Bernardita Araya: CMPC Ventures

One of the most exciting up and coming venture ecosystems in Latin America is that of Chile. In an already innovative and fast growing business environment, corporate VCs are sprouting up left and right across the country, and funds are increasing in size. One such CVC, which announced the launch of its $100m fund late last year, is CMPC, the pulp and paper company that is one of the largest companies in the country, which will use its venturing arm to tackle problems related to sustainability, single-use plastic reduction, novel construction and packaging materials and more.

Today I speak to Bernardita Araya, who was brought in to head up the new unit in 2020, in the thick of lockdowns, and helped form the unit’s investment thesis from scratch. It has to date announced five investments from the fund.

She explains how two guiding questions she was told to always ask during her PhD, namely “so what?” and “who cares?” continue to be important in her investment career, focusingher and her team on how something can have a real impact on the world beyond just being a cool idea, and talks about the challenge of building an investment thesis during the pandemic, as well as CMPC Ventures’ activity beyond just direct investments, which also encompasses venture building and venture clienting,

She also talks about the unit’s partnerships with universities and R&D centres, what deep tech looks like in the forestry space, the benefits that have come from having offices in other geographies, most notably the Nordics, where you really need a direct presence in order to make real connections within what she describes as something of a closed ecosystem, and reflects on how far the venture ecosystem in Chile has come since she first became an investor.

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