By Riley Kaminer
'The Miami tech community has been super welcoming. It feels like a college campus – everyone is open to meeting new people.' - Charlie Javice, founder of Frank, an edtech startup that works with 5 million families
It’s mid-March 2020, and Charlie Javice’s birthday isn’t going quite as planned. The founder and CEO of EdTech startup Frank found herself stranded in New York as the city was grinding to a halt in reaction to the first major spike in Covid-19 cases.
Luckily, she had an escape plan.
Javice had already booked flights to visit her brother, who has been living in Miami for a few years. Her roundtrip tickets became one-way. More than a year later, she has not looked back.
“For the first two months of Covid, it felt like there was no one here,” Javice told Refresh Miami, “but by October, you couldn’t find an apartment.”
While family and the pandemic initially pulled Javice to South Florida, she has decided to stay in Miami because of the vibrant tech environment and high quality of life. “The Miami tech community has been super welcoming,” said Javice, who has no complaints about swapping office views of the Statue of Liberty and Rockefeller Center for Fisher Island and the beach. “It feels like a college campus – everyone is open to meeting new people.”
EdTech is also on the rise in South Florida, including other women-led startups like Genius Plaza and Caribu.
Frank, which Javice founded in 2017, helps students navigate financial aspects of the college experience – from securing financial aid to figuring out what they want to do after graduating. The startup has also developed an online course marketplace where students can earn college credit from accredited universities at a competitive price.
About a third of Frank’s 20 full-time employees are based in South Florida. The startup has raised $20.5 million from investors including Israeli early stage VC Aleph; Marc Rowan, CEO of Private Equity firm Apollo Global Management; and Chegg, a publicly traded EdTech company.
Since graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 2013, Javice has been taking an entrepreneurial approach to the education industry. She also founded PoverUP, a non-profit initiative to teach students about micro-finance and micro-credit funding in the developing world.
Javice’s move to Miami has also coincided with the rapid scaling of her business. She reports that the startup currently works with 5 million families: a figure the company is on track to double by the end of the year.
“We’re most proud of who we serve,” said Javice. 40% of their students are minorities, half are first generation college students, and over half are women.
Despite being in “overdrive” at the moment, Javice is steadfast in her commitment to “be true to our mission and vision” of making college more financially accessible to Americans of all backgrounds.
Diversity is important to Javice, and is another factor that attracted her to Miami. “I’m excited to hire in a community where it’s not as challenging to find talented people from all different walks of life.” Frank is hiring in a variety of business areas including engineering, marketing, and account management.
The startup is currently fully remote, with employees clustered around South Florida, New York, and Boston. Javice said that moving to Miami is still a hard sell for some employees with families rooted in top public schools in the northeast.
Javice also argued that the city might not be best for very early stage founders because of the less developed venture capital market. “If I had to start from scratch, I would have fewer [funding] options here.” But she said this could all change if a major tech firm like Microsoft or Amazon set up shop in South Florida. “That’s when you’d truly see something.”
Nevertheless, she is bullish on Miami: “I’m enjoying my time here.”
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