SINGAPORE (Mar 11): SoftBank Group Corp has launched a US$5 billion ($6.8 billion) technology fund focused on Latin America and named Marcelo Claure to run it.
Initially, SoftBank is committing US$2 billion to the Innovation Fund and will serve as the general partner, the company says in a statement. Claure will serve as CEO of SoftBank Latin America and continue in his other roles at the company, including chief operating officer (COO) as well as executive chairman of Sprint Corp.
“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,” sayd Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO of SoftBank.
The new fund will invest across Latin America, including in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico, according to the statement. Industries of particular focus include e-commerce, digital financial services, healthcare, mobility and insurance. Bloomberg earlier this year reported that SoftBank was preparing to launch the fund, which is separate from SoftBank’s US$100 billion Vision Fund.
Son recruited Claure in 2013 when the Japanese company acquired a majority stake in Brightstar, a phone distribution business Claure led. Son elevated him the following year to run Sprint, where Claure led a turnaround of the wireless operator and ultimately agreed to sell the business to rival T-Mobile US. He was named SoftBank COO last year and is also CEO of SoftBank Group International.
“There is so much innovation and disruption taking place in the region, and I believe the business opportunities have never been stronger,” says Claure, who was born in Bolivia and spent much of his childhood there.
SoftBank has a history of investing in Latin America. In 2000, the company set up SoftBank Latin America Ventures to support SoftBank Group companies in the region and invest in start-ups. In 2017, SoftBank ploughed US$100 million into Brazilian ride-hailing app 99. Last year, the Vision Fund invested US$100 million in delivery start-up Loggi, betting on Brazil’s rapid e-commerce growth.
SoftBank said on March 7 that it was creating a new operating group in Latin America that will partner its portfolio companies to help them enter the region, navigate local markets and broaden their geographic reach.