ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Knight Foundation nurtures an ecosystem of innovators

 
 
MCT
MCT
Tuma / MCT

haggman@knightfoundation.org

It was two years ago this week that the Knight Foundation announced a new bet on Miami. Alongside our ongoing work in the arts, we decided to invest in our city’s emerging innovators and entrepreneurs as a way to build community.

The goal of the effort is to help make Miami more of a place where ideas are built. The outcomes we’re seeking: greater talent retention, stronger sense of place and possibility and a more-robust community of problem solvers.

Fueling the effort is a belief that, as Miami continues to evolve, it increasingly has the elements to be a center for innovation, technology and high-impact entrepreneurship.

Miami possesses entrepreneurial zeal, ranking first per capita in entrepreneurial activity among all U.S. metropolitan areas last year. Its population is uniquely diverse. The urban core is swiftly urbanizing and its cultural life flourishing. It possesses a large and growing university system, ranking seventh nationally in college students per capita.

A rapidly changing Miami is presenting new opportunities. Thus far, we have made more than 70 investments totaling some $6.5 million in entrepreneurship initiatives across Miami. Our approach, however, is not to invest in companies. Rather, it’s to help create an ecosystem.

This includes connecting entrepreneurs, providing mentorship support, building the talent base and attracting capital and investment — all the while, championing successes as we grow and diversify our base of entrepreneurs.

A few examples of Knight Foundation-supported projects include:

• Endeavor, a global leader in building entrepreneurial eco-systems, which opened its first U.S. affiliate last year in Miami. Endeavor Miami provides mentor support and access to funding for high-potential entrepreneurs ready to scale-up a new idea. Already, five Miami entrepreneurs have been selected as Endeavor Entrepreneurs.

• Refresh Miami, which holds monthly meet-ups to connect the tech community. It has grown from 3,000 members to 8,600 in the past year. It now ranks as the largest tech meet-up group in the southeast United States, according to co-founder Brian Breslin.

• The LAB Miami, which opened a year ago in Wynwood to offer work space for entrepreneurs, and events and educational workshops. It is now home to 140 entrepreneurs. In its first year, it had more than 23,000 visitors at events.

• Girls Who Code and Code Now, which each launched this summer in Miami. They are working to close the opportunity gap in technology and engineering.

• eMerge Americas, the annual tech conference. The Knight Foundation was a founding funder. eMerge Americas drew more than 6,000 attendees in its inaugural year.

New grants in recent weeks include Accelerated Growth Partners, which holds pitch sessions to connect early-stage entrepreneurs with local investors and offers investor-education workshops; and Venture for America and Enstitute, organizations that pair young talent with high-growth ventures.

As we pursue this, we are idea agnostic. We are seeking to build an ecosystem that helps doers build whatever idea they choose, no matter the industry or whether it’s for-profit, designed for social impact or focused on government innovation.

In doing so, we hope to help create a pay-it-forward environment that supports and propels entrepreneurs, but at the same time paves the way for those who are successful to be funders and mentors for the next wave.

We see evidence of it already.

Consider two examples. Miami-based tech company .CO recently sold for $109 million, and its young leaders are now investing in Miami entrepreneurs, including building a new co-working space in Brickell.

The founder of Open English, the online English-language learning school, which has raised more than $100 million in venture capital from its base in Coconut Grove, joined the Endeavor Miami board and is mentoring rising entrepreneurs.

There are many similar examples. Some are starting to notice this shift, including reports in the Miami Herald, Ocean Drive, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal. The French daily newspaper Le Figaro even highlighted this refocused and newly energized Miami in an article published late last year with the headline, A SiliconValley hatches under the palm trees of Florida.

To be sure, Miami will never be Silicon Valley, nor should it strive to be. The city will cut its own path. But with each day it is increasingly clear that a new Miami is rapidly taking flight.

Matt Haggman is The Knight Foundation’s Miami program director.

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

  • CIVIL UNREST

    It can happen here, if we let it

    America’s urban cores have, in many cases, been abandoned by the powerful, dissected by highways that destroy a feeling of community and neglected in the apportionment of educational opportunities. The combination of external neglect and internal dysfunction has engendered explosive conditions — an undercurrent of anger that is easily made into a combustible mixture by the use of deadly force, typically involving a white police officer and a black citizen.

  •  
PUTNEY

    FLORIDA RACES

    Disgusted with smarmy campaigns

    How seriously should we take the candidates on the November ballot? As seriously as they take the big issues, which is not very.

  • In My Opinion

    Ray Rice’s fans are too quick to forgive

    “I think they’re going too far with Ray Rice.”

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category