Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Detroit hustles harder

Jan. 27, 2015, 1 p.m., Posted by Katy Locker

A version of this op-ed originally appeared in the January 2015 issue of EDGEcondition magazine. Above: portion of fresco 'Detroit Industry' by Diego Rivera, 1886-1957, at Detroit Institute of Arts.

Detroit is a city that invites ideas for its revival and re-establishment. Every day, it seems, we receive advice and plans for how to “save” our city. As a Detroit native who has been working on issues of revitalization in Detroit for more than a decade, I’m thankful we continue to invite new ideas and, most importantly, new energy for the work.  Many of the ideas proposed are about placemaking in this city rampant with vacant places. While I welcome the new ideas, I’m hopeful that we can start 2015 mindful of some key knowledge.

When a city puts its distinctiveness on display, has a deep understanding of its differences and can spin economic vibrancy out of difference, it has a real advantage.  One of Detroit’s great advantages is that it attracts people with ideas.  I believe that’s because Detroit has its own unique magnetism.  In other words, Detroit has soul.  Motor City.  Motown.  “Detroit Hustles Harder.”

Canoe demonstration project preserves American Indian tradition

Jan. 27, 2015, 9 a.m., Posted by Robin Haines Merrill

Tonight in Fort Lauderdale, the Upper Room Art Gallery will kick off a yearlong public art project centered around the traditional art of creating dugout canoes. Below, the gallery’s Robin Haines Merrill writes about the project and the importance of keeping the art alive.

I’m not a native Floridian, but in the past few years I’ve had the privilege to get to know some of the real natives in the Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes.  When I invited a few of them to be daring and participate in a public performance art piece I staged in Fort Lauderdale in 2012 using a dugout canoe on the New River, this was the first response: “You know we drive SUV's now, right?”

I hadn’t realized that most of the skills to even navigate a canoe have been lost, let alone the fact that very few functioning canoes exist. There is a certain rhythm, timing and natural balance that comes with any vehicle or transportation device, such as riding a bike. Without practice, skills can become rusty, or even lost. But what became more intriguing to me as an artist is the craftsmanship involved in creating a Florida dugout canoe from a cypress log, and how this craft needs to be passed down and witnessed from generation to generation to keep it from becoming extinct.  

Angel Education Series to help guide Miami’s early-stage investors

Jan. 26, 2015, 4 p.m., Posted by Nico Berardi


Photo of downtown Miami by Michael Bolden. 

Nico Berardi is managing director of Accelerated Growth Partners, an angel investor network, which Knight Foundation supports to develop the South Florida venture capital community. 

While the formula for building a great tech company remains a mystery, investment capital is definitely an important ingredient. The fact that most startups don’t qualify for traditional sources of funding makes early-stage investors a key component in any ecosystem.

Technology advancements have made the costs of developing a tech company lower than ever and have provided opportunities to scale beyond our wildest imaginations. Think of companies like Uber or Google valued at $40 billion each in less than five years. These trends have taken the investment community by storm.

Knight Foundation has been a transformational force in Miami becoming a tech hub by connecting and cultivating entrepreneurs. We’re starting to see the first success stories, with Mako exiting at $1.65 billion, .CO exiting at $109 million, OpenEnglish raising capital at a valuation of over $350 million, MagicLeap raising $542 million at a $1 billion-plus valuation. And yet, this is the tip of the iceberg. At Accelerated Growth Partners, we’ve made six seed investments and are closing three more. Every day we’ve been surprised by the quantity and quality of companies being built in our backyard.