Digital Grass focuses on growing diversity in South Florida tech

Michael Hall is CEO and chairman of Digital Grass Innovation and Technology (Digital Grass), a social impact group and diversity accelerator, which Knight Foundation supports as part of its efforts to invest in Miami’s emerging innovators and entrepreneurs to build community, while fostering talent and expanding economic opportunity.

Despite the well-known benefits that different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives bring to corporate success, the technology and innovation ecosystem is visibly homogeneous, leaving minorities, women and LGBT people on the fringes. Bringing these groups to the center of the South Florida tech and entrepreneurial community is a primary focus of Digital Grass. We want to show the power and benefits of diversity in technology and innovation. Miami is a melting pot; this is one of our strengths, and we can show the world its power, whether it is through the lens of collaboration to fill tech positions, build tech companies or influence investors. With the support of Knight Foundation, we’ll now expand our efforts to broaden this message about the power of diversity.

To date, Digital Grass has carried out its mission of diversity inclusion by collaborating with and sponsoring tech events and conferences held by other organizations throughout South Florida. We were members of the steering committee for Black Tech Week, judges and mentors for Startup Weekend Diversity Fort Lauderdale and Miami. While Digital Grass will continue to work with other organizations, such as Catalyst Miami and LaunchCode, the support of Knight Foundation will allow us to develop and host tech events that celebrate, encourage and highlight diversity in technology and innovation.

Serving as a liaison between diverse entrepreneurs, members of these groups and the emerging tech scene of South Florida, we plan to develop an innovative hub for an informed and engaged community of entrepreneurs in technology and business. Our co-working space, incubator and accelerator in a 35,000-square-foot building in Miami Gardens is in process, but we hope to create more collision points of innovation to reflect the energy of Wynwood and Downtown Miami through symposiums, curriculums and events to develop a more inclusive tech community. Through our work, we want to expose angel investors and venture capitalists to a new network, helping them access a broad community of minority and women innovators. We also see the benefit of collaboration and realize it’s one of the ways to increase social awareness. That’s why co-sponsorships and partnerships will continue to be a focus of our work. We will continue to develop the  #W3RTech (We Are Tech: Minority, Women, LGBT) social awareness campaign, which is a multimedia approach focused on increasing diversity inclusion. With funds raised by the #W3RTech campaign, we will implement strategic planning, programming, education, diversity speaker series, and social media outreach to promote and seek solutions for diversity inclusion.  #W3RTech will offer fellowships and microgrants to diverse entrepreneurs for co-working space, conference attendance, stipends, investments and other vital opportunities.

Through Digital Grass initiatives, employers, entrepreneurs and larger companies will gain the opportunity to consider and embrace unique solutions that improve the disappointing diversity numbers recently released by Silicon Valley leaders and ensure that the vibrant technology and innovation ecosystem of South Florida does not repeat the mistake of exclusion. By participating in Digital Grass programs, entrepreneurs and techies from diverse backgrounds will have the opportunity to meet potential investors and employers who understand the value of alternate perspectives and experiences. As a new technology hub, South Florida is thriving and growing; it’s a community that is full of culture and diverse experiences, and our technology scene should reflect that.

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