Refresh Miami, the largest tech entrepreneur organization in South Florida, started out with just five people meeting at a Starbucks in 2006. Today the group has grown to 5,000 members and attracts several hundred people to every monthly events, giving countless entrepreneurs a platform to connect with others and share their milestones. Today Refresh has one of its own to announce.
Matt Haggman, Miami program director of the Knight Foundation, announced tonight that Refresh Miami will receive a $150,000 Knight Foundation grant to help it expand its programming. Noting the impact Refresh Miami has already had on the community and that people need the right connections and a central place for ways to learn and engage, Haggman said, “Refresh Miami will fill this gap by providing entrepreneurs with the opportunities they need to build their ideas and inspire others to participate.” He made the announcement during Refresh Miami's Demo Night, which was held during the inaugural South Florida Technology Summit hosted by TigerDirect.com at the Miami International Airport Convention Center. r
Brian Breslin and Peter Martinez, co-directors of Refresh Miami, say they will use the funding to provide more and higher quality programming, such as the ability to fly in a speaker from Silicon Valley, for instance. Other plans include co-hosting a multi-university career fair with local startup DemoHire in September. Refresh will also hire an event planner, something the all-volunteer group has never had. This will give the directors more opportunity to work on growing the community,
upgrading the programming, drawing corporate sponsors, and adding resources for the membership, said Breslin, who like Martinez also runs a couple of companies. Maybe he won’t even have to buy the event pizza either.
“Refresh has the potential to help in many more ways that up to now we didn’t have the resources to do,” Breslin said, explaining that the RefreshMiami.com website will also be revamped, with an events calendar easily searchable by subcategory and enabling notifications, a job and internship board, a robust membership directory and tools for smaller groups to promote themselves to the Refresh audience.
The group has steadily grown over the years and produced about 80 monthly events, but it began reaching a wider audience in the last six months. Recent events have included themes like founder matchmaking, fund-raising, fashion tech and food entrepreneurship, in addition to events on 3D printing, Lean Startup methodologies and Windows 8. Indeed, one of the recent challenges has been to find venues big enough to host Refresh Miami.
Although Refresh events are free and open to all, the group has begun a VIP membership program. For $100 a year or $10 a month members get such perks as VIP seating, early access to events and discounts to local co-working spaces and services.
“Through this expansion, Refresh can continue on its mission of growing and refreshing the technology and entrepreneurial community," added Martinez.