Softbank Group has received the TelecomLead.com Innovation Leaders 2019 award for launching a new $5 billion innovation fund to invest in technology companies in Latin America.
Softbank founder Masayoshi Son is making huge investment in the region at a time when the International Monetary Fund slashed its 2019 economic growth forecast for Latin America by more than half to 0.6 percent from 1.4 percent in April.
Latin America offers huge opportunities for the Softbank as new venture capital funding in Latin America has quadrupled over two years to a record $2 billion in 2018, according to the Association for Private Capital Investment in Latin America.
Softbank, which also has a $100 billion investment vehicle called Softbank Vision Fund, has made huge investments in ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies, shared office provider WeWork, food delivery startup DoorDash and dog walking app Wag.
SoftBank has only announced direct investments using the fund’s resources, injecting capital into Colombian delivery app Rappi, Brazilian lender Creditas, gym membership app Gympass and Mexican payments firm Clip, for instance.
SoftBank’s Latin America fund also plans to make investment in venture capital funds in order to foster innovation in the region. SoftBank intends to deploy roughly $500 million in five to 10 funds. Brazilian firm Valor Capital and Argentina’s Kaszek Ventures have received SoftBank resources.
In addition, SoftBank is in talks with Atlantico, a five-month-old venture capital firm founded by Julio Vasconcellos, a co-founder of Canary, a Brazil-focused investment firm with stakes in 44 startups.
SoftBank has also reached out to Monashees, a Brazilian venture capital firm that was one of the early investors in 99, a taxi app acquired by China’s Didi Chuxing for around $1 billion, as well as bike rental app Yellow, fintech Neon and logistics firm Loggi.
Softbank Group recently named entrepreneur Ralf Wenzel as chief executive at its Latin American Tech Hub. Softbank aims to create 50 partnerships in five years, helping companies in the group’s Vision Fund expand in Latin America.