In March 2019, SoftBank Group International made headlines when it announced the SoftBank Innovation Fund, which started out with a $2 billion commitment to invest in tech startups in Latin America.
A lot has changed since then. SoftBank changed the name of the fund to the SoftBank Latin America Fund, or LatAm Fund for short. The Japanese investment conglomerate has dramatically ramped up its investing in the region, and so have a number of other global investors. In fact, venture capitalists poured an estimated $6.2 billion into 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 across the Latin American region, SoftBank told TechCrunch exclusively.
Baer and Camhaji will report to SoftBank Executive President & COO Marcelo Claure, who points out that the firm’s LatAm 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 in that the hires represent an expansion of SoftBank LatAm Fund’s mandate and means that the firm is now backing companies at all stages in the region.
By bringing Baer and Camhaji on board, Claure said in a statement, SoftBank will “be better able to identify high-growth companies and support them at every step of their lifecycle.”
SoftBank describes Baer as one of the pioneers of Brazil’s 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 deal-sourcing efforts. He joined the investment team of Redpoint eVentures, a LatAm-based early-stage VC fund, in June 2014. He also was previously an engagement manager at McKinsey and worked at Aurora Funds, a healthcare services-focused fund based in the U.S. He is also active with Endeavor and multiple angel groups.
Prior to joining SoftBank, Camhaji was a business development principal at Amazon, establishing strategic partnerships with fintechs in Latin America. He also served as the CEO of Adianta, a Brazilian B2B invoice financing company. Previously, Camhaji was a founder and partner at Yellow Ventures, making seed 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-leads its $5 billion Latin America Fund, pointed out a dynamic that might seem obvious but is rarely articulated: Technology in LatAm is often more about inclusion rather than disruption.
“The vast majority of the population is underserved in almost every category of consumption. Similarly, most businesses are underserved by modern software solutions,” Nyatta told TechCrunch. “There’s so much to build for so many people and businesses. In San Francisco, the venture ecosystem makes life a little better for individuals and businesses who are already living in the future. In LatAm, tech entrepreneurs are building the future for everyone else.
Some recent SoftBank investments in the region include:
Kavak, a used car marketplace born in Mexico but now also operating in Brazil and Argentina. “Think of Carvana, but for emerging markets.”
Rappi, where “DoorDash-meets-Instacart,” operating across Latin America.
QuintoAndar, a Brazilian real estate marketplace.
Creditas, which unlocks the equity trapped in homes and cars and other important assets for Brazilians.
Gympass, a marketplace for fitness and wellness, provided through the enterprise to employees.
As global investors continue to flood the region with capital, it's clear that SoftBank is getting even more aggressive about backing startups in Latin America. Earlier this week, the firm also announced the launch of the SoftBank Latin America Fund II, its second dedicated private investment fund focused on tech companies located in LatAm, with an initial $3 billion commitment.