Forget unicorns. TheVentureCity wants ‘iguanacorns’

You hear it all the time: Miami has plenty of money, and, increasingly, a great amount of talent. Why can’t it build more long-lasting startups?

Laura González-Estéfani, Facebook’s former director of international business development and mobile partnerships, plans to end those questions.

It’s called TheVentureCity, and it’s launching with offices in in Miami Beach and Madrid, with one representative in San Francisco. Backed with private funding and personal capital from González-Estéfani and cofounder Clara Bullrich of investment firm Guggenheim Partners, TheVentureCity will offer vetted startups an entire ecosystem —a “city” — of services, from engineering and product development to legal and financial help.

The launch coincided with this year’s eMerge America’s conference.

“By combining González-Estéfani’s tech expertise with Bullrich’s financial management mastery, the Hispanic female duo embody two key skillsets demanded in the tech sphere,” the company said in its launch release statement.

The company has already recruited 16 startups from around the world and in multiple stages into its program, including four from South Florida, to work with in various ways. And they are still accepting applications into the three-year incubator and 18-month accelerator, aiming to have as many as 25 startups going through the program in a given year.

For González-Estéfani, the goal is to create “iguanacorns” — a Miami version of unicorn companies that can attain high valuations and take on the world.

“I’ve been an entrepreneur at heart,” the nine-year Facebook veteran told The New Tropic. “And I’ve always felt that it would be very useful for the different [geographic] communities to have people with our expertise to come back and share [it] with the [startup community] and save them time from making mistakes or the wrong decision.”

On Tuesday, TheVentureCity made a further suite of announcements: They will be partnering with Facebook to advise and host Miami’s Developers Circle. Developers Circles were created by Facebook to create a stronger sense of community among a city’s developers and coders.

They include monthly engineer and product gatherings that will serve as discussion forums for Miami’s programmers, plus talks with Miami’s local Facebook leadership about how to build on top of the social media platform.

Miami’s Circle was officially launched this past Saturday at the eMerge America’s hackathon, and already had 79 members as of Tuesday evening. Wyncode Academy and Ironhack will be the local coding partners.

TheVentureCity also announced they’ll be hosting a series of community events they’re calling People Over Pixels, with the goal of making entrepreneurs’ projects more public-minded. They will be organized by Elisa Rodriguez-Vila, a former lead designer at Fusion and cofounder of The LAB.

Finally, VentureCity is launching the Miami Think Tank, which will bring together local tech and startup leaders and serve as a sounding board for the city’s entrepreneurs.

“The tech people in Miami…they’re not close,” González-Estéfani says. “We need to be close to each other, we need to know who is building what, share best practices, talk about success stories…share that with the community.”

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.