Author: Stacey Deutsch Shoer, C’89
I have been the Chair of the Miami Alumni Interview Program for the last six years or so. Last year, two new volunteers joined our group. As I met them to discuss the interview process, we discovered that we had all attended the same high school.
When Danny Lafuente , C’10, and Wilfredo Fernandez, C’09, met in middle school at Ransom Everglades School in Coconut Grove, Florida, they could not have imagined that within a few years of graduating from Penn they would have a start up- The LAB Miami.
A number of both Penn and Ransom alumni sit on the LAB’s advisory board, and also serve as the main investors, in addition to the support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, led by Alberto Ibarguen, L’74. The Penn investors include Faquiry Diaz Cala, W ’97.
“The LAB Miami is a 10,000 square foot collaborative space for innovative entrepreneurs in Miami’s Wynwood Art District. The LAB Miami is a startup focused on providing an interactive space to learn, act, build, and create under the guidance of experienced mentors combined with an educational curriculum to foster collective inspiration and entrepreneurship ecosystem,” states one such investor.
According to a press release, “The campus is seeding a diversified mix of tenants that include tech start ups, programmers, designers, investors, serial entrepreneurs, non profits, artists, and academics to create a dynamic environment.”
Co-founder Fernandez says, “We are building a platform for innovation exchange, a place to learn from the best, act on your inspiration and build great companies.”
The LAB space has been used for Penn Alumni Club sponsored events, board meetings, and hosts a weekly farmers market which is part of the Youth LEAD Miami program, run buy fellow Penn alumna Erin Healy, C’00, who is also an alumni interviewer.
The possibilities are endless. Lafuente and Fernandez expanded to include an intern program that follows the same model of innovation exchange, learning, mentoring, and inspiring. Naturally, many of their interns are from Ransom Everglades School, including my son Mack, who will be a high school senior this fall as well as summer interns who are currently Penn undergrads.
The power of alumni is amazing as the friends use both their high school and college relationships to find investors and mentors for this hot new start up. As my son and his high school buddies work as summer interns, they are also finding a collective inspiration.