By Nancy Dahlberg
We’re catching up with Rebecca Danta and the team.
No question about it, the Miami Angels are having a phenomenal year.
- The Miami Angels, South Florida's largest angel network, had its biggest exit to date by far. That would be the $650 million exit of the homegrown edtech startup Nearpod. The return to Miami Angels investors was 14X, “so needless to say there were a lot of happy people,” said Rebecca Danta, managing director of Miami Angels (pictured above).
- So far this year, members have invested $1.8 million, with a couple more deals that will be announced soon, and the year is only half over. Historically, the Miami Angels have invested $2 million on average annually so there is no doubt South Florida’s largest angel network will have a record year.
- This year, Miami Angels’ membership has grown 45% to 150 members, with 40 new members, more than any other year. About half of the new members are part of Miami’s 2020-2021 tidal wave of new investors and founders from Silicon Valley, New York and other tech hubs.
“We’ve seen record growth at Miami Angels in 2021,” Danta said. Investments in 2021 include Leasecake, HeyMama, Allstar, Huddle and two others that are private for now. In 2020, Miami Angels invested in Knack, PetAssistant, LuckyDiem, AuthentiCx. Journey Meditation, Pickup and a handful of follow-ons. While Miami Angels doubles down on companies in South Florida and throughout the state, the organization wants to invest in the best deals, wherever they come from.
With more venture capital in the market than ever before, in Miami and elsewhere, it’s super competitive to get into the good deals. “It's forced us to look at our processes and I would say become better than ever.” Danta said.
The result: “Founders are increasingly choosier about who's on their cap table and rounds are closing much faster so we've completely reinvented our investment process.”
Previously, the group’s investment process took about three months, the standard for angel groups. Now, with founders in the driver seat, it takes a few weeks, Danta said. “We're focused on being fast and fair and founder friendly -- that's really important to us.”
Miami Angels has also focused on adding more structure to its board to better reflect what Miami looks like now. The newest board member is Brenda Freeman, who brings a wealth of C-suite experience and marketing expertise. Super angel Mark Kingdon is now the board chairman “and we’re thrilled to have him leading the board,” said Danta. The board also includes Melissa Krinzman of Krillion Ventures and Miami’s VC in Residence, Nico Berardi of Animo Ventures and former leader of Miami Angels, Tigre Wenrich of LAB Ventures and Marco Giberti of LAB Ventures.
For the last 25 years, Freeman has held C-suite roles including most recently for Arteza and Magic Leap in South Florida and has been active on public and private boards. “Over time I just felt more and more of a desire to do the nurturing, accelerating and sending the elevator back down, if you will, for the GenZs,” she said. “Getting much more into the early investment space is just something that I have always wanted to do and now I have the ability to spend more time doing it, and it's been great.”
In the venture capital space, Freeman said she believes strongly in advocating for underrepresented founders, particularly in Miami, and wants to help bring them in front of the Miami Angels membership. That pleases Danta.
“We're really heavily focused on bringing in members from diverse backgrounds, which has allowed us to invest in companies like HeyMama,” said Danta, explaining that individual members bring deals to the membership. Women now make up 20% of Miami Angels, a number Danta would like to further improve. “Having women in the group who are leading deals for the rest of the membership expands the type of companies we can invest in.” Worth noting: Miami Angels’ management team is all women, too.
What’s more, nearly two-thirds of Miami Angels portfolio companies now have an underrepresented minority in tech on their founding team, even though the angel group does not have a diversity mandate. “It's always been part of our DNA that good founders can come from anywhere,” said Danta, adding that founders do not need a warm introduction to talk to Miami Angels.
Freeman has been impressed with the organization's ability to win space on cap tables based on the membership’s relationships and history as respected investors. “I was impressed with the level of strategizing, going through what's in the pipeline and knowing the super hot deals.”
More founders-turned-funders have been joining Miami Angels, a trend that reflects the maturing of the Miami ecosystem. The Octopi co-founders and the Mikkolas of Wyncode joined after their exits. “The Nearpod founders have been members for a couple of years but now some of the employees are joining,” Danta said.
As for what is bubbling up in Miami, the members are seeing continued strength in medtech, proptech, fintech and edtech – and a new area is of interest and activity is blockchain. Miami Angels is actively recruiting for members with interest and expertise in blockchain, as well as in medtech, climatetech and digital media.
Reflecting on the Miami ecosystem and what’s ahead, Freeman noted that the mayor’s “amazing job creating a welcoming platform,” the flood of new capital coming into the market, all the ecosystem players laying the infrastructure for years, and "a leveling up strategically with the educational system” to prime the talent pipeline all give the Miami movement staying power and fuel to continue accelerating.
“I think it's more than just buzz, it's absolutely here to stay. Miami is absolutely another relevant city right next to the Bay Area and New York,” Danta added. While she says a key area of improvement needs to be in talent, great strides have been made: “Before we could really count things almost on your hand, and that's no longer the case.”
Danta reflects on the Knight Foundation’s $350,000 investment to launch Miami Angels in 2013. “With that funding we've invested over $17 million into the ecosystem, into early stage companies, and have 150 accredited investors in our group. I think it is safe to say that it's been one of the more successful investments for them and we're extremely proud of that.”
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