In March 2019, SoftBank Group International made headlines when it announced the SoftBank Innovation Fund, which started with a commitment of $ 2 billion invest in tech startups in Latin America.
A lot has changed since then. SoftBank changed the name of the fund to SoftBank Latin America Fund, or LatAm Fund for short. The Japanese investment conglomerate has dramatically increased its investments in the region, as have other global investors. In fact, venture capitalists invested roughly $ 6.2 billion in Latin American startups in the first half of 2021.
As evidence of its continued commitment to the region, SoftBank Group announced today that it has added two new managing partners to its LatAm Fund team: Rodrigo Baer and Marco Camhaji. The two will focus on “identifying and supporting” early stage companies throughout the Latin American region, SoftBank told TechCrunch exclusively.
Baer and Camhaji will report to SoftBank CEO and COO Marcelo Claure, who notes that the firm’s Latin American fund has invested in more than two-thirds of the nearly two dozen unicorns currently operating in the region. He said that SoftBank is today “one of the largest and most active technology investors” in the region.
The move is significant because hires represent an expansion of SoftBank LatAm Fund’s mandate and means that the firm now supports companies at all stages of the region.
By incorporating Baer and Camhaji, Claure said in a statement, SoftBank “will be able to better identify high-growth companies and support them at every step of their life cycle.”
SoftBank describes Baer as one of the pioneers of the Brazilian venture capital industry. He has invested in more than 20 companies since 2010. According to Crunchbase, he co-founded Warehouse Investimentos in 2010, where he led the bargain hunting efforts. He joined the investment team of Redpoint eVentures, an early stage venture capital fund based in LatAm, in June 2014. He was also previously an equity manager at McKinsey and worked at Aurora Funds, a US-based healthcare-focused fund, and is also active with Endeavor and multiple angel groups.
Before joining SoftBank, Camhaji was director of business development at Amazon, establishing strategic alliances with fintechs in Latin America. He also served as CEO of Adianta, a Brazilian B2B invoice financing company. Previously, Camahji was the founder and partner of Yellow Ventures, making initial investments in technology startups. He was also a partner and CFO of Redpoint eVentures.
In August, Shu Nyatta, a managing partner at SoftBank who co-directs its $ 5 billion Latin America Fund, pointed out a dynamic that may seem obvious but is rarely articulated: Technology in LatAm is often more about inclusion instead of breaking off.
“The vast majority of the population is neglected in almost all consumer categories. Similarly, most companies are underserved by modern software solutions, ”Nyatta told TechCrunch. “There is a lot to build for so many people and companies. In San Francisco, the business ecosystem slightly improves the lives of people and businesses already living in the future. In LatAm, tech entrepreneurs are building the future for everyone else.
Some recent SoftBank investments in the region include:
- Poplar, a used car market born in Mexico but now also operating in Brazil and Argentina. “Think Carvana, but for emerging markets.”
- Rappi, where “DoorDash meets Instacart”, which operates in Latin America.
- Fifth floor, a Brazilian real estate market.
- Credits Unlocks trapped equity in homes and cars and other assets important to Brazilians.
- Gym pass is a fitness and wellness marketplace, provided to employees through the company.
As global investors continue to flood the region with capital, it is clear that SoftBank is becoming even more aggressive in supporting startups in Latin America.