This Silicon Valley award goes to marketing teams that have demonstrated innovation, and Nubank now joins Google, Netflix, GoPro, and Visa on the list of winners.
This is impressive for a company that launched about 18 months ago. Co-founder Cristina Junqueria started the company the way most startups begin: in her apartment and in various local coffee shops.
But the company went live in less than a year and raised its Series A in September 2014, the same month that Junqueria gave birth to her daughter. This might slow some people down, but she pushed ahead by filling out necessary paperwork from her hospital bed.
Nubank now boasts nearly three million Brazilians that have signed up for the Nubank card. This MasterCard international credit card comes with no fees and passes on savings to customers through lower interest rates.
Nubank, the first digital and branchless credit card company in Brazil, has decided to focus almost solely on its mobile app, which customers can use to manage their accounts. They can apply for the card, activate it, pay bills, increase their credit card limit, and more right through the app.
The company’s entire mission is to provide a completely mobile credit card experience, a fact that is even embedded in the company’s name.
“The word ‘nu’ means naked or nude in Portuguese, so that’s where we’re coming from,” Junqueria told Business Insider. “Transparency and stripping off all the complexity.”
One of the biggest keys to success for Nubank has been its navigation of Brazil’s fintech regulations. The U.K. continues to be the shining example of supportive and robust legislation that supports fintech companies, but not all nations are so lucky.
“In Brazil, the environment is completely different,” Junqueria said. “The business there is really hard, just managing the complexity of the labor laws and taxes.”
But Nubank was lucky because its business model did not necessarily rely on any potential regulatory changes in Brazil. The nation’s central bank recently issued a statement that makes it easier for startups to digitally collect information from customers, but this was more of a bonus than a vital adjustment.
“Currently, they’re not like the U.K., which is leading the thinking,” Junqueria said. “Brazil is not the most stable economic environment. They’re very much into understanding new models, but they’re more focused on efficiency.”
Fintech regulations in the U.S. have been extremely restrictive thus far, but those in Europe have proven successful and allowed the region to become a hub of financial technology innovation. The U.S. would be wise to examine the policies in place across the pond and consider how to implement similar ones within its own borders.
The fintech industry is booming, with VC-backed fintech investment growing 106% to reach £10 billion ($13.8 billion) in 2015. But the new business models fintechs are bringing to market also need to be regulated, and the old models aren’t sufficient. The approach regulators take will have a significant impact on how big fintech gets and how fast it gets there.