Photo:Jacqueline Sousa helps South Florida businesses expand. At right, SBDC at FIU has helped Juan Carlos Abello, founder of startup Nuvola, obtain capital to grow.
Growing problem: Miami tries to get beyond the startup phase
Miami lags in growing companies beyond the startup phase.
Miami ranks tops nationwide for startups but near the bottom for scaling up new businesses, according to a study by the Kauffman Foundation.
Why the discrepancy? Growing a business requires different skills and assets than starting one, says Jason Wiens, the foundation’s policy director. “Entrepreneurship is not a monolithic thing.”
The area generates many startups because it has a large number of immigrants who decide to start businesses after seeing opportunity in south Florida’s growing population and its easy access to customers in Latin America, Europe and the U.S.
Growth, however, “is not about an idea but execution, not a stand-out individual but a cohesive team, not creative chaos but structures, processes and procedures,” says Jacqueline Sousa, regional director of the Florida Small Business Development Center at Florida International University, which helps businesses expand. Many entrepreneurs in Miami aren’t interested in making that shift, and others can’t, she says. They may lack management skills or be unable to find experienced senior executives because Miami-Dade is dominated by small firms.
Companies looking to grow also face challenges finding funding locally, says Laura Maydon, Miami director for Endeavor, which helps high-impact entrepreneurs grow their businesses by providing mentors and other services through a global network.
Local leaders are trying to address the problem. The Miamibased Knight Foundation has pumped more than $28 million since 2012 into 200-plus programs aimed at nurturing and scaling up startups, including Endeavor’s Miami office.
There’s progress on funding, too. TheVentureCity — a technology company accelerator founded in Miami Beach this summer by a group of former executives from Facebook, Google, eBay and other tech giants — recently launched a $100-million fund to invest in tech startups poised for hyper-growth globally. It’s already invested in four Miami-based companies. TheVentureCity Fund joins several other early-stage investment funds launched in the area in recent years, including Krillion Ventures and Rokk3r Fuel EXO.
“Hopefully, this gives a green light for others to come,” Maydon says. “You need a few success stories in scale-up of entrepreneurship, so they have a multiplier effect in the ecosystem.” — Doreen Hemlock