The new syndicate’s first two seed investments are Zigazoo and OneRoof
Yaǧiz Sözmen launched a seed and pre-seed venture fund to invest in Miami startups this winter — with a key difference from others out there. With this seed fund, part of Core Ventures, most of its LPs are international, from Turkey, Sözmen’s heritage, as well as Europe and the Middle East. The idea is to bring foreign capital into Miami, a city he has grown to love.
Core Ventures has already made a couple of investments through its new seed fund syndicate – into Zigazoo, a social media for kids solution, and OneRoof, which is building communities within multi-family buildings.
Sözmen’s Miami story may some familiar but it has some twists. Yes, he had visited and even lived in Miami years before and loved it but there wasn’t a there there in tech. But hearing about the Miami movement during the depths of the pandemic, he and his wife wanted to give the city another chance and rented an apartment there from December 2020 to April 2021 prior to launching the fund. Sözmen immediately began making friends in the tech community, including with Demian Bellumio of Miami tech Life, Chris Adamo of Flamingo Capital, an investing group he would share deals with, and Auston Bunsen, co-founder of QuickNode, where he would make an investment, along with investments in Eight Sleep and Upstream. At Casa Tua, he met Miami’s mayor, who invited him to Barry’s the next day with tech founders and soon he was convinced to open a Miami office for Core Ventures, and he did that last March.
Now he spends three to four months here, and as his business in this region grows, the stays might lengthen too. Sözmen’s co-founder, Alper Kiresepi, also Turkish, lives in London but visits often. Their core business, Core Finance, is an advisory that has been advising in the larger rounds for companies such as Brazilian e-commerce company Infracommerce as well as Firefly, a street-level digital media platform out of the US.
Still, the desire was to make earlier bets, at the seed and pre-seed stages, which is where Core Ventures comes into play. At the same time, they were hearing from their network back home: why can’t we invest with you in the States?
“So we said okay, let’s bring foreign capital into Miami and the reason is we are already pretty big in this region but the investors don’t have much access to the US deals, at least not the hottest ones, and we do,” Sözmen said. “And we will support the goal as well.”
“The goal” refers to Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s quest to make Miami the Capital of Capital, not just putting Miami on the map among the world’s great tech hubs but even putting a challenge out there to best San Francisco. Sözmen is all in.
Sözmen is excited about Core Ventures’ first two seed investments. Chris Lyons of Andreessen Horowitz introduced him to Zigazoo. “The founders are amazing.”
Zach and Leah Ringlestein are former teachers who started and exited an edtech company before founding Zigazoo in 2020.
“We’re educators and parents who’ve been trying to make the world a little bit of a better place for kids through technology and we are now the largest social network for kids in the world. We basically create a really safe environment for kids to interact with one another and what they do is they respond to challenges from celebrities like LeBron James to Dolly Parton,” Zak explained.
Zigazoo is headquartered in Miami as of last spring. “We’re here and we want to be part of the scene,” Zak said. “We love being a Miami tech company.”
OneRoof, founded by Selin Sonmez and Nikos Georgantas, is a social network for large multi-unit buildings so that neighbors can get to know each other in smaller, tighter-knit circles, “OneRoof builds a hyper-local social interaction from bottom up to disrupt urban living to become collective, resilient, and decentralized,” Sözmen said in a company email.
Established in New York City last year, OneRoof has expanded into Miami, where the founders are currently based, and is expanding into other major cities soon, including Boston and Los Angeles. OneRoof’s product roadmap also includes a strong web3 element, Sözmen said.
Core Ventures’ seed syndicate invested close to $300,000 in OneRoof and $200,000 in Zigazoo. As the syndicate grows, “we think we’re going to be able to write checks of around a million dollar per deal In Miami. That’s great for us and great for the city too.”
How does Sözmen see Miami now? Like many others, he was amazed by the difference from years past. “We actually put ourselves in a place that’s disruptive rather than being disrupted, and Miami has exceeded my expectations in every way.”
“I think it’s just the beginning, I think it’s sustainable. It’s definitely going to attract more and more people because it’s an amazing, super helpful, super inclusive community,” he continued. In the future, he said, “I think there will be many places for tech, but Miami definitely will be one of the top places for tech.”
Photo at top of post: Core Ventures Co-founders Yaǧiz Sözmen, left, and Alper Kiresepi at a dinner they hosted at Casa Tua in Miami. Photos provided by Core Ventures.
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