Editorials

There’s a new tech engine in Miami — 500 Startups — and it comes bearing cash

Miami Herald Editorial Board

eMerge founder Manny Medina and Pitbull have been local supporters of startups. The eMerge conference is set for April 18.
eMerge founder Manny Medina and Pitbull have been local supporters of startups. The eMerge conference is set for April 18.

A perfect tech marriage has just been created in our own back yard.

We always hear how Miami is packed full of young entrepreneurs with startup ideas, but needing cash to turn them into reality.

500 Startups is here to help.

A deep-pocketed Silicon Valley fund has announced that it will put down roots in Miami, offering a financial leg-up to our burgeoning tech community.

For 500 Startups to choose Miami as its first East Coast branch is something to crow about. The fund has invested $400 million in startup companies such as Credit Karma, Twilio and SendGrid. And 500 Startups is not totally new to Miami — it has been holding programs and events here, including a PreMoney conference.

Fund leaders recognized the benefit of being in Miami because of its importance as an international financial and logistics hub.

And fortunately, local leaders saw the benefit of luring such a fund to the area — and threw money at the quest.

Miami’s Downtown Development Authority will kick in a total of $300,000 to bring 500 Startups to the heart of downtown. The company will occupy 7,200 square feet at the property owned by local coworking company mindwarehouse.

What is the hidden benefit of having a money machine move into our area? Miami’s best and brightest tech players can stay put. That can help cap the local brain drain to the West Coast and elsewhere.

The fund has not yet decided how much it plans to spend on Miami companies and initiatives, but as part of the grant agreement, 500 Startups and the DDA have pledged that 40 percent of the companies the firm supports from its Miami office goes to local ventures, the Miami Herald reported. That will be a game changer for the local tech industry.

Visa and the Knight Foundation are also part of the partnership agreement, with Knight kicking in $1 million over three years to bring the fund here.

“So much media attention is focused on Amazon,” said City Commissioner Ken Russell, chairman of the DDA. As well it should be. There has been a sophisticated three-county push to land the company’s second headquarters — whether in Miami or elsewhere in South Florida. Winning would mean a huge economic payoff for the region.

“But,” Russell continues, “when you’re growing an ecosystem and entrepreneurial culture, it’s important to find, attract and incentivize groups like 500 Startups,” he told the Herald. He’s right, it’s a savvy strategy. The ripple effect as its funding creates more jobs, more tax revenue and more committed residents can’t be dismissed.

The fund’s work is impressive. In a nutshell, it teaches entrepreneurs how to take their ideas to fruition, start a company and succeed.

The venture capital firm says it is on a mission “to discover and back the world’s most talented entrepreneurs, help them create successful companies at scale and build thriving global ecosystems.”

Since its inception in 2010, the fund, which has a diverse workforce, not only offers capital but support services to thousands of entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries. Outside investors keep the coffers full.

And here’s another potential benefit to attracting such a prestigious fund, maybe, just maybe Amazon, will be so impressed that Miami is the new home to 500 Startups that we’ll get a closer look.

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