Paolo Fidanza and his team are transforming business transactions with tailored credit lines, leveraging American Express infrastructure – and the Miami-based company has got the growth to prove it
By Riley Kaminer
“I’m a tech entrepreneur – I’m curious, I love finding solutions to problems.”
This is the lens through which Paolo Fidanza views his life. The serial entrepreneur has hopped through roles spanning IT, telecom, healthcare, and more. In 2014, he founded mobile platform Opinit, which he eventually sold to an investment fund.
But the origins of his passion for positive impact can be traced back to 2016, when he began to develop a unique alternative credit decision engine and nano/microloan issuing platform, MO Technologies. The goal: to improve financial inclusion.
That’s also what led Fidanza to launch KEO World in 2020, which aims to tackle injustices in financial inclusion not for individuals or small businesses, but rather for the medium to large businesses that banks overlook.
“This is a segment that most fintechs were not serving,” he told Refresh Miami. Once he and his team started to do some digging, he realized that these businesses were still largely running their businesses through cash and checks.
An even bigger problem, however, was the more than a month-long gap between when these businesses invoice their customers and when they actually get paid. “Even for 30-day invoices, the average time it takes to collect the funds from that invoice was 54 days in many cases.”
Building a better solution
So Fidanza rolled up his sleeves and started to search for – and build – the right tech offering to solve these challenges.
They found a big part of their solution in American Express. Workeo, KEO World’s core product, issues business with an American Express card and credit line. But this is much more than your standard Amex card.
“Each virtual card meets the needs of that business,” explained Fidanza. Unlike normal credit cards, it does not have a traditional cycle (e.g., racking up expenses and paying at the end of the month). Rather, every transaction can have its own duration. Interest rates can also vary by consumer.
“It’s not a credit card, it’s a credit line,” Fidanza underscored. KEO World’s customers typically receive 21-30 days free for each transaction. KEO World is also able to provide its customers with rates that beat the market since they leverage Amex’s rails.
Now, KEO World has expanded Workeo’s capabilities to enable payments outside the Amex network as well, but still leveraging Amex Business Link, a digital B2B payments ecosystem where KEO customers manage Workeo products. Through this platform, KEO World’s users in Mexico can make payments to suppliers, collect invoices from buyers, and determine financial conditions, terms, and rates in real time within the same digital environment of the Amex Business Link platform they already use.
“Expanding the value proposition of the Amex Business Link platform is one of our priorities so that buyers and suppliers can make real-time decisions that optimize their working capital,” René Centeno, Commercial & B2B Head of American Express, commented in a statement. “Enabling multi-product rails for KEO provides better payment and collection tools under the same automated digital ecosystem their customers are already accustomed to.”
“We also give customers an opportunity to have up to 90 days to hedge the currency,” said Fidanza. Users can decide to make the currency conversion at any point in that period.
KEO World makes money from the transactions that go through its network. In turn, it passes along a portion of these proceeds to subsidize the rates it gives its customers.
Another recent feature expansion is the ability for companies to offer KEO World’s solution for their own clients. For example, a large Mexican building materials supplier enables its customers to pay for their goods through KEO World’s system.
KEO World: a Miami success story
KEO World continues to have major momentum. From January to the end of September, the company has grown its revenue by 239%, number of merchants by 270%, and number of clients by 192%. KEO World raised $20 million in equity and $500 million in a debt facility last year.
The company has 100 employees, around 20 of whom – including Fidanza – are based in Miami. He shared that KEO World plans to double its Miami headcount by the end of January as it begins to start servicing the Canadian market. We can expect to see a wide range of job openings for KEO World in Miami including in underwriting, operations, tech, and financial advisory services.
Fidanza asserted that Miami has played a key role in the company’s growth: “If we were not in Miami, we could not have built this business.”
As the company was just getting off the ground during the pandemic, Fidanza noted how helpful it was for employees to be able to still get together (safely) in person. Our close proximity to Latin America was another major advantage for KEO, making it easy to access the markets where it is currently active: Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador (plus the United States).
Hiring has been a bit of a challenge for KEO World, but not an insurmountable one. “We are always looking for highly skilled people, so it’s never easy,” said Fidanza. But between finding local talent and convincing others to move to the Magic City, Fidanza said he has managed to assemble a star-studded team.
What does the future look like for KEO World?
In a word, growth.
The company is constantly working to improve its product offering. For instance, later this month, KEO World plans to launch a feature to allow customers to pay an invoice in KEO World’s portal at a discount. “That translates our transactional gain to our clients so they get an immediate benefit: a discount on the value of the invoice,” said Fidanza. “That means we’ve already increased the company’s margins.”
Beyond the Canada launch, Fidanza signaled that KEO World will soon launch a new blockchain-powered solution that has been in R&D for the last couple of years.
“Even as a small fintech, we’re always investing in our technology – always investing in the next phase of our growth,” Fidanza said. “So by December, we will launch this new platform that will be truly revolutionary.”
Clearly, there is much more to come – from KEO to the World.
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