August 08, 2017

Traffic, transit - can we solve it? Fastrack Institute will marshall tech, talent and government

Traffic

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

When you think of Miami, images of traffic jams likely cloud the otherwise sunny picture. And don’t get us started on how mobility issues can weigh on the environment, personal livelihoods and the economy as a whole.

What if entrepreneurs, engineers, corporations, legal minds and governments came together to build mobility solutions that could help Miami and be used by other cities?

It’s an experiment that is already being tested in Colombia by a trio of South Florida’s most accomplished entrepreneurs: Rodrigo Arboleda, co-founder of the global nonprofit One Laptop Per Child; Dr. Maurice Ferré, co-founder of Mako Surgical who is now running the brain-health biotech firm Insightec; and Salim Ismail, founding executive director of Singularity University and a guru on the power of exponential technologies.

Their young Miami-based nonprofit foundation, Fastrack Institute, is now turning to Miami, where it will look at the mobility challenge with fresh eyes, seek ideas and “fastrack” some of them into prototypes that can be tested and developed further. Fastrack announced Tuesday that it will launch a 16-week program to help address Miami-Dade's transportation problems, with funding from the Knight Foundation, Miami-Dade Expressway Authority and local real estate developer and investor Armando Codina.

The Miami program will kick off Aug. 24 with a free daylong workshop open to the public.

The Miami announcement follows a year of experience in Medellín, Colombia, where Fastrack Institute has launched eight startups aimed at solving urban problems in fast, cost-effective ways using technology. These include not only potential solutions for mobility and air quality but also widening citizens’ access to banking and finance, healthcare and early education.

The Fastrack framework is based on ideas spearheaded by Singularity University and Ismail’s ExO Works, organizations that focus on the impact of “exponential” technologies — that is, technologies doubling in power or speed while their cost drops. The Institute runs 16-week programs, also called Fastracks, in which tech companies or nonprofits collaborate with government regulators, attorneys, sociologists and other experts to solve urban issues. The idea is that legal, regulatory and societal hurdles can be addressed while the concepts are being built and the technology is being being tested. Once deployed, the technologies can be used by other cities.

The three entrepreneurs came together serendipitously, each independently looking at ways to put technology to work on urban issues. Arboleda was looking for ways to engage more young people in Latin America in technology and the sciences after finishing his work with One Laptop Per Child, which provided laptops to more than 3 million children in emerging markets. Ferré was exploring how to accelerate and support advanced healthcare innovation locally as well as globally. Ismail had recently moved to Miami from Silicon Valley, and was helping corporations learn how to develop an innovative mindset.

“In Fastrack, what we have uncovered is a mechanism so that as you are investigating these technologies like solar or autonomous cars, you can ramp up the regulatory, legal and safety changes that need to be made as you are looking at the technology,” said Ismail, in an interview last month.

“We found with Fastrack we can solve a problem facing a city at about one-tenth the current cost, which makes it economically very compelling,” he said. Twenty other global cities, about half in Latin America, have expressed interest in Fastrack programs, according to Ismail.

Arboleda, the Institute’s CEO, Ferré and Ismail launched the first Fastrack programs in Medellín, about a year ago, and found the city to be an ideal partner for its pilot programs. The city has “earned its wings” because it which has risen from the brink of economic collapse by smartly employing the power of innovation, said Arboleda. Fastrack partnered with Colombian entrepreneurial organization Ruta N, which was founded by the city of Medellín and links academia and the private and public sectors, according to Arboleda.

“Cities should embrace and accelerate the adoptions of these technologies but try to minimize the collateral damage to those portions of societies these types of exponential, viral and disruptive technologies will be affecting. We need to complete the circle. Technology alone cannot make it,” Arboleda said in an interview earlier this summer. “That is the genesis of Fastrack Institute.”

Fastrack’s first foray spawned two startups to tackle access financial access and two more focused on transportation, including autonomous vehicles. Programs on air quality and healthcare have followed; one on education is in the works. Large corporations from various industries are providing most of the funding in Colombia, Arboleda said.

Take healthcare, for example. A town two hours from Medellín has the highest rate of Alzheimer’s in the world; it was profiled on CBS’ 60 Minutes and has been drawing the interest of scientists and doctors globally, including Ferré.

“There is a tremendous opportunity [in Colombia] to set up a living laboratory with gigantic potential for mankind,” Arboleda said. “One of the most difficult health challenges will be the aging populations and in that age bracket Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s will become the most damaging elements we have ever seen in humanity for older people and the younger people taking care of them.”

[READ MORE: How a Silicon Valley big thinker is helping to bring world-changing ideas to life – in Miami]

Closer to home, where expanding mass transit it a hot topic, Miami-Dade County and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authoring have asked Fastrack Institute to explore the transportation solutions of the future.

“Traffic — think about it. If we can solve it in Miami, then that becomes an export industry that applies to every city in the world,” Ismail said.

To launch the Miami-Dade Fastrack, the institute received $500,000 from the Knight Foundation, Miami-Dade Expressway Authority and local real estate developer and investor Armando Codina, representing the Codina Family.

“This initiative is a prime example of how public/private partnerships are beneficial to the community,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez, in a statement.

Gimenez will accompany a delegation from Miami attending a Singularity University program next week, Arboleda said. The University of Miami’s Center for Computational Sciences and Rokk3r Labs are among the organizations already involved in Fastrack programs in Latin America.

In Miami-Dade, Fastrack will kick off Aug. 24 with a daylong public workshop in the Board of County Commission Chambers of the Stephen P. Clark Government Center. Register here to attend.

The workshop will begin with a presentation and discussion about Miami-Dade's transit issues and the institute will launch an open call for mobility solutions. Two teams will be selected from the pool of applicants to participate in the 16-week Fastrack. The teams will include global experts, local participants, organizations, educational institutions and public offices. The Fastrack will be directed and supported by a full-time Miami-based team and a local advisory board.

