Softbank Starts VC Fund for Latin America

Japan's Softbank Corp., a major investor in Silicon Valley Internet start-ups, has announced plans to establish a venture capital fund for Internet companies located south of the U.S. border.

Softbank Latin America Ventures (SBLV) will be established at the end of January and will go to work with a US$100 million investment fund managed by Jan Boyer, who is joining SBLV from Fleet Boston Financial where she headed the bank's private equity operations in Latin America.

In addition to an office in Miami, the company will establish offices in three regional Latin American cities: Buenos Aires, Argentina; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Mexico City, Mexico.

The Latin American Internet market is already attracting the attention of some venture capitalists. Two local companies recently reported success with raising capital. Patagon.com International Ltd., a Miami-based provider of Internet services in Latin America recently rasied $53 million as part of a financing round [See "Patagon.com Raises $53M," Dec. 23, 1999] and Yupi.com announced in August 1999 that it had received cash from companies including Sony Corp. [See "Sony Invests in Spanish-Language Portal," Aug. 13, 1999].

With the establishment of the new fund, Softbank fills a hole in its growing worldwide network of venture capital funds and investment companies. Since making some early investments in Silicon Valley start-ups in the mid-nineties, like Yahoo Inc., Softbank has seen the huge profits that stand to be made from providing venture funds to the right Internet start-ups. The network of funds are being established in the hopes of repeating its success with similar investments in emerging markets.

Last month, Softbank established a venture fund for Korea [See "Softbank Targets Korean Internet with New Venture," Dec. 21, 1999] and earlier in the year established funds for its home market of Japan [See "Softbank Expands with Japan Internet Ventures," June 28, 1999]. The company has also established funds in with Vivendi, to invest in European companies, and with News Corp., to invest in Internet companies in Australia, New Zealand and India. It is also targeting Asian start-ups out of a venture in Hong Kong.

Softbank Corp., in Tokyo, can be found online at http://www.softbank.co.jp.

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