Five things that happened on the Miami startup scene this week

Three years ago, the Knight Foundation made a commitment to start building up Miami’s startup community — and Startup.Miami has been a direct beneficiary of it.

This week, Knight showed they do not plan to slow down, announcing a set of investments worth nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in six fast growing Miami startups, companies that they say represent the character of Miami’s innovation sector. Read all about it below.     

BlackTech week announces new VC-in-residence

Thanks to support from the Knight Foundation and Code Fever, BlackTech Week now has its first VC in Residence: Marlon Nichols of Cross Culture Ventures.

Writing on Medium, Nichols says he views the program as an opportunity “to learn about an emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem that is steeped in Latinx, Caribbean, and Black culture.”

“By spending the month in Miami, not only will I learn about some of the challenges/ opportunities specific to those communities and build relationships with the investor community there, but also help sharp founders think through the businesses they are building,” he says.

You can apply to be qualified for backing from Cross Culture here. Nichols says he also plans to announce events and fireside chats for the month.

Knight Foundation pledges more than $700,000 to Miami startups

The Knight Foundation has announced a major investment in Miami startups, pledging $741,000 to six of them.

Here’s the breakdown:

Digital Grass (programming for inclusion of minorities, women and LGBT in the technology and innovation ecosystem): $186,000.

NewCo (hosting events for the innovation community): $175,000.

MANO (team behind Maker Faire): $125,000

International Women’s Forum (promoting female entrepreneurs): $105,000

Miami made (membership organization comprised of Miami’s top founders): $75,000

Wyncode (coding academy): $75,000

Knight’s Matt Haggman said the companies were chosen for helping promote “Miami’s most important assets, including its spirit of innovation and its unique diversity.”

The investments build on the pledge Knight made in 2014 to expand its mission to start supporting Miami entrepreneurs in addition to its artists and creatives.

Miami startup chosen for Y-Combinator Startup School, a Miami and San Francisco-based startup that helps guide students through the FAFSA student loan application, has been selected to be part of the brand new class Startup School program being offered by the prestigious Y-Combinator Accelerator.

According to TechCrunch, a select group of startup founding teams are being chosen to participate in a free 10-week class that is a combination of lectures and office hours. They’ll also have access to their startup “classmates” via “a dedicated Slack channel,” and be able to speak with Y-Combinator alums. In return, they will report back weekly on their companies’ progress.

Winners of the University of Miami School of Business startup competition announced

The UM School of Business awarded nearly $50,000 to promising startups in its annual business plan competition. The winners were:

  • Grand Prize, $10,000: XIX Computing, a startup founded by undergrads David Gantt and Chester Montefering that aims to create better cooling systems for mainframe computers; and PIERCE Plan, a company founded by UM alum Kelly Pierce that is developing a platform to better track eligibility requirements for aspiring college athletes. Startup.Miami profiled Pierce and her firm earlier this week. Pierce also won the People’s Choice Award and $1,000.
  • Second Place, $6,000: Frest, a handheld device and mobile application that facilitates contact information exchange, founded by undergrad Dylan Cohen; and VarDragons, a mobile game founded by alums Thomas R. Byrd Jr. and Jason S. Keasler
  • Third Place, $4,000: Sobe Media Group, a social media and branding startup founded by undergrads Nelly Sudri and Lauren Peaslee; and Haathi Cloth, founded by alum Josh Fu to develop modern kurtas, an outfit worn at Indian weddings and dance competitions.

South Florida ties for 14th place in Q1 VC activity

Miami metro area companies saw 29 deals worth more than $151 million in the first quarter of 2017, according to new data from Pitchbook and the National Venture Capital Association. That was good enough for 14th place among all major metropolitan areas. South Florida has only been tracked since Q3 of 2016; in Q4, it ranked 15th, with 22 deals.

By Rob Wile
Rob Wile, the curator for Startup.Miami, is a writer and entrepreneur living in Miami Beach. He’s a former staff writer for Fusion and Business Insider. His work has also appeared in Slate, Newsweek, Money Magazine and The New Tropic. He writes a newsletter on tech, business, and the South Florida economy called The Heatwave.