in São Paulo. Andre Calabro will become the CEO of both Airfox and banQi, while Santos transitions to his new role as Chief Strategy Officer.