Alumnus ignites social entrepreneurism

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Startup fever is in the air and growing in Miami. The 2017 Kauffman Index of Startup Activity named it the top city in the country for new companies, outpacing hotbeds such as Austin, Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas. And FIU, for years, has contributed to preparing South Florida entrepreneurs for success, even formally launching StartUP FIU in June 2016. Now comes the latest business incubator ­­at FIU, one exclusively for students with dreams of establishing social enterprises: the GOJA Social Innovation Challenge and iChangeFIU competition within the Center for Leadership and Service.

It was the downside of the startup trend that sparked the interest of successful businessman Walter Gonzalez Jr. ’96. He knew that while startups were becoming more common, the number that don’t make it was also very high. (As many as 90 percent fail, as reported by Forbes in 2015).

“Something’s not working,” he recalls thinking. “There’s an environment that pushes you to open a business, but there’s something that’s not helping keep those businesses open.”