FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (05/24/2000) - Softbank Corp. today announced it led investment rounds worth US$28.6 million for two Internet startups focused on Latin America, whose Internet market is expected to skyrocket in coming years.
Softbank led a $13 million financing round for LearningSoft Corp., which runs an educational game Web site in Spanish and Portuguese, and a $15.6 million round for From2.com Inc., a company focused on e-commerce logistics and fulfillment operations.
The Softbank money came from the company's Latin America Ventures fund, a $150 million fund launched in January with the World Bank and Global Crossing Ltd. to support Latin America Internet companies. Softbank also earmarked an additional $200 million for Latin America in another one of its funds, called Softbank Emerging Markets, for a total of US$350 million. [See "Softbank Increases Its Net VC Fund for LatAm," Feb. 14.]LearningSoft Corp. will use the money to improve its educational Web sites, Jugamos.com and Vamosbrincar.com, which are aimed, respectively, at Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking children, primarily in Latin America. Meanwhile, From2.com, which is based in Miami and has offices in Washington and Santiago, Chile, plans to open offices and launch operations in at least 34 countries in Latin America and Europe with the money it raised.
STI Ventures also participated in From2.com's round, while XL Ventures LLC was part of LearningSoft's round.
The growth potential of Latin America's Internet market is fostering the creation of companies, such as StarMedia Network Inc. and Yupi Internet Inc., and attracting existing ones, such as Microsoft Corp., all of which are betting their investments will yield big returns in the coming years.
The number of Internet users in Latin America is expected to grow from 10.6 million in 1999 to 66.6 million by 2005, while business-to-consumer e-commerce is expected to generate $8.3 billion by 2005, up from $194 million in 1999, according to figures from market research company Jupiter Communications Inc., based in New York. Meanwhile, Dataquest Inc. forecasts that business-to-business e-commerce transactions in the region are expected to total $124 billion by 2004, up from $1 billion in 1999.
Softbank, in Japan, can be reached at http://www.softbank.com/. From2.com, in Miami, is at http://www.from2.com/. LearningSoft, also in Miami, is at http://www.learningsoft.com/. LearningSoft's Spanish-language educational site is at http://www.jugamos.com and its Portuguese-language site is at http://www.vamosbrincar.com/.