Climate change, accessible healthcare and affordable housing all could be issues for future Miami Fastracks.

“What we want to do is make Miami the capital for this kind of thinking,” Ismail said. “Absolutely the biggest success factor for any city is diversity, and the richness that comes from it. All great ideas come when you cross disparate domains together.” 

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg   

July 29, 2017

Argentina to Miami, a bridge worth building (Part 7)

GlobPic1

A Q&A with Alejandro Mainetto, Partner of Globant, a multinational company that creates innovative software products for brands, about Globant's footprint in Miami, collaboration and making Miami a living tech lab.

By Natalia Martinez-Kalinina

Miami has a ways to go before we can truly claim the title of regional epicenter, but Argentina has long been recognized as one of the primary entrepreneurial - albeit not particularly stable - ecosystems in Latin America. Figuring out how to support Argentina’s wave of growth and appetite for engagement represents a unique opportunity to add value to the region and truly deliver on our vision as a gateway.

As a first step to test these waters, a group of us came together last year  to co-author a full day of programming within StartupWeekBuenosAires - the largest event of its kind in Latin America-  specifically focused on how to engage with the U.S. ecosystem and market by way of Miami. From the CIC Miami perspective, we have been working to build tangible bridges with Argentina though a handful of partnerships that will be announced in the next few months, in addition to our general softlanding offering. But most recently, a few interested entrepreneurs have come together with the support of the Argentine Consulate in Miami to create a better toolkit for entrepreneurs and small companies looking to come to Miami from their native country. We are still finalizing the framework, but anyone interested in participating or learning more can email EmprendedoresArgMia@gmail.com

Glonbant_0888Given the aligned priorities and interests, it seemed worthwhile to continue featuring  interviews with a varied range of Argentine entrepreneurs and companies making their way to Miami. The first installments of this series have featured interviews with Balloon Group, Wolox, La Comunidad, and Oasis, Juana de Arco, and Socialmetrix. For this installment, we spoke with Alejandro Mainetto (pictured here) to shine a light on a major regional player, Globant, where he is a Partner.

Globant is a powerhouse of a company in Argentina and the region. What was the genesis story for the company? What has been the trajectory of growth these last years?

Globant's history began in 2003, when four friends got together with the idea of creating an multinational company that could provide innovative IT services to brands across the world, while offering challenging career opportunities for IT professionals and talent. In just 12 years they built a company that today has more than 6,000 professionals working for companies like Google, LinkedIn, JWT, EA and Coca Cola, among others. Globant’s story has also been selected as a case study at MIT and Stanford.

What’s next - how do you see the company’s future growth and development?

Globant continues being focused in becoming a global digital thought leader, in creating software that appeals and connects emotionally with millions of consumers. We seek to deliver the optimal blend of engineering, design, and innovation to harness the potential of emerging technologies for our clients. While engineering is central to information technology, only by combining strong engineering capabilities with creativity and agility can we deliver innovative solutions that enhance end-user experiences while meeting our clients’ business needs.

We take a dive into our customers industry, culture, challenges and goals in order to understand their business. The harmonious integration future trends and existing IT, infrastructure, services and applications is a critical enabler of any Digital Transformation process.

The US is currently a big focus of expansion - Globant has recently made four acquisitions in the US in a very short period of time and we continue to increase the number of people we hire in key markets for us such as Seattle, Dallas, Raleigh, Orlando and also Miami. Finally, Globant will also expand and grow by continuing to invest in key emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Virtual Reality and Blockchain among others. In order to fuel this growth we strive to find the best talent possible - hopefully we'll find that talent coming from places such as South Florida and in particular Miami.

What is Globant’s footprint/engagement with Miami? Why did it choose to come here?

Globant has had a presence in Miami for the last 8 years working with several of the most important corporations in the city and the state of Florida. We are a global leader in advising clients in the travel and hospitality, financial services and healthcare industries - all big industries in Miami - We are currently working with many of the largest leaders in cruise lines, hospitality, entertainment, and software. However, the potential is still very large in terms of the number of companies that we could be helping in the South Florida area. We need to do a better job in getting the Globant brand and our capabilities recognized in the Miami market. We came to Miami because we believed in the city, the clients we could serve, its growing talent and specially its potential and what Miami could become one day.


What kinds of opportunities were you looking for here? What aspects or risks worried you? How have those played out over your time in Miami?

We were looking for opportunities to help companies become true transformational leaders in their own industries, we were looking to gain a presence in a city that could quickly become a tech hub within the US and the tech hub for Latin America, and finally we were also looking to establish a presence in a State which traditionally has been very pro business and easy to do business with.

How do you see Miami today? What works, what surprises you, what frustrates you? How have you found your industry reflected here?

It's a different Miami than the one from 5 years ago. A lot has happened and a lot more will continue to happen. - Places like co-working spaces came, innovation districts like CIC came, conference events like Emerge Americas came, accelerators and incubators came, powerful startups such as Magic Leap came, the money came but most importantly the talent came and the talent stayed.

Miami works because it's like putting together NYC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro all in one. Its weather, its lifestyle, its location - all major pluses, it's a good kept secret, but not for long. What surprises me, is that it still hasn't been able to attract bigger Fortune 500 companies and it hasn't built a new top technology and engineering education institution. The tech, creative and marketing industry which today has converged into a Digital Industry is not yet well represented, which is a huge opportunity for those who are smart enough to settle and lay roots in Miami - The city, the county and the state need to collectively join forces to attract more digital companies, more tech universities and more digital jobs.

