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Up Close With Natalia Martinez-Kalinina, General Manager of the Cambridge Innovation Center

Founded in 1999, the Cambridge Innovation Center has dedicated itself to creating an ideal environment in which entrepreneurs can thrive. By providing critical networks, collaborative work environments, and essential resources, the company encourages innovation. And through these efforts, solutions that help solve community and global issues are encouraged in an entrepreneurial innovation ecosystem. As a result, more than 5,000 companies have selected the Cambridge Innovation Center as a source of growth and success. Today, Cambridge Innovation Centers exist in eight different cities. One of its most thriving centers is Cambridge Innovation Center Miami (CIC Miami), which is led by Natalia Martinez-Kalinina.

caricature of Natalia Martinez-Kalinina, general manager of the cambridge innovation center
Truly, Natalia Martinez-Kalinina is committed to linking innovation, entrepreneurship and community as one!

The Leadership of Natalia Martinez-Kalinina

As one of the most passionate leaders at Cambridge Innovation Centers, she is committed to linking innovation, entrepreneurship and community as one. By seeing tremendous potential in linking Miami innovation resources with Latin America, Martinez-Kalinina is surely demonstrating bold leadership. Bold Business had the opportunity to sit with Martinez-Kalinina and gain some insight into her vision.

Bold Business: Good afternoon, Natalia. Would you mind sharing a little about your background before joining Cambridge Innovation Center?

Martinez-Kalinina: I am an organizational psychologist by training. But in recent years, I have been focused on applying this lens for human capital and group dynamics as it relates to the intersection of innovation, entrepreneurship and community impact. My passion lies in creating bridges, and every project I have founded has been anchored in a firm desire to lessen some type of gap. Most recently, I have led the expansion of the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) to Miami. But before that, I worked in software, human capital consulting and even advertising.

Bold Business: Who is Cambridge Innovation Center, and what is the bold Idea behind the company?

Martinez-Kalinina: CIC’s competitive edge, secret sauce, or market differentiator, if you will, is its physical platform. CIC’s physical platform is a vehicle used to converge stakeholders, programs and resources turning cities into mature ecosystems.

Bold Business: What makes CIC such a special place for startups, and what are the benefits of a start-up if joining CIC?

Martinez-Kalinina: For one, we have more of an innovative focus than an economic development one. This focus is unique and important when it comes to startups. Likewise, being a national company also offers great benefits. Cambridge Innovation Centers routinely work with academic institutions and with private and public capital resources in every city. And we offer opportunities to scale, expertise, and an expansive network through which to grow. Lastly, the greatest advantage in choosing CIC is the environment we cultivate through clients, visitors, and stakeholders in catalyzing an innovative ecosystem. We do this meticulously through dedicated floorplan designs, sound insulation, wet labs, as well as community-wide networking efforts.  There’s a lot of thought put into it, and we are constantly striving to improve to make these environments even richer.

quote of Natalia Martinez-Kalinina that is in relation to Cambridge Innovation Center

Bold Business: Do you focus on specific industries?

Martinez-Kalinina: As a practice, we are industry agnostic. In fact, we believe that the plurality in our spaces is core to achieving our mission. In Miami, we do have certain verticals that are more represented than others. For example, the top three industry clusters of clients are life sciences; social impact sectors like education, NGO, policy, and energy; and technology. But we strive to support a broad range of clients believing that diversity of experience and perspective is beneficial to everyone. This is what helps drive a truly innovative community.

Bold Business: How is Cambridge Innovation Centers different than from WeWork and other coworking spaces?

Martinez-Kalinina: For us, our physical offering[s]—like coworking spaces, offices, laboratories, and event spaces—are not the goal. Instead, these are the foundations upon which we layer a very robust strategic and programmatic offering.

Our ultimate metrics of success are not whether we fill a space with interesting companies. It is whether we succeed in moving the economic development needle of our communities forward. Of course, this includes supporting the growth of the companies and startups physically housed within Cambridge Innovation Centers. But it also involves partnership building, collaborative thought leadership, and engagement with the enterprise sector.

Bold Business: So these additional targets align with CIC’s vision and mission?

