Contxto – Peiky, a startup with its heart in Colombia (more on this later) has raised US$1.3 million in pre-series A bridge round financing. It proved to be a tricky feat to pull thanks to our old nemesis, Covid-19.
The capital was raised in its entirety by angel investors. It will be used to advance the company’s current business model and to expand operations to Brazil.
Peiky also believes that this cash injection positions it to advance with the Series A round which it will need to continue its regional growth. This financing is anticipated to provide further funds to accelerate growth of what Peiky calls its “social selling suite”.
The suite is the solution the startup has developed and is commercializing as an integrated keyboard. It looks to improve the way people sell from their mobile devices via chat and social networks. Here’s how they’ve explained it in their own kooky ad:
In an exclusive interview with the startup’s CEO, Juan Bujanda, Contxto discussed the rather tough challenges Peiky had to overcome to secure the round, what it means for the company’s future, and why it sees Latam as the region to launch its campaign for world domination.
Social sales in the age of Covid
Obviously, Peiky wasn’t the only company to suffer from the onset of Covid, but it certainly did feel like it hit exactly at the wrong time. The company began fundraising negotiations in February, 2020, right on time to get slammed by the pandemic. The process stalled.
“It wasn’t easy,” confessed Bujanda. The startup had to prove itself in tough times to doubtful investors.
“We accelerated processes, carried out redundancies, prepared to launch new products… I don’t like the word pivot; it was more of an evolution since what we did was speed what we were already doing, not radically changing directions.”
But, whether he likes the word or not, the vast majority of companies were forced to pivot across the world this year.
The nature of how business is conducted materially changed in the blink of an eye. Small, medium, and large brands suddenly had to adopt new methods to get their wares to the people.
Many turned to e-commerce, but many more moved to what has become known as “social sales”. That is Peiky’s bread and butter.
Pivot to social, as well as digital
“Likes and views don’t pay the bills”, says Bujanda. It’s probably why some big companies are ditching social media platform advertising. But social media can be a powerful sales tool. One complimentary to “traditional” e-commerce.
Prevailing wisdom claims that selling stuff on Facebook, Whatsapp, and Instagram is the province of micro-businesses. Yet, the approach is a brilliant tool. It creates what is known as a “sales community”—if only it can be scaled efficiently. (Remember, how mixed up that poor klutz got in that video before.)
According to Bujanda, even if they’re not allowed to go to the shops, people still crave a consultative retail experience. It’s something you just can’t solve with e-commerce nor bots (yet). Questions like, “Which phone is better?” demand a qualitative answer that only a human being can negotiate successfully.
Pure tech Peiky born to grow
At first I hesitated to call Peiky a “Colombian startup”. There is good reason to call the company Colombian: Its Chairman and Founder, Hernando Varón, is Colombian. The market in which they launched is Colombia—it still is its biggest. Its core operations are in Bogotá.
However, two things stand out. For one, the company is legally established in Toronto. That makes it technically Canadian by old-school corporate definitions of nationality. But, this is simply no longer a viable way of seeing things.
“We’re established in Canada for reasons of investment; our first investors were Canadians”, says Bujanda. Yet, they are Latin American in every other aspect… for now.
This brings me to what, in my view, is the far more important identity behind Peiky.
It is, all things considered, part of a new breed of Latin American globalists. Companies that see value in launching, developing, and scaling within Latin America in order to then catapult to the wider world.
The CEO is himself Venezuelan. Another amidst the increasingly notorious ranks of that country’s emigré-entrepreneurs. But this is not his first rodeo. Bujanda’s online sales platform roots take him all the way back to Rappi, where he was Product Lead of Rappi.One.
Peiky closed commercial agreements with leading brands and retailers in Colombia and Ecuador (“No-one’s a prophet in their own land”, chuckled Bujanda, citing a popular regional proverb after the validation of getting Ecuadorian Banco del Austro to onboard.)
In the coming months, the company also expects to expand the platform into Mexico and Brazil.
Latin America is indeed just Peiky’s first stop to the startup’s broader goal of integrating into the US and Canadian markets.
Ultimately, Peiky wants to become—and stop me if this sounds familiar coming from a Rappi alumnus—the super-app of social selling. Or the “super-suite of social selling”, as they like to call themselves. One platform, a myriad of vendors.
But first, “we do need a Series A round”, Bujanda admits.
Latin America: A global solution launchpad
The general perception is that heterogeneity is a problem in Latam. Indeed, it often is. Inequality is a main feature of a heterogeneous society.
Yet, the diversity of the region allows for different levels of technological adoption to be considered and implemented in the same space.
Take the Peiky conception of the “consultative retail experience”. Their suite balances the need to automate answers to make massive interaction feasible for a vendor, but there is also space for human interaction when the time comes for the personal touch.
It’s something we’ve touched upon before in Contxto, bringing to life the need to marry automation with personalization. Indeed, that is the paradox of digital economies of scale: To be competitive you must be massive, but you must be personalized.
Furthermore, with Covid, Peiky has proved to be a bit of a lifesaver to people who used to work on the shop floor. As companies pivoted online, many surely made their salesforce redundant. Not so with the Peiky suite, since these folks are still needed to man the vendor’s side of the phone.
Covid transformed salespeople into social sellers.
If that’s not a pivot, I don’t know what it is. Sorry, I had to say it, Juan.