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Contxto – Although speculations about SoftBank making São Paulo its Latin American headquarters haven’t been confirmed, we do know that the conglomerate is opening an office in Buenos Aires.
Andy Freire, the Argentine self-proclaimed “soul entrepreneur,” will join the Buenos Aires branch as Managing Partner and Director. He will be responsible for overseeing deal flows in southern countries including Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay and Chile.
The entrepreneur has quite the track record backing up his expertise and potential investment decisions. Not only is he passionate about entrepreneurship but also social causes. He initially co-founded Officenet, making it from scratch.
In 2011, he co-founded Axialent, at the same time as Quasar Ventures, a tech venture builder. Together, Freire and the Quasar ventures team have co-founded companies such as Restorando, Sirena and Trocafone.
All of these accomplishments came before he jumped into the public office as the Minister of Modernization, Innovation and Technology for the Buenos Aires government.
Freire believes this fund is a “huge possibility for the region,” as reported by iProUP. Apparently, Marcelo Claure, SoftBank’s Global CEO always saw potential in the region. Specifically, he was drawn to its economic appeal and market size, a.k.a. population. This is especially relevant since Claure himself is from Bolivia.
It is still unclear whether SoftBank will be opening offices elsewhere. Despite this, we do know that Freire explicitly requested the Buenos Aires office. He wants to promote local talent while surpassing precedents set by current giants during their early stages. Take Globant, Mercadolibre and Despegar, for example.
According to him, “we’re about to witness a new wave of unicorns.” And we already are, indeed. Allegedly, the company is seeking potential unicorns and decacorns since their minimum ticket doesn’t go below US$1.2 million as we saw in the recent Ayenda Rooms deal.
On SoftBank’s investments
While not a big fan of some of the investments SoftBank is making, I believe most of them are accurate representatives of the current Latin American ecosystem. I just believe Latin America has more potential than copycat nature.
Now, although SoftBank doesn’t rule out investments in less mainstream industries, it’s mostly looking for certain types of ventures.
“We are looking for an important rate of return, we are targeting marketplaces, logistics and software as a service (companies),” said a SoftBank correspondence. “Argentina has an attractiveness for software development because it is disruptive and has very talented companies.”
It would be great seeing the megafund investing in more disruptive, different and revolutionary startups, though.
Nevertheless, I am aware these companies don’t follow a common pattern across the region yet. While many are innovative and impactful, they aren’t necessarily great investments in terms of LP’s expected ROI. Especially considering the region’s complexities in many industries.
“The first thing I hope is to shake, in a good sense, the entrepreneurial ecosystem to think about projects regionally or globally, this is created so that all startups know that there is capital available for any good project that could be a unicorn,” the spokesperson concludes.
Interestingly enough, and perhaps for the first time in the fund, SoftBank is implementing a “unicorn incubator.” This initiative aims to recognize successful business models that other countries have implemented. With this, it can execute similar models in local markets under the leadership of Latin American founders.