Laura González-Estéfani is one of those people who asks where the abyss is — and then walks on the edge of danger.
“I’m extremely ingenious,” said the Spanish entrepreneur, founder and chief executive officer of TheVentureCity, a Miami technology investment fund, which has seven companies in the city and since 2017 has invested in 100 companies worldwide.
Today González-Estéfani’s world is her company, sniffing out where the next innovation and talent is, to put the money there and multiply it — while the entrepreneurship grows in the fields of finance, health, power grids, or blockchain, the technology that allows cryptocurrency to exist.
“We invest in early stage technology companies,” she said.
Five years ago, González-Estéfani saw that Miami had all the necessary ingredients to become a global technology epicenter, like Shanghai, and wondered what she was doing in Silicon Valley.
“Sometimes you make bets that work and others that don’t, but this one worked wonderfully for me,” she acknowledged. One of the companies she invested in, Returnly, was sold for $300 million last year.
Before Miami, there was Madrid and California.
“I am hopelessly Spanish, born in 1976 in Madrid. I breathe my beloved country through every pore of my skin,” she said. “I have always been very sincere, very direct and very brave. People would call it ambition, but it has such a complicated connotation that I prefer to describe my character in multiple words.”
As an entrepreneur, one of her greatest triumphs has been the team she has put together, which she describes as extraordinary. Team members have built companies, sold them, raised capital, and want to invest in the next generation.
“I have always surrounded myself with very brave people. Opportunities cannot be missed, because there are those who don’t have them.”
The seed of an entrepreneur
But there was a time before she became an expert in Miami’s growth as a technological center.
“I studied audiovisual communication. I wanted to be an actress, but my father didn’t let me. He told me that I was too dramatic, that I didn’t need to go to a drama school,” said González-Estéfani.
At 21, fresh out of college, she decided to follow in her father’s footsteps. He was an entrepreneur, and got “into that crazy world of the internet.”
“Nobody knows more about the internet than I do because nobody knows anything,” she said to herself back then. She created a tourist portal about beaches.
The idea was that travelers would first choose the beach that they liked the most, and then they would be offered a hotel at the portal. They would then take video to provide visual content.
But then came the dot.com bubble. The sites went down, and no one wanted to invest in a business that seemed destined to disappear.
A Miami entrepreneur wisdom for business
Her first venture failed, but then González-Estéfani’s career took a path that led her to today.
She was one of the first eBay employees in Europe and one of the first Facebook employees globally. She launched the social network in Spain and several European countries and then moved to Silicon Valley to develop Facebook in Latin America.
From there she got a few lessons in business wisdom. She became an “old dog,” as she says.
“I learned to be more aware, to make decisions based on facts instead of just intuition,” she said.
She also knows that diversity of thought is key to building a global business, a fact she learned in Silicon Valley, where her team had people from all over the world.
TheVentureCity team is made up of more than 40 people, half of them women. They are located in Madrid, Miami, San Francisco and Sao Paulo, from where they plan to extend throughout Latin America.
Also, 40 percent of the technological entrepreneurship that TheVentureCity bets on is created by women.
Questions and answers
Why have you decided to invest in women’s businesses?
“I have not given them the capital because they are women, but because they are authentic and fantastic. I see in them nothing different from what I see in a man. They are total geniuses.”
What does Miami need to further advance in technology?
“More private capital is needed to invest in Miami.”
Startups and large companies in South Florida saw $5.33 billion invested last year, well above the $2.27 billion in 2020, according to figures from this year’s eMerge Americas conference in Miami.
And while venture capital investment in startups in Greater Miami has increased, a “fund of funds” is still needed because there are many entrepreneurs, but not enough capital to help them all, González-Estéfani said.
“Miami needs more success stories,” she said. “Technology ecosystems start with entrepreneurs, who find investors, then sell their companies. Everyone makes a lot of money, and the entrepreneurs end up investing again.”
González-Estéfani has been chosen by industry peers for the Aspen Institute’s Henry Crown Fellowship, named after a Chicago industrialist and philanthropist.
This fellowship aims to prepare successful business leaders who are driving change in their communities and in society, giving them the tools to tackle some of the world’s toughest problems.
“I felt very honored, with enormous gratitude, because I am the immigrant in this country, and the people with whom I am going to work and learn are spectacular,” she said.
For two years, González-Estéfani will share classes and meetings with leaders of companies such as TikTok and Duolingo. Also chosen from Miami were Venezuelan businesswoman Adriana Cisneros, CEO of Grupo Cisneros, and Bolivian businessman and investor Marcelo Claure, former CEO of SoftBank Group International.
And doesn’t success go to your head?
“Success doesn’t go to my head. What I like is raising the people around me to success.”
This story was origi
nally published May 6, 2022 12:14 PM.