Invest: Miami speaks with Matt Haggman, Program Director-Miami, Knight Foundation

May 2015, Miami, Technology & Innovation

We want to make Miami a place where ideas are built. In the past, if somebody had a great idea, they would question whether Miami was the place to launch it. We are changing this paradigm by directing significant dollars towards creating a robust network of talent, funders, inspiration, supported by a rich calendar of events.

In 2012, the Knight Foundation launched an initiative around entrepreneurship to better connect and propel emerging communities of innovators in Miami. This idea-agnostic initiative sought high-impact and scalable ideas, with high growth potential. The goal was to improve talent retention and attraction, and add another layer to the identity of this rapidly changing city, as well as foster a community of problem-solvers.

Two exciting programs we have supported un-der this initiative are Endeavor and LaunchCode. We provided a $2-million grant to make Miami the first U.S. city to launch Endeavor and 2014 marked its first full year. Endeavor is a global non-profit that identifies promising entrepreneurs and pairs them with highly accomplished mentors with the intention of nurturing the young talent to stardom. Based on a pay-it-forward model, the idea is that once these entrepreneurs become successful, they will mentor and sponsor other budding innovators, thereby creating a virtuous cycle. In 2014, the Knight Foundation also invested $1.25 million to bring LaunchCode – a St. Louis-based program that offers students guided coursework in programming and coding – to Miami in 2014.

This community’s efforts to foster a tech hub is paying off. One notable example is Mako Surgical – a homegrown, Miami-based surgical robotics company, which had a $1.65 billion exit in late 2013. Maurice Ferre, Mako’s founder, is now on the board of Endeavor Miami, and contributing to creating that multiplier effect. Other notable examples include .co that sold for $109 million, Open English that raised $130m in Miami for their U.S. expansion and Magic Leap that sold for $500 million. As the local tech ecosystem continues to evolve, we will hear more stories like this coming out of Miami.