Miami Tech & Startup News

Levan Center grows, with space and international collaboration in focus

Levan Center grows, with space and international collaboration in focus

By Riley Kaminer

The Alan B. Levan | NSU Broward Center of Innovation has been running on all cylinders since its grand opening in late April.

Already, the Levan Center has racked up a string of successes. Seventy-five businesses have successfully completed one of their flagship programs for very early-stage startups. Companies that have taken part in Levan Center programming have generated $2 million in revenue over the last quarter and created 60 new jobs in South Florida. 

The Levan Center reports that more than 5,000 people have come through their 54,000 square-foot facility on Nova Southeastern University’s campus in Davie. Their virtual community platform has 700 users, and the Levan Center has 85 new members representing 46 different companies.

“We’re focused on three themes: innovation, technology and entrepreneurship,” Levan Center Executive Director Dr. John Wensveen told Refresh Miami

Levan Center Executive Director Dr. John Wensveen

As a public-private partnership between NSU and Broward County, prioritizing these themes helps the Levan Center accomplish their mission of being an economic and educational development engine linking South Florida’s innovation ecosystem.

How does Wensveen feel about this rapid growth? “I’m in disbelief, in a very positive way.”

“I had a dream about what the Center would become, and we’ve surpassed that dream,” Wensveen continued. “It just goes to show that when we set out to do something, we can do it bigger and better.”

And big are Wensveen’s dreams. Intergalactic, in fact. The Levan Center has its sights firmly set on space through its LEVL5: SPACE DOCK at NSU initiative. There’s fertile ground for investment in space, with the global space economy having risen to $447 billion in 2020, a 4.4% increase from its 2019 total.

“There are so many businesses here in South Florida that, with a slight pivot, could directly or indirectly support the space sector,” Wensveen said. “There has never been a more opportune time to enter space as there is right now, with the privatization of the space industry and the increased public private partnerships that are occurring.”

While the space industry’s hardware innovations tend to get public scrutiny, Wensveen noted that software components such as data solutions present a major opportunity for private-sector companies. “It’s not always about spaceships, satellites, and martians,” he said. 

On October 12th, the Levan Center will host a series of programming to celebrate South Florida Space Day. The goal is to bring together stakeholders in the ecosystem – from local government officials to top organizations like NASA – while offering practical advice to businesspeople who are interested in getting in the space game. The Levan Center has also announced a strategic collaboration with the Space Foundation to further develop the Levan Center’s space programming.

The Levan Center is also developing a unique form of international collaboration: its “country desk” model. This initiative will provide high-level global leaders with a physical footprint in the Levan Center. That gives these countries and their local innovators access to South Florida as a gateway to the greater U.S. and Latin America. “We’re not just focused on local impact, but regional, national and international impact,” said Wensveen. “When we tie our world together, it begins to have a huge impact within our own region.”

The country desk model has had some early wins. For instance, the Kingdom of the Netherlands recently brought some SportsTech entrepreneurs to South Florida. The Levan Center set up a pitch event for them, which resulted in the entrepreneurs attracting new customers. 

Also along the lines of international collaboration, the Levan Center has inked a deal with Tampa-based FIBA, the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator, to foster relationships between entrepreneurs in these two innovation hotspots.

According to Wensveen, this is just the beginning. The Levan Center’s roster of cybersecurity programming continues to grow. Their event calendar is jam-packed, including a daylong event hosted in collaboration with eMerge Americas for South Florida Entrepreneurship Day on October 26th. 

And don’t forget about tech week: “For Innovation Week in April, we’ll hold probably the biggest event we’ve ever done at the Levan Center.” Our suggestion to attendees: pace yourselves!

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Riley Kaminer