No SSN, no problem, says Maza, a fintech startup targeting undocumented immigrants

Image credits: John Moore/Getty Images

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While there are a multitude of fintech companies offering digital banking services to a variety of demographics, there has been one segment of the population that has historically been underserved even more than others: the undocumented immigrant.

Because undocumented immigrants lack Social Security numbers, it can be difficult if not impossible to access traditional banking services. A startup called Club decided to help solve this problem.

While several fintech startups aim to serve immigrants in general (Welcome Technologies, Majority, TomoCredit are examples), Maza says its main differentiator is that it provides immigrants with an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), connecting directly with IRS-certified acceptance agents automate the tax ID process for clients. The ultimate goal, notes the co-founder and COO Robbie Figueroa, is to unlock access to the rest of the US financial system and avoid non-traditional (and sometimes predatory) approaches to finance, such as loan sharks and pawnbrokers.

Maza customers are immediately provided with a US bank account and debit card. The company says that since its members also have a tax ID, they can start building a credit history and apply for loans. Having a bank account also allows them to receive payments from employers and file taxes. With Maza, customers without an SSN can access credit and, therefore, develop a credit history so they can do things like get a car or home loan. The startup also claims to offer robust peer to peer payment functionality.

On the backend, Maza says it manages their taxes to ensure they stay compliant, even going so far as to automatically renew their financial ID for them.

Since its inception in 2022, the 15-person Los Angeles-based startup has grown to have 50,000 users (each paying $150 a year for access) on its platform, allowing $41 million in digital payments to date .

Maza’s unique model caught the attention of Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), who recently led the company’s $8 million initial funding round. Other proponents include SV Angel, Box Group, Restive Ventures, Global Founders Capital, Abstract Ventures and a group of angel investors including American Express National Bank CEO Anr Williams and Plaid co-founder William Hockey.

Though her total target market is the more than 15 million immigrants living in the United States, Maza says her focus is on the Latino or Spanish-speaking population.

Customers go from undocumented to partially documented, Maza co-founder and CEO Luciano Arango told TechCrunch in an interview.

Arango and Figueroa themato with Siggy Bilstein (CTO) to start Maza after watching their own parents struggle as immigrants to the United States (the trio are a combination of Colombian, Peruvian, Brazilian and Ecuadorian ancestry).

Image credits: Club

Like many fintechs offering digital banking services, Maza is not a bank itself. It is able to offer its services without requiring an SSN through partnerships with Visa and Blue Ridge Bank. The company’s banking product offers extensive payment functionality, as well as integrations with all major payment platforms, including PayPal, Zelle, Venmo, and CashApp. What’s more, money deposited in Maza, the company says, earns one of the highest interest rates on checking accounts, an effort to help its members grow their wealth over time.

Interestingly, while Maza may be a digital bank, its marketing efforts are primarily focused offline. The company has had success targeting smaller, high-density Latino neighborhoods in markets like South Florida, Washington Heights, New York, and eastern Los Angeles with campaigns that include posting bulletin boards in churches. It also advertises on Google, but Arango says most of its growth so far has been organic.

Longer-term, Maza’s goal is to expand into credit construction and beyond the United States because, as Arango said, the entire world doesn’t have a Social Security number.

Image credits: Club

We want to be able to get people into the US financial system no matter where they are, added Arango, who also previously co-founded and then sold ScopeAI, which was acquired by ObserveAI in 2021.

We’re doing more than just providing a bank account, we’re really giving immigrants a stable and legal financial foundation from which to build credit and indefinite wealth, Figueroa said.

Andreessen Horowitz’s partner Seema Amble said Maza’s thesis is something a16z has been excited about for a long time.

Writing by email, he said: There is a huge gap between traditional financial access and the Latino population in the US (which is 19% of the US). And product needs don’t just mean translating existing products into Spanish, but offering them a set of products that fit their life and work.

Banking products aren’t accessible to most Latinos, Amble added, but not primarily because of a language barrier.

Wrote: First they are also blocked from accessing these products. Maza identified the real pain point, the lack of SSNs, and created a product that unlocks everything from payments, credit and mortgages without leaving the app. Compared to some of the other startups, Maza has focused on this core pain point and wants to continue offering products tailored to the community, rather than just offering another card product marketed to Latinos.

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