Investment lags behind in Miami tech companies owned by women and minorities

Leigh-Ann Buchanan, formerly of Venture Cafe Miami, focuses on her group of companies to make Miami's innovation and entrepreneurship development more inclusive and intentional, but not at the expense of freezing the new guard .

Leigh-Ann Buchanan, formerly of Venture Cafe Miami, focuses on her group of companies to make Miami’s innovation and entrepreneurship development more inclusive and intentional, but not at the expense of freezing the new guard .

Despite all the success Miami technology has enjoyed over the past year, it continues to suffer from a lack of support for women-owned and minority-owned businesses, especially black people. And now there is data to back up claims that tech investor support for these groups is insufficient.

Aire Ventures, the new nonprofit of former Venture Cafe Miami executive director Leigh Ann Buchanan, released a report that says despite its progress, Miami’s tech ecosystem continues to pose barriers to access. fair to capital. The association has compiled survey responses from over 500 South Florida community members, from business founders, investors and academics to government officials. This pool was asked to rate various aspects of the diversity of the local technology ecosystem, on a scale of 12 or 25 points.

The availability of investments for under-represented groups was consistently ranked last.

This discovery was a topic the Miami Herald explored in a recent story that revealed black founding tech companies are finding ways to be successful despite challenges. Officials at tech firm Black Miami said Air Ventures’ findings were indeed predictable.

Brian Brackeen, general partner of Lightship Capital, a venture capital fund focused on women and minorities, said in a statement that the association’s findings are “both frustrating and unsurprising.”

“It is clear that Miami needs more and larger minority-focused investors,” Brackeen said. “The numbers are poor and trending in the wrong direction, and now is the time to act on the ecosystem rather than delay.”

In an interview, Buchanan said his group’s findings shouldn’t be taken as giving Miami a failing grade.

“We now know where to prioritize our resources and energy to make the (tech) community more inclusive,” she said. “A lot of times without something like this dashboard you just throw things on the wall. “

The Miami ecosystem is still in its infancy, she said, and the dashboard will hopefully help policymakers chart the ecosystem’s continued growth in real time. Compare that with Silicon Valley and New York, she said, where this work needs to be done “looking back.”

So what are Miami’s tech strengths? Buchanan said the city now has a galaxy of programs designed to help start-up and mid-term startups. She cited Endeavor Miami, 500 Startups, TheVentureCity and the Bayside Foundation as examples. In fact, the investigation found that there are instances where these programs inadvertently overlap and compete with each other.

“The challenge is being able to navigate through these programs to find the one that’s best for your business,” she said. “These programs often double down, or it’s hard to know what’s in the best interest of your business in terms of committing to one, and when. ”

So what are the solutions? Kevin Cadette, executive director of Black Angels Miami, a nonprofit that works to connect business founders with investors, said that since starting up last year, his organization has already rolled out more $ 1 million initial investment for startup executives. There are two main ways forward, he said: changing the ‘color of the money’ itself by catalyzing more minority venture capitalists and changing the views of the rest. of the investment community.

It is not clear which of these is happening faster, one of the reasons why progress in diversifying access to capital remains an elusive goal, he said.

“It’s really tough,” said Cadette. “It’s not as if people start to think differently automatically, although it may be present in their minds. But you have to have the conversions, or have different perspectives in the room, or you have to diversify those in the room. Someone cannot automatically change the way they view a founder overnight. That’s why they call it unconscious bias.

EMerge tech conference names as main sponsor

Miami’s annual eMerge Americas tech conference announced the crypto exchange as the main sponsor during eMerge’s two-day event at La Casa last week. Terms of the contract are not disclosed. CEO Peter Smith said his company, previously based in the UK, would fill around 200 jobs in a new office in Wynwood that would come with a branded building.

“I believe that all aspects of our lives will be affected by blockchain technology over the next decade,” said Manny Medina, founder and executive chairman of eMerge Americas, in a statement. “We are honored to strategically partner with with the goal of being an entry point for organizations in the Americas to adopt this innovative technology. “

Miami firm EveryMundo sold for $ 80 million

EveryMundo, a 15-year-old Miami company that provides airlines with performance marketing solutions, was recently acquired for $ 80 million. The buyer was Houston-based PROS Holdings, a software group focused on optimizing the buying and selling experiences.

“Airlines had a lot of irons in the fire before the pandemic, but the crisis has forced them to focus on improving their online marketing skills,” Seth Cassel, president of EveryMundo, told the travel site “It was a happy coincidence for us.”

EveryMundo now has around 140 employees worldwide.

Algorand backers launch $ 500 million fund

Backers of Algorand, a blockchain alternative to Bitcoin, have launched a fund in Miami to raise $ 500 million for investments in technology. Algorand was founded in 2017 by Silvio Micali, an Italian computer scientist, to address the challenges inherent in blockchain technology. Miami-based lenders Borderless Capital said they’ve already invested in more than 100 companies in the past 30 months. Algorand’s blockchain was also selected earlier this year as the “base layer” of El Salvador’s initiative to create a cryptocurrency-based economy.

Rob Wile covers South Florida business, technology and economics. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern and Columbia University. He grew up in Chicago.

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