(Dealbook) Atomico, the venture capital firm led by Niklas Zennstrom, the co-founder of Skype, is investing in Brazil again, a sign that entrepreneurship continues to grow here even amid a lagging economy.
The firm, which is based in London, plans to announce on Wednesday that it led a new US$12.3m financing round in BebeStore, an online baby and maternal goods company that it has backed before, Mr. Zennstrom said in an interview. About two-thirds of that amount is venture capital and one-third is a bridge loan. W7 Brazil Capital, a local investment firm, also added to its earlier financing of the company.
The new investment, Atomico’s first in Brazil in about a year, when it last injected capital into BebeStore, also suggests that e-commerce remains attractive here despite drawing substantial capital in recent years but producing many struggling start-ups.
Mr. Zennstrom said in the interview that he had seen advances in e-commerce infrastructure, including payment systems and the use of mobile phones. In Brazil, he said, “We are certainly looking for companies in that sector.”
The baby-goods sector in particular has experienced fierce competition here. BebeStore was founded in 2009 by a Brazilian husband-and-wife team, Leonardo Simão and Juliana Della Nina.
Other players that came later include Baby, whose investors include Accel Partners and Tiger Global Management, and Tricae, a Rocket Internet company. Each has had some setbacks, however. Over the last year, Baby lost one of its original founders and chief executive, Davis Smith, and its chief operating officer, In Hsieh. Tricae has not replicated the huge growth some other Rocket companies have shown.
Yet both companies remain competitors. Other competition could also come from brick-and-mortar retailers looking to expand online, like Ri Happy and PB Kids, a large Brazilian toy retailer owned by the Carlyle Group.
BebeStore, however, has sought to exploit its first mover advantage and continues to grow. It now has separate sites for baby products, toys and goods for mothers. Mr. Simão said in an interview that by the end of this year he expected the company to break even and slightly surpass 100 million reais, or $42.5 million, in revenue.
With the new financing, BebeStore has raised about $30.5 million, mostly from Atomico, Mr. Simão said. That makes it among the better financed Internet start-ups in the country.
The new investment by Atomico comes from its third global fund, which totals $476.6 million and focuses on growth-stage investments. The firm has long focused on international start-ups. In early 2012, three-fourths of its companies were outside the United States, though that has dropped to about 68 percent.
Still, after Europe, where a majority of its companies are based, Brazil and South America remain attractive.
To be sure, the firm has taken a leisurely pace to investing here, opening an office in Sao Paulo in 2010 but since then having invested in just two companies in Brazil — BebeStore and ConnectParts — and three others across South America.
Yet Atomico appears to like Brazil and South America more than most other emerging markets. The firm has yet to make an investment in India. It has one investment in Russia but no presence there. It has an office in Turkey but has yet to make an investment.
It lacks a presence in Mexico, and that seems unlikely to change soon. Mr. Zennstrom said that, “One should not expect us to do anything in Mexico in the short term.”
He expects Atomico to make more investments in Brazil even if the pace is unlikely to pick up much.
Haroldo Korte, who runs Atomico’s Brazil office, said the firm was particularly interested in the online financial sector and agriculture industry, observing that, “They are almost greenfield in Brazil.”
Speaking of Brazil, Mr. Zennstrom said that “we think the entrepreneurial ecosystem is getting better” and that “even with slow growth, the market is still under-penetrated.”