Edrizio De La Cruz emigrated to New York City from the Dominican Republic when he was just 12 years old. Now, at 35, he’s the co-founder and CEO of Regalii, a financial technology startup that banks use to let consumers manage all their family’s bills anywhere in the world.
Regalii partners directly with institutions and bill providers to offer global bill pay worldwide. Users can track any recurring expense — utilities, phone bills, tuition, insurance premiums and loan payments — as well as check their balances and due dates. Regalii charges a flat $3 fee for every transaction you make (compared with the average 9% fee charged by companies that wire cash). It’s also meant to streamline the process itself — users can conveniently use a mobile app to organize and pay for their family’s expenses.
Regalii started in 2013 as a pilot project in the DR, but now covers over 1,000 billers across 11 countries, including India, Philippines, Mexico, and other parts of Latin America. The company opened up its first satellite office in Mexico City on Monday.
The idea for Regalii came to De La Cruz organically, as a solution to a problem he faced every day. With his aunts and grandmother still living in the DR, he grew up having to send money back to his family. He was astonished that a bulk of the money was being used to make ends meet — making monthly mortgage and health insurance payments as well as keeping the lights on and water running.
He found it unnecessarily difficult and stressful to support his family financially while abroad. De La Cruz says his family members used to have to get on the bus to stand in long lines and fill out forms in order to receive the money.
“I found the process of sending money back home very cumbersome,” he said. “There wasn’t a platform to do that so I just built it.”
He and his two co-founders (who are also Latino) were accepted into Y Combinator, an accelerator for early stage startups in 2013. He got an opportunity to pitch at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in 2013 and became a finalist.
Regalii is now backed by high-profile investors like Winklevoss Capital and Andreessen Horowitz and plans to raise additional funds in a Series B financing round next year. De La Cruz told Yahoo Finance that Regalii has grown from doing a few thousand payments last year and projects that over five million payments will be made this year.
Being a Latino entrepreneur in the US
Growing up in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood and graduating from Aviation High School, De La Cruz originally had ambitions to become an airplane mechanic. He was 25 years old when he graduated from City College and got a job in investment banking at JPMorgan.
It was there that he fell in love with the business world and decided to pursue his MBA at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
“I became enamored with the whole concept of entrepreneurship and all the endless opportunities that capitalism offers. When I was finishing Wharton, I felt I had the confidence, the belief and the network to make it happen,” he told Yahoo Finance.
The landscape for Latino-owned businesses is vibrant but frustrating when it comes to scale. More Latinos are starting businesses than the general population, but they aren’t making much money. There are currently 4 million Latino-owned businesses in the US but only 1% receive venture capital or angel investments, according to Stanford Business School research.
De La Cruz says he’s hopeful, not discouraged, by this lack of Latino representation among profitable US small business owners. In fact, he’s motivated by his desire to serve not only his family but also the next crop of young Latino entrepreneurs.
“One of the things that really inspired me personally is being that one of those first successful case studies that really break the glass [ceiling],” he said.
When asked whether he still uses Regalii to send money back home he said, humbly, “Of course, all the time.”
Melody Hahm is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.