The Beacon Council: In 2017, startups won’t struggle so much to get local investment

We’re going to be spending this month making the city’s movers and shakers nail down some resolutions and predictions for their work in 2017. This week we’re talking the tech scene. You can see all of the resolutions here.

Christine Johnson is the director of innovation and technology at The Miami Dade Beacon Council, an organization that facilitates economic development in Miami-Dade. She started this role in November 2016 and because she is fairly new to this position, we’ve also included comments from Dyan Brasington, the executive vice president for economic development and Jaap Donath, the senior vice president of research and strategic planning to add further context. We’ve lightly edited this interview for clarity and length.

CJ: I’m helping to connect the Beacon Council with the innovation community in deeper ways. This isn’t a new position but was tweaked since I started.

I’m out there meeting companies, having conversations about the ecosystem and mapping out resources. Established companies are primed to innovate, but are not always aware of resources and tools to do it.

We will connect startups with anchor institutions

CJ: We’re looking at companies out there like virtual reality companies and the schools like Wyncode, Launch Code, and Ironhack and getting those talented folks coming out of those programs and connecting that talent with established companies like Ryder (a large logistics and transportation organization) and Watsco, an HVAC company. Universities are also strong members and supporters.

Overall, I want to create a deeper culture of collaboration in the ecosystem among incubators, community builders, and innovators to create a space to exchange opportunities and talk about potential collaboration.

We have the activity, the stakeholders, the universities — but now we’re learning how to connect with entrepreneurs to have a successful ecosystem.

Success means Miami is top of mind when it comes to thinking about innovation communities that provide resources have funding, and have tools in place to support entrepreneurs. When people talk about successful ecosystems, an easy one is Silicon Valley but every community is different.

The government can provide better support by engaging entrepreneurs and asking them what they need and moving forward. We created that one-on-one engagement with the Miami Innovator’s Working group. We got Rokk3r labs, Black Tech Week, WeWork, The Hub, The Lab Ventures, Synergy Workspaces and we had the City of Doral and a member of Mayor Gimenez’s office at the table.

DB: Last year, the Beacon Council also held an innovation showcase cohosted with Startup FIU and that was a way to connect the business community with startups. The council also brought health IT startups in conversation with larger health care entities like Jackson Memorial and Baptist Hospitals during a separate initiative.

We’re going to get local money into tech

CJ: I think in 2017 there will be more entrepreneurial education programs like Startup FIU, WIN Lab, and things like that, not just talent development but also helping entrepreneurs get tools and the things they need to move forward successfully.

What I’ve been gauging is that there have been concerns raised about the need for more funding for entrepreneurs to get more dollars to flow here.

In 2017, more investment dollars will be coming to Miami, but also there’s a lot of wealth here. I know AGP has a program teaching individuals how to become angel investors. There will be more programs to leverage the dollars that are here so it’s homegrown.

The Beacon Council will be mapping out the venture capital and angel community in South Florida to hone relationships with funding sources to be a bridge and help them connect with entrepreneurs in quality ways.

I also think the entrepreneurial community will engage and collaborate more to grow the community itself. There seems to be a lot more cross pollination and conversations — you can see that when you look at Venture Café and their programming.

We created 2,000 tech jobs in five years. We’ll be focusing more on jobs in 2017.

JD: We want to make sure we focus on high-paying, high-skilled jobs, where tech as an industry and asset for companies to be more successful is important.

We set a goal five years ago to create 75,000 net new jobs, and 25,000 new jobs within seven target industries (aviation, banking and finance, creative design, hospitality and tourism, trade and logistics, life science and healthcare, and tech). We created 111,000 jobs in the economy, and 44,000 in target industries.

In tech, there were 2,000 new jobs from 2012-2016, that’s a 28 percent growth. [Donath wasn’t able to put an exact number on the number of jobs they hope to grow in tech in 2017]

The key is to make sure we have the environment and ecosystem with pieces in place to be sure companies that started here or somewhere else can be successful.