By Riley Kaminer
In 2016, Wall Street veteran Jeff Ransdell retired from his post as one of the leaders of Merrill Lynch’s global wealth management business, where he was responsible for a $2 billion P&L.
But Ransdell has an unusual take on ‘retirement.’ In 2017, he founded Miami-based Fuel Venture Capital, which has since amassed $400M of assets under management.
“Everyone thought I lost my damn mind,” Ransdell told Refresh Miami, referring to the early days of founding Fuel. “Everyone said, ‘You’re going to be in venture capital, you certainly aren’t going to be in Miami. You need to be in New York. You need to be in San Francisco.’ Respectfully, I couldn’t disagree more.”
That bet has clearly paid off, with South Florida tech investment figures at all-time highs. Fuel, which primarily invests at Series A and beyond, has deployed $100M to South Florida companies alone. 10 out of the 33 companies in Fuel’s portfolio have deep connections to South Florida, including Taxfyle, SoStereo, Ubicquia, Recargapay and Bolt Mobility.
In March, one of Fuel’s South Florida startups, Boca Raton-based Terran Orbital, went public at a $1.8 billion valuation. The company, which is a pioneer in the development and operation of small satellites and earth observation solutions, counts NASA and the U.S. Defense Department among its customer base.
Ransdell asserted that the Miami tech scene has grown significantly since 2017, referring to the change as “night and day.”
“When we were the angel investor for TaxFyle, there just wasn’t a lot to choose from,” said Ransdell. “Now it’s the polar opposite. There are lots of great companies, great founders, and some really exciting things going on here.”
Ransdell also noted that in Miami tech founders in 2017 were much more reliant on local capital. “Your only hope for funding was a Miami VC or angel,” he explained. In comparison, now we are seeing a frenzy of capital flocking to Florida from around the US and the world.
In this more active and competitive space, what’s Fuel’s role? Ransdell doesn’t see VC as a zero-sum game. “Venture capital is not about land grabs. It’s about partnerships.”
“The more institutional investors that are in Miami, the better it is for founders and our portfolio companies,” Ransdell continued. “That leads to exponentially better results for our investors.” Fuel VC’s investors include a mix of global institutions, family offices, and ultra high net worth individuals.
Maggie Vo, a GP at Fuel and the fund’s Chief Investment Officer, also highlighted a handful of advantages Miami has over other tech ecosystems. Top of the list: proximity to Latin America.
“A lot of my founders in Miami find software development talent in Latin America,” she said. Vo also highlighted the opportunity for startups to serve both customers in the US and Latin America by using Miami as their base. Randsdell added the further benefit of access to strong capital markets when it’s time to go public – one of Fuel’s major areas of strength.
While Vo noted that Fuel does not focus on web3 since most companies in the space are too early stage for the VC, Ransdell underscored its importance in our local ecosystem. “Miami has a very strong presence with crypto and web3, and there are a lot of great funds and great leadership in that area,” he said. However, the firm is very active in fintech, with its second fund having been solely focused on that subsector.
READ MORE ON REFRESH MIAMI:
- Miami area startups snagged more than $1B in VC in Q1. Here are the top deals
- Taxfyle raises $20M Series B round, plans to grow its team by 100+
- Terran Orbital, a leader in small satellites, goes public on NYSE; Early investor Fuel VC celebrates an exit
- Longtime Miami music tech startup SoStereo connects brands with top artists
- Brain drain to brain gain? Bolt founder and hometown boy Ryan Breslow is checking out Miami
- Blink Charging CEO Brendan Jones envisions a charged future for EVs - November 27, 2023
- SureImpact is pioneering data-driven social change, from Ohio to Miami - November 21, 2023
- Now in its 10th year, FilmGate is bringing the latest in interactive filmmaking to Miami - November 20, 2023