The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

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    First class of Miami Venture for America Fellows help expand region’s entrepreneurial community

    June 27, 2016, 9 a.m., Posted by Jesse Golomb

    Photo: 2014 and 2015 Miami Venture for America Fellows. Photo courtesy Venture for America 

    When Russell Suskind moved his business to Miami, he was unsure if he had made the right choice. “You grow up in South Florida and leave for college, and you don’t typically move back,” he said. “It felt like a leap of faith.”

    This month, Suskind and six other young entrepreneurs will celebrate the conclusion of their time as Miami’s inaugural class of Venture for America Fellows. But he almost wasn’t one of them.

    A Hollywood, Florida, native and founder of Doze, an online mattress retailer, Suskind was initially skeptical about whether his startup could thrive in Miami. “I always thought most of the business in Miami was in the hospitality and service industries,” he said. 

    He was swayed by reports from his Miami-based peers in Venture for America, a two-year fellowship program that funnels aspiring entrepreneurs into mid-sized American cities, and whose Miami efforts have been supported by Knight with more than $360,000 since 2014. “The fellows down here were not only enjoying their jobs, but the growth of entrepreneurship in the city,” Suskind said.

    And so, after initially cofounding Doze in Detroit, another Knight community, Suskind relocated to Miami last September, where he joined the six other fellows who for more than a year had been working in various capacities around the city. At the same time, he was joined by a second class — this one 10 fellows strong.

    “When I got back [from Detroit], we said, ‘Let’s really do this. Let’s put our foot on the gas pedal and let’s make Miami our home.’”

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    Media Innovation

    Crisis Text Line raises $23.8 million to scale services

    June 27, 2016, 8:58 a.m., Posted by Liz Eddy

    Liz Eddy is director of communications at Crisis Text Line, which has received more than $4 million from Knight Foundation, including $2.2 million last week, to develop, grow and promote a new model for digital engagement.

    Each year, 65 million Americans suffer from mental illness. Many of these individuals never reach out for help due to lack of access to care, stigma surrounding mental health, anxiety disorders and beyond. Crisis Text Line recognized this need and developed a service that meets people where they are: on their cellphones. By providing free, 24/7 crisis support via text message, anyone in the U.S. can receive confidential mental health support without ever saying a word out loud.

    We launched quietly in Chicago and El Paso, Texas, in August 2013. Within the first four months, the service spread to all 295 area codes in the U.S. The craziest part? No official marketing was involved. Our organic growth proved the dire need for a platform where people can silently text in for support, anywhere and anytime.

    Since the launch, over 19 million text messages have been exchanged between texters and volunteer crisis counselors, with an average of 50,000 texts per day. With the initial and continued support of Knight Foundation, we can keep supporting these texters via our community of 1,500 crisis counselors. That number is projected to grow more than double in the next two years. If you are interested in applying to be a remote, volunteer crisis counselor apply here.

    On June 16, we announced a $23.8 million round with Knight as one of the contributors. Here’s what we plan to do with that funding:

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    Miami’s Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp recruits third cohort with Knight support

    June 23, 2016, 2:29 p.m., Posted by Rebecca Fishman Lipsey

    Above: #SEBootcamp team-builder at offices of  Akerman in Miami. Photo by Ekaterina Juskowski.

    Rebecca Fishman Lipsey is CEO of Radical Partners and founder of the Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, which Knight Foundation is supporting with $25,000 in scholarship funding to invest in Miami’s emerging innovators and entrepreneurs as a tool to build community, while fostering talent and expanding economic opportunity.

    Sam Hyken is building a genre-bending orchestra with sold-out shows and a cult following. Dara Schoenwald’s 2,000 volunteers pulled more than 100,000 pounds of trash from our local beaches this year. Willie Avendano is running summer camps in two locations where kids will code, design video games and explore virtual reality. 

    And for 10 weeks, these three entrepreneurs joined eight other local leaders to focus on growing their ventures and building a community for themselves: founders with a cause. Welcome to Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, a professional development space for founders of community-changing organizations hosted by Radical Partners in partnership with AkermanIN.

    #SEBootcamp Cohort 2 selfie. Photo by Ben Evans III.

    Applications for Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp’s Cohort 3 are open until July 29, and with support from Knight Foundation, we’re excited to offer scholarships to those in need. The 12-week program focuses on pitching, long-term planning, fundraising, growing a team, time management, branding and sustainability.

    Ideal candidates have launched an organization (for profit or nonprofit) that is successfully addressing an issue that matters to the future of cities and communities.

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