By Marcella McCarthy
Many of us know Rebecca Danta as the face of, and powerhouse behind, Miami Angels - Florida’s largest angel investor collective. Like many Miami natives, she left for a couple of years to start her career and was then lured back to the Magic City. While living in New York City, she served as a Global Operations Lead at General Assembly. (The company sold in 2018 for $413 million.) But you may not know that when she’s not procuring attractive early-stage deals and bringing in accredited investors, she’s living her best life dancing flamenco and teaching others about Jamon Iberico. I got to spend some time getting to learn more about her for Refresh. Here’s what I learned:
What neighborhood in Miami did you grow up in?
I was born and raised in Westchester by a single mom, so I’m very much a tech outsider. When I started in this job, I didn’t understand the concept of friends and family capital. I was like, “Wait, so you have friends and family who give you money to start your business?” I heard about prominent VC’s who would only talk to founders if the founders got a warm intro, and I thought that was completely ridiculous. I was like, “Um, your job is to find exceptional founders.” So I decided that at Miami Angels we would do it differently. In fact, I got this job because I reached out to Raul Moas cold on LinkedIn. *Moas is the former Managing Director of Miami Angels, and the current Miami Program Director for the Knight Foundation.
What part of growing up in Miami did you think was “normal” until you left Miami and realized it was just a “Miami thing?”
I was very young, but I thought that grandparents, in general, spoke Spanish. Then I remember meeting grandparents out of Miami and being like, “That’s so weird that they don’t speak Spanish.”
According to your Twitter profile, you’re not Cuban and you’re not American, you’re Cuban-American. Can you tell me more about that?
My parents are Cuban but I grew up here. I’ve been to Cuba before and they see you as completely American. But when I was growing up, I never thought about my identity. Then when I was living in NYC, I was thought of as very Latina. In Spain, I’m thought of as American, but in Miami, we have this thing: Cuban-American, and that’s an identity in and of itself.
I saw you dance flamenco in your amateur days, but I hear you put on a true performance at your wedding in Sevilla. Where did your interest in flamenco come from?
I met my now-husband in 2012 when I studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain. And I love dancing. Salsa has always been a big part of my life - it’s an interesting way to connect with your roots. My husband is a huge flamenco dancer, too, so I’ve taken classes in NYC, Miami, and Spain. I have like 4 flamenco dresses. We don’t do it as a show - it’s part of our daily life. We listen to flamenco music every day.
You have exceptional PowerPoint presentation skills that were recently used outside of work to explain the value proposition of Jamon Iberico to some of your close friends. Can you tell me about that? *Jamon Iberico is a cured ham from the Iberian Peninsula in Spain.
Every year around the holidays, my husband’s family has a tradition where we order a jamon. But this year we went in on it with a small group of friends. The ham is very pricey, so we decided that we needed to tell people about this pig and why it was so expensive. My presentation included what the pig eats, details about the pig’s breed, the curing process, and my husband and I threw in a wine pairing, too. But the best kind of jamon is the Jamon Iberico de Bellota. The Bellota pigs eat a diet of only acorns and have acres to roam. It’s like the Spanish version of grass-fed beef.
Can you get this pig in Miami?
What did you get in trouble for as a kid?
Since I was little, I’ve always loved sports, so one day I saw a sports-themed room in a Pottery Barn Kids’ catalog, and I was like, “I can totally decorate my own room to make it look like that.” So I took these markers and drew golf clubs and tennis racquets on my walls and was super excited to show my family. I was like, “Boom! My room’s decorated and looks just like the catalog!” My family was like, “Um, what did you do?”
Tell me more about your love of sports.
As a woman, when you grow up, it’s hard to continue playing sports because there aren’t pick-up games like there are for guys. Will Weinraub and I are always talking about starting a tech basketball team. Since the pandemic began, I started learning soccer - my husband plays a lot. But I recently beat him at basketball, which was awesome, because I’m really competitive and it was nice to get back to a sport I’m good at. I might have enjoyed it a little too much. *Weinraub is a local serial entrepreneur.
Miami is getting a wave of newcomers from different parts of the country. What’s some advice you have for our new residents?
Miami Angels is very much a community-driven organization. So I would say, get involved, we want this [the local tech economy] to be different. We don’t want to build another Silicon Valley, and I think we can learn from its mistakes.
What are some things your husband loves about you?
I think he definitely loves how much I’ve taken on his culture! He also always calls out that I have such a big heart, that I’m extremely thoughtful and giving, that I’m very committed to us, and that I’m always pushing us forward as individuals and as a couple. But he would also say that sometimes I push a little too much and ok, we don’t need any more improvement right now!
What’s an aspect of the Spanish culture that you’ve adopted besides flamenco dancing and how to choose the right jamon?
I’ve also really adopted the siesta, but it doesn’t fit so well with the work schedule. It’s like an art, it’s something you have to practice. Unlike the American nap, which is like a 3-hour thing where you put on pajamas, get into bed, and wake up groggy, for the Spaniards there are rules.
- No laying down - at least not on a bed. It has to be in a chair or on the couch
- No pajamas.
- It’s 15-45 minutes max. Once you’ve practiced it enough, your body doesn’t need an alarm clock anymore and you wake up refreshed. It’s sort of like meditation.
I’ve gotten good enough at it that I can do it on the weekends. Granted, I don’t have kids yet.
READ MORE from our series on the offline side of #MiamiTech: Things you may not know about Raul Moas, including a yard tool he’s banned from using