Accelerated Growth Partners as an engagement engine

Communities / Article

AGP workshop. By Nico Berardi.

Nico Berardi is managing director of Accelerated Growth Partners, an angel investor network that Knight Foundation supports to attract and retain talented people and create economic opportunity in South Florida by developing the local venture capital community. 

Accelerated Growth Partners (AGP) reopened its doors almost exactly a year ago today. Its mission was naive yet ambitious: to bridge the funding gap for Miami entrepreneurs.

While it hasn’t been simple, every key initiative grew bigger and faster than expected. The first, our bread and butter, was to relaunch the angel investing practice. Today, we have more than 80 members, have held seven investment meetings and have invested in nine South Florida-based startups. A total of $1.6 million has been invested, averaging more than $175,000 per company. An AGP member is formally on the board of directors or advisers at every company we have invested in. We set out to be an active investor group that adds more value than just capital. The initial results are promising. Also, our process takes about 40 days from when companies pitch to when an investment closes; the national average is 100 days. Entrepreneurs appreciate that efficiency.

Our second initiative was investor education. While significant capital exists in Miami, the investor community had not been exposed to early-stage investing all that much. We partnered with Greenberg Traurig and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management Miami program to deliver a series of six educational workshops open to the public. We’ve hosted the first four and drawn standing-room-only crowds.

The conclusion only reinforces the hypothesis that Miami has great potential as a tech hub. A strong suit of that hub approach is the interconnectivity to Latin America. Four of our nine investments have Latin American founders, and 40 percent of our members are from Latin America. While they could be anywhere in the world, they are here, validating the opportunity that Miami represents.

One of our first questions was if the number of tech companies being built in Miami was going to be enough to sustain an angel group. Our findings have surpassed our expectations. We meet with more than 50 tech startups every month; many already operate here while some are in the process. The quality that we’ve found in those numbers has also surprised us. We have incredible companies in town. NearPod, for example, is an educational technology company with a seasoned management team that raised capital from Stanford StartX, Emerson Collective (led by Laurene Powell Jobs), NewSchools Venture Fund and Marc Benioff (founder of Salesforce). ClassWallet, also a highly experienced team, went through Techstars in New York and received investment from Kaplan.

We are super thankful to everyone who has been a part of helping AGP Miami get this far so quickly. This is just the beginning and we will need a lot more support. We need interesting startups and super smart investors. If you are either, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Learn more about Accelerated Growth Partners, RSVP for an investment workshop or email Nico Berardi.