Full circle moment for Johanna Mikkola, the new CEO for Tech Equity Miami

By Nancy Dahlberg

Tech Equity Miami, the nonprofit collective of social investors backing the programs that most efficiently expand upward mobility in Miami-Dade County, has a new CEO at the helm. She is familiar to most everyone in Miami’s tech community: Johanna Mikkola.

Mikkola and her husband, Juha, co-founded Wyncode, a pioneering tech bootcamp, in Miami’s Wynwood in 2014. After Wyncode was acquired by BrainStation in early 2021, Mikkola was an executive with BrainStation, continuing their work in Miami.

Tech Equity Miami, a nonprofit, launched two years ago with a $100 million goal to support and fund programs in four priority areas: Building a tech pipeline, developing pathways for talent, helping small businesses with digital transformations, and greatly expanding broadband access in underserved communities. “Our mission is to catalyze the creation of a robust technology ecosystem by ensuring every investment creates tangible excellence with measurable outcomes,” Mikkola says.

Tech Equity Miami vets community-focused projects of companies and organizations, and it designates ones that could have the greatest impact in one or more of the four priority areas. To amplify that work and help ensure success, Tech Equity Miami works to pair funders with those projects. So far, Tech Equity Miami’s funders has committed $60 million.

In this quest, Mikkola has been on both sides of this table. Tech Equity Miami paired BrainStation’s scholarship work with a funder, in this case JPMorgan Chase, in order to greatly expand the scholarships that BrainStation provided to community members to skill up in tech bootcamps.

“It was transformational for nearly 100 people in Miami-Dade and it was amazing to have partners who really believed in these individuals and the work that was being done,” she said. “Connecting those dots behind the scenes was really meaningful to us and I’m really motivated to bring that value to others and to be able to play the role now on this other side of the table.”

Refresh Miami took the opportunity to sit down with Mikkola and learn more about her plans for Tech Equity Miami. This interview has been edited for brevity.

What excited you about taking this role?

I’ve been in the ecosystem for a decade now. It’s  my home, it’s where I’m raising my kids, it’s where I had the greatest professional journey of my life to date. I got to be part of building a family and building community and a team and so for me, it feels like it just brings all of that together.

I have always loved Miami as the underdog. And now that it’s having this moment, there’s this opportunity, and also a need, to unite organizations and funding so that we can be stronger going into the future. That’s a huge undertaking and definitely something that’s a long-term play. I know that it’s not going to be a single source doing that, but in a way this feels like I get to be part of building the foundation of a greater future for our ecosystem. It’s an opportunity to have impact, and then on the flip side, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to engage the network that I’ve built here and get them to engage in a new way, while also working with all the new players in town.

What are some of your goals for Tech Equity Miami?

The original goal remains the same. We’re a consortium and the goal is to deploy $100 million over the course of five years and we’re two years into that mission. And so, simply put, my goal is to direct funds to initiatives that are strengthening our tech ecosystem and providing economic upward mobility for Miamians. The goal now is really to bring in more funders.

My call to action is for companies who want to be part of building the foundation of the Miami tech ecosystem. I would love to chat with those companies and help them either tap into the initiatives they’re already working on so that we can amplify them and compound on that impact or help them co-create what their impact could be in this community. We’re a pathway to do that for companies that haven’t sketched that out yet but do want to positively impact the ecosystem beyond their business operations.

Tech Equity Miami is a young organization. So far, there are 32 designated projects under Tech Equity Miami. I joined because I love the mission abut I also want to take a minute to refine and make sure that we are we are focused on where we can have the most impact. We are committed to the four [priority areas], but we’re also taking a look at where we can have the most impact, where funders are the most aligned, and whether objectives overlap in terms of what we’re going to focus on.

What are some of Tech Equity Miami’s current projects?

JPMorgan Chase is a catalyzing partner in this; they committed $10 million over five years to be deployed through Tech Equity Miami and the most recent initiatives have been the ones that JPMorgan Chase has backed and are Tech Equity Miami designated and those include EndeavorLAB, Florida Memorial University, and CodePath.

We’re also designating existing projects in the ecosystem under our umbrella so that we can help amplify and make those initiatives more successful, such as Miami Tech Works. BrainStation was a Miami Tech Works sub-awardee and I was already working closely with [Miami Tech Works leader] Terri-Ann [Brown] and her team. Now in my Tech Equity Miami role, we are engaged with companies that are hiring and thinking about what their workforce development looks like, and how they’re hiring internships and apprenticeships.

There are more projects but those would be the most recent ones. We are working very closely with a number of companies right now to bring them on and we are talking to nonprofit initiatives in the tech space to see about getting them Tech Equity-designated. We are creating a data portal so that we can report on not only the individual impact of projects but measure the collective impact of Tech Equity Miami. We want to try to be a hub of the many, many spokes.

Where have you seen impact and where are the priorities going forward?

Kudos to Miami Connected in the wonderful work they and the Miami Foundation have done. It’s incredible that now 300,000 more homes in our community have broadband access and that critical work is still ongoing.

Digital transformation is obviously very close to my heart. Going forward, I want to do make sure that we are helping small businesses in any way we can by finding initiatives that align with truly helping small businesses through the use of technology.

We’re focused on outcomes rather than outputs. That’s our ROI. When we bring in funders and projects, we want to make sure that there’s a tangible result that we can qualitatively and quantitatively speak to and highlight. But also, if we’re hyper focused on the outcomes, we will also discover the things that don’t work as well and that need to be tweaked and pivoted. And I think that’s an area that gets talked about less, but we want to help identify what works and also what doesn’t work so that we can be stronger.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on X @ndahlberg and email her at [email protected].


Nancy Dahlberg