Oct 8, 2021

Levan Center secures $700k grant to support South Florida entrepreneurs


The Davie-based Alan B. Levan | NSU Broward Center of Innovation has won a $742,787 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration as part of the Venture Challenge funding competition that sits within its broader “Build to Scale” program.

The competition is designed for intermediary organizations like universities and accelerators that are supporting new business ventures that challenge the status quo, commercialize technologies, and create jobs.

The funding will go towards activities that help build our region’s tech ecosystem. “We will use the funding to support the startups as they go through the program,” Teresa Grandal Cusse, Assistant Executive Director of the Levan Center, explained to South Florida Tech Hub. “It will help us keep the program and wraparound services free for the startups.” These services include legal, accounting, and marketing advice.

The provision of these funds is stipulated on the Center matching them dollar for dollar. “The match shows that we’re co-invested in the project,” said Grandal Cusse. The Center is barred from using this funding to directly invest in startups, however. 

Grandal Cusse is an experienced grant writer, having previously run the grants office at Miami Dade College, written grants for the City of Doral’s police department, and led development efforts at a Miami private school. Her advice to startups considering grant funding? Go for it.

“It’s worth committing the time,” she said, noting that a federal grant can take upwards of 100 hours to prepare, while private foundation grants can take 20 to 50 hours. According to Grandal Cusse, it might make sense for a startup to look for non-profit partners, since there tend to be fewer grant opportunities for for-profit businesses – although they do exist. 

“Grants can be very intimidating,” Grandal Cusse noted. “But think about it as a research project with a business plan thrown into it.”

Last week, the 54,000-square-foot, 1,350-person capacity Levan Center opened its doors for a soft launch, ahead of its full launch in early 2022. The Center Levan boasts a wide range of facilities, many of which are the first in South Florida or even the Southeastern United States. Some notable highlights include a state-of-the-art cybersecurity range, a media production studio, and ample space for co-working and meeting.

Apart from these facilities, the Levan Center has developed a series of programs designed for startups and entrepreneurs of all stages. Applications are currently open for their two early-stage programs, Ideate and Incubate. They plan to launch their Accelerate and Post-Accelerate programs in Spring 2022.

John Wensveen, Nova Southeastern University’s Chief Innovation Officer and Executive Director of the Levan Center, expressed excitement about what’s to come. “Some of our partners are starting to come in and help iron out some of the kinks,” he said, noting that the Levan Center’s first members have already started working in the space. “We’re going to plan our grand opening event for January 22 and start the year off with a big deal.”

Are you a South Florida innovator? Learn more about the Levan Center and apply to become a member by visiting NSU.edu/innovation.