What can Miami do better to become a truly value-adding “hub” for the region? (in your industry and in general)

I have written extensively about this and it goes back to five key points:

1) Need for a true coalition of government, corporate, vc, startups, academia and the community led by a set of progressive leaders

2) Need for development of innovation districts and the need for creating concentrated hubs/tech parks of technology and digital companies

3) Build a world class public transportation system and build somewhat affordable housing around these innovation districts

4) Make Miami a Living Tech Lab - Become the Smart City Poster Child, become the Autonomous Self-Driving Capital of the World, etc.

5) Become obsessed about marketing the Miami Tech brand, its value proposition and reward those who take a bet in Miami.

How has it worked to have your company straddling Miami and Buenos Aires (and the US and Latin America overall)? Any lessons or advice for companies exploring similar moves?

It's has worked very well - There is a natural magnetic connection between Latam and Miami - Miami is both aspirational and inspirational. While our company is a global company, we find it hard for anyone to say no when we ask them to come work and spend some time in Miami. However, the key is in committing, betting and investing on it.

The advice I would give companies or entrepreneurs is to commit to Miami, leverage its virtues when hiring talent and finally get deeply involved in the transformation of the city.

Organizations like Endeavor have talked at length about the “Argentine Model,” but Argentina is also a country that has lived through rocky political and economic cycles. Is there something Miami can learn from the Argentine case study?

Miami can learn from Buenos Aires and many other cities in Latin America - From Buenos Aires you can learn about tenacity and hard work, about staying the course even when things may not be going right or you may be living under a not so ideal environment. It can also learn about the perseverance, vision and risk taking ability of the unicorns that Buenos Aires has produced - Globant being one of those. Miami can learn that "Si se Puede" - It's Possible.     

Do you see potential for collaboration and bridge-building between the entrepreneurial ecosystem and the creative economies in Buenos Aires and Miami? Why or why not?

Absolutely - I think, there are ways to formalize the informal collaboration and bridge-building that has been established already but much more can be done. Miami can make Buenos Aires a sister city and offer an immediate presence here to all key Argentinian technology firms. Miami could become the epitome of how easy it can be to do business in the US.  Miami companies should have the ability to penetrate Latin America by easily establishing their Latam HQ's in Buenos Aires. Co-working spaces and innovation districts have an opportunity to collaborate and forge exchange partnerships. The sky is the limit.


Natalia Martinez-Kalinina is the General Manager of CIC Miami and the Founder of Awesome Foundation MIAMI, and co-Founder of Aminta Ventures. If you are an Argentine company looking to expand to Miami or a Miami-based entrepreneur/investor looking to connect with the argentine ecosystem, please reach out to Natalia at martinez@cic.us. Past installments of this series can be found here: Balloon Group, Wolox, La Comunidad, and Oasis, Juana de Arco, and Socialmetrix.

Globant4

July 27, 2017

Modernizing Medicine to add 838 jobs, double office space

Health-tech company Modernizing Medicine announced on Thursday that it will be expanding, creating more than 800 new jobs and doubling its office space in Boca Raton.

Modernizing Medicine currently employs about 550 people and is generating $100 million in revenues annually, making it one of South Florida’s largest and fastest-growing tech companies. “There are not many companies growing as fast as Modernizing Medicine — in the world,” said Gov. Rick Scott, who was on hand for the announcement in Boca Raton.

Modernizing Medicine will receive $6 million in state, county and city incentives for creating the jobs by 2022, according to the Sun Sentinel. The 838 new, mostly software positions will have an average salary of $65,000 a year. In exchange, Modernizing Medicine will make a $15 million investment in the region.

To handle its growth, Modernizing Medicine is leasing 50,000 square feet at Boca Raton Innovation Campus, former home of IBM, to add to its similarly sized headquarters space at the FAU Research Park and an office in Weston. In May, Modernizing Medicine announced it had received a $231 million investment from private equity firm Warburg Pincus. “If there was any doubt that you could found and scale a company in South Florida, hopefully those doubts are now erased,” CEO Dan Cane said at the time.

Founded in 2010 by Cane and Dr. Michael Sherling, Modernizing Medicine has been one of the recent tech success stories in South Florida. Cane, a serial entrepreneur who earlier in his career co-founded and exited education-tech company Blackboard, met Sherling, his future co-founder, in the doctor’s office. Modernizing Medicine’s flagship product is EMA, which is a mobile, cloud-based, specialty-specific electronic health record system now used by more than 10,000 providers at thousands of specialty practices nationwide, and the company now offers a full suite of products and services including practice management, revenue cycle management, telehealth for dermatology and analytics.

July 18, 2017

Matt Haggman resigns as Knight's Miami program director

Haggman

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

After five years largely spearheading a movement in Miami to develop an entrepreneurship hub, Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami, has resigned, the foundation said on Tuesday.

Chris Caines, who has served as Haggman’s associate since January 2016, will assume responsibilities as Knight interim program director for Miami, the foundation said. The resignation is effective Friday.

“It has been the best job I have ever had in my life,” Haggman said on Tuesday. “The opportunity to work with amazing entrepreneurs, amazing innovators, to re-imagine how Miami could evolve into a center for innovation and play a role in building all of that has been the greatest privilege of my life. And that work for me will continue but that will continue in different ways.”

Haggman has been rumored to be considering running for U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s District 27 seat that will be up for grabs in November 2018. Tuesday, he would not talk about what’s next for him; all he would say is “stay tuned.”

Since Haggman joined Knight in 2011 and launched entrepreneurship funding in 2012, Knight has invested more than $28 million in supporting high-growth entrepreneurship in Miami and South Florida. Knight pledged its continued support to the entrepreneurship focus.

“We intend to continue this important work and to generate a more connected, better supported community of entrepreneurs. Our goal continues to be to make Miami a hub of ideas and innovation,” said Sam Gill, Knight Foundation VP/Communities and Impact in a note sent to supporters. 

