Refresh Miami: Maria Derchi Russo

Maria Derchi  has been a friend of the firm for years. Through her work with the University of Miami, Global Ecosystem Director at The Venture City, Executive Director of Refresh Miami, and now with Florida Funders, Maria has been a key connector to the firm’s tropical network in Miami. We talked with Maria about #miamitech, Miami’s extraordinary immigrant communities, and – naturally – cafecito.

JL: Hola Maria!  What is Refresh Miami and why am I hearing so much about it these days?

MDR: Refresh Miami has served as the hub of Miami’s tech and startup community since 2006. We are your one-stop shop for everything happening in our booming ecosystem – from the latest Miami tech and startup news, to events, job opportunities and resources – you name it! You’ve probably been hearing a lot about us lately because of the large influx of tech talent, investors and entrepreneurs flocking to our city. Refresh Miami has played the role of Welcome Committee to these newcomers, helping plug them into our incredible ecosystem and connecting them with locals that have been part of the fabric of our community for year.

JL: You went to school in places like Chicago and Boston, and you’ve worked for funds with tech investments around the world.  What is unique about #miamitech when compared to the rest of the ecosystem?

MDR: What makes #miamitech unique, in my opinion, can be traced back to our immigrant roots. So many Miamians are first-generation Americans whose family risked everything for the chance at the American dream. They feel an immense gratitude to be in this country but also an immense responsibility to make their parents sacrifice count which translates into this ‘immigrant grit’ you hear so much about.

JL: What is the biggest obstacle facing #miamitech?

MDR: I think the biggest obstacle we face will be learning from the mistakes of other ecosystems and ensuring we don’t repeat them. We don’t need to create another Silicon Valley or New York – transplants are flocking to our city for everything that Miami already is – a city with diversity of culture and thought, where politicians are accessible and open to innovation, and where they can have both a fulfilling career and a fulfilling life.

JL: Who are some local founders you are excited about?

MDR: One team that I’m very excited to watch and are about to be on everyone’s radar are Lula, founded by twin brothers Matthew and Michael Vega. They’re incredibly smart and hardworking with a great Miami story. I’m also excited for Evan Leaphart at Kiddie Kredit. Love the product he has built and the impact it will have on educating our children around credit responsibility.  Lastly, I’m excited for the team at On Chain Studios which is the second venture for Will Weinraub, Alfonso Martinez and Emilio Cueto. They sold their previous startup, LiveNinja, a few years ago and it’s great to see the team come together again to create what I imagine will be another Miami success story.

JL: Favorite spot for Cafecito?

MDR: My Cafecito spot of choice is Vice City Bean for their cold brew and oat milk. Only thing better than the coffee is the amazing owner and staff there. (Quick plug: they have 3 locations – Brickell, Edgewater and inside the Citadel in Little Haiti!).