Your View is a recurring series of opinion pieces from members of The New Tropic community. To share your ideas, goals, and work about Miami with the community in a Your View piece, please submit it to [email protected].
True innovation can’t thrive in a vacuum.
Its enemy, isolation, never solved the world’s most pressing challenges.
Steven Johnson, who has explored the environments that lead to unusual levels of creativity, observes that true innovation results from the stitching together of random ideas.
But not just any idea – rather, ideas drawn from the life experiences, unpredictable collisions, and perhaps most importantly, connections to other people.
As the world becomes increasingly digitized, fast-paced, and disconnected, the value of shared experiences and the frequency within which we interact person-to-person has diminished exponentially. But historically, the spaces that lead to innovation are those which cultivate collisions in person. The “Where” and “how” innovation occurs is as important as the resultant “what.”
We don’t like to admit it, but Miami remains segregated and divided into silos – silos constructed by industry verticals, tech vs. everything else, and most evident, along cultural and ethnic lines.
But in a city where more than 50 percent of residents were born in another country, our diversity is our greatest differentiator, and our greatest asset.
An experiment in collisions
In 2010, Venture Cafe started an experiment to test a simple hypothesis: if we bring together innovators and entrepreneurs in person to foster spontaneous conversations and sharing of ideas, they’ll come up with never-before-imagined innovations to make the world a better place and generate economic growth.
Our hypothesis proved true, so we’ve designed Venture Café to reflect that sense of energy, community and spontaneity, inspired by the coffeehouses of old: a centralized point of congregation and collaborative creativity that attracts thinkers, doers, and innovators.
The weekly Gathering serves as a physical nexus for helping innovators and entrepreneurs find one another.. Each year, the Venture Café global network hosts more than 1,500 educational sessions that reach 100,000 innovators in Boston, St. Louis, Rotterdam and Miami.
We’ve learned that the catalyst for true innovation is connectivity. Innovation is more than the next best iPhone app, scientific breakthrough or unicorn venture – it’s a social process.
Physical spaces that drive innovation thrive when they are inclusive and accessible to the broadest cross section of the community. Breaking down silos through place-making and by intentionally curating a physical and conceptual space for innovators to connect with each other is a key ingredient for success.
Telling Our Stories
Miami has consistently ranked in the top 10 of the Kauffman Foundation’s Entrepreneurial Activity Index, recently catapulting to a ranking as high as No. 2. But we’re still not telling an authentic story of our emerging innovation ecosystem – which is critical to our growth.
We impede legitimate efforts to tell an authentic story of Miami’s innovation growing scene if we cater to a storytelling culture marked by hyperbole, embellishment, and exaggeration. Let’s be honest about where we have room for growth, but celebrate our growth thus far.
We need more rockstars. Imagine a Miami where our community is as euphoric and proud of a NBA or NFL championship win as a Miami innovator raising early stage funding, tens of millions in series round investment, or even a multi billion exit.
It’s entirely possible.
And, it starts with our collective effort to identify, support, and champion Miami innovators. We can make Miami innovation stories go viral. We can create rock stars. When individual success stories are celebrated both within and beyond the innovation, in local and national news, we accelerate the growth of innovation.
Power of Serendipity
If “chance favors the connected mind,” then the physical spaces that connect innovators through serendipitous collisions is a key catalyst in establishing Miami as a true hub for innovation. Venture Cafe Miami connects Miami’s growing innovation community at the weekly Thursday Gathering through high impact programming and a place to get plugged in. Don’t take my word for it. Come see for yourself.