“Chris has been working closely with Matt, our grantees and partners. He embodies Knight Foundation’s commitment to informed and engaged communities and will continue the work seamlessly,” he said in the note. “Matt leaves Knight with our profound gratitude for his leadership and efforts.”

After about six months of fact-finding, Haggman and Knight laid out a strategy and launched the Miami office’s focus on accelerating tech and entrepreneurship in mid-2012. Soon after Knight  made the foundation’s first investments to organizations that supported entrepreneurship, including a founding grant to The LAB Miami, one of the area’s first entrepreneurial co-working spaces. In October, Knight followed with a $1.25 million investment to launch venture-building and corporate innovation programs within The LAB.

“By leading Knight Foundation's efforts to support entrepreneurship, Matt has been the cornerstone of a renaissance in Miami tech,” said Thomas “Tigre” Wenrich, CEO of The LAB. “While we are still only in the early innings, we would not have the dynamic ecosystem we have today without Matt’s tireless work over the past five years. We will miss Matt’s presence on the board of The LAB, but we are excited to support him as he enters a new phase in his career.” 

Since the founding investment in the LAB, Knight has made grants or investments ranging from about $20,000 to more than $2 million to over 200 organizations, events and projects, from funding the weekly Waffle Wednesday gatherings in Wynwood to supporting a number of education programs, startup accelerators and coding school scholarships to funding the relaunch of Accelerated Growth Partners, an angel investing network.

Some of the larger investments over the years include: $2 million committed to bring Endeavor, a global organization that supports high-growth entrepreneurship, to Miami in 2013 for its first U.S. chapter; $2.18 million in 2014 to help launch the Miami Dade College Idea Center, a campus-wide entrepreneurship program; $1.25 million announced in 2014 to help bring LaunchCode, a tech apprentice program, to Miami; $1.5 million for eMerge Americas, a homegrown technology conference, as it headed into its second year in 2015; $2 million to bring Startupbootcamp to Miami, an accelerator for digital health that launched in 2016; and in February, $1.2 million in new support for Code Fever’s signature event Blacktech Week. Knight’s funding was also instrumental for the Miami launch of Babson WIN Lab, an accelerator for women-led companies, last year.

Laura Maydón, managing director of Endeavor Miami, said: “It was thanks to Matt Haggman’s leadership through Knight Foundation’s support that Endeavor Global considered launching its first U.S. affiliate. He has been a pioneer in Miami and has spearheaded the entrepreneurial movement by bringing many proven entrepreneurial organizations to Miami through Knight Foundation’s contributions. I consider Knight Foundation a key partner and contributor to our success.”

Before joining Knight, Haggman, who has a law degree, worked at the Miami Herald as a business reporter covering real estate and then metro reporter covering politics and won several awards for investigative reporting, and during that period also got to know Alberto Ibargüen, Knight’s CEO who previously was Miami Herald publisher. Before that, he worked at the Daily Business Review. 

Haggman was past co-chair of Miami-Dade Beacon Council’s One Community One Goal, Miami-Dade County economic development initiative. Haggman serves on the boards of Endeavor Miami, New World Symphony, The Underline and The LAB Miami. He is a longtime volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Miami.

Singularity U's Salim Ismail to be honoree, speaker at Endeavor Miami Gala. Here's what he's been up to in Miami.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Go big.

That’s the advice an expert on exponential technologies has for the startup ecosystem in Miami.

IsmailSalim Ismail is the founding executive director and now the global ambassador for Silicon Valley’s Singularity University and a board member of XPRIZE, well-known organizations that inspire, educate and fund people and projects trying to solve world-changing problems through technology.

“In Silicon Valley, people think on a global scale. In many other parts of the world, Miami included, people are trying to build a niche product or feature,” said Ismail, the author of “Exponential Organizations.”

Yet Ismail, now a Miami area resident, also said Miami has passion that you don’t find everywhere. “When you can align the natural passion of the residents here with a very big purpose or outcome, there is literally no limit as to what could happen.”

Ismail is being honored with Endeavor Miami’s Impact Award at its fourth annual benefit gala, which will be held Oct. 21 at the Faena Forum in Miami Beach, Endeavor Miami announced. During an address to gala attendees, Ismail will share his vision for entrepreneurship and what emerging technology trends mean for the future. Endeavor Miami is an arm of the global organization that selects, mentors and accelerates high-impact entrepreneurs around the world.

“We choose honorees each year that reflect the characteristics we believe will inspire our entrepreneurs and exemplify the progressive mindset that Endeavor selects in its companies,” said Laura Maydón, managing director of Endeavor Miami. “Salim is a visionary leader whose accomplishments are shaping the future of entrepreneurship and technology.”

Of particular local interest, Ismail is also the co-founder of Fastrack Institute, along with South Floridians Rodrigo Arboleda, an architect who co-founded the global nonprofit One Laptop Per Child and CEO of Fastrack, and Dr. Maurice Ferré, co-founder of Mako Surgical and now is running Insightec and other healthcare-technology ventures. Fastrack, a one-year-old nonprofit developing in Miami, plans to partner with cities that then become launching pads to rapidly build companies that can solve critical urban problems – such as mobility or access to quality healthcare or education, for example – in those cities and then scale those technologies globally.

Because Fastrack teams work through legal, regulatory and safety issues with cities as they are building the companies, “we found with Fastrack we can solve a problem facing a city at about one tenth the current cost, which makes it economically very compelling,” said Ismail, in an interview this week. “What we want to do is make Miami the capital for this kind of thinking ... what an ideal city should look like.”

Fastrack, which counts University of Miami’s Center For Computational Science as a partner, has been running pilot programs in Medellín, Colombia, and now about 20 cities around the world are interested in becoming Fastrack cities, including Miami, he said. One Fastrack problem could be traffic, he said. “Think about it. If we can solve it in Miami then that becomes an export industry that applies to every city in the world.”

