Innovation arm of Mana Common focuses on building coworking spaces, hosting events, helping international companies expand to the US, and investing directly in startups.
By Riley Kaminer
It was a busy Miami Tech Month for Charly Esnal, the Managing Director of Mana Tech. The Argentinian founder began to lead this vertical of Mana Common, local developer Moishe Mana’s urban revitalization and community-building platform, when the soft landing organization he co-founded, Base Miami, merged with Mana.
“We are building an international entrepreneurial hub for founders,” Esnal told Refresh Miami in an interview in Mana Tech’s Downtown Miami offices. The space itself is fitting for such a mission: the company has built a prototype of the office space of the future on one floor – including ample space for coworking and events. The company plans to renovate the rest of the building in a similar vein.
In April, these spaces were used to the fullest. A small sample of Mana Tech’s activities included an “immersion week” that brought 15 companies to Miami from six countries, a two-day fintech event, and visits from and programs presented with the governments of Uruguay and the Dominican Republic.
Moishe Mana’s vision of Miami
So what exactly is Mana Tech up to? It all starts with Moishe Mana’s broader vision of the role Miami plays on the international level.
“We’re not developers, we’re community builders,” Mana told us. He is one of Downtown Miami’s largest landowners, with 80 properties in the Flagler Street District alone. Mana explained that Miami can and should be the central node connecting the Americas. “The Americas does not have a vision,” asserted Mana. “But we must have a shared vision.” How to accomplish that, in Mana’s estimation? By first uniting our international economies.
“Together, we can compete with China and India,” Mana shared. “Closing our doors will not keep America safe.”
If Miami is the central node for this future, then Downtown is the center of the center. “We have a unique opportunity here in Downtown,” said Mana, citing the ability to build tall structures, the accessibility of public transportation, and the greenfield opportunities for development.
“Downtown is the only place left that people haven’t touched yet,” Mana continued. “We’re going to restore Downtown’s buildings and bring Miami back to its historical roots.”
The importance of spaces and events
It is in this spirit that Mana Tech was established. Two major ways Mana Tech aims to help bring Mana’s vision to life are through creating spaces for collaboration and events to foster these interactions.
Esnal shared that Mana Tech hopes its Downtown office will act similarly to Paris’s STATION F, a startup campus that is the go-to destination for international innovators. “We want everyone from startups to trade organizations to VCs to be based here so that it will become a hub for interaction between all these players in an organic way,” said Esnal.
If you’re into #MiamiTech, you’ve likely already been to an event at Mana’s 10,000-person capacity convention center in Wynwood. Equally though, Mana has two venues in Downtown that can host 75 to 100 people each. “We’re constantly hosting and creating events,” said Esnal. “Our strategic initiative is to also bring important events that are happening in other places to Miami, and put Miami on the map.”
Building bridges for international founders
Base Miami is Esnal’s bread and butter. The organization creates programs for – and consults with – international companies that are trying to sell to the US market or raise money in the US. In some cases, these programs are developed in conjunction with a government or corporate partner. But the concept always remains the same: leveraging the Miami tech ecosystem as a stepping stone for entering the US market.
Investing in the future
The last major vertical of Mana Tech is its venture arm. As a group, Mana has already been investing in innovation, primarily in the health tech space. But now through Mana Tech, the organization is working to build an investment fund focused on uniting the Americas and creating a billion-person superpower.
All investments will go toward this mission – things like dealing with food scarcity, climate change, educational tools, and financing for underserved populations. The approach, as Esnal described it: “Let’s think about the problem that we can help to solve, and how we can add value.” Mana Tech has already been working on the venture side of its operations, creating a program enabling top international startups to pitch to US investors, on top of a demo day.
Much of Mana Tech’s value stems from shoring up some of the disconnects between Latin American businesses and founders. For instance, the lack of knowledge US investors have about the risks and opportunities present in international markets. And from the startups’ side: the mindset change necessary to talk to American mentors and enter the US market.
This is just the beginning for Mana Tech
At the moment, Mana Tech has a team of six full-time employees [pictured at top], three of whom are based in Miami. This is up from three FTEs a year ago. They are now in the process of hiring an additional two team members.
What can we expect to see from Mana Tech going forward? A focus on these verticals and more: climate tech, agrifood tech, fintech with a social impact, insurtech, and biotech. Doubling down on Miami, with a wide range of new partnerships. And more broadly, the development of Mana Tech’s vision to further develop Miami as an international hub for innovation.
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