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2 posts from February 4, 2013

February 04, 2013

GMCC Economic Summit offers broader stage for critical tech, education issues

While parts of the agenda of the Greater Miami Chamber's South Florida Economic Summit could be expected -- sessions and speakers on real estate and financial services, for instance -- others such as on education, entrepreneurship and technology came as a welcome surprise, noted Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez in remarks concluding the third annual summit on Monday.

That these topics were discussed at an economic forum attracting 600+ movers and shakers is signficant.  Topics brought up during these sessions -- closing the socio-economic and gender gaps when it comes to tech, combatting the region's brain drain and accelerating high-growth companies -- are familiar terrain to the tech and startup communities and likely to be debated again at next week's Start-Up City: Miami event. But these topics weren't to be found on last year's Chamber summit agenda. (It should be noted the Chamber does have active tech and education committees and the issues are included in its One Community One Goal initiative.)

In the education/entrepreneurship session, panelists noted the world is changing, old models of education aren't supported any longer, that schools need to teach entrepreneurship and business needs to be a strong education partner. Still, Dr. Eduardo Padron of Miami Dade College noted that the room should have been packed with business people; instead only about a third in the audience identified themselves as business people. Unfortunately, fixing education is not a priority with most, he said. Miami-Dade County Schools Superintendant Alberto Carvalho gave some sobering statistics about the digital divide in our community -- only 30 percent have Internet access in the country's fourth largest school district, for instance -- although there has been improvement and the business community has stepped up with funding, he noted. "The only way to level the playing field is through technology-- guaranteed universal connectivity, smart curriculums and smart connections," he said. Susan Amat, founder of the new Launch Pad Tech accelerator in downtown Miami, issued a call to action to the business community to give their time to mentoring high-growth startups so the new companies will continue to call Miami home and grow the jobs of  the future. “We want people to say ‘no business community is going to do what Miami did for me’ ” Amat said.

The technology panel covered some of the same ground. In disucssions about what it would take to build a world class tech ecosystem in Miami, Manny Medina of Medina Capital Partners said the four pillars of success are education, accelerators and incubators, funding and an employment base and South Florida has a fantastic opportunity to be a strong player in tech. Juan Diego Calle, founder and CEO of .CO Internet, said the community needs to come together and get to know one another, should attack its brain drain problem, and needs a few startups to become stars to inspire others. Calle, along with fellow panelists such as Andrew Carricarte, founder and CEO of IOS Health Systems, a national health information technology provider, could build their businesses anywhere but choose South Florida. Yet, nearly all said finding enough local tech talent is a challenge. Adam Burden of Accenture said the area needs specialists in big data and cloud archtecture programming and it's expensive for companies to have to import from New York or Silicon Valley. "We aren't producing enough organically grown talent."  Will Fleming, who is co-founder and CEO of MotionPoint, a global website translation service that is doubling the size of its Coconut Creek headquarters and adding 100-150 employees in the next couple of years, agreed and said we need to think regionally, drawing on all the strengths of the tri-county area, to develop a tech hub. Added Medina, who founded Terremark and is bringing a major tech conference to Miami in May of 2014: "People ask how do we compete [with other tech hubs]? My hope is that we don't compete, we complement."

For his part, Mayor Gimenez said he is putting his money where his mouth is and investing in education and tech, noting the county's $1 million investment in the Launch Pad Tech Accelerator. He  lauded the Knight Foundation's recent investments, including its $2 million investment to bring the global entrepreneurship nonprofit Endeavor to Miami to support high-impact entrepreneurs. Will education, entrepreneurship and tech be advanced by work through the Chamber's One Community One Goal? Clearly there is still work to be done, but  at least it's clearly on the agenda.

Related story on the housing recovery being the talk of the summit: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/02/04/3217385/economy-on-the-rebound-but-for.html


No deal for mompreneur in Shark Tank, other startup news

(My Herald column today)

By Nancy Dahlberg, ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

TecheggSusie Taylor, a South Florida mompreneur who believes she has built a better bib, went on ABC’s Shark Tank show on Friday, requesting $40,000 in funding for 14 percent of her company,  Bibbitec.com. Suffice it to say the Sharks had a problem with her margins (her made in the USA product with high-quality material costs $15 to make), her sales strategy and her price point. It was no deal.

But, as Taylor said before going onto the show -- a dream of hers for years -- she “just wanted the world to see her product.” It did. Orders for the multi-tasking, stain-resistant bib came in “non-stop” throughout the weekend and the company pulled in more than $21,000 in sales in the first 48 hours, Taylor said Sunday evening. Investors contacted her also.  Read more about the Bibbitec story here, and Starting Gate will have a full debrief with her soon. See the show here.

In other startup and technology news last week:      

•  3Cinteractive, a leading mobile platform company with a strong focus on consumer engagement,  announced it was No. 1 on Forbes’ list of “America’s Most Promising Companies.” The third annual list recognizes U.S.-based, high-growth, privately held companies. The full list of companies will be available online at  www.forbes.com Feb. 6.

•  SuperConf has unveiled its full roster of nine speakers -- including Adam D’Augelli of True Ventures, Gregg Pollack of CodeSchool and Jason Webster of MetaLab -- for its two-day homegrown technology conference Feb 21-22 at the Knight Center in downtown Miami.  Find it here.

•  ReStockIt.com, a Davie-based ecommerce supplier for small-to-medium sized businesses,  was purchased by Acme Paper & Supply Co., a Baltimore-based distributor of packaging, supplies and equipment for janitorial, foodservices, manufacturing and retail industries. Over the years, Inc. magazine ranked ReStockIt.com on its List of America’s 500 Fastest-Growing Companies and it was a Florida Finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards.

•  In conjunction with the Miami Herald  Business Plan Challenge, we’re offering a free Business Plan Bootcamp Feb. 26 at Miami Dade College. Melissa Krinzman, managing director of Venture Architects, will be leading a panel of experts offering advice on crafting a short business plan aimed at grabbing the attention of investors. Panelists include: Richard Ginsburg, co-founder of G3 Capital Partners, a mid-market and early stage investment company, Steven McKean, founder and CEO of Acceller, a Miami-based tech company, and Mike Tomas, CEO of Miami-based Bioheart and president of ASTRI Group. The bootcamp is free, but  find more information and the link to register here.

Read more startup news, including a  guest post by Susan Linning on social media, on the  Starting Gate blog. Send your startup news to me at ndahlberg@Miamiherald.com and follow me on Twitter @ndahlberg

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/02/03/3215748/no-deal-for-mompreneur-in-shark.html#storylink=cpy