Telefónica has signalled its intention to bring much-needed new venture capitalist funding and experience to the emerging markets of Latin America after the telecom giant launched Amérigo, a $378 million (€300 million) fund that is focused on the region.
Amérigo’s upcoming launch was first announced in Spring 2011, when Telefónica’s accelerator program Wayra started to roll out across Latin America. Since then, the Spanish company had confirmed it was still working on technicalities to make the fund a reality.
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The newly launched initiative is spearheaded by its digital arm, Telefónica Digital, and the company says it is establishing the new fund to seek out and aid promising businesses based “outside of the main centres of VC activity”, such as Silicon Valley or London.
Initially, Amérigo will be focused on Spain, Colombia, Chile and Brazil — four of the highest profile startup markets in its target region — but it has plans to further expand in Latin America and also put Asia and Europe on its radar. It has already gained base support in these initial four countries where it has the endorsement of the respective governments and a number of financial institutions and private investors, Telefónica says.
The Spanish telecom group itself has pledged initial investments of $85.7 million (€68 million) for the next five years which, it says, will allow an estimated $1.3 billion (€1 billion) worth of projects to be run through Amérigo.
To manage its investment, it is hiring local managers with a speciality in the ICT industry. They are tasked with sourcing potential startups, each of which can expect an initial investment of around $1.3 million (€1 million), though the figure will vary on the exact size and scope of the opportunity.
Telefónica is already engaging with startups through Wayra, which recently opened its doors in London and is now working with more than 145 startups across its 12 Academies worldwide.
However, the company wants to go beyond that with the new initiative, as Matthew Key, chairman and CEO, explained:
“We have long understood that to succeed we need to understand and embrace the digital innovation ecosystem, recognising that great ideas can come from anywhere. Amérigo marks the next stage in this strategy as we seek to combine the funding power of private and public funds to create a real engine for stimulating technology innovation.”
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