Marcelo Claure on Dream Big, Work Hard Babson Thought & Action
Marcelo Claure has yet to decide what to say to the Babson College graduate Commencement ceremony, where he will address the class of 2022 and receive an honorary doctorate of laws. He will likely go on instinct, which has served him well in a remarkable career as an entrepreneur.
He is President and CEO of Claure Capital, a multi-billion dollar global investment firm focused on public and private companies in technology, media and other high-growth sectors, with a focus on artificial intelligence. He personifies Babson’s entrepreneurial spirit: flexible, goal-oriented and determined to make a difference with the means at hand.
Consider his nomadic childhood. The son of a United Nations diplomat, Claure was born in Guatemala and raised in Bolivia, the Dominican Republic and Morocco. Constantly adapting to a new environment, autonomy mattered.
“From an early age, I wanted to run my own business,” he says.
From football to mobile phones
As a child, Claure sold her mother’s second-hand clothes to change pockets. While studying economics and finance at Bentley University, he started a successful business trading frequent flyer miles.
Fittingly, his first big break came on a plane: after graduating in 1993, he flew to Bolivia and sat next to Guido Loayza, who managed the national team. country football. Loayza was determined to qualify the team for the World Cup for the first time since 1950. They got to talking and he hired Claure, a devoted football fan, to work alongside him. The team made the cut, qualifying for the 1994 World Cup in the USA, which was a huge point of national pride.
“I have been blessed. It taught me that anything was possible,” he says. “You can dream big. In many cases, we are only limited by the size of the dream we put in front of us.
He hasn’t landed since. Back in Boston, Claure was interviewed by Merrill Lynch. The interviewer asked for her cell phone number. Only one problem: he didn’t have a phone. So he walked into a store along Route 9 to find one and left after making an offer to buy the store. Within a year, its Bell Atlantic dealership, USA Wireless, grew to 134 stores.
“We went from one store to many and changed the way cell phones were delivered to homes,” says Claure, who imitated pizza delivery companies and started offering cell phone delivery to consumers in 30 minutes.
A personal and historic step
After working in a more traditional environment, “I realized that I was not good at working for someone else. I packed my bags, went to Miami and started Brightstar,” he says, where he started selling phones out of the back of his car, a throwback to when he was selling the his mother’s clothes as a child in South America.
It was a game-changer: Brightstar became the largest global wireless services and distribution company in the world. With operations in over 50 countries and revenues exceeding $10 billion, it was also the largest Hispanic company in US history.
“I have been blessed. It taught me that anything was possible. You can dream big. In many cases, we are only limited by the size of the dream we put in front of us.
Marcelo Claure, CEO of Claure Capital
As an immigrant, this feat was a personal step.
“As a Bolivian, I wanted to prove to my country that I was capable of succeeding,” he says. “Millions of Hispanics are starting businesses in the United States. To be able to say that it remains the greatest ever created in the history of the United States by a Hispanic was very important to me.
He attributes his success to big dreams and an unflappable work ethic.
“90% of businesses fail. If you want to be part of the 10% who succeed, or that 0.001% who are able to change the world or create thousands of jobs, you (have to) work more than everyone,” he says.
This entrepreneurial spirit has served him well throughout his career. In 2014, Claure was recruited by Masayoshi Son, founder and CEO of SoftBank Group, to lead the iconic turnaround of Sprint, a company on the verge of bankruptcy, as CEO and then Executive Chairman. Claure’s leadership produced the best financial results in Sprint’s 120-year history, followed by a $195 billion merger with T-Mobile.
Passionate about entrepreneurship, after being named COO of SoftBank Group, he was part of the team that launched the $100 billion Vision Fund, the largest venture capital fund ever. Then, as CEO of SoftBank Group International, he launched the $8 billion SoftBank Latin America Fund, completely transforming entrepreneurship in the region as the largest venture capitalist. He also founded and led the $100 million Opportunity Fund, dedicated to underrepresented black and Hispanic founders. In 2019, Claure was appointed to lead the turnaround of WeWork, a company burning billions of dollars in cash and in the midst of a failed IPO. Despite a global pandemic that has fundamentally changed the nature of work, Claure, alongside CEO Sandeep Mathrani, helped put the company on the path to profitability, going public in October 2021.
Despite an incredibly successful career, Claure hasn’t lost sight of his roots: always passionate about football, he now owns Club Bolívar, Bolivia’s biggest professional team. “I want to give hope to my country,” he says.
He also has a passion for the arts and sits on the board of directors of Carnegie Hall, which he calls “much more than a concert hall. It is an educational institution, broadcasting music to hundreds of thousands of children around the world.
He has a particular fondness for his own children, aged 3 to 26.
“My greatest passion is my children,” he says. That, and nurturing future entrepreneurs as an investor.
“There’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur,” he says. “I’m having fun.”
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