SoftBank to Invest $100 Million in Miami Area Companies

SoftBank Group Corp. committed $100 million in funding for companies in the Miami area, bolstering a beach-side metropolis that has been aggressively courting the technology industry in recent months.

The money will go toward businesses based in Miami or ones that are relocating to the region, said Marcelo Claure, the Miami-based chief operating officer at SoftBank. Claure introduced the pledge in an online video Thursday alongside Miami Mayor Francis Suarez. “People want to move here because they have the choice, and the next thing they need is capital,” Claure said.

The investments will come from existing SoftBank funds, such as the company’s $5 billion Latin America vehicle, said a person familiar with the matter.

New investment could help advance the South Florida ecosystem in greater Miami. The region attracted a total of $1.06 billion in venture investment in its startups last year, according to research firm PitchBook, representing a small portion of the $156 billion invested in startups around the country. More than a third of the total went to the San Francisco Bay area.

But the pandemic is forcing people and companies to rethink workplace practices and look outside of traditional business hubs such as New York and San Francisco. It also prompted a wave of online chatter about technology companies moving to South Florida after several high-profile venture capitalists led the way. It’s unclear how much of the hype will translate into jobs and investment.

Suarez has fueled the momentum on social media, tweeting ceaselessly about luring technology companies to South Florida, a campaign that has catapulted the chief of the 470,000-person city into the national spotlight. Daniella Levine Cava, the more powerful Miami-Dade County mayor who’s a Democrat, has shown support for the efforts of her Republican colleague.

Suarez told Claure that SoftBank was “the first big bet” on the city and the broader region. “This is the first big, significant, substantive, ‘Hey, we’re putting our money where our mouth is,’” Suarez said. “Capital is incredibly important to scale, and this movement now becomes very, very real.”

Claure has some Miami startup chops of his own. A native of Bolivia who graduated from Bentley University in Massachusetts, he started a wireless distribution and service provider, Brightstar, in Miami in 1997. From there, he expanded quickly into Latin America and beyond and sold a majority stake in the business to the SoftBank Group in 2013 for $1.26 billion. Claure also co-owns the city’s Major League Soccer franchise Inter Miami.

SoftBank launched its $5 billion Latin American fund in March 2019, saying it wanted to deploy about $1 billion annually from its hub in Miami. It has invested in companies such as Colombia’s Rappi, a food delivery service, and Brazil-born Gympass, a fitness company.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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