Brazilian Surfing Champion Gabriel Medina Launches Venture Capital Firm

Rather than just being a guest investor in a consolidated firm, Medina opted to lead a new fund to focus on web3, crypto, NFT and the metaverse

Brazilian surfing champion Gabriel Medina wants to surf the wave of Brazilian startups' success.
June 20, 2022 | 05:06 PM

Bloomberg Línea — Brazil’s Gabriel Medina, a three-time world champion Brazilian surfer, is co-founder of Kauai Ventures, a venture capital firm that will seek to defy the downturns in crypto markets and bet on investments in sectors that, for now, face turbulent waters.

While pop singer Anitta, and actress Deborah Secco have invested in Brazilian startups as individuals, Medina has got together with Ricardo Laureano Siqueira and Carpa Family Office to build Kauai Ventures.

The company said the fund brings to the Brazilian market a venture capital model “fully aligned to the current scenario”, with a business vision based on its investments, through its own capital, without any limited partner (LP) behind it.

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“Kauai’s goal is to invest our own resources in companies with potential, and that will have all our support on a day-to-day basis,” said the CEO of Kauai Ventures, Ricardo Laureano Siqueira, who founded the fintechs Maxipago (acquired by Itaú) and Koin (acquired by Despegar).

The fund’s third partner is Ian Dubugras, co-founder and CEO of Carpa Family Office.

The trio explains that they will also analyze opportunities that may require more investment and that, in these cases, the company can operate in a Series LLC structure, counting on LPs, but focused on specific opportunities, unlike most of the current venture capital funds.

“We are not going to work with the traditional blind fund model. We intend to work very closely with our partners and friends,” Siqueira said.

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Kauai Ventures will lean on web3, crypto, investing in NFT, the metaverse and projects focused on sustainability, wellbeing, as well as social and gaming.

The launch of this fund comes against the background of the crypto market conditions, with a generalized fall in digital currencies (Bitcoin is the most evident case with a price that oscillates just above $20,000), and the debacle that has touched crypto exchanges and NFTs.

Medina and his partners will face a tense calm sea after the big surge of the past few days has caused billionaire losses for many crypto participants. Not only has Wall Street been warning of the bearish phenomenon of NFTs and other virtual vehicles, but also respected figures in the business mainstream, such as Bill Gates, have lambasted the concept. Last week, the Microsoft founder referred to NFTs as fool’s gold, an asset for which the owner expects someone to pay more than what was invested.

In this case, top-tier NFTs such as CryptoPunks, Bored Ape Yacht Club and Mutant Ape Yacht Club, which had been holding their value in the face of cryptocurrencies, have been falling. The NSN-BlueChip10 index, which encompasses NFTs considered premium, reports a decline in value of -71% in dollar terms from the close of May 2021 to the same month in 2022.

Despite this, Siqueira believes Kauai’s launch comes at a good time because there has been a significant adjustment in share prices.

“We understand that some opportunities may appear so that we can invest and add on products. We intend to do the whole process quite calmly and safely.”

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But it is not only surfer Medina who is thinking about this market. Tennis champion Serena Williams also invests in the niche through her venture capital fund, and Medina’s friend and fellow countryman, PSG star Neymar, paid $1.1 million for two NFTs in Bored Ape Yatch Club. Kauai Ventures believes that this initiative will thus have a “wide network of partners and friends who can help strengthen the onslaught,” the company said.

In an interview with Bloomberg Línea, the surfer said he had been talking to partners and friends for some time and, “following great athletes and celebrities I admire worldwide becoming venture capital investors, especially in the United States.”

“We discussed different formats and this is the one that makes the most sense with what I believe, to be able to support companies and entrepreneurs who are creating innovations for the environment, wellness, and sports. These are subjects with which I identify myself, I want to invest, and with partners who are already with me daily and I trust them a lot,” Medina said.

The surfer said he had already talked to other athletes and celebrities about venture capital opportunities, and wanted to participate “in the whole process” instead of embarking as a guest in some already consolidated fund.

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“I trust my partners at Kauai to drive the process. I’m pretty excited to learn more about the investment world and participate in the entrepreneurship ecosystem alongside out-of-the-ordinary people,” said the athlete.

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Siqueira explains that the company does not intend to invest in the speculative movement of cryptocurrency trading, but in generating value through web3-linked assets such as issuing NFTs.

“We understand that NFTs should not be an end in themselves, but a means to achieve something bigger, such as creating specific communities or value generation and monetization in carbon marketplaces, for example,” he said.

(This text was updated to clarify about the state of NFTs and crypto market)