SoftBank’s makeover, in the wake of COO Marcelo Claure’s resignation over a compensation dispute, is hard to miss. Last month, the firm shifted leadership and structure of one of Claure’s most notable contributions – a $100 million growth fund for founders of color – into an evergreen investment vehicle with new leadership. Today, it’s making a move that Claure himself reportedly advocated for when still at the firm; but originally clashed with leadership over.
The firm announced today that it is spinning out its Latin American investment arm into a new autonomous entity, dubbed Upload Ventures, that will back early-stage companies in the region at a pace of about $100 million per year.
As mentioned, the move comes around six months after Claure reportedly pushed for the Latin American arm to be spun off and clashed with SoftBank executives. At the time, SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son told Bloomberg that there was “no discussion of spinning out SoftBank’s Latin American Fund.”
SoftBank says that Managing Partners Rodrigo Baer, Marco Camhaji and Norberto Giangrande created Upload Ventures. Last September, TechCrunch exclusively reported on the hiring of Baer and Camhaji as part of the fund’s strategy to focus more on early-stage investing in the region. At that time, SoftBank said that the pair would be reporting to Claure, who pointed out that – at the time of writing – the firm’s LatAm fund had invested in more than two-thirds of the nearly two dozen unicorns currently operating in the region.
The move was significant in that the hires represented an expansion of SoftBank LatAm Fund’s mandate and meant that the firm was now backing companies at all stages in the region.
The early-stage companies that SoftBank Latin America Fund has invested in thus far will migrate to Upload Ventures. Those startups include Abstra, Arch, Birdie, BotCity, Digibee, D-Uma, Indaband, Medway, Neivor, Nilo, Salu and Worc, among others. Also migrating is SoftBank Latin America Fund’s 12-person team. Giangrande, an angel investor who has backed Nubank and others, is joining Upload as a new venture partner.
Paulo Passoni and Shu Nyatta, managing partners of the SoftBank Latin America Fund, said the move was inspired by the “huge success” of the original fund.
“In just over six months of operation, we received more than 1,100 pitches and announced investments in twelve companies with great growth potential,” the pair said in a statement.
Since 2019, the Japanese conglomerate has invested billions of dollars into the region. Claure previously told TechCrunch, by 2023, SoftBank would invest close to $30 billion in the region per year.
We don’t often see a dedicated fund turn into a standalone, separate venture firm; although we do have examples with GV-spin out Plexo Capital and NEA-spin out NewView Capital. It makes sense for ambitious investors to incubate funds inside of an institutional partner for a few years, while the firm gets a good insight into fresh deals. A win win.
Now as a spinout, Upload Ventures can add money from new investors to its investing balance sheet and perhaps build out a brand separate from the sometimes-controversial conglomerate. Since SoftBank is still the largest limited partner in Upload, it gets to keep an eye on LatAm markets even if from a different angle.
It’s been a difficult 2022 so far for SoftBank. Besides Claure’s departure, Nvidia’s $40 billion deal to acquire Arm was called off, the two companies and Arm owner SoftBank announced in February. Also in February, the Japanese investment conglomerate revealed that its quarterly earnings plunged by 97% compared to the year prior although it did — at least — return to profitability.
TechCrunch has reached out to SoftBank and Claure for comment, and will update the piece accordingly.
Source: Tech Crunch feed