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Miami Beach mayor (and his dog Earl) visit Rokk3r Labs, talk tech


Photo taken and tweeted by Mayor Philip Levine after his visit to Rokk3r Labs on Wednesday.


A Miami Beach tech company invited Mayor Philip Levine to their lab for a visit this week, in response to comments Levine made at the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting last month. Levine said that he could not see Miami Beach becoming a tech hub.

"It's the dumbest idea in the world," Levine said at the Mayors meeting, according to the Washington Post. "People cling on to things that are not the highest and best use for their city. Miami Beach is never going to be a high tech hub. As much as it sounds great, it's sexy, that's not who we are."

When Rokk3r Labs in Miami Beach heard his comments, they sent him a picture of their employees, each holding up a letter of the alphabet. Together, they spelled out an invitation to visit the Lab.

German Montoya is the managing director of Rokk3r Labs, a company that helps start businesses and builds mobile apps and other software for a number of portfolio companies.  They have offices in Miami, Bogota, Toronto and New York. Montoya said it is important for Levine to see the tech opportunities that already exist in Miami Beach.

"We wanted to raise awareness about the fact that there are real possibilities for Miami Beach as an entrepreneurial center," Montoya said. "Miami Beach is a great place to live... it is very open to thinking and working, and in that way we will be able to attract talent even from afar." 

Touringrokk3rLevine, accompanied by his dog Earl, spent about an hour touring the Lab and speaking to employees about his entrepreneurial past.

"Truly, I'm the start-up mayor," Levine said. "I'm probably one of the first mayors in Dade county who has actually started up companies." 

The group also talked about ideas for building up the tech industry in Miami Beach. Montoya said Levine's experience with entrepreneurship should help the Miami Beach tech scene grow.

"It's refreshing to see that he's actually an entrepreneur that has gone through every stage, has had success and knows how to relate to people that started even with $500," Montoya said. "We really want to learn from him."

In response to the criticism, Levine announced his office will start what he calls a "blue ribbon panel" made up of entrepreneurs and possible investors to get really get the Beach's tech scene rolling.

The mayor has been making the rounds and getting to know the tech community since his speech in Washington. He attended and spoke at a reception for SIME MIA in Wynwood and addressed the crowd of 600 gathered at Refresh Miami's event at the University of Miami earlier this month. The mayor will also be a speaker at Start-up City: Miami on March 31 at New World Center.  

Posted Feb. 26, 2014. In middle photo, Mayor Levine addresses Rokk3r Labs, accompanied by his dog, Earl. Photo by Hillary Lindwall/WLRN