Our team

A diverse group of builders united by a passion to create

Jesse Downing
Jesse Downing

Jesse Downing

CEO and Portfolio Manager

Prior to founding Downing Capital Group, Jesse was an investor at The Baupost Group, a $30 billion investment partnership, from 2015 to 2021 where he made investments in media, healthcare, packaging, software, agriculture, aircraft, grocery, consumer products, business services, entertainment, and leisure. He also served on the firm’s Risk Committee and co-led recruitment for the public team. From 2012 to 2015, Jesse worked at HighVista Strategies, a $4 billion fund in Boston where he invested in energy, transportation, private credit, and media. Jesse graduated with high honors from Harvard University where he studied Economics and Mathematics. Jesse Downing is the co-author, with Norton Reamer, of Investment: A History published by Columbia University Press. The book traces the history of investing from early human civilization to the present and has been featured in Institutional Investor, The New York Times, and The Economist.

Fernando Okumura
Fernando Okumura

Fernando Okumura

Investment Partner

Prior to joining Downing Capital Group, Fernando was the CEO and co-founder of Kekanto-DD, a marketplace and SaaS company backed by Accel and acquired by Locaweb (LWSA3). Previously, he was the COO of ClickOn, a US$700MM GMV group buying company acquired by Mosaico Internet Holdings. Fernando is also an active early-stage investor, having backed Brilia, acquired by Cartesian Capital Group, among others. Prior to his entrepreneurial career, Fernando was a management consultant at McKinsey and an investment banker at JPMorgan. Fernando graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania where he studied finance, and Stanford Graduate School of Business where he received his MBA.

Sam Heffernan
Sam Heffernan

Sam Heffernan

Investment Partner

Prior to joining Downing Capital Group, Sam was a hospitality-focused real estate investor at MCR, a leading hotel investment and development group in New York City. He previously worked as an investor at Kensico Capital, a $6 billion equity long-short hedge fund, where he invested in businesses across a wide range of industries including software, consumer products, media, food and beverage, technology, and retail. Sam graduated from Princeton University where he studied Economics and the MIT Sloan School of Management where he received his MBA.

Philip Ratnowsky
Philip Ratnowsky

Philip Ratnowsky

Principal

Philip is an MBA Candidate at Columbia Business School, Class of 2023, where he is a Mark Venrick Fellow and a Columbia Venture Fellow. Prior to matriculating at Columbia, Philip was the first investment professional at the fintech and SaaS venture studio LabCo from 2017 to 2021. He helped the firm build several successful digital services companies in the FinTech and HR space. Philip started his career at UBS in the New York City office as an investment banking analyst where he covered industrial companies—particularly in the transportation, aviation, and building materials sectors—and executed on both M&A and capital raise transactions. Philip graduated magna cum laude from the University of Georgia with a degree in Finance. He is using his time at Columbia Business School to study technology, data, and analytics trends and their implications for early-stage startups.

Fausto Rodriguez
Fausto Rodriguez

Fausto Rodriguez

Chief of Staff

Prior to joining Downing Capital Group, Fausto was an Executive of NuviGroup, a leading conglomerate with industrial, retail, and agriculture operations. During his tenure at NuviGroup, Fausto oversaw large-scale industrial investments, founded one of the leading retailers in Sub-Saharan Africa, which employed over 2,500 individuals, and was CEO of a greenfield agriculture operation. Previously, Fausto launched two e-commerce ventures, Zanui in Australia, and Linio in Colombia – which was backed by Rocket Internet and exited to Falabella. Prior to his entrepreneurial journey, he started his career as a McKinsey consultant. Fausto graduated with high honors from Católica-Lisbon School of Business & Economics, where he studied Finance, and from Columbia University where he completed a Postbaccalaureate in Premedical Studies.

Virginia Heleno
Virginia Heleno

Virginia Heleno

Operations Manager and Executive Business Partner to CEO

Prior to joining Downing Capital Group, Virginia was at Wellington Management Company, a privately held global investment management firm, where she supported the director and leaders of the Financial Reserves Management team in the Boston office. She previously worked at Harvard University supporting two faculty members and their respective labs and at the Borough of East Newark, a municipality in New Jersey, supporting the CFO. Virginia graduated from Boston University where she studied Psychology and Criminal Justice.

Mariana Achatz
Mariana Achatz

Mariana Achatz

Investment Research Specialist

Prior to Downing Capital Group, Mariana was one of the first employees at Pagaleve, Brazil’s first Buy Now Pay Later startup. She was responsible for creating the customer communications workflow as well as coordinating the development of their website and other first marketing channels. Mariana was also in charge of the outbound sales area where she successfully closed the company’s first four B2B deals. Mariana is a last year student at Fundação Getúlio Vargas in São Paulo, Brazil, and has also taken part in a 6-month exchange program at EmLyon Business School, in France.

Julia Souza
Julia Souza

Julia Souza

Talent Acquisition Specialist

Prior to Downing Capital, Julia worked at Fox Human Capital, a staff agency, with a focus on Private Equity and Venture Capital. Julia was the first employee at Fox to expand operations from Brazil to the USA with the CEO, supporting end-to-end recruitment and new client development. Prior to that, Julia has also worked as an HR generalist. She holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology from the Federal Fluminense University.