Seven years ago, Knight Foundation embarked on a journey to accompany Miami in its quest to become a global hub for innovation and high-growth entrepreneurship.
Our decision was rooted in the belief that Miami’s entrepreneurial spirit, combined with the rise of global technology, could be transformational in terms of job creation, wealth generation and growing our residents’ attachment to the city.
Early on, we helped connect a fragmented entrepreneurial ecosystem. Knight invested in co-working and innovation hubs — including spaces such as LAB Miami and the Idea Center, and platforms such as Black Men Talk Tech and eMerge Americas — which gave our community the physical space to come together. We also prioritized opportunities that expanded entrepreneurs’ access to funding and mentorship. Our support of Endeavor Miami, 500 Startups, Miami Angels and Babson College’s WIN Lab exemplify this.
Miami’s ability to attract and grow high-impact businesses has only gotten stronger in the following years. Early-stage companies like Neocis, Papa and Addigy are growing quickly, and recently acquired startups — Farelogix, e-Builder and Ultimate Software — demonstrate Miami’s ability to scale companies that have global impact.
We’ve drawn on the experiences of those who have gone before us in building thriving entrepreneurial hubs. We noticed a few things about the places where entrepreneurs not only found the resources needed to build a successful company, but were excited about being in that specific place.
Chief among these traits was the sense of community, especially among founders of startups, that a city offered. Ecosystems with high levels of “local connectedness” among founders and their peers, investors and experts also have high levels of startup success.
We’re now homing in on three areas where we believe we can play a role in enabling Miami’s startup ecosystem to reach the next level:
Strengthening connections between the local network of founders, investors and high-potential talent.
Creating avenues for new talent — from longtime Miami residents to newcomers — to discover and participate in the city’s growing startup community.
Attracting new investors, both those outside the region and those already living here.
In support of these goals, Knight Foundation has announced more than $1 million in new funding for eight projects that seek to accelerate Miami’s rise as a place where world-class innovators can create lasting change for the city and beyond. These endeavors — and our support of them — are a reflection of the intentionality with which Miami is building its capacity for high-growth entrepreneurship.
Investment groups like Black Angels Miami and Function Collective are creating funding networks for entrepreneurs to access. Through our investments in organizations like Passport by Venture Cafe Miami, Out In Tech, 1 Million Cups, Black Men Talk Tech, we’re strengthening local connections among founders. Craftspeople and the UM’s Miami Herbert Business School Venture Leaders Lecture Series are growing the pipeline of expertise and mentors available to local entrepreneurs.
With deliberate focus, our city is seeking ways to make funding accessible, grow a startup community that reflects all of Miami, and help elevate our city into the global flow of talent and ideas that are shaping our world.
Monica Black, managing director of Function Collective said it best: “Miami is a city that is eager to grow, evolve and meaningfully participate in the technology-driven future of business. Its people are resourceful, talented and tenacious. I want to help expose this side of Miami to the rest of the world.”
We couldn’t agree more.