In South Florida's burgeoning tech sector, a nonprofit called Endeavor Miami plays an outsize role. The group helps incubate new businesses with the help of a $2 million Knight Foundation grant and a board stacked with a who's who of local power players. Since 2013, one of those players has been the charismatic Chilean tech investor Alberto Chang-Rajii.
But Chang-Rajii has come under fire this week after revelations that he never graduated from Stanford University, as he'd long said. Others have cast doubt on his claim that he was an early investor in Google, while concerns have grown in his native Chile over his firm's investments.
Now, Chang-Rajii has stepped down from his influential board position at Endeavor Miami.
"Alberto Chang resigned from the Endeavor Miami board [Tuesday]," says Laura Maydón, managing director of Endeavor Miami. "He did it to focus on his affairs and in Endeavor Miami’s best interest to allow us to continue to focus on our mission, which is to mentor entrepreneurs and accelerate their growth in our community."
Chang-Rajii didn't respond to New Times' request for comment on his decision to leave Endeavor Miami.
The Chilean has become a significant player in Miami's tech scene in recent years after expanding his Santiago-based firm, Grupo Arcano, into an office on Lincoln Road in South Beach. He sponsored programs at LAB Miami and earned prime university speaking gigs where he discussed his improbable rise: A young Chilean student at Stanford in the mid-'90s, he said, he met Sergey Brin and Larry Page and snagged 1 percent of their startup Google with a $10,000 investment.
Among Chang-Rajii's most significant public roles in Miami was the board spot with Endeavor Miami. The nonprofit, which is based in New York, tapped a powerful network to lead its tech incubation mission, including Cisneros Group CEO Adriana Cisneros, media mogul Manny Medina, ex-Herald reporter and Knight Foundation program director Matt Haggman, Open English CEO Andres Moreno, and Chang-Rajii.
But in recent weeks, El Mercurio — among the largest daily newspapers in Santiago — and a number of Chilean financial journals began raising concerns about Grupo Arcano and about Chang-Rajii's personal biography.
Yesterday, New Times confirmed Stanford has no record of Chang-Rajii attending the school. Numerous Google experts and investors told New Times they doubted his claims of having invested early in the company.
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Chang-Rajii has since removed any mention of Stanford from his online bios and said in a letter to investors that he indeed attended the school but never graduated. In the letter, he insisted he did in fact buy an early 1 percent stake in Google, and he defended his company's financial stability.
Endeavor Miami declined to discuss the specifics of Chang-Rajii's Stanford and Google claims.
"We are grateful for his support to Endeavor Miami these past years," Maydón said.