Miami: Building community through innovation

communities / Article

September 7, 2017 by Chris Caines

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Photo by Matthew Paulson on Flickr

Today, Knight is announcing $590,000 in support to three projects that will foster community among entrepreneurs and tech innovators while advancing Miami as a diverse and inclusive innovation hub.

Over the past five years, Knight Foundation has invested more than $28 million to support Miami’s entrepreneurs, startups and doers of all kinds. This funding has been used by organizations to make Miami a city where ideas can be built and scaled. Among Knight’s investments are events and spaces for entrepreneurs and innovators to connect, such as The LAB Miami and Black Tech Week; talent development including The Idea Center at Miami Dade College and Launchcode; and opportunities to expand access to high-level mentors and capital, such as Endeavor Miami and Accelerated Growth Partners.

Knight’s support of Miami’s emerging innovators and entrepreneurs has always had a wider goal:  To build community, while fostering talent and expanding economic opportunity. That is, we support entrepreneurship as a means to make communities and the people who live in them more successful. In Miami, the aspiration is that this prosperity will, in turn, take the shape of economic as well as social, political, and cultural capital for people and ideas across the city.

Lately, we’ve been thinking a lot about two questions: (1) How can our investments help ensure innovation is extended equitably across Miami? (2) How can we break down the silos that separate people in the ecosystem from each other?

Similar to many other parts of our society, there are barriers in the innovation ecosystem that can prevent people in our community from participating. Knight has funded intentional efforts to break down these barriers. With initial support form Knight, The Idea Center at Miami Dade College, the largest and most diverse campus-based college in the nation, has grown into a thriving innovation and entrepreneurial hub. Programs such as Girls Who Code, NewME Accelerator, Black Tech Week and Digital Grass have also worked promote diversity and close the opportunity gap in technology and engineering.

Within the entrepreneurial ecosystem, Knight has also sought to help break down silos that separate innovators, entrepreneurs, and organizations from each other. Innovation is not a zero-sum game and everyone in our community brings unique strengths and perspectives that make Miami and its entrepreneurial ecosystem stronger.

We have seen this play out with investments in activities that bind and connect people, such as The LAB Miami. The LAB opened its 10,000-square-foot campus in 2012, offering co-working space and community programming with initial funding from Knight Foundation. Since then, more than 50,000 people have attended The LAB’s events and over 150 startups—from social innovation startups to media companies— have launched there.

Similarly, Endeavor Miami, a global leader in building entrepreneurial ecosystems, opened its first U.S. affiliate in Miami in 2013 with Knight support. Already, 24 Miami entrepreneurs representing 15 companies have been selected as Endeavor Entrepreneurs, putting them on track for high-growth opportunities.

These are just a few examples of intentional efforts to bring people and ideas together. The sum of our ecosystem is greater than its parts, and further investment in collaborations aimed at increasing venture capital investment, easier access to talent and career opportunities, and a focus on building Miami’s brand as a global innovation hub is necessary.

Knight Foundation has resources, but we look to you for answers. As Miami’s entrepreneurial ecosystem continues to grow and Knight Foundation continues to invest, we welcome your thoughts, criticisms, suggestions and ideas on how our support can create lasting impact.

Chris Caines is interim Miami program director at Knight you can reach him at [email protected]; his Twitter and Instagram is @chrisocaines.

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