Founder of Babel Ventures
I’m Bárbara Minuzzi. I moved from Brazil to the US in 2014. A lot of things change when you become an immigrant. Some go to the heart of identity. My name – it’s pronounced differently in Portuguese. Suddenly I was introducing myself in English without the feeling of being ‘me.’ So I started going by Bá, which was my nickname in Brazil. I had a company in Brazil, a real estate investment company. The market was going down there and most of the investors wanted to locate some portion of their wealth in the US. I had always loved US culture. Dream big. Take risks. Be compliant. In Brazil I didn’t have these opportunities. I was following my dreams when I moved to America.
I was 26 years old, and I moved to Miami first. It’s a big hub for South American families and people that want to move from South America to the US. They normally start with Miami, and that’s what I did. I opened a business with an American co-founder, which was very helpful. He was an attorney, tax attorney. So he helped me understand all the legal structures, all the immigration structure and how I would be able to stay and work here. I’ve been through many visas and know that to stay in this country you need to really want to be here, respect the rules, and have the patience to achieve this status! It’s not something they just gave to me.
From investing in real estate in Miami, by the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015 I was trying to understand what I was doing with my life. I was always moved by challenges. Brazil is a very sexist country, and then arriving in Miami and seeing the same kind of sexism, I was motivated to make a statement by showing I could be successful. But after proving again and again that I was, the challenge was no longer there. I wanted more purpose. And I was like, “What should I do? What am I doing with my life? I’m so young. I’m financially stable. I should do more.” That’s when I started studying the market and understanding what was going on in the world. And in my understanding the way to really do well is with technology. So I started studying venture capital and learning how I could be a part of this world.
It was April 2015 that I started doing my first angel investments. I quickly learned how hard it was for immigrants to raise money here to establish themselves as entrepreneurs and create a network. That’s when I started coming to Silicon Valley. And I discovered how amazing it is. There were extremely wealthy people who were investing at an early stage mainly because they wanted to do good and solve real problems in society, which they could do by supporting socially conscious entrepreneurs. Compared to Brazil, these people were more helpful, kind, and collaborative. Every single meeting would finish with the same question: “How can I help you?” That had never happened before in my life. I fell in love. At first I thought they were teasing me. I was like, “Why do they want to help me? I’m no one. I never did anything for these people. What’s going on?” When I realized it was genuine, these people have their heart in the right place, and at the end of the day they still make money, I said to myself, “Wow, this is where I want to be.” I built a plan. I would come to San Francisco from Miami every eight weeks and stay here one week to 10 days. I did that for two years, meeting people, investing, getting to know more founders and co-investors. Then finally I moved to the SF Bay Area in October 2016.
I didn’t plan to have a VC fund right away. But everything changed when Trump was elected. That night when he won, we were a bunch of immigrant friends watching the election returns, and we couldn’t believe it. So I was crying, upset, disappointed. Like, “Wow, I left Brazil because I believed in this country, in how things work here and it is a nation of immigrants. If now we are having someone that is so closed minded and bigoted, that has such a ignorant perspective of the world, and most of the population believes he’s right, maybe I’m in the wrong place.”
That’s when I got obsessed with immigrants in the US. I started reading up on JFK. He has a great book called A Nation of Immigrants and his vision of America remains inspirational today. And I was just like, “Yeah, there’s a lot of data since the beginning that immigrants are doing good.” But then I also focused on tech and started discovering all this data, like immigrants founded 51% of the companies valued at over a billion dollars. I was finding all this great data to prove that we were doing good, that we were generating so many jobs. And then I realized there were no Latinas in this group, there was no Brazilian, no one from South America as the founder and manager of a venture fund here and I felt responsible enough to act on behalf of this part of the world. I will show that we can have a Latina woman as a VC founder and manager, and so I raised a biotech fund, Babel Ventures.
I’ve since co-founded a second fund focused on blockchain, Ausum Ventures. And now I’m launching a new organization called Twin Peaks Family to redefine the meaning of wealth. I’m very excited about it. There’s so much money here in Silicon Valley, and around the world, but wealthy people still struggle to find meaning and purpose, it’s easy to lose touch with your humanity when you create or inherit a lot of wealth – the toxic aspects of our materialistic culture are very accessible and can become intoxicating – and it’s as challenging as ever to make investments that have transformative impact in the face of humanity’s biggest challenges. So we’re taking on these challenges, and we’re doing it with a group of youthful and multicultural wealth holders who are visionary, caring, and courageous. They understand the moment we’re living in – our systems, institutions, and leaders are failing us, and we need new technologies, including new inner technologies or ways of understanding ourselves and relating to one another, in order to heal divisions, rebuild communities, and build a new global economy that is collaborative and inclusive, an economy that values sustainability and generates shared prosperity.
With Twin Peaks Family we are creating a family not by blood, but conscious choice. It’s all about aligning our values and taking action together to manifest our shared vision of the future. We invite wealth holders into the Family on this basis, and we build trust and intimacy with them as the foundation for flowing and growing their wealth toward positive and transformative outcomes. We don’t refer to them as clients. They are family members, and our purpose is to partner with them to make their wealth world-changing and self-transforming. That’s what we mean by redefining the meaning of wealth. Wealth creation is tied to wellbeing creation, and to a world that works for all. So we have three divisions at Twin Peaks Family to engage our members in this quest: an investment creative agency, an impact factory, and a human flourishing lab. It’s a new approach to the multi-family office and we’re excited because there’s a hunger out there for authentic connection, deep purpose, and visionary awareness and action.
You know, I have this critique of Silicon Valley – the parts of it that are self-interested, greedy, and care more about making money than making the world a better place. It’s an important critique, and I’ve also come to realize that everyone is on their journey. There’s a process of education and developing oneself to become more aware of what’s going on in the world, and for each of us to expand our circle of care to include more people. I can trace my own journey of inner development to being less egocentric and more inclusive as I’ve moved through the world, living in different cities, having different careers, starting new ventures, gaining new experiences and new understandings of myself and the world.
Now I understand that most people in this country are good people and they are trying the best they know how to make a good life for themselves and their loved ones. So I am trying to come from a place of acceptance of those I disagree with, while supporting them to learn and grow. I have that commitment for myself. There is always more room for me to grow and continue to evolve into the leader I aspire to be, not only as an immigrant Latina woman, but also, equally if not more important, as a human being among fellow human beings. We have to find better ways to live, love, and work together, as a global human family. Ultimately, this is the meaning of Twin Peaks Family. The Family is a microcosm of the diverse, wise, cooperative, and loving community we envision as the future reality for all human beings around the world.