Martinez-Kalinina: These targets are essential to tackle substantive challenges in communities and to launch initiatives. In our case, examples of these initiatives have included a variety of activities. This has included establishing specific working groups as well as launching a robust Latin American engagement program. It has also involved signing agreements with foreign governments to add Miami to their figurative and literal innovation map. While providing physical space is a major activity, it’s the basic foundation and not the ultimate purpose of our work.

Bold Business: Why is Miami a focus area for Cambridge Innovation Centers?

Martinez-Kalinina: Our founder and CEO Tim Rowe calls Miami the “Hong Kong of Latin America”. What he means is that Miami has the potential to emerge and mature as a focal point for an entire continent’s business. Certainly, South Florida is still a young region in many ways, with many challenges ahead. But we would be remiss to not recognize that it gathers a robust list of resources. These include entrepreneurial talent, universities, foundations, corporations, funding vehicles, transportation systems, and many others. These make Miami a unique, thriving and exciting place to be.

As such, this reality offers opportunities for building collaborations around substance and progress. And Miami offers a strategic bridge of collaboration between the United States and Latin America.

Bold Business: What is the significance of the Miami Wet Lab space?

Martinez-Kalinina: Cambridge Innovation Center Miami—in addition to its physical footprint—also manages laboratory spaces. We do this because we have gained insights from cities like Boston and San Francisco. Accelerating the rate of commercialization for scientific research is positively correlated with the growth of the innovation ecosystem as a whole. As such, we seek to support early- to mid-stage chemical and biological research as part of our entrepreneurial community. In fact, we work directly with universities in providing pathways from scientific research to commercialization.

In 2017, we launched Converge Labs in partnership with the University of Miami. As the only shared wet laboratory facility in South Florida, it provides affordable, cross-industry access for earlier stage research.

quote of Natalia Martinez-Kalinina that is in relation to Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC)

Bold Business: Tell me about the impact Cambridge Innovation Center has made in Miami.

Martinez-Kalinina: In one sentence, Cambridge Innovation center has completely reshaped the way Miami does business. We’ve greatly expanded South Florida to three industry clusters that include life sciences, social impact, and technology sectors. Between 2016 and 2018, new clients have raised $163 million in funds and generated over 900 local and global jobs. Cambridge Innovation Center Miami has also enhanced diversity leadership.

Existing clients in Miami are 28 percent female-founded, 37 percent minority-founded and 27 percent immigrant-founded. And through soft-landing programs, CIC has greatly advanced Miami as a hub for foreign clients, including those from Latin America.

Bold Business: You have mentioned collision theory, change theory, and social capital theory previously. What is their relevance?

Martinez-Kalinina: I mention these as examples of theoretical research that has shown that strong bonds are a key component of thriving communities. As such, our work at Cambridge Innovation Center focuses very heavily on fostering such bonds. We strive to be a convener, a connector, and an emulsifier for stakeholders, objectives, and different agendas in our cities. This is why we invest so much in partnership building, in co-leading and in co-founding initiatives. These theories support the value of intersectionality. And they guide us in becoming a center of gravity in Miami—not just an interesting building.

a photo of a scientist in a lab coat conducting an experiment in one of the laboratories at Cambridge Innovation Center Miami (CIC Miami), which is led by Natalia Martinez-Kalinina
“Cambridge Innovation Center Miami—in addition to its physical footprint—also manages laboratory spaces,” says Martinez-Kalinina.

Bold Leadership Through Innovation and Diversity

Cambridge Innovation Center Miami and Martinez-Kalinina both showcase what bold leadership looks like. Not only have they accomplished this leadership through passion, commitment and a focus on vision. But likewise, they have embraced diversity and innovation to empower others and solve community challenges. For Miami, the impact has been profound. This fact includes statistics showing that over a third of CIC clients expanded into Miami from around the globe. And through CIC’s International Softlanding Program, over 150 startups, governments, investors and venture capitalists have expanded into U.S. markets.

Given the Cambridge Innovation Center’s growth and success, it’s proof that the model is working. Thus, with bold leaders like Martinez-Kalinina, it’s is highly likely CIC’s success in Miami will continue to expand.

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