Here is a look at the strategies of four organizations working to nurture the entrepreneurial ecosystem:
The LAB Miami
In a year, The LAB Miami has grown from one room to a 10,000-square-foot space in Wynwood, with 130 members representing 85 organizations, four or five events every week, more than 9,500 visitors to date and a growing roster of educational programming open to the community.
From hosting hackathons and civic “idea jams” to teaching a coding class or showing a film series, the aptly named LAB is constantly testing new events and classes at the artsy co-working center that intermingles all the creative industries. Wifredo Fernandez and Danny Lafuente, co-founders of The LAB, said their members are also stepping up to host events and hold classes, and corporations have been taking an interest, too.
“Look around at what Wifredo and Danny have built here,” said Peter Martinez, co-director of Refresh Miami, at a recent “Tech Swizzle” networker hosted at The LAB for people in tech, music and the arts. “This is a real community. This is a place where everyone wants to be.”
Going into the next year, look for a greater focus on the skills needed in the marketplace, youth development and corporate innovation, said Fernandez. In physical space, The LAB, a for-profit center funded by the Knight Foundation and a group of local angel investors, is just about at capacity. “We want to grow within Wynwood,” he said, adding that The LAB may add a space nearby for events and more offices.
As for The LAB’s educational efforts, expect more multiweek classes on specific skills needed in the tech marketplace, said Fernandez. “We’ve been testing out lots of topics: Ruby on Rails, 3D printing, Python web development. Now we are interesting in having more focused courses startups and technologists need in South Florida — courses like digital marketing, product management. Some training will come from a digital platform developed by member startup LearnerNation.
“We want to create a talent loop — the talent comes in and receives training here for eight to 10 weeks and then will have job opportunities,” Fernandez said.
The LAB is also working with LearnerNation and another local startup, DemoHire, to create a project around talent development and jobs, he said. “Everything we do here is a collaboration.”
The LAB has held workshops for middle and high school students, such as all-day coding classes called Code Fever and Hopscotch, and it wants to do much more in this area. These could be after-school events or Saturday workshops, he said.
Another trend is corporate innovation. “We are seeing corporations that want to innovate; they want to plug into the startup community and the creative community, and this is a turnkey way for them to do so,” Fernandez said. Companies like Akerman Senterfitt, MasterCard and Discovery Channel have become members and are planning events for the membership. He sees more corporations setting up “innovation labs” at The LAB.
Longer term, Fernandez would like to find a way to house more startups at all three stages — early, middle and late. For now, he points to successes like DemoHire. “Tamara [Brenes, founder of DemoHire] found her first programmer here, her first investor here; she grew her team to seven or eight and then moved out but is still very involved as a member.”