SoftBank earmarks $100 million for Miami-based startups

Miami, an emerging startup hub, has a new check-writer in town: SoftBank. The Japanese multinational conglomerate announced plans today to invest $100 million, drawn from across its funds, into Miami-based startups. Notably, SoftBank’s $5 billion Latin America fund is headquartered in Miami, as well.

The initiative is led by SoftBank CEO Marcelo Claure. The fund will back companies who are in Miami or plan to move there.

A SoftBank check is somewhat of a Silicon Valley rite of passage, so the firm’s involvement in the scene will likely signal to others that the growth of Miami is something to be taken seriously. The tax-free haven is attracting swathes of investors and founders from around the country looking to join the growing scene. Relocators include Keith Rabois of Founders Fund, David Blumberg of Blumberg Capital, Chris Dixon of Andreessen Horowitz.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who has been on a Twitter tear asking techies to move to Miami, has spearheaded much of the efforts to turn the city into a startup epicenter.

Ruben Harris, founder of Career Karma, has been working with Suarez since 2018 to help people break into tech.

“Now that SoftBank has made this move, we will see more funds follow their example and this is a huge win for diversity not just from a race perspective, but also from a socioeconomic perspective, and from a gender perspective,” Harris said, who is thinking about moving to the city. Career Karma is currently working with VC funds to get old laptops into its Reskill America program, to help train an emerging workforce in Miami.

Monica Black, who is behind Function, a Miami-based nonprofit investor syndicate, hopes that SoftBank’s entrance “will not only increase the amount of capital going to local startups and help them grow to the Series A stage and beyond, but also attract other institutional VCs as co-investors.” Historically, she said, it’s been tough for local startups to raise capital from Silicon Valley or New York funds. The exception to this was Papa, which raised $18 million in September to connect older adults with virtual companions from Sound Ventures and Canaan.

Nico Berardi, the founder of Miami-based fund ANIMO Ventures, connected the new SoftBank initiative to the recent announcement by San Francisco’s Founders Fund to open an office in Miami.

“Both are symbolic and I think symbols matter,” Berardi said. “[They] are planting a flag here and saying look this is a viable scene.” Of his 16 portfolio companies, Berardi says only one startup is based in Miami. With more and more investors moving to the city, Berardi is optimistic that it can magnetize more talent to move, too.

“I’m hopeful that this can attract tens or hundreds of founders to build their next thing in Miami,” he said.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated that David Sacks of Craft Ventures has relocated to Miami. This is incorrect. The story has been updated to reflect this change.