By Riley Kaminer
“We think AI is a moment, but we want to turn it into more than a moment – we want to turn it into a sustainable business,” said Kevin Jackson, the International Director of AI Forge, a tech incubator that has just launched in Miami concurrently with a launch of a campus in London.
As Jackson spoke with Refresh Miami from his office in The Hub @ Office Logic, his enthusiasm was bursting through the video conference. The word “international” in Jackson’s title is not to be taken lightly. The longtime entrepreneur has launched businesses in 58 countries, and has all the stories to prove it.
He’s one of those founders who, at this point in his career, could be doing pretty much anything. So why focus on incubating AI companies, and why in Miami?
Answering the first question is straightforward: the unparalleled prospects of AI. “AI is like electricity. It is going to be at every level in every business, whether you can see it or not. It’s going to optimize your efficiency. It’s going to cut your costs. It’s going to make you a better business.”
As for Miami, it was all about the numbers. Shortly after founding AI Forge in February of this year, Jackson and team undertook an exhaustive search into the top global ecosystems – focusing on factors such as startup culture, government attitudes toward innovation, and how much capital startups have raised. “Miami came out on top,” said Jackson.
On September 12th, AI Forge kicked off two in-person programs: one in Miami and one in Jackson’s native London. Each cohort has 12 companies, and the plan is to run three cohorts each year in every city. These early-stage, AI-powered startups are given $12,000 in cash for living expenses, $12,000 to spend on professional services, and hundreds of hours of support and guidance. AI Forge takes a non-negotiable 9% equity stake in each company. The programs culminate with an investor week where companies present themselves in front of 300 pre-seed investors.
To fuel this program’s growth, AI Forge has raised 75% of their goal of £24.4 million, giving them four years of runway. Eventually, the incubator plans to have a presence in 10 global cities: Miami, London, Bangalore, Vancouver, Austin, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Accra, and Nairobi.
Roxette Irvine, who formerly led The LAB Miami and was a director at the Founder Institute, is working as the Miami-based investment manager for AI Forge. She will be intimately involved in community events and investment outreach in Miami. She met Jackson when he attended a pitch night at The LAB last November.
“My involvement with AI Forge is going to be pretty much the same as I was doing for the Founder Institute: helping high-quality founders get connected to the ecosystem,” Irvine explained, also expressing excitement to play an active role in executing AI Forge’s vision.
This vision is ambitious. “In five years, when we have 10 offices, we’ll be doing 360 companies a year,” said Jackson, asserting that it’s not out of the question for these startups to achieve the unthinkable, like finding a cure to cancer. “We’re going to solve real-world problems.”
And perhaps there is no better place than Miami for these ambitious goals to come to fruition.
READ MORE IN REFRESH MIAMI:
- Office Logic coworking space aims to be the new ‘hub’ of Miami’s tech scene
- Is there AI innovation in Miami’s tech scene? Here’s everything you need to know
- Miami Tech Talent Coalition kicks off initial programs to prime the talent pipeline
- University of Miami research lab makes strides with AI and mobility
- Ready for AI to help you do your taxes? Miami-based Taxfyle’s got you covered
- At MDC, the future is now, with new AI courses, AI Centers and a Metaversity
- Building the sustainable, resilient cities of the future at this year’s Smart City Expo Miami - September 29, 2023
- Q&A: Novo’s Michael Rangel on empowering small businesses to make a positive impact on their local communities - September 28, 2023
- Are your devs doing QA testing? Testaify can do it for you, with the help of AI - September 27, 2023