SoftBank Capital has raised $54 million in funds, mainly through a $51 million investment of state pension funds, that it will use to invest in early stage technology companies that are located in New York. SoftBank also is contributing $3 million of its own funds.
The New York investments will be overseen by Jordan Levy, a Buffalo-based venture capitalist who is a partner at SoftBank Capital NY.
“We’re in Buffalo. We’re in New York, so we’re looking at whatever deals we can find,” Levy said.
The latest funds will be focused on investments in technology companies that already have developed to the point where they are generating sales at an annualized rate of $1 million to $5 million, Levy said.
“We don’t do super-early stage companies,” Levy said. “We’re not doing science fairs. We’re not doing incubators.”
Levy last year co-founded the Z80 Labs incubator in Buffalo for technology startups in Western New York. Startups, like the ones at Z80, would not qualify for funding through the SoftBank venture fund because they have not advanced to the point where they are generating significant sales.
Levy noted that SoftBank Capital invested in a series of New York technology startups through an early fund that it created eight years ago, also with funding from the New York State Common Retirement Fund. That fund made successful investments in New York-based companies such as Buddy Media, which was acquired by Salesforce.com, the Huffington Post, which was purchased by AOL, and OMGPop, which was sold to Zynga.
The latest funds will be used for investments across New York State. SoftBank already has committed 20 percent of the latest funding to a $10 million investment in Work Market, a Long Island company that manages an online marketplace for managing contractors and freelancers.
“This new $50 million commitment will help provide risk-adjusted returns to fund state and local pension benefits while increasing opportunities for New York businesses to expand and grow the state’s economy,” state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said in a statement.
SoftBank Capital currently has 32 active investments in New York companies. Most of the investments from the additional funding will be funneled to technology companies involved in social media, e-commerce and software, Levy said.
The additional funding could help ease a chronic shortage of venture capital in upstate New York, where many early stage companies have complained that it is difficult to attract funding from firms that often focus on technology hotbeds, such as the Silicon Valley and New York City.
While SoftBank previously has invested in successful Buffalo Niagara technology companies, such as Campus Labs and Synacor Inc., Levy said there are relatively few tech firms in upstate New York that have built their sales to the level that SoftBank’s investment guidelines require.
“We would clearly like to find investment opportunities in Buffalo and other places in New York,” he said.