How Miami-Based Knight Foundation Uses Its $2.4B Endowment To Tackle Inequality

Written by Anita Sanikop

CEOs of corporate foundations say inequality is the top problem foundations should be tackling, according to a recent poll by the Center for Effective Philanthropy.

How is the Miami-based Knight Foundation tackling inequality? Matt Haggman, Miami program director for the Knight Foundation Miami, talked to Moguldom.com about the foundation’s efforts in helping transform Miami into a tech hub that includes under-represented groups.

With $1.2 billion in assets under management, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Endowment Fund funds journalism, technology, communities and arts.

About a quarter of it — almost $500 mnillion dollars — is invested with diverse asset managers, said foundation CEO Alberto Ibargüen in a May 12 CNBC guest column. That’s a huge leap forward from the $7 million that the foundation invested with firms owned by women or minorities several years ago.

So far in 2017, the foundation has announced $191,000 in new funding for NewMe Accelerator, a Silicon Valley transplant to Miami that works to improve the success of minority-led startups; and $1.2 million in added funding for BlackTech Week Miami, which connects people of color to the startup and innovation economy in South Florida.

NewME moved its headquarters from Silicon Valley to Miami with the foundation’s help. We asked Haggman why the foundation supported such a move.

San Francisco and Silicon Valley are the leading centers for venture-capital backed startups. New York is close behind. Miami ranked No. 15 out of the 20 metros for venture capital investment in startups, lower than Dallas, Atlanta, Philly, Denver and Austin greater metro areas.

South Florida is No. 1 in the U.S. for new startup activity, according to the Kauffman Foundation. But the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro area ranks 39th for entrepreneurship growth, according to Kauffman.

Knight Foundation has had a reputation for creative and experimental grantmaking. Ibargüen has said it’s time to experiment less and start concentrating on the stuff that really works.

The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy accused the Knight Foundation of chasing “bright shiny objects,” not doing enough to help marginalized communities in the 26 cities where it makes grants. The foundation was accused of being more interested in appealing to the “cool kids in the cafeteria” with its grants for innovation, a lot of it tech-related, rather than in advancing lasting social change.

Ibargüen worked most of his career in newspapers and appreciates the power of good journalism to advance the public interest. Haggman is an award-winning journalist.

The venture capital industry is dominated by men (89 percent of venture capital partners), specifically white men (76 percent of the total). Just 1 percent identify as African-American, according to the National Venture Capital Association/Dow Jones VentureSource. Less than 1 percent of venture capital funding goes to Black entrepreneurs, according to CB Insights.

Here’s what the Knight Foundation is doing about it.

 

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