One of the biggest complaints about the Miami startup scene is that it’s still difficult for entrepreneurs to get funding to take their companies to the next level.
Last week, Rokk3r Labs, an organization focused on developing startups through capital, mentorship, and personnel, announced the launch of Rokk3r Fuel, a $150 million investment fund that will help close that gap.
The New Tropic sat down with Jeff Ransdell, Fuel’s founding investor, to talk about their goals.
What is it?
Rokk3r Fuel’s ambitions are not small, says Ransdell, a former managing director at Merrill Lynch and longtime South Florida resident: They are looking to invest in companies whose technologies can have an “exponential” impact on an industry, similar to how Uber and Amazon have reshaped transportation and shopping.
He pointed to four companies Rokk3r Labs gave initial support to as examples that he says are in the process of transforming industries: Hyp3r, a geolocation startup cofounded by University of Miami grad Juca Hernandez (who has since moved to California); AdMobilize, the Miami Beach-based startup using sensors to collect data about consumers founded by Rodolfo Saccoman; Emerge, an insurance platform startup founded by former Sun Life Financial president Wes Thompson; and Taxfyle, a tax filing app cofounded by FIU grad Will Sahatdjian.
“We’re technologists,” he said. “It doesn’t matter industry — fintech, biotech, nanotech. It doesn’t matter what vertical. We’re more interested in a technology that can intersect with a vertical and change it in an exponential way.”
What’s the Miami connection?
Although Rokk3r Fuel will be based in Miami, the fund will have a global reach, he said. Miami’s access to the rest of the world, especially Latin America and Europe, will give the fund a strategic advantage over competitors.
“A lot of people ask me this: why are we here and not in San Francisco?” Ransdell said. “San Francisco has 6 million people. What about the rest of the world?”
That said, as long as Rokk3r Labs continues to build companies out of Miami, Rokk3r Fuel will get first dibs on investing in them.
What is holding Miami’s startup ecosystem back?
Ransdell said that there is now so much entrepreneurial activity going on in Miami that the level of competitiveness can sometimes divide the community rather than bring it together.
If you’re an investor interested in helping to build Miami’s ecosystem, you should be focusing your attention on Miami-based venture capital funds like Rokk3r Fuel, Ransdell says. It’s access to capital that ultimately determines the success of a startup community.
Pictured above, l-r: Jeff Ransdell, Rokk3r Fuel founding partner and managing director; Jonas Tempel, Rokk3r Fuel founding partner; Nabyl Charania, CEO of Rokk3r Labs; Germán Montoya, Chief Strategy & Creative Officer of Rokk3r Labs