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Latin America Venture Capital Fund Raises New US$135m Fund

10 February 2014

(The New York Times) Despite the turbulence currently hitting emerging markets, the venture capital fund Kaszek Ventures, in Buenos Aires, recently raised a new US$135m fund, signaling that the region’s long-term prospects remain promising.

Kaszek’s second fund, which closed last month, eclipsed its first one, $95 million, raised in 2011. The amount also exceeded Kaszek’s goal of $80 million to $100 million set during fund-raising. Backers included several prominent Silicon Valley investors.

The firm’s founding partners, Hernán Kazah and Nicolás Szekasy, declined to provide any information about their funds’ investors, citing confidentiality. But others with direct knowledge of Kaszek’s decisions but speaking on condition of anonymity, did identify some of the investors.

According to those people, the new fund’s investors include the investment firms Horsley Bridge Partners and Sequoia Heritage, the fund of funds linked with Sequoia Capital, as well as Kevin Efrusy, the partner at Accel Partners responsible for its early investment in Facebook. All had also invested in Kaszek’s first fund.

Horsley Bridge, in fact, doubled its investment this time around, putting in $20 million.

Mr. Kazah and Mr. Szekasy gained acclaim while at MercadoLibre, a Latin American website similar to eBay. Mr. Kazah co-founded the company with Marcos Galperin in 1999, and Mr. Szekasy shortly thereafter served as chief financial officer. Two years later, Argentina collapsed in the largest sovereign default in history. Yet they persevered and the company went public in 2007. It remains the Nasdaq’s only Internet company from Argentina or Brazil.

That background, said Fred Giuffrida, managing director at Horsley Bridge, appealed to him. Now, he said, he was impressed by how Kaszek has run its debut institutional fund.

It is early to see financial returns in Kaszek’s funds. Only one company in its portfolio has been acquired.

But by one measure, the ability to raise follow-up funding, it has shown promise. Of the 22 companies that Kaszek has invested in, 17 have raised at least one subsequent financing round, and 11 of those brought in new investors.

“They have a very high hit rate in terms of companies getting follow-on funding,” said Keith Johnson, chief investment officer of Sequoia Heritage, which, he said, invested in both Kaszek funds. He said it was the only early-stage venture capital firm in the region in which he had invested.

Kaszek’s co-founders have said that it will continue to focus on Brazil — roughly two-thirds of its companies it has invested in are based there — despite the country’s sluggish economy.

For Horsley Bridge, the troubled economy has meant that there is less competition among investors and more talent available for companies to hire.

Not all the economic trends are worrisome. Internet use continues to grow and there has been a boom in new companies.

“Now, it is a better time to invest than when people were looking into this a couple of years ago,” Mr. Giuffrida said.