Exponential companies, however they are built, need to be information-based because that scales, said Ismail, who also helps established companies quickly incorporate an exponential mindset through his company ExO Works. “Airbnb’s information is enabling people’s extra bedrooms. Ride-sharing is creating more of a liquid workforce,” he explained. Just as importantly, he said, exponential companies also need to have a massive transformative purpose. “It’s not enough to have a great product – it needs to effect meaningful change in the world.”

Ismail believes solar energy will be one of the world’s most powerful exponential technologies.

“Energy has been scarce for the whole of the history of humanity. It is about to become abundant in the next five to seven years and that will radically change the global geopolitics of it,” he said. “The Middle East will be essentially rendered mostly worthless. In Canada, the Keystone Pipeline will be irrelevant before it is even built. The poorest companies in the world are also the sunniest countries in the world; solar will really change the global equation.”

And there are other exponential technologies, including autonomous cars, drones and artificial intelligence, he said. Bitcoin and blockchain-based technology will radically change government services and public services even more so than the private financial sector, he said. Biotech technologies give people the power to edit the human genome, allowing the human body to become a software engineering problem.

Ismail, who was an executive at Yahoo and started companies before joining Singularity in 2008, moved to Miami in 2014 and has led or spoken at several events, including most recently eMerge Americas. “I love it. I am an avid tennis player and I am from India originally so I am like a lizard on the rocks – I love the humidity. I travel a lot and the airport is one of the best connected airports in the world.”

He also loves the natural diversity of the region – the ethnic makeup, the arts, the mix of industries, he said. “Absolutely the biggest success factor for any city is diversity and the richness that comes from it. All great ideas come when you cross disparate domains together.” And it has the power to attract: “It’s fascinating to see the talent that is now arriving in Miami, it really is.”

Calling himself a massive technology optimist, Ismail sees climate change as South Florida’s biggest urban challenge. “Miami has an opportunity to act as a world leader because it is going to be first affected. Whatever solutions come out of here, it will apply to about 60 percent of the global population.”

He calls Endeavor one of the most important and interesting initiatives to ever get created in entrepreneurship.

Endeavor Miami is the first U.S. affiliate of Endeavor Global. Since Endeavor Miami’s 2013 launch, 15 South Florida companies and 24 entrepreneurs have become part of Endeavor’s global network of business leaders, mentors and investors.

Previous IMPACT award recipients include Jessica Goldman Srebnick, CEO of Goldman Properties; Jim McKelvey, co-founder of Square and founder of LaunchCode; and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, co-founder of Gilt and GLAMSQUAD.

The 2017 Endeavor Miami Gala will be held Oct. 21 from 7:30 p.m. to midnight at the Faena Forum. Proceeds from the event directly support Endeavor Miami’s mission. Find more information about the gala here.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

July 11, 2017

Florida startups have one less funding source to tap, thanks to state budget cuts

Venture

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

The impact of Gov. Rick Scott’s veto of a line-item in the state budget last month is already rippling through the South Florida tech community.

The Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research was slated to receive $5.5 million to provide seed funding to startups. That was one of the $409 million in local items vetoed last month. The move came as a surprise: the program had been funded at the $5.5 million level since 2013, when the seed fund was incorporated into the Institute’s program.

The Florida Institute bridges early funding gaps for companies spinning out of Florida-based universities and research institutions by matching investments up to $300,000. South Florida startups Kairos, Candidate.Guru, Vigilant Bioscienes, Biscayne Pharmaceuticals, DealCoachPro, BlinkBio, EyeLife (now Biim Ultrasound) and Ovation Diagnostics are among the 71 companies that have been funded, most in the last few years. The result has been more than 4,000 jobs paying an average salary of $76,000, said Jackson Streeter, CEO of the Institute. The idea is to build tech companies that stay in Florida and create high-paying jobs. 

"We have seen tremendous value from Jane Teague [the Institute's COO] and and the team," said Chris Daniels, CEO of Candidate.Guru. "Candidate.Guru hopes this program is revived." 

The Institute was not the only tech casualty of the line-item vetoes. Startup FIU was slated to receive $1 million to help fund its new campus-wide entrepreneurship program that includes several accelerators, including one focused on technology being developed. Florida Atlantic University’s Tech Runway, also a campus-wide and community accelerator, was slated to receive $1.2 million to help fuel its young program.

Other university programs, including several incubators and maker spaces in Orlando, the Tampa Bay area and Gainesville, were also not funded.

Read more: Here’s the entire list of vetoes

Currently, Florida startups consistently attract only a small sliver of venture capital. The funding cutoff comes at a time when other states are dangling startup funds and other incentives to spur economic development and attract top tech talent.

Even before the Institute’s defunding, “the amount of funding the state was already putting into this was extremely low compared to other states,” Streeter said. According to the Institute, nearly 40 states have seed and early-stage funds ranging from $20 million to $500 million.

“Florida talks a technology game but refuses to fund it,” said Bob Williamson, co-founder and chairman of Aegle Therapeutics Corp., a Miami-based biotech company developing regenerative medicine therapeutics. Aegle, which licensed University of Miami technology, was one of the companies in the pipeline to receive Institute funding. “FICPR has helped fund more than 70 startups and been an integral part of technology in the state,” added Williamson, who is also a member of the New World Angels funding network.

“What is ironic is that FICPR funds are an investment, not a grant,” Williamson said. “The company must raise matching money from outsider investors. The state receives a return and grows businesses.”

Jane Teague, COO of the Institute, confirmed that Aegle was in the last stages of the pipeline for funding, along with a half-dozen other companies. Behind those companies were about 20 startups the Institute has been working with to get them ready for funding.

