Momentum wants to get Miami’s real estate cash into startups’ hands

For the past few months, two entrepreneurs with classic Miami stories have been quietly hosting events with some of the biggest names in the city’s tech and startup scenes.

The name of their project, Momentum International Accelerator (“MIA”), doesn’t reveal much about what their plan is. But in a conversation this week with Startup.Miami, they revealed its ambitions: Get a group of investors to bank on Miami, with the goal of keeping the companies that make their name here to stay based here.

What is it?

Momentum is a work in progress. But when it’s fully operational, according to co-founder Mordi Klein, it will be a seed fund and accelerator, and will operate as a “two-way street”: A chance for entrepreneurs to increase their business acumen and navigate U.S. markets, and an opportunity for inexperienced Miami investors to get used to investing in startups.

“When you say there’s no money here, I mean, look at Miami: We have the most exotic cars in the world, the most expensive real estate, huge yachts,” he said.

The problem, he said, is that the individuals with this kind of wealth tend to be in real estate and lack experience investing in startups.

So the project has been launched partly with Miami real estate investors in mind.

“Real estate investors are really smart, that’s how they grow wealth, but the way to remain smart is to do what you know,” Klein said. “But now the investors here are realizing they want a piece of [the other] pie — they see people are making a ton of money in startups.”

The goal will be to raise $1 million to sponsor five companies chosen from around the world to set up a presence in Miami. The companies will be focused on urban, social, and environmental issues.

The companies will go through a four-month curriculum focused on putting down roots in the city, including meetings with local investors, government officials, and fellow entrepreneurs.

For now, they have set up an office at CIC Miami and will continue to host events and programming there.

Who’s behind it?

Momentum International was founded by Jorge Cortes, a Miami native and Miami Dade College grad whose family moved to Miami from Colombia, undocumented, 15 years ago. He sees the venture as the culmination of years of “hustle” in pursuit of a professional career in the startup world. He hopes to receive his green card by the end of May.

Cortes actually created Momentum several years ago, but he placed it on hold to pursue other projects. Recently, he was approached by Klein, who grew up in Miami, New York, and Israel and who currently runs a corporate design firm called Dynamic Engagement Solutions on Miami Beach.

Klein told Cortes that despite the new flurry of entrepreneurship in Miami in recent years, many were having trouble finding ways to stay in the city, and that relaunching Momentum could help address that.

“The idea of Momentum International [is] to show people that there’s money here, that they don’t need to go elsewhere,” Klein said.

When will it launch?

Other than the events, the pair remain in discussion with most partners. Klein said they hope to officially launch in January to coincide with the height of the city’s winter events, like Art Basel.

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.