The word “risk” sometimes generates many sensitivities. “That’s why we prefer to say Entrepreneurial Capital or simply Venture Capital. Without translation”. Cate Ambrose, president and executive director of the Association for Private Capital Investment in Latin America (LAVCA), makes this clarification before the interview.
Although LAVCA focuses on Latin American projects and startups, its headquarter is in New York, on 8th Avenue. The reason? Here, high-level relationships and contacts between investors who want to put their wallets in the southern US are handled. The other place is in Silicon Valley. This nonprofit organization has about 200 members, including investment firms, local fund managers, family offices, sovereign wealth funds and corporate investors, which in total control assets over US $ 65,000 million.
Cate, who is also a CNN commentator in Spanish, Bloomberg and Fox Business, knows all the recent symbolic cases of Latin startups perfectly well. “It is an incredibly important moment for the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Latin America, compared to the beginning of this decade,” he says.
What happened at the beginning of this decade?
As of 2011, several US funds arrived that saw a new opportunity for startup techs in Brazil. They wanted to do something similar to what had happened a little earlier in India and China. Sequoia and Redpoint were some examples. The objective was to copy the North American model. Many professional students and Americans arrived excited about the idea.
Coindice with the creation of Start-Up Chile.
- Exactly. Its creation was very relevant, because it began to put Chile on the map of the funds. I must admit that I thought Start-Up Chile was not going to work, especially since Chile has a very closed ecosystem. But I was wrong. It was key to creating the mentality of entrepreneurs that we are seeing today in Chile.
And why was it so relevant?
- Basically because he invited entrepreneurs from all over the world. That is, that sense of competition between local and foreign startups was essential and served as an example worldwide. That, coupled with what was happening in Brazil, set the eyes of the world in Latin America … until the crisis in Brazil came with the depreciation of its currency and the political crisis.
- The expectations of a great startup growth in the region or of important acquisitions were dropped. Especially that of US investors who had placed their chips in Latin America. But at the same time something incredible happened: this crisis allowed a whole new generation of entrepreneurs to benefit. However, in 2016 many funds were already quite distressed … until DiDi Chuxing (the Chinese Uber) arrived.
And he bought the Brazilian startup 99 for US $ 1 billion.
- Thus, Latin America achieved its first Unicorn since 2017. Since then, an explosion has never been seen before of the entrepreneurial and investor ecosystem in Latin America.
What has happened since then?
Interest in information about what is happening in the region has grown. Suddenly, large technology companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon began to see Latin America as a global priority.
- Because in China it is difficult to do business and India – although it is very large – has many regulatory difficulties. But in addition, Latin America was positioned as a region of great growth of users.
And how did that refocus the objective of LAVCA?
- While our mission was in Venture Capital (VC), the money that was entering Latin America far exceeded what this sector provided. Many Corporate Ventures and other sources of capital have also begun to arrive. The industry is growing much more than we thought. Apart from large companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Telefónica, others like Visa have also entered.
What is your relationship with them?
- We are funding research to build the technological ecosystem in the region. In the last two years the growth has been incredible. Rappi is a good example. And suddenly, Softbank arrives in May of this year, announcing that it was going to put US $ 5,000 million in the region. That day, the phone here did not stop ringing.
Also published on Medium.