Enterprise Development Corporation Poised to Elevate Miami’s Startup Companies to the Next Level
By Rob Strandberg, President and CEO, Enterprise Development Corporation
I am often asked what the Enterprise Development Corporation (or the “EDC”) is and what exactly it is that we do. The EDC is a non-profit that takes a highly customized, strategic approach to helping some of South Florida’s most promising entrepreneurs succeed. Thanks to the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and others, our services are free and we can rely on a large, supportive network of highly experienced advisors, mentors and active investors to help us address the significant challenges that local startups face.
When I first jumped in to lead the EDC in 2012, I had no idea what resources I would find in South Florida to support its entrepreneurial community’s success. I was pleasantly surprised to find all of the elements critical to a thriving startup ecosystem – solid talent, great ideas, support resources, and even access to capital. As a result, I am particularly excited about the future of Miami’s startup community. Without a doubt, opportunity and upside abound here at every corner.
However, despite this, South Florida’s ecosystem and entrepreneurs still lack adequate access to professional advisors, mentorship programs and funding sources. Moreover, perhaps due to geography and the nascent stages of the start-up community’s development, the community is fragmented with different groups working independently in silos rather than collaborating to maximize the opportunities and overcome the obstacles facing early stage companies.
Driven by a strong core of creative energy (which I seem to find in incredible abundance in Miami), we have seen rapid progress during the past year and a half alone to address these issues. Different groups and organizations are collaborating at a heightened level, attendance and participation in workshops, events and conferences is increasing, incubators, accelerators and shared office spaces are filling up, and more investors are beginning to fund new ventures. Even so, the ecosystem would benefit greatly from a more unified agenda and greater backing and leadership from the area’s prominent organizations and institutions.
At the same time, although opinions may vary, investor capital is indeed on the rise. The EDC works with a range of individual angels, angel groups and venture capitalists – many from all over the U.S. – and it’s clear to me that, while more investors are always needed, many are in fact taking particular note of Miami’s progress and, as a result, are increasingly writing checks to fund companies.
As I walk through Miami’s many entrepreneurial hot spots, including Pipeline, LabMiami, Miami Innovation Center, The Launch Pad, The Hive, MEC, and Rokk3r Labs, the international diversity of our talented entrepreneurs is clearly striking. Our startups appear to easily attract highly skilled teams, investors and business partners from all parts of the world. Miami’s immigrant community could in fact provide for our most important, core, driving entrepreneurial force. Miami’s astounding diversity, in my opinion, will become our most important distinct advantage in creating exciting new companies.
Miami also derives strength from other types of diversity, too. This past week I shifted from meetings with a young founder in his early 20s, to a brilliant, experienced entrepreneur in his 70s. While the former focuses on very serious, deep technology, and the latter has a more non-tech business model, both have powerful, high-impact concepts with great potential. And both entrepreneurs exuded a passion, energy and “twinkle” that I would expect to find in a character from a Miami novel from Dave Barry, Carl Hiaasen or Tom Wolf. (Wow, I do love my job!).
Needless to say, with the Knight Foundation’s enormous help and support, the EDC is off to a great start in Miami, and we are excited and grateful for the opportunity to have a significant positive impact. I strongly encourage entrepreneurs who believe they have a big idea but need a little (or a lot) of help, to track us down. We are up to the task and ready to go!