Financial Site Finds Venture Zone

Another week, another dotcom targeting the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking market hits venture capital pay dirt.

The smiling faces this time belong to the staff of ZonaFinanciera.com, an online financial services supermarket that raised $30 million in its third round of institutional funding.

The company declined to identify the lead investor, but it did report that new buyers included T. Rowe Price, CitiCorp Strategic Technology Corp., Hartford Life Insurance and Acon Investments. All of the company’s existing investors also participated in the strategic round, including The Washington Post, Columbia Capital, Capital Investors and Marsh and McClennan Capital (MMC).

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter acted as placement agent on the transaction.

“We obviously serve a market that speaks certain languages, but language is not the only thing we’ve got going for us,” said Greg Keough, chairman and chief executive with ZonaFinanciera.com. “If another site, an English-speaking financial site, were to simply be translated into Spanish and Portuguese, it would still never be applicable to the local markets in the same way that we are.”

Indeed, Keogh said the strength of ZonaFinanciera.com is that it was created as an innovation, rather than as a clone. Distinctive features include feeds to local stock exchanges, the ability to enter a stock purchase through a local bank and a comparative loan service which handles everything from automobiles to real estate.

The company, which reported a total of 620,000 unique visitors in the month of March, has also become especially popular with Latin American immigrants to the U.S. who want to continue transacting business in their home country

“Some people might want to go home and retire and need to set up a local bank account, get a car, a home or other things,” Keough said. “Other people might have family back there and want to provide the same types of things.”

Prior to the Series C financing, the company had netted a total of $10.5 million. The first $500,000 was a seed funding raised when ZonaFinanciera.com’s founders sold a previous Internet venture named Virtual Loan Corp. The Series A round was for $1.5 million with Capital Group and Steve Walker and Associates while the Series B round was for $8.5 million with MMC, Columbia Capital and the Washington Post.

“The company has grown pretty substantially we started out with a valuation in the millions and how have a valuation in the hundreds of millions,” Keough said.