Catching up with Miami Angels: New leader, new board member & more

‘It’s the angel network to join if you want to back some of the best and brightest founders in America’ – Miami Angels Managing Director Jared Schwitzke

By Nancy Dahlberg

Juha Mikkola has experienced all sides of the Miami Angels. He joined the Angels as an investor after the Mikkolas’ exit from Wyncode in 2021. As a founder, Mikkola has pitched both his startups to the angel group over the years and received funding last year for Usko Privacy. Now he is the newest Miami Angels board member.

 “What’s most exciting for me is being able to represent the founder side on the board but also seeing it as an investor,” says Mikkola, who is joining the board alongside Mark Kingdon, Melissa Krinzman and Tigre Wenrich. “It’s a huge honor to be able to help steer the direction for what’s now a very different Miami.”

Adding Mikkola to the Miami Angels Board was one of the first moves by the new managing director of Miami Angels, Jared Schwitzke, along with the Board of Directors. Schwitzke was previously the Miami Angels principal and took the helm in May, when Kat Wilson took on another role in the ecosystem, Schwitzke said. Before moving to Miami in early 2021, Schwitzke worked at big tech firms, contracting for Apple and Google in the Bay Area. He later joined early-stage startups in LA and then jumped into VC at GreatPoint Ventures. But then during the pandemic “I saw that there was this fervor growing around a new tech ecosystem, a tech ecosystem that was a little bit closer to my heart,” Schwitzke, whose mother was born in Cuba, said in an earlier interview.

Now at the helm, Schwitzke has also just hired a new venture associate, Guillermo Gomez, who came from who came from Midtown Capital Partners, a real estate management firm with about a billion dollars under management.

“A big part of what I’m trying to do is to continue providing value to the existing membership base, so that they continue to refer new investors into the area because anyone who says that founders aren’t in Miami, they couldn’t be more wrong,” Schwitzke said in an interview last week.

As the membership grows, so will the Miami Angels’ access to the best deals, but it all starts with growing the membership base and showing people Miami Angels isn’t just any other angel network, Schwitzke says. “It’s the angel network to join if you want to back some of the best and brightest founders in America.”

If you’ve ordered from your seat at a Miami Marlins game you’ve experienced the technology of one of Miami Angels new investments, Cheq, the primary payments provider of the Marlins, Miami Dolphins and other organizations. Another company the angel group recently invested in is a fintech platform called Poolit that opens up access to large investment vehicles.

As expected in this economy, Miami Angels has focused on follow-on rounds in existing portfolio companies, including Cryptoys, Taiv, Mytaverse and others. It has had a couple of exits, too.

Since its rebranding and relaunch in 2014, Miami Angels has invested more than $26 million in portfolio companies, about $4 million of that in the past year, despite the venture slowdown. It has more than 50 active companies in its portfolio. Its largest exit so far has been Nearpod in 2021.

The group typically focuses on post-launch seed stage companies, but has done pre-seed as well as Series A deals. The Miami Angels remains Florida focused but is open to invest in any US-based company. The group typically invests $200K to $500K in a deal and takes pride in the fact that they can close deals much quicker than most angel groups.

Today with more than 150 members, Miami Angels has also grown more global, with members from Europe and Africa as well as Latin America, and from around the country, including Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, Schwitzke said. Roughly three quarters of its 150 plus members do reside in Miami  and about a third of the investor base invest professionally for a VC firm, family office or private equity firm.

While the deal meetings are always virtual, Miami Angels holds 5 to 10 in-person social events for its members, often with a speaker or an educational component to it.

That social side is important for building community, Mikkola said. Whether it’s people who’ve lived here for years or just moved from New York or San Francisco, they want to know whatis the city like, where people hang out, where the builders are, he said. “We can be that source for them. And I’ve had the honor of meeting a lot of the folks here, some of them with crazy track records in tech investing outside of Miami. Miami Angels is a way to connect and a way for us to learn how to keep this momentum going.”

Where do Schwitzke and Mikkola hope to see Miami in five years?

Mikkola hopes to see MiamiTech build on the momentum so that we’re regularly seeing “awesome sustainable businesses being built here” by local founders and dev teams. “I want the best investors to either be in Miami or not be able to overlook it. I also hope we do all of this without losing what has made Miami special — a diverse city attracting amazing talent from all around the world, who work hard while also enjoying being here and giving back to this city.”

Adds Schwitzke:  “Over the next 5 years, I’d love to see MiamiTech home in on an ‘identity.’ It’s an undeniable fact that Miami is now one of America’s venture hubs, but I’d love to see us known as the hub for the best early-stage founders and investors.” 

Photos at top of post: Miami Angels Managing Director Jared Schwitzke, left, and Board Member Juha Mikkola.

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Nancy Dahlberg