When I first started doing events in Miami in 2013, the idea of being based in Miami wasn’t even a thought. At the time, all the advice I had been given was that Silicon Valley was the place to be... especially if you wanted to be taken seriously. I subscribed to this thinking, too: I launched NewME in Silicon Valley in 2011 and lived there through 2015.
However, the more I traveled, the more my viewpoint changed. The more I spoke with entrepreneurs the more I realized the complete opposite of the gospel that was being preached in the Silicon Valley echo chamber. In fact, working with minority entrepreneurs allowed me to see that we had our own requirements and needs that weren’t being met, simply because everyone was so focused on forcing us to conform to their way of doing business instead of meeting us where we were. So, like any smart entrepreneur, I decided to pivot our 12-week, equity-only model—a format many other accelerators use—to something more digestible and reasonable. Ninety percent of the entrepreneurs I was working with had full-time jobs; it seemed unfair to force them to upheave their lives, livelihoods and sometimes even their families to simply access the information and resources they needed for their businesses. It also seemed silly to force them to give up equity in businesses that they were still trying to figure out.
We started testing a one-week accelerator model in 2014 that would allow entrepreneurs to access the information and resources they needed while still supporting their families. A combination of dedicated coaching (or mentorship) and residential boot camps centered around the needs of a particular cohort started to produce similar results to our 12-week program. In fact, we believed we were having more impact because instead of only one or two companies “hitting it big” and raising millions of dollars, we were helping hundreds of entrepreneurs build sustainable businesses focused on earning revenue. This allowed them to hire employees from their communities as well as give back to their communities themselves. We were, in short, an all new NewME.
With newness comes change and, depending on your makeup, it’s either scary or exciting. Partnering with organizations such as Knight Foundation, ones that see not only my vision for NewME but also my vision of impacting minority entrepreneurs in Miami and around the world, is cause for excitement. This year Knight support will help expand the NewME vision, including:
- Relocating NewME from Silicon Valley to Miami’s diverse ecosystem;
- Opening an inclusive and authentic space, NewME HQ, for minority entrepreneurs to convene globally, and receive the direct help they need. We’ll also do weekly workshops and monthly events, but we’re going to be more focused on company building than holding meetups;
- Extending four free slots in each of four upcoming accelerators dedicated to black South Florida entrepreneurs (16 slots total; if you’re interested, you can apply here); and, finally,
- Having a dedicated Miami program manager who’s invested in the success of local black entrepreneurs.
Given our new model, it only makes sense to have our headquarters in an environment and ecosystem where diversity isn’t forced, where it isn’t always a battle. Being in an ecosystem that organically supports diversity simply because that is the natural makeup of the community allows us to put much of the energy we would have spent fighting battles and convincing people why NewME was even needed to actually helping entrepreneurs. The prospect inspires me. Our partnership with Knight Foundation is more than funding that allows us to do some cool stuff; it is a turning of tides for organizations such as NewME who support minority entrepreneurs to do what they do best.