Entrepreneurship

Angel investor group widens its reach with Knight grant

 

Accelerated Growth Partners has relaunched with plans to expand funding network for South Florida’s early-stage companies.

ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com

Accelerated Growth Partners, a Miami-based angel investment group, will expand its offerings and create a more-organized network of early-stage investors in South Florida with a $211,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Accelerated Growth Partners began growing a couple of years ago when two groups of investors combined. The group invites entrepreneurs seeking funding to pitch their businesses, and members can decide individually whether to fund them. Several Miami startups have received substantial early-stage funding from AGP investors, including LiveNinja, Kairos and Mela Artisans (formerly MyMela).

With Knight funding, AGP relaunched this week and will focus on expanding its network of active angel investors and adding investor-education workshops aimed at broadening the pool of investors interested in early-stage ventures. It also plans to help establish a venture capital fund for early-stage South Florida entrepreneurs.

“Better connecting entrepreneurs to investors is crucial, and this helps do that. Entrepreneurs here need to be able to have their ideas validated by funding,” said Matt Haggman, the Knight Foundation’s program director for Miami.

The investor-education programming widens AGP’s mission, Haggman said. “There is significant wealth here. The thinking is that through investor education, some of that can be directed to early-stage investments.”

New Managing Director Nico Berardi will lead the effort, acting as a connector between entrepreneurs and prospective investors. He has been building relationships with groups such as the Angel Research Institute, the Angel Capital Association and the Florida Venture Forum, he said.

Berardi will be paid a salary through the Knight funding, not by commissions or in any other way linked to investments, he said. He is the former U.S. CEO for Techo, a nonprofit organization that mobilizes youth volunteers to fight extreme poverty in Latin America, and under his watch the organization expanded and fundraising doubled.

“Over 60 accredited investors attended the first meeting of the relaunch [on Tuesday], more than we expected. ... The interest is here, the capital is here, we just need to piece it all together,” said Berardi, who came aboard about a month ago and hopes to work with entrepreneurial organizations throughout South Florida. “I really want to be the connector in the community in the angel and seed space. I am relentless, and I just want to see the good startups matched up with the appropriate investors.”

AGP’s board of directors includes active Miami angel investors Juan Pablo Cappello, Andy Sturner, Daniel Echavarria and Marco Giberti, who together have funded more than 40 startups in South Florida and around the Americas.

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