Thomas “Tigre” Wenrich is CEO of The LAB Miami and LAB.Ventures. Today Knight Foundation, an original investor in The LAB Miami, is announcing a new investment of $1.1 million to help expand The LAB’s programming and expand economic opportunity for South Florida’s entrepreneurs.
Miami has a vibrant tech startup community and one of the highest rates of new business creation in the country, yet has been criticized as a difficult place to scale a successful business. Early-stage startups and large corporations have historically each existed within their own separate worlds. At The LAB Miami, we have noticed an important shift in how the corporate world thinks about innovation and digital disruption; big companies are gradually moving away from the “us versus them” mentality towards a model for open innovation. With the launch of LAB.Ventures and LAB.ID, we are capitalizing on this trend by helping these two worlds collide.
As Miami’s first and best co-working space, The LAB Miami has been the launch pad for over 150 startups since it opened in 2012. More than 50,000 people have passed through The LAB to attend a seminar, party, hackathon or conference. Executives from large corporations have found The LAB to be a creative haven where their teams can break from routine and interact with a lively entrepreneurial community. Our current membership includes such diverse creative businesses as the Wyncode Academy (Miami’s first coding boot camp), Zak the Baker, WashMyWhip (an on-demand waterless car wash app), and Klangbox (an internet-only radio station). The LAB was recently rated the No. 1 co-working space in South Florida and we continue to be the go-to place for entrepreneurs when they come to the region.
Leveraging this incredible network, we are launching LAB.Ventures, a “venture builder” that aims to create game-changing new businesses in partnership with the region’s best entrepreneurial talent and leading corporations. We recently received an initial capital commitment of $1.1 million from Knight Foundation and are in the final stages of raising a multiple of that from other private investors. My partners and I have over 100 years of collective experience building businesses and advising, mentoring and investing in startups, including Open English and Patagon.com. We are highly experienced on both the corporate and the startup side of the equation and will now bridge the divide. Unfortunately, far too many new businesses develop incredible technology and products to only then go out in search of a problem to solve. By working closely with corporate partners, we will turn this model upside down, starting with the biggest business problems and then developing technology solutions that can add real world value.
LAB.ID, our new innovation and disruption initiative, will also work to bridge the corporate and startup worlds by offering best-in-class programs and events. Having already produced LAB.ID sessions for several banks from Florida and Latin America, we are building out curricula in other verticals that are key for the South Florida economy, including health care, media, and hospitality and tourism. LAB.ID Sessions are two- to three-day customized events and workshops produced for a single company, to help their executive team confront digital disruption and refine their innovation strategy.
With the support of Knight Foundation, LAB.ID will also produce a wide variety of public events to help entrepreneurs glean insights on scaling their businesses, reaching the corporate market and engaging with executive leadership. Programming includes hackathons (including an upcoming Bitcoin hackathon and a Disrupting Media Through Sound hackathon), reverse pitch events where corporations pitch their industry problems to potential hackers, the Growth Hackers digital marketing training series, and Brainfood, The LAB’s speaker series featuring insider tips from successful entrepreneurs.
Our goals are to help local entrepreneurs improve and scale their businesses, work with corporations to confront the challenges of digital disruption by building incredible new businesses, and in the process, contribute to making Miami a more dynamic and successful economy.