With downtown Miami fast emerging as a hotbed of international commerce, the community’s public and private sectors are joining forces to create a technology business accelerator program that will attract early-stage companies and the entrepreneurs who run them to the city’s urban core. The Launch Pad Tech Accelerator – a new endeavor by the Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA), Miami-Dade County, and The Launch Pad at the University of Miami – will focus on recruiting and cultivating tech businesses in sectors closely aligned with Miami’s economic future, including health care, hospitality and tourism, and creative sectors such as design, music, art, fashion, and film.
The program will be fueled by $1 million in funds from Miami-Dade County over the next four years and another $460,000 in funding from the Miami DDA in 2013 and 2014. These dollars will support ongoing operations and provide incentives aimed at attracting 10 promising companies to downtown Miami from around the world during the initiative’s inaugural year, with 10 additional companies recruited in each of the following cycles. The program is projected to create 330 new direct and indirect jobs through 2017.
Beyond offering $25,000 grants – without an equity request – for the selected companies, the Launch Pad Tech Accelerator will provide services ranging from entrepreneurship training and intensive mentoring from industry leaders, to subsidized office space and access to Launch Pad workshops. The program will be based at downtown Miami’s Terremark NAP (Network Access Point) of the Americas, where optical, Ethernet, voice, and Internet traffic is linked between Latin America and the rest of the world.
“The Launch Pad Accelerator will spur a vibrant start-up culture that complements the residential, commercial, and hospitality growth under way in downtown Miami,” said City of Miami Commissioner and Miami DDA Chair Marc Sarnoff. “This will be a catalyst for attracting forward-thinking companies that bring new ideas, new ways of doing business, and new jobs to Miami. The Launch Pad Tech Accelerator is a real-world example of the public sector empowering private sector entrepreneurship and innovation.”
The new program was developed by The Launch Pad at the University of Miami, which was started in 2008 by a team that has helped students and alumni launch more than 80 businesses that have raised more than $10 million and created more than 150 South Florida jobs. The Launch Pad has been replicated to six other universities with the support of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, creating the only national network of collegiate entrepreneurs. In the July/August issue of Harvard Business Review, The Launch Pad was noted as one of the two concepts that work in entrepreneurship.
“Launch Pad Tech creates unparalleled opportunities for student engagement and education. We have scores of Launch Pad entrepreneurs in various stages of their tech startups that can become part of these teams, experiencing firsthand what it takes to grow a business from two to 50 employees in less than a year, becoming members of the ecosystem and contributing to its growth,” said Susan Amat, co-founder of The Launch Pad and framer of Launch Pad Tech. “The skills sets of students, whether in law, engineering, med, business, communication, or music, can all be utilized, honed, and enhanced through Launch Pad Tech in ways that could never be done in a classroom. While The Launch Pad brings the community in to support the students, Launch Pad Tech brings the students into the community for inimitable experiential learning.”
Amat adds that in addition to the ten selected companies, Launch Pad Tech will also “adopt” an additional 25 startups outside of the designated vertical sectors, which will then have the opportunity to attend structured program offerings, participate in mentoring, and have access to resources.
“As a Miami entrepreneur, I have experience with the challenges of starting technology businesses,” said Juan Diego Calle, CEO of .CO Internet SAS, the company behind the fast-growing .CO domain. “The Launch Pad Accelerator will ease the process for a new wave of entrepreneurs by igniting a cross-pollination of ideas, capital, mentorship, and talent that is critical to a tech ecosystem.”
The Launch Pad Accelerator takes flight just as Miami’s urban core comes alive as a thriving residential district, with the area experiencing an 80 percent spike in population over the past decade and another 15,000 residents expected in the coming years. Along these lines, author and professor Richard Florida notes that urban areas such as downtown Miami are enjoying heightened demand among tech companies and entrepreneurs for reasons ranging from lifestyle decisions to business networking opportunities.
“Miami-Dade County is proud to support the Launch Pad and its mission of attracting forward-thinking entrepreneurs to our community and giving them the tools they need to succeed here,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez. “My top priority as mayor is job-creation – diverse job-creation – and the Launch Pad supports that goal by positioning Miami-Dade County as a hotbed for dynamic start-up businesses that support new jobs.”
Applications for entry to The Launch Pad Tech Accelerator program may be submitted now through November 5 at www.launchpadtech.co. For updated information about the program, please follow on Twitter @launchpadtech.