In a turbulent time for startups, with hundreds of layoffs carried out in recent months, Maya Capital announces this Wednesday, 22, the launch of a new investment fund of US$ 100 million aimed at the segment. “The best companies in the world were created during or after crises”, he says to the Estadão Monica Saggioro, founder, alongside Lara Lemann, of Maya, in 2018. With the new fund, the idea is precisely to support entrepreneurs in times of scarce capital and a lot of price fluctuation.
With two “unicorns” (startups valued at more than US$ 1 billion) in its portfolio – the Chilean NotCo and the Mexican Merama –, the manager intends to invest in up to 30 startups in Latin America at an early stage, in segments such as finance, retail, education and food – the same proposal as the $40 million fund they launched in 2018. The difference is that now Monica and Lara want to lead the rounds.
Read the main excerpts from the interview below.
Monica Saggioro (left) and Lara Lemann are the founders of the Brazilian investment fund Maya Capital
Why did you decide to launch a new fund?
Lara Lemann: The main change is that we want to lead the rounds. We have a role to not only invest in great teams, but support them as they climb. This allows us to help founders on our three fronts: investing in the founding team, expanding the network of contacts and raising capital.
What is the goal of the new fund?
Lara: We will have a more concentrated portfolio. We see that, to add value, we need it to be a little smaller. We are going to invest in about 25 to 30 deals and our period is five years. We set aside half of the fund to make investments in subsequent rounds of these startups.
Is there more efficiency if Maya leads the round?
Monica Saggioro: It makes sense for Maya and for the founders, because we have this thesis of getting our hands dirty and staying close to startups. And the second reason is that we build many success stories. We introduce co-founders, such as Merama, our second unicorn. In business introductions, we introduce NotCo to Starbucks. There was the case of Nilo, in healthcare, which we presented to GNDI, today their main client. We also introduced EmCasa to the Globo Ventures fund. Having these examples made other founders seek our support. We want to specialize in that.
Does this move make sense at a time when the market is cautious?
Monica: Everything we’ve learned from the market shows that it’s not time to step on the brakes. Now it is a bearish move, in which newer investors in the venture capital world may be frightened by the liquidity problem. But anyone who knows the market knows that the fundamentals are present and very strong. We have many of the best talent looking to start a business and there is still a solid capital base. The main funds in Latin America are very well capitalized, with more money than they did three or five years ago. There are still possibilities for exits, with 21 IPOs in three years, in addition to M&As (mergers and acquisitions). And there are still many problems to be solved in Latin America. We are not intimidated nor do we want to slow down. We want to continue supporting founders who are resilient and who want to take on this challenge of solving big problems. Historically, the best companies in the world were created during or after years of crisis. Entrepreneurs will need more courage and resilience.
What has changed from the first fund to here in the innovation market?
Lara: The market has evolved a lot. We see that the three main things the market needs (capital, talent and outputs) have evolved. In terms of talent, we’ve never seen so many talents returning to Latin America to work with startups — and we’re seeing more and more Latino MBA students who want to come back to the region to undertake. In terms of capital, despite the moment, we see a scenario that has a reasonably complete chain of investors. Maya is very active in early stage startups, we see great funds with Series A and, in the final stage, more local and foreign funds with more permanent capital here than before. Finally, we see more and more exits, with a booming mergers and acquisitions ecosystem. When there are such outlets, there is a recycling of talent. This is the virtuous circle in which we participate and which we also catalyze.
More and more we talk about women in leadership roles in startups. Are we getting better?
Lara: It will never be at the pace we want.
Monica: But it’s getting better. It is our commitment to have initiatives aimed at this. In our portfolio, 40% of startups have at least one female founder. But we do not apply any filters or use this as an investment criterion. We are looking for the best teams and the best theses. We are judicious in our selection and we have a differentiated network. Many women seek us out because they identify themselves and we end up connecting with many founders. And maybe because we have a different look at some models that don’t go through what we go through. However, this question should also be addressed to all other VC (venture capital) managers who do not have women. It is not an issue that we will be able to solve alone. The entire ecosystem needs to mobilize.
Have we matured in terms of diversity?
Lara: It became a subject. The first step is that everyone is talking about it, and 2020 was the big year for that: the racial agenda also gained prominence. Everyone is realizing that it’s important and that it’s not an ESG issue or perception. For a team to make better investment decisions, there needs to be different views on life.
Monica: They understood that it’s not about hiring a woman to look good in the photo. That has changed a lot. Our founders say that they reached percentages above 50% of women in leadership positions.