“Companies don’t have a lot of places to go for capital when they are that young,” said Teague, who has been part of the Institute since its founding in 2007. “We’ve put to work $23 or $24 million but our companies have gone on to raise $150 million. They match [Institute funding] one-to-one but then they go on to raise way more. And of course they are working on things like curing cancer and diagnosing diseases early.”

In addition to leaving companies in its pipeline unfunded, the Institute has laid off staff, and Streeter said he took a pay cut. The idea is to keep the organization going with a skeleton staff and regroup for the next Legislative session.

“Hopefully we will soon be back in the business of Florida innovation and getting companies formed with Florida technology and keeping them in the state,” Streeter said.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

June 12, 2017

Facebook alum pulls back curtain on TheVentureCity, to be based in Miami

Newcity

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Former executives of Facebook, Google, eBay and other hyper-growth companies have come together to form a global “city” with everything a startup needs to scale internationally.

Laura headshotCo-founding the unique venture, called TheVentureCity, is Laura González-Estéfani (pictured here), former director of international business development and mobile partnerships for Facebook, and Clara Bullrich, a 20-year private banking and asset management veteran. They call it an accelerator for the global tech ecosystem.

With an “international-first” approach, the accelerator will create cross-functional bridges between key regions to scale startups on a global level, González-Estéfani said. The headquarters of TheVentureCity will be in Miami Beach, currently in the 1111 building off Lincoln Road, with a second campus in Madrid and a presence in San Francisco, with plans to expand into a number of cities worldwide by 2020, González-Estéfani she said.

“All my team has worked all over the world, they have all spent years working outside their countries of origin,” González-Estéfani said, in an interview last week. “When we see a startup that has all the right bones, we will advise where to scale first and how the product needs to be tailored for those companies.”

In addition to the international focus, the all-in-one approach for startup needs and consistent support is what will set TheVentureCity apart, said González-Estéfani, who is a native of Spain. “While others provide entrepreneurs with the initial tools to get them started, TheVentureCity is our response to the need for a solution that offers startups everything from engineering and product optimization to data analysis, guiding them throughout the entire process.”

To be considered for either theVentureCity’s 36-month incubator or 18-month accelerator program, startups that can be in any place in the world must demonstrate at least a six-month track record and solid numbers on growth and engagement metrics, not necessarily revenue. Using a data-driven approach, TheVentureCity builds on that foundation of solid data to help them make the best business decisions to achieve long-term growth. “We aren’t afraid of working with international-first companies all over the world, we just have to fall in love with the founders,” she said.

About 25 startups a year from all over the world will be selected to enter the “factory” each year. Other parts of the “city” include the “data library,” the heart of the city, the airport for internationalization, the laboratory for the product engineering and the bank for venture capital. TheVentureCity will help startups with their funding strategy and tapping into funding resources, she said.

TheVentureCity will be paid in startup equity as the partnership progresses, González-Estéfani said.

Directing the Miami campus will be Elisa Rodriguez-Vila, who formerly worked at Fusión and was part of the co-founding team at The LAB Miami. TheVentureCity is already working with 15 startups, including Boatsetter, Playground, The Fastmind and RecargaPay from South Florida.

TheVentureCity has forged partnerships with a number of entitities including Beacon Council, Startupbootcamp, Venture Café and Facebook on the local level. She said TheVentureCity has been working with Miami Dade College on a two-year degree in entrepreneurship and innovation, for instance. “We make things happen, we are not afraid of taking risks,” González-Estéfani said. “That is the mindset we want to bring here and we are learning everyday from the pioneers and we want to partner with them.”

González-Estéfani came to Miami 2 1/2 years ago with Facebook; she also worked in Facebook’s operations in Silicon Valley and Europe from 2008 to 2014. Before that she worked at eBay, Siemans and Ogilvy.

Upon arrival from Silicon Valley she noticed something quickly: a welcoming community.

“The Medinas [Manny Medina, founder of eMerger Americas] opened the door to their home to us. That is something I have never seen before in Business. "They introduced me to to everything that was happening here. That soul, that spirit, is something that I have never seen anywhere else. Everyone they introduced me to, the Knight Foundation, the Endeavor family, everyone was the same way,” González-Estéfani said.

“There must be something in the water in Miami that makes everyone so welcoming and so enthusiastic about the unknown. I found that willingness to take a risk. Hopefully I can contribute with my team to help make this one of the most exciting and vibrant ecosystems in tech around the world.”
González-Estéfani will be giving a talk about TheVentureCity at eMerge Americas at Miami Beach Convention Center on Tuesday.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg.

Why international tech startups are making Miami their U.S. base

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

As the eMerge Americas technology conference opens on Monday, a number of international tech startups will likely be sniffing around, considering Miami for a possible launch point for their U.S. or Latin American operations.

They might want to talk to some of the recent arrivals.

Meet Solomoto, a Tel Aviv-based startup that offers a digital marketing dashboard to help small businesses take control of their online presence.

“We are an operating system for small business. Anything that you can do digitally for your small business, you should be able to do it in 30 minutes a day in one place,” said Solomoto co-founder Guy Israeli.

Solomoto checked out Miami last year and recently made the decision to base its U.S. expansion in Miami. The U.S. operations are led by Leandro Finol, former executive director of Miami Dade College’s Idea Center.

Miami, rich with small businesses, combined with its position as a gateway to Latin America, made the region a natural U.S. base, Israeli said. Plans are to soon have 10 employees, or 20 percent of Solomoto’s workforce, based here.

Solomoto, launched in 2015, recently announced a partnership with WeWork, which gives WeWork’s 30,000 members access to Solomoto’s services through WeWork’s Service Store. WeWork, a global co-working company that attracts numerous small businesses, will also be one click away for Solomoto’s customers. Solomoto also partnered with BlueVine, an online provider of credit lines for small businesses. “Both sync perfectly with our vision to help small businesses grow,” said Israeli, who said more partnerships will be announced. “Solomoto is a connection to the ecosystem of small businesses.”

