In 2016, SoftBank’s legendary Founder and CEO Masayoshi Son announced the Japanese conglomerate would make a staggering $100 billion in tech-related investments through its Vision Fund. Since then, the company has taken significant stakes–many geared toward the so-called sharing economy–in companies like Uber, WeWork, Flipkart, Doordash and Wag, as well as in more pure tech players like ARM, Nvidia and OneWeb.
Now, under the guidance of SoftBank Chief Operating Officer Marcelo Claure, formerly CEO of Sprint, which SoftBank has controlling share in, the company has earmarked $5 billion specifically for investment in the Latin American market.
Claure, in an interview with CNBC, said SoftBank invests about $1 billion per week. In terms of why focus on LatAm, Claure, who was born in La Paz, Bolivia, noted some 200 venture-backed firms in the region, including 13 unicorns–companies with valuations of $1 billion or more.
“Traditionally SoftBank has been a company that has very few investments in Latin America,” Claure said. “We thought it was time to launch a fund. We’re doing it SoftBank-style, which means we want to go in with a sizable fund. We think the time is right.”
In addition to the VC climate, Claure also noted the growing middle class in the region, and said the timeline is to deploy the funding over a four- to five-year horizon with the first investments in “the next couple of months. We will be able to plug these companies into the largest tech ecosystems.”
SoftBank called out areas of interest, including e-commerce, financial services, healthcare, insurance and mobility.
“Latin America is on the cusp of becoming one of the most important economic regions in the world, and we anticipate significant growth in the decades ahead,” Son said. The fund “plans to invest in entrepreneurs throughout Latin America and use technology to help address the challenges faced by many emerging economies with the goal of improving the lives of millions of Latin Americans. I am grateful to our Chief Operating Officer Marcelo Claure for leading this initiative, in addition to his other responsibilities at SBG.”
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