Top SoftBank LatAm partners leave firm to start their own

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SoftBank Latin America is certainly having massive exits, but not the lucrative kind.

Paulo Passoni and Shu Nyatta, two managing investment partners of SoftBank’s Latin America practice, are leaving the firm to start their own venture practice. According to Passoni’s LinkedIn post, Nyatta and he “now move towards achieving our own dreams. In our own way. With our own culture.”

The duo’s departure comes just a week after SoftBank announced that it would spin out its Latin American early-stage practice into independent firm Upload Ventures. The new entity saw managing partners Rodrigo Baer and Marco Camhaji, who were hired by SoftBank in 2021, leave to run the operation on their own.

Now Nyatta and Passoni are doing the same. In just a matter of weeks, four of SoftBank’s managing partners have left the Japanese conglomerate to work on their own firms. Additionally, COO Marcelo Claure, a native Bolivian who led the charge on SoftBank’s efforts in Latin America, left the firm over a compensation dispute just months ago.

Very notably, Nyatta was involved not only with SoftBank's LatAm efforts but in recent months, he led SoftBank’s Opportunity Fund for underrepresented founders, which Claure also had spearheaded. Claure, who launched the Opportunity Fund, resigned after what was reported to be months of negotiations over $2 billion he believed he was owed.

Going forward, confirms SoftBank, that Opportunity Fund will be managed by Catherine Lenson, a managing partner and longtime HR exec who also, as of late February, held the title of "chief people officer"; Brett Rochkind, a Silicon Valley investor who joined SoftBank earlier this year; and outside operator-investors Stacy Brown-Philpot and Paul Judge, who joined the investment committee of the Opportunity Fund at Claure's invitation and right now remain on that committee.

SoftBank declined to answer questions about how much money the Opportunity Fund will receive going forward, though it apparently plans to invest more than the $100 million it deployed through the strategy initially, before declaring last month that it will now operate it as an "evergreen" vehicle, meaning SoftBank will now fund it on an ongoing basis rather that dedicate a lump sum to the effort.

As for Nyatta and Passoni’s new firm, expect to see fundraising in coming months. The duo clearly had experienced investing in historically overlooked founders in the LatAm region, so a continued focus would feel fitting.

“I am extremely thankful to Masa and SoftBank Investment Advisers for the amazing opportunity to redraw the lines of Latin America venture and growth equity in the past 3 years,” Passoni continued in his blog post. “I received the biggest gift of them all: I learned in 3 years what would otherwise have taken me 10 in any other place in the world.”

Alex Szapiro and Juan Franck will lead the SoftBank Latin American practice following these departures.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story stated that SoftBank changed strategy on its opportunity fund last year. This is incorrect. The firm changed to an evergreen model last month. An update has been made to reflect this change.

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