About 5,000 small businesses in the U.S. are on the platform so far, but Solomoto’s real growth has been international. More than 150,000 companies from 24 countries are using the platform. “Small business owners have the same challenges no matter which market they are based in,” said Israeli, who co-founded the company with Pasha Romanovski, Solomoto’s CEO. Both have founded and run other international ventures.

Solomoto

[READ MORE: Why we chose Miami as the U.S. headquarters for Solomoto]

Solomoto board member Uri Levine, co-founder of Waze, will speak at eMerge; Israeli will speak at a growth hacking summit at The LAB Miami on Wednesday.

For its U.S. entry, French augmented reality startup Magic Xperience partnered with StartHub, a Miami-based co-working and accelerator company that specializes in helping international companies launch operations in the United States. Finaben, parent company of StartHub, is also an investor in Magic Xperience, part of a larger French firm called ARTech.

StartHub is helping Magic Xperience develop and sell consumer-focused augmented reality products through Walmart and 1,200 other retailers worldwide, said David Bensoussan, founder and managing director of StartHub Miami.

“We leverage local resources to fulfill the needs of our member companies launching in the U.S. market and deliver measurable growth … through our three-pillar approach: co-working, growth and acceleration,” Bensoussan said. “We have evolved and designed solutions that are adapted to the market we are in … and we offer resources and services for a company at any stage.”

StartHub has worked with about 15 consumer-centric companies, most of them international. Those include Amsellem, a Canadian company that makes dried beef snacks and KF Beauty, a United Kingdom cosmetic company with a fast-growing brand called WunderBrow, Bensoussan said. “We focus on digital strategies for revenue generation. This is how we roll.”

RELATED STORIES: Hatching a tech future: South Florida startups gain strength and Tech by the numbers

Last month, Pérez Art Museum Miami announced that Magic Xperience and StartHub will be developing an augmented reality experience for its visitors, funded with a $150,000 grant from the Knight Foundation.

The Miami-Dade Beacon Council, the county’s economic development organization, has worked with a number of international tech companies who located or relocated their U.S. operations to Miami in the past year, said Susan Greene, chief marketing officer for the council. These include Technocom from Spain, which offers IT, shipping and printing solutions; Clearsale from Brazil, a fraud prevention company; Woosh from Israel, whose patented smart water stations provide drinking water on the go in the Miami area; ThinkSmart from Spain, which develops sales-performance technology; and virtual reality company Dream VR from Spain.

In the last year, nearly half of the tech companies checking out Miami have been international, and the council has seen increasing interest from Europe, particularly from Spain and France. A trade mission to Spain in February that included visits to technology companies and accelerators in Madrid and Barcelona, for instance, yielded keen interest from more than a half dozen tech companies, said Mario Sacasa, senior vice president for international economic development for the Beacon Council, noting that four out of five companies he is working with right now are international. In addition to the cultural and global appeal of Miami, daily flights to Europe have been increasing and some countries incentivize their companies to expand beyond their borders.

This week’s Merge Americas will provide an international show of force; the conference was founded with the mission of developing a tech hub for the Americas in South Florida. The European Union and countries such as Colombia, Costa Rica and Belarus will have booths on the expo floor, and roughly 10 percent of the startups exhibiting and competing in the Startup Showcase are international, including Woosh. Keynotes include Israel-based Waze’s co-founder Uri Levine; Blanca Treviño, CEO of Mexico’s Softek; and Dave McClure, founding partner of 500 Startups who will talk about opportunities in Latin America, and there are panel discussions on Colombia, Cuba and innovation and media disruption in Latin America.

Lesley Ross Headshot (2)Kichink, a fast-growing e-commerce solutions platform in Mexico, will be there with a booth. The startup is setting up a Miami office and team to launch its U.S. operations, its first expansion outside its home country, said Kichink COO Lesley Ross. She also will be speaking at eMerge Americas on “the imminent e-commerce explosion.”

[READ MORE: As eMerge Americas evolves, what’s in store for 2017?]

Kichink provides an end-to-end e-commerce solution for small- and medium-sized enterprises, as well as corporations in web hosting, digital marketing, customer service, payment processing and pick-ups and deliveries, said co-founder Claudia de Heredia from Mexico City. She will be participating in an eMerge Americas panel on scaling across markets with fellow Endeavor companies.

Kichink launched its platform in Mexico with 60 stores in 2013; it is now used by 83,000 companies, from mom-and-pop stores to big brands including Unilever, L’Oréal, Olay and AVON.

“We already have a presence both in Miami and Silicon Valley, but we are establishing the global headquarters in Miami,” Ross said. “We have team members on board or about to be announced … Miami also strategically places us in a nice position if we expand to Europe soon after.”

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

What’s the average tech salary? How many startups are sprouting? A by the numbers look

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

As South Florida strives to develop a technology hub, here is a look at some measures of entrepreneurial and tech sector strength for the Miami area and Florida markets:

TecheggNumber of tech startups in South Florida: Hard to quantify because of the pivoting nature of startups and high failure rate, but by one measure, AngelList registrations, there are 2,761 startups and early stage companies registered on the platform, and some actively raising money, in the tri-county area. While not scientific because some of the startups are no longer active, that is up 63 percent since October 2015, when the number was 1,682, and 139 percent since 2014.

Job growth: 27.6 percent from 2012 through 2016, the top performing of the Miami-Dade Beacon Council’s seven targeted industries, according to the public-private economic development agency. By number of jobs, 10,413, technology is also the smallest of the seven targeted industries. In Broward, the tech industry employs 44,431, up 19.2 percent since 2012, according to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance.

