Softbank names leaders for its new $5bn Latin tech fund

Japanese tech titan SoftBank has named the team heading up its new Latin American venture fund. Analysts are divided on the region's desirability as an investment, but Masayoshi Son is plainly confident.

Japan's SoftBank is many things: telco, publisher, chip designer. It's also, famously, a major investor in the tech world, and Latin American tech watchers were understandably excited last month when SoftBank announced a $5bn fund which would focus specifically on the region. In a further announcement, SoftBank has now named the executives who will steer its new innovation fund.

Paulo Passoni, previously a managing director at hedge fund Third Point, becomes investment partner with SoftBank's own Shu Nyatta. The two will be focused on finding and executing deals, according to the SoftBank announcement. André Maciel, formerly chief of JPMorgan's investment-banking advisory business in Brazil, will be a managing partner in charge of the fund's Brazilian office.

SoftBank already has holdings in many of the world's most valuable startups through its $100 billion Vision Fund, including Uber, WeWork and Chinese taxi colossus Didi Chuxing. The new Latin fund is to be headed by Chief Operating Officer Marcelo Claure. Softbank says it will focus on e-commerce, digital financial services, health care, mobility and insurance.

"There's never been a better time to support Latin America and the companies that will help shape its future," Claure said as his new team was announced. "We are delighted to welcome this talented team with deep investment and operational experience in the region."

A ‘breakout year' for Latin tech

Interest in Latin American tech has been building fast in recent years, as we've previously highlighted at IDG Connect. The region drew a record $1.98 billion in venture capital in 2018, almost twice the amount seen in 2017. The Latin American Private Equity & Venture Capital Association, LAVCA, has described 2018 as "Latin America's breakout year in tech". According to LAVCA figures, VC investments in Latin America passed $1bn for the first time in 2017 and in 2018 were up roughly fourteen-fold from just $143m of VC investment across Mexico, Central and South America in 2011.

Passoni spent more than seven years helping to guide Third Point's $14bn, overseeing the fund's investments in emerging markets. He left in January, reportedly with the intention of starting his own venture capital firm, before deciding to join SoftBank. Prior to Third Point, he spent five years at Eton Park Capital Management, which is now closed. Passoni is a Brazilian native, but he will be based in Miami for his new role.

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