Lucas Ranallo, CEO of Complif: “If you want to grow fast, develop a product that puts out a fire within a company”

Cloud, artificial intelligence, and APIs are just some of the technologies leveraged by the Argentine legaltech solution, Complif, which bets on innovation to help financial companies automate, simplify, and centralize their compliance and anti-money laundering obligations. 

The increasing complexity of regulation is one of the main challenges identified by entrepreneurs in the BBVA Spark ecosystem in 2024. Globally, 84% of CCOs or compliance directors believe that compliance obligations will increase in the next two years, while 70% estimate that funding for technology to address this pressure will also grow by 2026.

In the financial sector, compliance is one of the main challenges for fintechs but also a concern that needs to be balanced with the business development for traditional banking. Argentine legaltech Complif, formerly known as Celeri, whose platform enables financial entities to centralize and automate compliance and AML/CTF (anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing) processes, has recognized this major pain point for financial institutions and pivoted its business strategy to address it, explains Lucas Ranallo, CEO, and co-founder of this Buenos Aires-based startup.

What is Complif’s value proposition, and how were the company’s early steps? What motivated the rebranding from Celeri to Complif? 

Complif exists primarily because financial entities (whether a bank, a stockbroker, a fintech, etc.) must comply with very complex regulations that generate bureaucratic processes with significant friction in day-to-day operations. Our platform offers three benefits: improving customer experience, saving time and costs in operations, and mitigating potential risks of regulatory non-compliance.

Complif actually started as Celeri, a platform focused on developers that allowed them to code directly from a browser and run applications and systems more quickly. But we weren’t growing at the speed we wanted, and we realized it was because we had what is called a “vitamin product” instead of a “painkiller” product; in other words, we weren’t solving any specific problem. If you want to grow quickly and create a highly valuable company, it is often recommended to create a product that is a painkiller and puts out some fire within a company.

So, we underwent a pivot process, which involved identifying the problems we were solving for our customers. There, we realized that money laundering prevention and compliance were among the main uses of the Celeri platform, and we decided to focus on those problems. From there, we saw an immediate change in our growth rate and the reaction of our customers.

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What advantages does relying on a cloud infrastructure like Complif provide for carrying out AML processes? How do they help their clients scale and internationalize their operations? 

Today, most financial entities manage these processes through many scattered systems: a CRM (customer relationship management software), a monitoring system, a support system, etc. The problem is that these systems are not interconnected, generating even more tasks and potential information losses, critical for money laundering prevention. Our cloud platform allows automating these processes and integrating these systems through APIs to centralize information.

The platform is modular, allowing us to help a client regardless of the stage they are in. In our client portfolio, we have startups like Pomelo, a fintech, but we also work with global companies listed on public markets. Another quality that helps us support our clients in their expansion is that Complif adapts to the local regulations of each country. It is a highly customizable tool, allowing us to have operational clients in eight Latin American countries.

What tools and technologies does Complif leverage to offer a differential value to its clients? 

We run everything in the cloud using an orchestrator called Kubernetes, which allows scaling servers quickly, following a microservices infrastructure philosophy. We also use artificial intelligence for the automation of day-to-day processes, such as document review, which is often one of the most time-consuming tasks. Our platform allows automating the reading and checking of information from complex documents, and we are seeing up to an 80% saving in client time.

In 2022, Complif raised $2.6 million in seed funding. How did you approach this round in a venture capital slowdown scenario like that of 2022? What strategic actions have you funded with this investment? 

We were going through Y Combinator, one of the most important accelerators worldwide. There, we focused 100% on our customers and generating traction, which in our case was revenue, to demonstrate that we were solving a real problem. The key was to focus on metrics and not prolong the process but really raise the funds we needed to refocus on our customers.

With this investment, we practically doubled our technology team to advance product development. We also started investing in our regional expansion (we landed in Mexico in 2023), and we strengthened our commitments to cybersecurity. We are in an industry where data sensitivity is critical, so we decided to redouble our efforts: we obtained, for example, an international certification called SOC 2; we are adding cybersecurity personnel within the company, and we work with external consultants to show our clients the efforts we make to protect them.

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What does collaboration with an entity like BBVA Spark bring to a startup like Complif? 

Spark was the first bank that could speak our language, something unusual within the business ecosystem. The Spark team was the first to understand our needs and could conduct both a credit evaluation and an overall business assessment aligned with the unit economics of a startup (not an SME), which has new business models and very different finances. We are very happy, not only with all the help they are providing in the Open Innovation ecosystem but also with networking and business opportunities.

In the countries where they are present, what maturity level would you say the legaltech ecosystem is, and how do you think it will evolve in the future? 

I think it is still quite green. It has been trending in recent years, both in legaltech and compliance, but I believe there is still a lot of work to be done. On one hand, the wave of fintechs accelerated these processes: these fintechs have matured, and in doing so, they found that they need more robust systems, and that’s where the demand starts to generate. On the other hand, traditional financial institutions need to have more agile systems, with greater automation, and be able to offer a better experience to compete with fintech. And there, compliance processes are critical.

I think the sector in Latin America is thriving at the moment because there is a demand for solutions, and I believe that we, like other companies, are working very hard to bring these new systems that focus on customer needs and SaaS mode.

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