Berkeley startup gives access to underbanked consumers in South America

an Argentina bank

UC Berkeley Haas School of Business student Santiago Pezzoni's startup works to connect underbanked consumers in Latin America. Pictured here is the Banco de la Provincia de Buenos Aires in Argentina. (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons/Can Pac Swire)

Working for an e-commerce company in his native country of Argentina, Santiago Pezzoni noticed that Latin American consumers, nearly 60%, had no access to financial services. To bridge that divide, Pezzoni founded Digiventures, a startup that uses an online platform to connect underbanked consumers throughout South America with financial institutions.

Santiago Pezzoni grew up in Argentina, but is now a first-year MBA student at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
(Photo courtesy of Santiago Pezzoni)

Last year, to help scale his company, Pezzoni joined UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business as an MBA student. Pezzoni said he has reaped the rewards from that decision by having access to the perspectives of top-notch faculty and a welcoming community of fellow entrepreneurs.

In May, as one of 22 companies selected to participate in the UC LAUNCH Accelerator, a systemwide program supported by the Blackstone LaunchPad program, Digiventures won first place and $30,000 in non-dilutive funding at the accelerator’s Demo Day.

Founded three years ago, Digiventures today has close to 5,000 daily users who can connect to 35 different financial institutions through the company’s online platform. With operations in Argentina and Uruguay and plans to expand into Peru and Colombia, Pezzoni said the recent coronavirus pandemic has caused a departure from in-person business and a move by banks to more digital online offerings.

“The pandemic doesn’t shift the way I think,” said Pezzoni. “I’ve learned to see opportunities in place of problems. I know I’m blessed, because I’m in position to leverage opportunities here at Haas that 95% of people in the world aren’t able to access.”

Read more about Pezzoni and Digiventures here