Like the South By Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, and Miami Beach’s Art Basel, eMerge will incorporate lots of music, culture, celebrities and private parties, the organizers say. There will be auxiliary events, too, including Florida International University’s Americas Venture Capital Conference. Just before eMerge, there are plans for a mayoral summit involving officials from many Latin American, European and U.S. cities. The idea is that there will be a Miami Tech Week — a full week or more of activities.
“The hope is that this conference will be the spark — some of the VCs open shop, some of the companies establish themselves here, education happening, that’s the plan. It’s a gargantuan plan,” said Medina.
“We are evolving into a tech corridor, and this is the first event to show what we have and what we are working toward, and we’ll keep building every year,” added Sanchez.
While Miami has a long history of being highly entrepreneurial, there’s an economic problem: The great majority of the businesses stay very small.
The number of micro-businesses (10 or fewer employees) in the Miami metropolitan area has increased more than 200 percent from 2000 through 2012, while the numbers of medium and small businesses increased only slightly — roughly the same rate as population growth in the metropolitan area during that time. The number of large businesses dropped by more than 20 percent from 2000 through 2012, which indicates that few small and medium businesses are growing to replace the large businesses that have been lost, according to Endeavor research based on Dun & Bradstreet data.
Endeavor is all about the scale-up. The nonprofit selects high-impact entrepreneurs to mentor and gives them the network and resources to help them grow fast, adding hundreds of jobs to the economy.
“There are a lot of initiatives for the startup community, and the Knight Foundation’s work is a critical piece ... but there’s no organization that coaches from startup to scale-up in a systematic fashion,” explained Danny Echavarria, director of Organización Corona and vice chair of Endeavor Miami. “Endeavor brings best of breed mentors and a global network for the scale-up process.”
To be chosen as an Endeavor Entrepreneur, there are three ingredients, said Laura Maydón, Endeavor Miami’s managing director. The entrepreneur must be a leader and potential role model who wants to stay in Miami and give back to the community. The business model should be be high-growth and proven and the timing must be right — the company needs to be at an “inflection point” such as ready to grow internationally.
Before opening its doors in donated office space in Open English’s Coconut Grove headquarters, the organization assembled a local board who then hired the managing director. Endeavor Miami, backed by a combined $5 million commitment from The Knight Foundation and Endeavor’s board, literally launched last week.
“We spent a lot of time thinking about our founding board,” said Adriana Cisneros, CEO of the Cisneros Group of Companies and chair of Endeavor Miami. “The challenge is that Miami can be transient. We wanted board members who were committed to Endeavor and Miami for years and years to come.”
Endeavor Miami hopes to assemble a small group of South Florida’s highest-quality entrepreneurs to present at the Endeavor Global selection panel in Dubai in December. Next year there will be several opportunities to present more. In the past 15 years, Endeavor Global has selected more than 800 high-impact entrepreneurs. In 2012, these entrepreneurs generated $6 billion in revenue and had created 225,000 jobs, according to Endeavor. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to be at this moment,” Matt Haggman said about Endeavor Miami’s launch. The Miami program director for the Knight Foundation initiated the talks to bring Endeavor to Miami.
The goal for the first year, Maydón said, is to find Endeavor Miami’s first high-impact entrepreneurs. “I will focus on those entrepreneurs who are defining their strategies here in South Florida, and most importantly that they really want to stay here and give back. I hope that five years from now we will look back and we will have so many success stories,” said Maydón, who welcomes high-impact entrepreneurs from all industries. “We will find those great stories.”
Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg. South Florida startup and technology news can be found on the Starting Gate blog on MiamiHerald.com/business.