This Week in Startups: SoftBank Opens New Fund for Latinos and Perfekto Closes Due to Lack of Capital

This has been a week of stark contrasts. Among the positive developments, the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank announced a new fund. On the other hand, there was the unfortunate and unforeseen shutdown of Perfekto, a Mexican startup specializing in fruit and vegetable deliveries, caused by a shortfall in capital. In another surprising move, Argentine fintech Ualá was forced to halt its crypto-related activities in its home country due to a government directive.

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SoftBank, the Japanese bank that has spawned several unicorns in Latin America, announced Thursday that it will launch a second fund under its Opportunity Growth Fund to raise and invest US$150 million in Black and Latino-led startups.

It will be rebranded as the “Open Opportunities Fund” and chaired by Paul Judge, who was part of the investment committee. Judge will become co-owner of the Open Opportunity Fund (OOF), SoftBank, and some affiliated firms.

The new fund expects to deploy the US$150 million within three years, and SoftBank will be a limited partner. This is expected to surpass the previous fund, where $100 million was invested in 75 Black and Latino-led companies in the U.S., including Greenwood, Career Karma, and Praxis Labs.

One fund that is already active is Kamay Ventures, a Latino fund that will invest in Rebrain, Greener, Nativas, and Sumato-id, startups that were selected among 12 that participated in the Kamay Code workshop, an event where they carry out their proofs of concept with specialists from Coca-Cola Latin America and Grupo Arcor.

Rebreain manages content in hundreds of products in a massive and centralized way through QR codes and interactive screens. Sumato-id uses computer vision and artificial intelligence to generate recommendations that boost sales and improve the use of resources.

Greener is a sustainable solution that uses blockchain to measure, manage and reduce waste, and Nativas promotes regeneration projects that revive biodiversity and heal the land, water, and air.

Rounds of the week: El Dorado and Vikua

El Dorado, a Venezuelan peer-to-peer (p2p) platform for acquiring stablecoins and bitcoin in Latin America, closed a $450,000 pre-seed round through the Berkeley Skydeck startup accelerator, an affiliate of the University of California, Berkeley, USA. 

The financing will be used to continue the expansion of its p2p services in Latin America and open its market to other companies through an API and a widget for optimal integration.

Another Venezuelan startup, Vikua, received a seed round from CAF (Development Bank of Latin America). The company supports the management of local and regional governments and companies that have an impact on the urban environment to transform emerging cities into smart cities.

Vikua enables the capture, processing, and intelligence of urban data and uses technologies such as the IoT, Big Data and AI. The money received will be used to accelerate growth and continue providing innovative solutions to city government organizations in Latin America.

Perfekto closes due to lack of investment 

After two years of operation, the Mexican startup Perfekto announced that it will close operations as of May 24. The reason is lack of capital.

“We have been trying for several months to raise investment to move forward with the business objectives, but unfortunately, the market is going through an extremely complicated time, and we were unable to close the necessary investment,” said the founders of Perfekto in a statement.

The startup sought to combat food waste by marketing fruits and vegetables that were in optimal condition but did not look “perfect” by commercial standards.  

Perfekto joins the list of startups that have had to shut down operations due to the wariness of venture capitalists. Six months ago, Minu, a Colombian supermarket startup, also closed its doors. The company then claimed that “the worst crisis in the technology market” did not allow them to raise the capital to continue.

The Mexican startup led by Anahí Sosa and Jan Heinvirta said in their farewell message that: “Even if Perfekto cannot continue, we would love to invite the community to continue supporting other initiatives against food waste such as Cheaf, Olio, Kigüi or the Mexican Food Bank Network.”

Brazilian Quanto cuts staff

Brazilian startup Quanto cut staff once again. This time more than 70 employees were affected. The fintech explained that the departures were due to a “significant reduction in available cash resources as a result of the decisions of some investors”. 

The fintech, focused on the Open Finance segment, communicated in a publication on LinkedIn that: “we made this decision in full compliance with our obligations to our employees, including a benefits package that includes an extension of health insurance, among others.” 

It added that it continues to fulfill its regulatory responsibilities as a payment transaction initiator.


Ualá puts the brakes on its fintech business

On May 4, the Central Bank of the Republic of Argentina made it known that payment service providers that offer payment accounts would not be able to perform or facilitate their client’s transactions with digital assets, including crypto assets, that are not regulated by the competent national authority and authorized by the Central Bank of the Republic of Argentina.

This decree forces the Argentine fintech, Ualá, to curb its cryptocurrency business. Last May 13, its CEO, Pierpaolo Barbieri, said on Twitter: “This forces us to suspend the possibility of operating crypto, where we already have more than 300,000 accounts open. It hurts us a lot.”

The fintech said it will give an extra 5% on the amount sold in compensation and thanks for the trust of those customers.

Geopagos lands in Paraguay 

Digital payment acceptance infrastructure startup Geopagos has arrived in Paraguay. The Argentine company has an aggressive expansion plan that now covers 16 countries. 

In the second half of 2022, it raised its first round of investment from the U.S. fund Riverwood Capital, which amounted to $35 million, despite having ten years of trajectory.

Geopagos arrives in Paraguay in partnership with Banco Itaú, with the joint development of the Pik payment platform so that entrepreneurs, SMEs, and independent professionals can accept payments more quickly, securely, and with any type of card.

New talent in the startup world

The seed-stage fund, 500 Global, launched its first call of the year for its Somos Lucha program, which closes on May 21. 500 Global has invested more than US$2,600 in companies in more than 80 countries, including Canva, Twilio, TalkDesk, Konfio, Clip, 99Minutos, and Jüsto, among the large early-stage companies it has funded.

And Latin American accelerator Platanus Ventures unveiled its sixth generation. Platanus Ventures’ Batch 6 has two industries as common denominators: marketplace and SaaS but does not leave aside other sectors such as edtech, proptech, or the innovative web3. Meet the startups and other details here. 

Webdox CLM focuses on Mexico

The Chilean digital contracts startup Webdox CLM appointed José Manuel Jiménez, its CEO and co-founder, as Country Manager for Mexico. Jiménez will retain his current position, and the company will focus on the Mexican market. 

Webdox CLM digitally connects legal and business areas through integrated contract lifecycle management.

At the end of the first quarter of 2023, Webdox CLM had at least 100 clients in Mexico out of a global portfolio of 400. Among these companies are Grupo Mexico, Femsa, Liverpool, OXXO, Clara, Kavak, Grupo Imagen, Universidad Anahuac, Banco Base, and KFC.


Main image: Buenos Aires, Argentina (Adobe Stock)

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