BOSTON: Boston-based fintech startup Airfox is joining Via Varejo, the largest retailer in Brazil serving 60 million customers through popular nationwide retail chains Casas Bahia and PontoFrio.
Publicly held Via Varejo is acquiring Airfox for an undisclosed amount. Airfox will continue to serve as a fintech innovation hub out of its current Boston-based headquarters, leveraging Via Varejo infrastructure to accelerate its mission of bringing more accessible financial services to the underbanked in Latin America.
Under the leadership of co-founder Victor Santos, Airfox has assembled an incredible collection of experienced financial and mobile industry veterans across offices spanning two continents. The Airfox team built and launched its free banQi digital “neobank” banking app in strategic partnership with Via Varejo in September 2018.
banQi’s streamlined mobile platform extends transparent, no-cost digital transaction capabilities and access to banking services through thousands of Via Varejo retail locations in neighborhoods throughout Brazil with features for buying goods, paying bills, topping up cell phones, recharging public transit cards, and more.
Designed to serve Brazil’s enormous population of consumers lacking traditional bank accounts or access to credit, banQi was named Best Consumer Bank and Best Mobile App in Brazil in World Finance Magazine’s 2019 Digital Banking Awards.
Airfox was also honored as a finalist in the 2020 SXSW Innovation Awards and Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards. The company secured strategic partnerships with major companies such as MasterCard in 2019 and banQi has experienced rapid and impressive growth, further escalated by current pandemic conditions and consumer need for digital solutions that support physical distancing.
“In the first quarter of this year, we achieved a 100% increase in new banQi accounts,” said Andre Calabro, financial director of Via Varejo. “We marked 1 million downloads of the banQi app, and saw a 300% increase in use of bill payments and 117% increase in use for Casas Bahia CDC carnês, which are in-store loans used to purchase large-ticket items like furniture, electronics, and appliances.” Via Varejo issues hundreds of thousands of new CDCs each month.
Andre Calabro will take on the mantle of Airfox and banQi CEO as Victor Santos transitions to his new role as Chief Strategy Officer, where he will spearhead product, corporate strategy, and engineering. The acquisition will speed further banQi integration into Via Varejo store operations and distribution channels, and support continuing financial technology innovation from Airfox’s Boston development team.
“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 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.”
Airfox is currently hiring for several roles in both Boston and in São Paulo. The tech hub will continue towards its goal to become a household name in consumer tech companies in Boston after relocating from Silicon Valley to Boston in 2016.
Founded in 2016, Airfox’s mission is to accelerate financial inclusion. Under the brand name banQi, Airfox developed an affordable, easy-to-use, transparent, and empathic digital financial services hub for underserved Brazilians and their families to manage, save, and build their wealth and financial life. Unlike incumbent banks and other fintechs, banQi is a neobank that provides users with a complete digital banking experience and a physical network of branches in Via Varejo’s trusted retail locations. Users are able to create a free mobile bank account in minutes.
With more than 60 years of history and tradition in the consumer electronics and furniture markets, Via Varejo operates iconic brands for Brazilian consumers through retail chains Casas Bahia, Pontofrio, and Bartira. With nearly 1,000 physical and virtual stores, 26 distribution centers, and a database of more than 60 million Brazilians consumers, Via Varejo’s 50 thousand employees are motivated by the recognition that everything they do, every day, contributes to accomplishing the dreams of all the people they serve.