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Largest pre-seed round in Latin America: Pandas nabs $6.3M to help SMBs grow faster

Pandas Founders
Image credits: Pandas

Colombia-based Pandas, which focuses on offering Asian-origin inventory to micro-businesses in Latin America has nabbed $6.3 million in the largest pre-seed funding in the region. The fresh funds will be used to scale operations, further develop the Pandas platform, and accelerate talent acquisition.

Stellar list of investors

The round was led by Third Kind Venture Capital, followed by Acequia Capital, Picus Capital, Tekton Ventures, Partech that recently closed $750M, K50 Ventures, Liquid2 Ventures, Clocktower Technology Ventures, Gaingels and others.

Also, successful founders from the local logistics, e-commerce, and fintech ecosystem, including Jose Jair Bonilla from Chiper, Man Hei and Lluís Cañadell from Treinta, Pablo Viguera from Belvo, Alfonso de los Rios from Nowports, Sujay Tyle from Merama, Tono Mandly from Riogrande, Juan Carlos Narvaez from Tul, Gonzalo Manrique from Ironhack, Gerry Giacomán from Clara, Daniel Bilbao from Truora, Francisco Jassir from Farmu and others participated in the round.

Global individual supporters include relevant angel investors in the space such as Gokul Rajaram or Liam Casey known as Mr. China were involved.

“One of the keys to Pandas’ success is the digitalization of an industry that has traditionally worked manually and inefficiently”, said Co-Founder Marcos Esterli. “We have seen similar problems in Asia 5-10 years ago, and giants like Alibaba and Udaan emerged to solve this.

“We believe Pandas can help solve the same problems across LatAm, but we need to adapt our approach to the region’s specific needs”, said Co-Founder Rio Xin. He has spent more than seven years in China, where he developed a strong network in the region. Previously he was an Engagement Manager at McKinsey and holds a Ph.D. in Engineering from Cambridge University.

What issue does Pandas tackle?

Small businesses power national economies across Latin America but struggle with access to global supply chains. Current procurement processes typically require owners to spend considerable time and resources looking for products to sell, entailing many undesirable trips to visit dozens of distributor warehouses. The local distributors would have acquired the goods from a wholesaler, that in turn, had acquired those goods from an importer. In the end, there are at least 4-5 intermediaries in the process that eat up the margin that could otherwise benefit the small merchants.

This is where Pandas comes to the picture as it connects this $190 billion market directly with Asian manufacturers, thereby significantly reducing the high fees and logistical problems imposed by importers and intermediaries.

Pandas was founded in 2022 by Marcos Esterli and Rio Xin. Headquartered in Bogota, Colombia, the company has an additional office in China. The founders are of Spanish and Chinese origin, have a proven track record in startups, international trade, and consulting (having led teams at Treinta, export businesses, and McKinsey). Furthermore, the team has been adding key hires that bring expertise from relevant companies, including Tul, Rappi, Alibaba, Laika, and DHL amongst others.

Over the next twelve months, Pandas plans to provide a comprehensive suite of fintech and analytics solutions, offering small- and micro-businesses seamless access to better financial tools and financing. This will enable previously unbanked, but highly qualified merchants in the region, to obtain access to resources that otherwise would be inaccessible.

The Pandas’ team believes that democratising access to these resources will not only help merchants to grow, but also improve livelihoods and economic growth across the region.

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