Multibillion-dollar tech firm SoftBank says it is in hiring mode at a Brickell office that quietly opened in early June.
Marcelo Claure, CEO of SoftBank Group International, says the space, at 600 Brickell Ave., is already bursting with employees — but is still taking on more, with the goal of reaching at least 100.
“We took a floor, and we’re already full,” he said in a recent interview. “So we’re going to probably need a second or even third floor.”
The plan is to house as many as 100 employees, consisting of investment experts and tech-minded professionals who will primarily be helping manage SoftBank’s investments in Latin America. Earlier this year, the company announced a $5 billion Latin America-focused fund. Its launch was predicated on the thesis that the region’s potential remains largely untapped: By some measures, Claure said, Latin America’s GDP is two times the size of India’s and already half of China’s. Yet it has only received a fraction of global venture investing.
“There are incredible entrepreneurs there with incredible potential,” SoftBank COO Claure said in an interview. “But it’s lacking in capital and ambition — and I don’t blame them for the ambition part. If there’s no capital, you cannot be ambitious. I am positively surprised by the amount of opportunity in Latin America.”
Claure said a significant portion of the fund has already been deployed. So far, the fund has made a $1 billion investment in Colombia-based delivery startup Rappi and $300 million in Brazil-based fitness startup Gympass.
The Brickell office is designed to see those investments take off, as well as grow the worldwide businesses in which SoftBank has already invested, including Uber and WeWork, Claure said.
SoftBank remains firmly committed to both companies despite recent troubles, Claure said. This week, Bloomberg reported Claure would be stepping in to oversee WeWork after the departure of founder and former CEO Adam Neumann. Until that announcement, Claure had been spending half the month in Tokyo, Softbank’s home base, and Miami. It is not clear whether his schedule will change as a result. He has a home in Miami Beach.
The Brickell office is still in recruitment mode, Claure said. For all its evident attractions, Miami is still a difficult sell when it comes to recruiting talent, he said. That’s especially true for the upper echelon of graduates from top business schools — SoftBank’s primary source.
“It’s not enough to have a beautiful place to live,” he said. “You’ve got to give them an intellectual challenge.”
One strategy has been to offer students jobs a full year before they graduate, he said.
“These are kids with 10-15 job offers,” he said. “The way the game works is, you make them commit a year in advance. You have to — that’s how hot the market is for amazing investment talent that understands the new economy.”
SoftBank’s largest local investment to date remains REEF Technology, which hopes to tap into the potential of garages and parking spaces to serve as staging areas for off-site kitchens and ride-sharing vehicles. The size of the investment was not disclosed when it was announced earlier this year, but the company has been valued at more than $1 billion, making it Miami’s first “unicorn” startup.
“The whole world is watching what REEF is doing,” Claure said. “We love their concept, and they’re doing a lot of hiring.”
SoftBank accounted for 10 percent of the entire world’s venture funding this year, according to CrunchBase.com, a website that tracks investing.
Claure is best known locally for his stake in the Inter Miami soccer team and as founder of Brightstar, a mobile phone distributor he sold to SoftBank for more than $1 billion.
Today, Claure said, his goal is to launch “100 Brightstars, with 10 times its potential.”
“We have an obligation to take a look at pretty much everything that comes our way. We rarely say no to a company,” he said. “But, we have a rigorous triage process. So we have many openings for analysts, associates, and directors who understand the investment industry.”