Nicolas Szekasy, a prominent figure in Latin America's venture capital scene, co-founded KasZek Ventures, a leading venture capital firm in the region. His journey, marked by a blend of education, entrepreneurship, and innovative investments, showcases his significant impact on the tech and startup ecosystem in Latin America.
Early Life and Education
Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Szekasy's resilience and entrepreneurial spirit were deeply influenced by his family's history. His parents, having faced significant challenges and upheavals in Europe, instilled in him the values of starting anew and thinking long-term. This background, marked by overcoming adversity and rebuilding life in a new country, laid the foundation for his future endeavors in the business world.
Szekasy's academic journey led him to the University of Buenos Aires, where he earned a degree in Economics. He furthered his education at Stanford University, earning an MBA in 1991, a time before the internet revolution had fully taken hold.
Career Beginnings and MercadoLibre
After completing his MBA, Szekasy started his career at PepsiCo. However, his path took a pivotal turn when he was invited to join MercadoLibre, a startup then in its nascent stages, by his associate Hernán Kazah. MercadoLibre, often regarded as Latin America's original "garage-to-Nasdaq" story, was co-founded by Kazah and Szekasy. As CFO for over a decade, Szekasy played a crucial role in leading the company through the tech bubble collapse in 2000 and the 2008 financial crisis, enduring over five years without turning a profit.
Under his financial guidance, MercadoLibre thrived, culminating in a successful $333 million IPO in 2007. This journey with MercadoLibre not only highlighted Szekasy's financial acumen but also deepened his understanding of the challenges and potential of startups in the region.
Founding KasZek Ventures
In 2011, leveraging their experiences and insights from MercadoLibre, Szekasy and Kazah founded KasZek Ventures. The firm, aiming to invest in Latin American startups, quickly became one of the region's largest early-stage investment funds. With an initial focus on startups during a time when venture capital largely overlooked Latin America, KasZek Ventures has raised over $2 billion, investing in more than 100 companies.
Notable Investments and Achievements
KasZek Ventures, under Szekasy's leadership, has made several notable early-stage investments. These include Nubank, QuintoAndar, Kavak, Creditas, NuvemShop, Gympass, Bitso, NotCo, Konfío, Technysis, and Kushki. The firm's success is evident in its backing of 16 out of the region's 42 unicorns—startups valued at over $1 billion.
Szekasy's contributions to the venture capital sector extend beyond his investments. He serves as Chairman of the Board at LAVCA, a Board Member at Endeavor Global, and a Trustee at Universidad Torcuato Di Tella. His accolades include being named Entrepreneur Master of the Year by EY and receiving the Visionary Investor of the Decade recognition by Americas Society / Council of the Americas.
As of 2023, KasZek Ventures is deploying its fifth early-stage fund of $475 million and its second Opportunity Fund of $525 million. These funds focus on later-stage investing and exploring new investment vehicles, including a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) in partnership with MercadoLibre.
Nicolas Szekasy's journey from the classrooms of Buenos Aires and Stanford to the boardrooms of some of Latin America's most innovative companies reflects his deep commitment to fostering entrepreneurship in the region. His blend of financial expertise, entrepreneurial spirit, and vision continues to drive the growth of Latin America's tech and startup ecosystem.