Banking

SoftBank VCs are moving to Miami to run a $100 million fund because the tech scene there is ‘real’

  • SoftBank is moving its Opportunity Fund, focused on founders of color, to Miami.
  • The fund has invested in some Miami-area startups already, including blockchain company QuickNode.
  • Miami has been much hyped from the influx of VCs but “the energy is real,” a SoftBank VP tells us.

Earlier this year, SoftBank Group joined the growing herd of investors planting stakes in Miami as the next big startup hub.

But Shu Nyatta, the managing partner who helps run its $100 million Opportunity Fund for Black, Latinx, and Native American founders, had long been planning to move there, he tells Insider.

In 2019, SoftBank launched a $5 billion fund focused on Latin America, a region that is notably overlooked by VCs. Nyatta hoped to jump on opportunities in Miami while it was still off the radar. He’d secured an apartment and got a Florida drivers license.

But just as he was planning to move, in early 2020, the pandemic hit the US.

“Everything just stopped. Now I look like a lemming following these other VCs out there,” he joked in an interview with Insider.

Miami has indeed become a hotspot for venture capitalists, including Founder Fund’s Keith Rabois and Atomic’s Jack Abraham, and its mayor, Francis Suarez, has been an advocate for tech startups.

But the move makes particular sense for SoftBank’s Opportunity Fund, Nyatta said, given the racial and ethnic diversity in the Miami metro area. More than 70% of the city’s population is Hispanic or Latino, according to the US Census Bureau, while about 17% is Black.

On top of that, one of the long-time pillars of Miami’s tech scene is Marcelo Claure, Softbank COO and CEO of its international group. 

The Opportunity Fund has already invested in several Miami-area startups, including blockchain development company QuickNode, vision diagnostics company Heru, and cybersecurity company Lumu.

Nyatta tells us that is has, so far, invested roughly half of its $100 million into about 50 companies over the past year, Nyatta said.

Though it has a long way to go to give Silicon Valley a run for its money, Miami nearly tripled the amount of venture funding flowing into its startups last year, according to Crunchbase.

“Mayor Suarez has been brilliant at capturing the zeitgeist,” Nyatta said. “Hype is a very difficult thing to create. Now we’ll see whether he can turn hype into something that will last.”

SoftBank seems to be betting that it will. The conglomerate is doubling down on its interest in the area: in January it announced a $100 million fund focused specifically on Miami startups.

“The energy is real,” said Dami Osunsanya, a vice president at SoftBank who is part of the Opportunity Fund’s operations team.

Osunsanya grew up in Miami but left the city to attend college and hadn’t lived there since. Soon, she’ll be calling it home again. She says at least four of her friends from childhood have done the same in the past year.

“I thought I would never come back,” she told Insider. “But I’ve spent the last six months there, on and off since Christmas, and I’m inspired by the quality of the founders and the talent.”

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