Art meets tech in new Miami co-working space

Earlier this year, when we announced Knight Foundation’s push to increase community engagement by strengthening Miami’s startup community, we said the effort builds upon our ongoing work in the arts.

Now, that’s literally the case.

Knight Foundation is investing $250,000 into a new co-working space in Miami’s Wynwood arts district that will be adjacent to – literally sharing a wall with – the Knight-funded community arts center, Light Box at Goldman Warehouse.

Called The LAB Miami, the 10,000-square-foot facility is set to open early next year. The facility will serve as a co-working space, but also have classes, events and offer in-house mentors to entrepreneurs and innovators of all kinds.

The opening of the new co-working facility is another illustration of the rapid growth in Miami’s emerging startup community.  

For Knight Foundation, the investment is one component of our effort to help support and grow this community by connecting and accelerating the best entrepreneurs, doers and change-makers. Specifically, in this case: to help create and animate physical spaces – like The LAB Miami – where Miami’s innovators can work, gather, share and learn.

Located at 400 NW 26th St., The LAB Miami will be run day-to-day by Wifredo Fernandez, Danny Lafuente and Elisa Rodriguez-Vila. The team previously launched a smaller co-working space nearby under the same name, which will close to make way for the new, larger facility.

Knight is making its investment along with a group of angel investors and entrepreneurs, including Marco Giberti, Boris Hirmas Said, Faquiry Diaz-Cala and Daniel Echavarria. That group is investing $400,000 into The Lab Miami.  

Even before it opens, the space has already played a central role in the inaugural – and still ongoing – InnovateMIA, in which some eight different independently-organized events related to entrepreneurship and innovation are being held across Miami over 10 consecutive days.

This weekend HackDay Miami held its 24-hour hackathon at The Lab Miami, in which teams from across the Americas competed for a $50,000 grand prize. Five finalists were selected and are now poised to compete for the top prize at the Americas Venture Capital Conference in Miami starting Thursday.

On Wednesday, Wayra – a global accelerator – flew teams in from Europe and Latin America to compete at its first Global Demo Day, which was held at The Lab Miami. Wayra is owned by Telefónica, the Madrid-based telecom giant, and has a dozen accelerators from Dublin and Munich to Bogota and Sao Paulo.

The accelerator has no outpost in the U.S. but chose to hold its first demo day in Miami, in which 17 different ventures were presented.

Tonight, Thursday night, The LAB Miami will be host a “Community Chow” in which food trucks will convene at the co-working site for participants in the America’s Venture Capital Conference (AVCC) along with the general public to check out the space.  The AVCC is Thursday and Friday at the J.W. Marriott on Brickell Avenue.

The LAB Miami bills itself as “a community of entrepreneurs, artists, freelancers, startups, and change-makers who share space & ideas. We learn, act, & build together.”

It’s a mission that Knight fully embraces and one that is increasingly reflected across Miami’s civic-minded startup community.

To be sure, Miami has many of the elements needed to succeed as a startup hub: a strong and improving university infrastructure, an urban core that is becoming increasingly active, a highly diverse and international population, a constant flow of new people into the city who themselves bring new ideas, an entrepreneurial ethic, a high concentration of wealth, a thriving art and cultural life, and a startup scene that continues to gain momentum, even as it is disjointed and without a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem to support it.

But Miami still lacks important elements. Our effort in Miami focuses on helping fill those gaps by aiming to better connect, support and educate, and ultimately inspire our emerging community of doers. More specifically, at Knight we are focusing on investments that improve the places, mentor networks, educational and convening opportunities, information sources, and access to smart funding required for a vibrant startup hub.

In doing this, we hope to help foster a highly accessible, inclusive, easy-to-navigate network that includes multiple nodes of influence and support. We hope the network provides numerous ways for Miami’s innovators, entrepreneurs and funders to engage in this increasingly interconnected startup community.

Put another way, an environment where someone coming here will have several co-working spaces to choose from, simple and accessible ways to find mentors, where there continues to be a steady stream of events that are widely known about and publicly available for people to connect and learn, where there are easy to find information sources to share and get a handle on news, trends and people, and clear, identifiable avenues for entrepreneurs and investors to be able to connect, such as accelerators and contests.

Taken together, the ultimate goal is not only fostering a greater culture of innovation but also deepening resident engagement, creating a greater sense of purpose and possibility, and developing a much more strongly-felt attachment to our young and still rapidly-evolving city.

The launch of The LAB Miami is an important step towards this goal.

By Matt Haggman, program director/Miami at Knight Foundation