By Nancy Dahlberg
Miami-based QuikNode and Lumu are SoftBank's first two investments.
SoftBank Group is launching a $100 million funding commitment specifically for Miami startup investments, Marcelo Claure, CEO of SoftBank Group International, announced this morning.
The announcement by the world's largest tech investor brings global attention to the Magic City, and could push Miami up the ranks considerably among emerging tech hubs at a time when the area is already experiencing an influx of tech transplants from Silicon Valley and the Big Apple.
Claure, a global executive with deep roots in Miami, made the announcement with Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, live on Twitter of course, during one of the mayor’s now-famous #CafecitoChats. “Miami is incredibly close to my heart," Claure said. "We are going to launch what we call the SoftBank Miami $100 Million Initiative ... We're proud, happy, and hopefully contributing to making Miami in the future one of the most important tech hubs in the world."
QuikNode, co-founded by Auston Bunsen, Dmitry Shklovsky, Manuel Kreutz and Alex Nabutovsky, and created to power blockchain applications, and Lumu, a cybersecurity startup founded by Ricardo Villadiego, were the first two Miami startups that will get funding. The founders joined the CafecitoChat.
Mayor Suarez said today's news is a momentous annoucement that concretizes all the ecosystem work that has come ahead of it and will "create a cascade of investment" into the city. Nobody yet has announced such a big commitment to the Miami tech community, until today, he said.
"Marcelo's commitment to our city in the form of a $100 million Miami fund, and SoftBank's commitment, is first of its kind," Suarez told Refresh Miami. "The fact that our partnership, and our relationship, has inspired this kind of investment is something that inspires me to continue to do what I've been doing and what the entire ecosystem of Miami Tech has been doing, which is to grow an ecosystem that we know can provide so many careers for so many people in the future. This injection of capital into our city is going to ensure that this moment becomes a movement."
SoftBank already has a Miami office in Brickell and runs its Latin America fund from there. For the new funding initiative, the tech investing giant is committing $100 million from various SoftBank funds. It is interested in backing venture-backed startups or growth stage technology companies based in Miami-Dade County or relocating here.
For its part, SoftBank says it's Miami’s time.
“Miami is on the cusp of becoming a major technology hub. The startup ecosystem is quickly amassing talent and resources, as blue-chip technology and investment firms continue to announce their decisions to relocate to The Magic City,” SoftBank's website states. “At SoftBank, Miami is close to our hearts. Our $5 billion Latin America Fund was born in Miami and is headquartered here. We are excited to play a role in helping the city become an epicenter of technology and business innovation for decades to come.”
This is what paying it forward is and what legacies are built from.
Claure, an immigrant from Bolivia, started BrightStar selling phones from the back of his truck in the late ‘90s, and grew it to be the world’s largest specialized tech distributors and one of Miami’s largest tech employers when he stepped down to head up Sprint in 2014.
Since then, Claure has been a partner in bringing Major League Soccer to Miami with the Inter Miami team, and now as CEO of SoftBank Group International, he has been instrumental in SoftBank’s launch of a $5 billion Latin America Fund in 2019 as well as the $100 million SoftBank Opportunity Fund focused on investing in Black-led ventures last year. SoftBank's Vision Fund is also one of the largest investors in Miami’s REEF Technology, one of South Florida's rare unicorns.
Now it is Miami’s turn for venture funding of its own. The hope is that this big bet on Miami will spur more venture capitalists to check out Miami startups and that big funds will follow suit.
That’s off to a good start. In recent weeks, drawn by Mayor Suarez’s viral campaign that start with tweets and move onto cafecito invitiations, more than 200 VCs and founders from Silcon Valley and New York have been checking out Miami as a place to live and work, while riding out the pandemic in the sunshine. It’s likely not all will stay, but a growing number, including Keith Rabois of Founders Fund and part of the PayPal Mafia, investor Peter Thiel, Jon Oringer, an investor and founder of Shutterstock, Chris Dixon of Andressen Horowitz, David Blumberg of Blumberg Capital, David Goldberg of Alpaca VC, crypto investor Anthony Pompliano, and founders from California and New York including Harry Hurst, Steve Galanis, Matteo Franceschetti, Alexandra Wilkis Wilson and Michael Martocci, to name a few, have signaled more permanent arrangements, with new offices, homegpurchases, HQ relocations, local tech hires, incubator plans and more, all in their new home. [Read more on RefreshMiami.com/news about these developments over the past two months].
Demian Bellumio, a local tech entrepreneur who has raised over $250 million for Miami-based tech startups and projects over the last two decades, believes this will be a “game changer” that will put the city on the global map for tech as well as help Miami ‘s entrepreneurs raise risk capital, long seen as a gap in the ecosystem by many.
“A Miami dedicated fund sponsored by Softbank, arguably one of the most globally recognizable and respected tech investors, will surely increase the attractiveness of our city for founders from around the world,” said Bellumio, who started a Miami Tech Life group to welcome newcomers. “Who can resist building a company in a city that welcomes them with open arms, has top-tier investors with plenty of capital, unmatched beauty and lifestyle, and a palpable energy that runs deep across the city, unifying local leaders, investors and entrepreneurs?”
Here is more about the first two startups that were selected for investments:
- QuikNode.io is the fastest blockchain infrastructure provider on the planet. Companies like Atari, Consensys and TokenTax use QuikNode to power their blockchain infrastructure. Bunsen, co-CTO of QuikNode, is a senior developer and entrepreneur who has founded or worked at several startups and tech companies in Miami over the past decade and is active in building the tech community.
- Lumu.io is a cybersecurity company that helps the world measure cyber compromise in real time. The startup serves companies of all sizes. It is led by a serial entrepreneur in the cyber space. Villadiega was also the founder and CEO of Doral-based Easy Solutions, which became part of Cyxtera.
Venture-backed startups or growth stage technology companies based in Miami-Dade County or relocating here are invited to learn more and apply for funding here on SoftBank’s website: softbankmiami.com.
Missed the conversation? Watch it here.
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