Idea Center Receives $2.18 Million In Funding From Knight Foundation

Miami Dade College’s Idea Center has received $2.18 million in funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Matt Haggman, program director of the Knight Foundation, said the organization gave the funds to MDC because it is the largest and most diverse college in the country and connects to the Miami community like no other institution.

“The Idea Center will provide a unique opportunity to support and propel entrepreneurs across Miami,” Haggman said.

Haggman said the Knight Foundation is also willing and wants to get more deeply involved in  help more students of all majors to participate in workshops and mentoring programs.

More than 400 people attended the Oct. 28 opening ceremony, and eight teams have already started working with their mentors to launch new ideas.

The Idea Center offers students office space, informational workshops, mentorship and money to support entrepreneurship ideas.

“If you have any idea that you want to get started it can be for profit or non-profit, we want to help you get that idea started,” said Leandro Finol, Executive Director of the Idea Center located on the fifth floor of building 8.

When a group of students or an individual student walks into the Idea Center at Wolfson Campus, Finol and his mentors sit down with the students, go over their idea, see what details need to be addressed and discuss how to go about getting things moving. The Center’s website,, also provides steps for students to learn entrepreneurship and analyze their progress.

Along with Finol, the Idea Center has a lineup of advisors that are heavily experienced including Jeb Bush Jr., Ricky Arriola and Jorge Benitez.  

MDC’s Idea Center is part of a national trend to encourage students toward pursuing entrepreneurship. Florida International University and University of Miami also help students to start up business ideas in centers and academic settings.

The Idea Center is also helping students by offering a $5,000 award to the best idea every semester.

Carlos Conrado, 24, an information technology major, said he received encouragement at the Idea Center and a push in the right direction from his mentor, to get his idea moving.

“He told us it was a great idea and helped us with the next necessary steps,” Conrado said

Conrado, along with his partner Nicholas Lagueruela, a 24-year-old computer science major, has an idea to set up an app that allows people to search for an empty parking spot, reserve that spot, and then allow drivers to tap their phone on the parking meter.

With the help Conrado and Lagueruela received from the Idea Center, they put up a video on YouTube with animation to explain the parameters of the idea and perfected their vocal pitch.

The duo already has three funding offers, and has been approached by Downtown Development Authority to launch a pilot for their idea.

That is exactly the type of networking and idea building the Idea Center hopes to foster.

Workshops at the Idea Center have already featured CEO Juan Diego Calle who sold his Internet company for $109 million dollars.

Professionals are scheduled to speak at the Idea Center two to three times a month.