Banafsheh Fathieh, Prosus Ventures: Supporting the next generation of Latin American high-impact entrepreneurs, Ep 166

Banafsheh Fathieh

Banafsheh Fathieh invests in startups that positively impact their communities in Latin America. As an early-stage venture capitalist looking for opportunities in the Latin American market, Banafsheh is the Head of Investments at Prosus Ventures, the venture arm of Prosus Group, the international Internet assets division of South African multinational Naspers, and one of the largest tech investors globally.

The company has a history of working in emerging markets, where it partners with entrepreneurs with high potential and an ambition to scale globally. Prosus tries to provide tailored support for startups to impact the communities where they operate. 

While Banafsheh dreamed of working as a diplomat, she ended up working in finance and investing almost by accident. Now she is passionate about helping Latin American startups scale. 

Listen to this episode to hear about Prosus Ventures’ investment thesis, and learn why Banafsheh thinks Latin America is any VCs dream market. She also shares advice on how trusting your own gut and research can be more important than cold facts and macro trends. 

LatAm: talented entrepreneurs with capital constraints

While analyzing startups globally, Banafsheh realized that Latin America has a mismatch between available capital and the talent pool relative to other parts of the world. 

Latin America has gone through several unfavorable cycles that ended up spooking investors, who overcorrected and reduced the amount of capital allocated to both equity and credit. This overcorrection created a value asymmetry, where valuations did not match the quality of the entrepreneurs. 

In this episode, Banafsheh Fathieh explains the lack of investment in Latin America and how it bred a generation of creative founders that are blooming recently.

Latin America’s underserved tech-savvy population

Latin America has brilliant founders and a population of technology enthusiasts who love all things digital. As an American of Iranian descent, Banafsheh got to know Latin American culture through her university classmates. She spent time in Brazil and Argentina and found structural issues that founders could help solve. Banafsheh is helping foster Latin Americans’ entrepreneurial spirit and helping them close the access gap in products and services for an underserved market.

Check out this episode of Crossing Borders to learn more about Banafsheh’s insights on why, tech is moving in the right direction, despite some macro trends creating headwinds for some Latin American countries.

Prosus Ventures patient investment thesis

Prosus Ventures is focused on helping early-stage entrepreneurs navigate the venture capital world. Prosus Ventures is stage agnostic and they focus on the talent and less on spreadsheets. Prosus’s investments in Latin America are mainly in consumer Internet and fintech companies. Unlike a traditional fund, they can work with a company for decades and be long-term holders, this allows them to support startups through many cycles with no pressure to deploy. 

In this episode of Crossing Borders, Banafsheh explains her role in Prosus Ventures and why their structure allows them to provide “patient capital” with no artificial constraints.

Outline of this episode:

  • [01:25] – About Prosus Ventures
  • [02:47] – What types of companies does Prosus invest in?
  • [05:40] – Banafsheh’s background
  • [07:59] – Diplomatic training’s lessons
  • [09:17] – First connection to Latin America
  • [12:15] – Evolution of investment thesis in Latin America.
  • [15:39] – Receiving investment from a fund vs. from Prosus Ventures
  • [18:23] – Some of Prosus’ most interesting investments
  • [23:02] – Being a bullish investor for Latin America
  • [27:30] – Advice for founders
  • [29:15] – Banafsheh’s recommendations
  • [30:30] – Advice to Banafsheh’s younger self
  • [32:18] – What’s next for Prosus Ventures?

People & resources mentioned:

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