By Nancy Dahlberg

A fellowship program that provides top-performing local university engineering students with professional development and venture opportunities. An angel network that opens new investment prospects to rising entrepreneurs.  Curated, intimate dinners that bring together newcomers and veterans of Miami’s startup community.

These are among the nine projects that together received more than $1 million in support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The projects aim to deepen connections between local startup founders, investors and talent, while opening avenues to bring newcomers in, said Raul Moas, Knight’s Miami program director.

To guide Knight’s work in entrepreneurship, Moas and the Knight team has spent the last several months picking the brains of  about 200 entrepreneurs, investors and community stakeholders as well as looking deeper at the research.

“Miami’s startup community has grown by leaps and bounds in the last decade. As we look to the next chapter, we’ve taken time to sit down with those closest to the ground — founders, investors and talent — to better understand where we can be most effective in our support. Universally, we heard a desire to build communities of peer learning and mentorship, develop better ways for talent and opportunity to meet, and for there to be more diverse and accessible sources of capital. These new investments advance all three of those objectives,” he said.

To that end, the projects receiving support are:

University of Miami, ($250,000): To provide Miami’s startups with greater access to capital by supporting the launch of the Cane Angel Network, which will connect alumni, faculty, staff, parent and other university-affiliated investors with promising university-affiliated companies.

Venture for America ($150,000): To help foster the growth of Venture For America’s Miami program, which places rigorously-selected recent university graduates at high-growth companies for a two-year fellowship. Funding will support the hiring of a dedicated Miami Director.

The Venture Mentoring Team ($150,000): To expand a mentorship program that educates, certifies and credentials seasoned business professionals and connects them with talented rising entrepreneurs to hone their potential.

eMerge Americas ($120,000): To advance the year-long eMerge Americas Fellowship which invests in the professional development of top-performing local university engineering students and introduces them to opportunities at top-tier Miami-based ventures.

Just Dinner ($114,000): To support a series of curated, intimate gatherings that bring together newcomers and veterans of Miami’s startup community as a way to promote greater connection, a deeper sense of community and stronger social networks.

Creators Council ($106,000): To launch a member-led, peer-sharing and mentorship platform that aims to create a sense of community among founders and high-impact talent by growing the depth and quality of relationships among peers.

American Jewish Committee ($92,000): To foster deeper relationships and opportunities between Miami entrepreneurs and their Israeli peers by introducing a delegation of Miami entrepreneurs to key drivers of Israeli innovation, including decision-makers, entrepreneurs, and investors. Miami entrepreneurs will travel to Israel as part of the globally-recognized AJC Project Interchange.

Las Olas VC ($25,000): To help launch the LOVC CEO Summit Series allowing local startup founders and CEOs to connect with their peers and build meaningful relationships.

Miami Angels ($20,000): To make talent and opportunity more easily discoverable, by supporting the launch of Talent Scout Miami, a curated platform that helps Miami’s most promising startups find and recruit top talent.

You can read more on Moas’ blog post here. Over the past six years, Knight has invested more than $30 million in entrepreneurship in South Florida.

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Nancy Dahlberg

I am a writer, editor and a leader with extensive media experience and a passion for journalism and serving the community. Most of my career has been spent with the Miami Herald in business news, and my expertise is writing about entrepreneurs. I'm also good at research and project planning. I enjoy running community-focused projects and utilizing social media. Contact me at ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com
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