Refreshing Miami's startup community

communities / Article

 

For some eight years, Refresh Miami has toiled away to connect Miami’s startup community.

But in the last year, as the Miami startup community has become increasingly energized, so has Refresh Miami. Monthly meetups that drew, say, a dozen people in the early years are now regularly bringing in an excess of 300 and 400 people.

To support Refresh Miami in building new and better ways to connect and serve Miami’s rapidly growing startup and entrepreneurial community, Knight Foundation is making a $150,000 grant to the non-profit.

The support is another step in Knight Foundation’s effort to help strengthen Miami’s startup community and connect it to the broader public by fostering greater connection, support and hopefully— inspiration. The ultimate goal of the effort: help make Miami more of a place where ideas are built.

The grant to Refresh Miami, the largest tech meetup group in South Florida, comes on the heels of Knight Foundation investments in The Lab Miami, a co-working space in Wynwood; the launch of Endeavor in Miami, which will be the global organization’s first U.S. outpost; numerous events including Startup City: MiamiRokkMiami with Brad Feld, the first pop-up NewMe Accelerator and next year’s technology conference, eMerge Americas; along with efforts to diversify and broaden our base of entrepreneurs through educational initiatives like Girls Who Code and Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.  

At the heart of the investments is the belief that Miami is poised to make important gains as a community that’s alive with entrepreneurs, innovators and change-makers of all kinds, whether seeking social change or pure profit. And, in doing so, will deepen a sense of place and possibility that spurs greater resident engagement and stronger attachment to our young, rapidly evolving city.

Over the past decade Miami has developed many of the elements needed to succeed as a startup hub: a strong and improving university system, an increasingly active and developed urban center, a thriving cultural and creative life, a uniquely diverse and highly entrepreneurial population and a startup scene that continues to gain momentum. Yet, there are gaps that need filling.

With this grant, Refresh Miami will seek to improve its already highly successful monthly meetup program (by, for instance, flying in quality speakers from elsewhere) and branch out into delivering hands-on educational workshops and hackathons. Additionally, new resources will include an upgraded website that incorporates an events calendar that lists all that’s going on in the startup community (highlighting Refresh events and others), member profiles, job and internship listings and user-generated blogs. Social media will be ramped up as well.  

In sum, it will be a connector. It will be a place where anyone can go to learn and plug-in. Finding ways to engage in the startup community has long been a gap in the local eco-system. With this, the hope is another step is being taken to make the environment more accessible.

To be sure, many organizations and groups will fill this role. But Refresh Miami is particularly well-suited because of the large network it can leverage. From its humble beginnings, the nonprofit now boasts over 5,000 members and has proven, month after month, that it can generate outsized crowds.

The most recent Refresh Miami night was no exception. More than 400 people ventured out to the Miami Airport Convention Center for a demo night that featured eight Miami startups. Illustrating the increasing momentum, more than 50 ventures had applied to present.

And, yet, there is so much more room to grow.

"It’s great to be a part of the growing climate for innovation in Miami and we hope to contribute more with this support from the Knight Foundation,” said Brian Breslin, Refresh Miami founder and co-director. 

Peter Martinez, co-director of Refresh Miami, added that “through this expansion Refresh can continue on its mission of growing and refreshing the technology and entrepreneurial community in the city."

By Matt Haggman, program director/Miami at Knight Foundation

Related link: "Refresh Miami then and now" in The Miami Herald

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technology / Article