By Riley Kaminer
If you live in Miami, chances are you have some family and friends living abroad. Nowadays, there are plenty of ways you can send them money (and no, we’re not just talking about the much-reviled Western Union).
But Miami-based OKY has a unique spin on remittances. Instead of simply transferring cash, OKY enables users to send gift cards for specific stores to friends and family abroad. For instance, you could send $6 to your friend in Guatemala to buy a Happy Meal at McDonald’s or $10 to help your family member in Honduras pay for some medication at a pharmacy.
To further the development of its platform, OKY has raised $2 million from family offices and high net worth individuals, bringing their overall amount of funds raised to $8.5 million. The company plans to leverage this funding to expand the marketplace, develop new features into the platform, and continue with the organic growth in existing markets.
Since we last caught up with OKY in August 2021, co-founder and CEO Victor Unda shared that the company has pretty much tripled in size every year. “We’ve also improved our product offering significantly, including our user experience.” Now the company’s marketplace has partnerships with upwards of 600 brands and 15,000 physical stores in six Latin American countries.
“We are now at the point where we need to take this proven concept in our existing markets into other additional countries,” added Unda. “For that we will raise a Series A round this year. Our next market is Mexico and in order to penetrate it we have to replicate a model that has already been successful, identify the right merchants in the right categories, so that we can tap into this multi-billion dollar market with a product that drives much higher profitability than standard cash remittances and much more emotional value per transaction than what is traditionally possible.”
“OKY’s impressive growth trajectory is testament to their innovative solutions, which are undoubtedly reshaping the industry,” commented Fernando Pontaza, an early investor in OKY and co-founder/managing general partner at Invariantes Fund. “Our enthusiasm for our investment reflects our commitment to this journey with OKY, as they strive to make cross-border support more readily available to communities that have long been overlooked.”
The whole concept behind OKY is that there is a story behind each transaction, beyond the simple transfer of cash funds. “There’s more to remittances than meets the eye,” said Unda, who moved to Miami from his native Guatemala 11 years ago.
“We’ve been able to create a digital network that allows US customers to be part of the daily life of their loved ones,” added co-founder/CFO and Argentinian native Santiago Rossi. “We are proud to help these communities and see how we can be part of our customer’s day to day stories.”
Unda noted how remittances can often be seen more as an obligation – a necessary part of the pursuit of a better life. From his perspective, OKY’s take on remittances enables users to instantly give their friends and family members the exact product they need or want. “We hear from our customers that they’re getting messages from their relatives thanking them for not simply fulfilling an obligation but rather I’m going a step above,” said Unda.
Unda continued: “This is really a new space that we’ve created to complement the money that our users are already sending. It’s not really cannibalizing remittance flows, but rather increasing the amount of volume flow itself put in a different form.”
Another key advantage to OKY’s platform is the lower cost in comparison to other remittance platforms. The company charges the customer a small feel while also receiving a commission from the retail partner.
So far, OKY has 22 full-time employees, four of whom are based in Miami, working to serve around 20,000 unique monthly users. Guatemala is the company’s biggest market thus far. On average, these users send 2-3 transactions a month – more than the average for a remittance platform.
Looking forward, Unda signaled that the company will begin to partner with traditional remittance providers who would like to embed OKY’s services into their platform in order to expand their product offerings. Unda said it is also likely that the company will start raising a Series A this year to further catalyze their growth.
PHOTO AT TOP OF POST: Co-founders of OKY, left to right: Estuardo Figueroa (Chief Commercial Officer), Victor Unda (Chief Executive Officer), Santiago Rossi (Chief Financial Officer), and Alejandro Mirón (Chief Operations Officer).
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