By Nicole Schubert By Nicole Schubert | May 9, 2019 | People
Meet a who’s who of investors lending a new reputation to Miami, as the beachside oasis is rebranded into an innovation capital, thanks to a growing tech startup scene and the venture capitalists helping to finance its development. With multi-million dollar funds behind them, this group of VCs are transforming how people all over the world live, work, and play—right from the comfort of their Miami offices.
Think of Miami as Billionaire Beach—an exotic city with miles of sandy beaches, luxe hotels, massive real estate developments and, now, an ever-expanding community of monied tech startups and savvy investors helping to turns ideas into reality.
We spoke with the top movers and shakers of Miami venture capital to get the story behind their firms, the tech companies they’re making their biggest bets on, and where they see Miami heading over the next decade.
Jeff Ransdell, the founding partner of Rokk3r Fuel, is ratcheting up momentum for companies of all sizes through his Wynwood-based venture capital firm. Since founding Rokk3r Fuel in 2017, Ransdell and his team have invested millions of dollars in almost a dozen companies, including the must-watch e-scooter company, Bolt. Originally entering the startup space with the goal of making sure wealthy investors could gain access to the “creative economy” and cash in on the successes of mega-powerful tech companies (like Amazon and Apple), Ransdell, thanks to his expansive network, launched a firm that could identify and fund private companies that “change everyday lives and make a boatload of money while they’re at it.” Ransdell is currently working to make Miami a successful tech and venture capital town by applying strategies that worked in Silicon Valley like tireless networking, while also leveraging the city’s unique advantages, such as diversity. “We're truly a melting pot,” Ransdell said. “Having people from different backgrounds sitting around the same table makes an enormous impact in identifying and developing creative solutions,” he says.
Joining forces with Jeffrey Miller to provide capital, connections, and counsel to early-stage entrepreneurs, Melissa Krinzman made a splash in the Miami startup network, establishing a cross continental venture capital firm that invests in seed stage technology companies, solving problems in health and wellness, real estate, and financial services. And as a 'Miami-first fund', Krillion Ventures is making this beachside city a priority, with half of Krillion’s 25 portfolio companies being Miami-based. And thanks to a powerful combination of unique attributes, including Miami’s proximity to Latin America, weather and beaches, zero state income taxes, and a large small businesses community, Miami is entering the “next generation” as a prodigious entrepreneurial hub. “If I were to shake a Magic 8 Ball, the message that would come up would be ‘Outlook gGod,” Krinzman added.
A major sign that Miami’s profile is rising as a tech power center is the entry of ultra-accomplished tech investors to the local market. Exhibit A: Shervin Pishevar. Pishevar scored big as a Silicon Valley VC, making some of the earliest bets on companies like Uber and Airbnb. Today, he calls Miami Beach home, where he lives in a 13,178-square-foot home on Pine Tree Drive. Following his years at Menlo Ventures, Pishevar went out on his own to co-founded Sherpa Capital, which has backed companies like Warby Parker, Postmates, and Dollar Shave Club. He also helped create the Virgin Hyperloop One, a futuristic pod that plans to transport people at the speed of sound. Think Miami to Orlando in just 26 minutes, thanks to peak speeds of 700 miles per hour. The race to the future is on, and Miami is now home to one of the main drivers.
Passionate about shaping nascent innovation “ecosystems,” Ana Gonzalez launched the Miami operation of Silicon Valley-based early-stage VC fund 500 Startups. Since its launch, she has set in motion Miami’s already blossoming capability of becoming a vital hub for technology. Investing in over 2,200 companies to date in more than 70 countries, 500 Startups is on a mission to discover and back some of the world’s most talented entrepreneurs and help them establish successful companies, including South Florida-based companies Finova Financial, Back Office and Option Alpha. And as the tech landscape continues to expand, Gonzalez plans to double down on the industries that have brought the city most success, while bringing capital to early-stage ventures. Gonzalez recommends aspiring entrepreneurs to trust themselves, surround themselves with experienced advisors, and “recognize that the road will have obstacles, but if you really believe in the problem you are solving, everything is possible.”