When I first landed in São Paulo in September 2022, I rushed from the airport to get ready for our first in person meeting with a potential client in Brazil. The client was a rental car company based in Pinheiros called Cashly, focused exclusively on renting cars for Uber drivers. I was able to get the meeting by contacting the founder, Alexandre Abreu, with broken Portuguese on LinkedIn. Luck always plays a big part in early stage startups, but in this case I was extra lucky. Alexandre spoke perfect Spanish and turned out to be one of the scrappiest and fastest moving entrepreneurs I have yet to meet. Just take a look at the artwork in the meeting room where we met for the first time:
This was exactly the spirit that we felt in that meeting (no, we did not smoke weed).
He gathered the Cashly team and we showed them how with Palenca, drivers could seamlessly connect their Uber accounts and Cashly would be able to see exactly how much they were earning on Uber, how many trips they were taking every day and their ratings in the platform. This way, Cashly would have a much better tool to assess which drivers they could rent cars to, and to know which of their existing drivers would have the capacity to pay them. Within minutes, they sent the link to our tool to several of their existing clients. Quickly it worked and they liked the data they were seeing, it was obviously very useful for their operation.
There was still one big challenge for the business itself: the rental car business had practically stopped. Just like in other countries, after the pandemic and the supply issues it caused, getting new cars in Brazil became complicated and very expensive, making their model very hard to sustain. Alexandre came up with an idea, maybe he could pivot to just focus on making loans. They already had the demand, the underwriting and collection know how for Uber drivers, but instead of giving them a R$ 60-80k car, they could give loans of around R$500-10k.
Less than a week after the meeting Alexandre sent me a new version of his website, with a single product for: loans. When you clicked on the application for loans it led you to a Typeform page where you would register and at the end, connect your Uber account through Palenca. This is what being a scrappy entrepreneur is all about. Based on the earnings Cashly got from Palenca, they would decide to make the loan or not and adjust the limit for each driver, then they would send a Pix for the amount of the loan. The whole process from the application to the money hitting the driver’s account takes just a few hours.. Within a few weeks, this new model started to take off aggressively. Cashly’s name became more present in the driver community on WhatsApp and Facebook groups.
Like any good entrepreneur, Alexandre was sensitive to pricing, and when your average ticket moves from R$ 70k to $1k margins are much thinner and every cent counts. So he did a test, he stopped using Palenca altogether to compare how many clients would be at risk of default if their underwriting process didn’t include our income verification API. The results surprised both of us, and here you can see how the number of clients at risk of default plummeted after using Palenca.
Cashly was one of our first customers in Brazil, and for months they worked side by side with us while we fine tuned our Gig Economy product to work properly here in Brazil.
The best part about API first business models like Palenca is that your success is dependent on your client’s success, so if Cashly grows (which it is, a lot) Palenca gets to grow with Cashly. Seeing customers build on top of our API is always very cool, but seeing customers completely pivot and essentially start new businesses with our product is much more exciting.