Average salary: Software developer for applications: $78,603 (Miami-Dade); $89,148 (Broward), according to federal labor data. The Miami-Dade Beacon Council said the average tech sector salary in 2016 was $95,087, compared to $81,406 in 2012. The Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance said the average tech sector salary in Broward County is $94,273.

Venture capital: Florida ranked seventh in the nation based on venture capital flows into Florida companies in the first quarter of the year, taking in $244.19 million, or 0.8 percent of the U.S. total, according to Pitchbook/NVCA’s quarterly venture capital report. Two-thirds of those dollars, $151.9 million, went to South Florida companies, ranking 14th among metro areas in the first quarter.

Patents per capita: Florida ranked 32nd for patents per capita in 2016, according to the Bloomberg Innovation Index. Miami nor any Florida city cracked the top 100 U.S. cities for patent activity, according to a 2017 Time magazine report.

Pipeline: South Florida ranks seventh in the nation for college students per capita. According to the 2015 edition of American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Profiles of Engineering & Engineering Technology Colleges, FIU placed fourth in the country for computer science degrees in the United States. It has ranked in the top 10 in the nation for the past five years.

RELATED STORY: Hatching a tech future: South Florida startups gain strength

Entrepreneurial activity and growth: The Miami metropolitan area ranked first among 40 big markets studied in new entrepreneurial activity in 2016, according to a study by the Kauffman Foundation published in May. But for growth, the Miami area ranked 39th out of 40th in another Kauffman study published in 2016. In 2016, 125 South Florida companies made the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies, down from 139 in 2015. For the state, Bloomberg’s 2016 U.S. State Innovation Index ranked Florida 34th, while the Milken Institute’s State Technology and Science Index for 2016 puts Florida in 41st place, falling four places since 2014.

Immigrant tech entrepreneurs: The Miami metropolitan area is No. 2 in the nation, behind San Jose, for the number of immigrant business owners with employees, according to a 2016 Kauffman Foundation study. Florida is third.

READ MORE: Miami area’s high-skilled workforce is fueled largely by immigrants

Hatching a tech future: South Florida startups are gaining strength

Techhubimage

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Nearpod, an education-technology startup, keeps outgrowing its Aventura offices.

“We have been doubling the company every year — in people, revenue, users, all the key metrics,” said Felipe Sommer. He co-founded the company with Guido Kovalskys and Emiliano Abramzon, three Argentine friends who have worked on ventures together for more than a decade (pictured below). Nearpod now employs 70 people and expects to be 100-strong by the end of the year.

“As you can see,” he said, motioning toward the dozens of workers in the spacious, open office, “we like to double.”

Nearpodteam

Now the company, which develops online lessons for students and teachers, will be doubling down on South Florida. Until now, Nearpod has kept some of its top management in Silicon Valley to tap talent and stay close to its Bay Area investors. Those employees, including CEO Kovalskys, the vice president of marketing and directors of content and product, will be relocating to Miami.

Nearpod and other South Florida fast-growing startups will be celebrated as the fourth annual eMerge Americas technology conference opens Monday at the Miami Beach Convention Center. At least 13,000 people are expected to attend the two-day conference, headlined by Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple; Uri Levine, co-founder of Waze; Gustavo Cisneros, founder of Grupo Cisneros; and Marcelo Claure, founder of South Florida’s Brightstar and now CEO of Sprint. eMerge will also be a show of force for the startup community: More than 125 startups will be exhibiting, while scores more will be attending.

The backdrop for the conference: a number of recent success stories in South Florida’s tech community.

In a transaction that closed last month, Dania Beach-based Chewy.com was acquired by PetSmart for about $3 billion, the largest e-commerce deal ever. Chewy CEO Ryan Cohen said the 5,000-employee unit that booked $900 million in revenue in 2016 will operate as an independent subsidiary and continue to grow in South Florida.

Modernizing Medicine, the Boca Raton health-tech company founded in 2010, raised $231 million to fund its growth. Modernizing Medicine employs more than 550 people and is booking $100 million in annual revenue.

And there’s the near-instant global technology player in cybersecurity company Cyxtera Technologies, headed by Manny Medina, who also founded Terremark Worldwide, Medina Capital and eMerge Americas. The result of a $2.8 billion transaction that closed last month, Cyxtera combines 57 data centers and four cybersecurity and data analytics companies from Medina Capital’s portfolio, and employs 1,000 people worldwide — about 100 in South Florida.

[READ MORE: Done Deal: Medina Capital, BC Partners form Cyxtera Technologies in $2.8 billion transaction]

[READ MORE: Q&A with eMerge Americas CEO Xavier Gonzalez]

“With the major successes we’re seeing like Modernizing Medicine, Chewy.com and Cyxtera — not to mention the massive potential impact of [augmented-reality technology company] Magic Leap — we are poised to have a number of very large, global technology companies based in this ecosystem,” said Xavier Gonzalez, CEO of eMerge Americas. “These companies and many others will continue to grow, innovate and attract talent from all over the world. That talent will develop new companies and bring even more interest from investors.”

The cycle, he said, points to increasing maturation of Miami’s technology sector.

Matt Haggman agrees. He is the Miami program director of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which leads the local movement to develop South Florida into a hub for technology and innovation. “Increasingly, what we are seeing is an evolution from what could be to what is now, and that is super exciting,” he said. “If you go online right now for jobs in tech, there are hundreds of jobs.”

The Knight Foundation has funded organizations and projects to develop an ecosystem since 2012, including Endeavor Miami, Miami Dade College’s Idea Center, Startupbootcamp, The LAB Miami and LaunchCode. It has committed more than $25 million in more than 200 projects in the Miami area, including recently $1.2 million to the Miami Urban Future Initiative, a joint project of Florida International University and the Creative Class Group for economic research on entrepreneurship and technology in South Florida. It also recently announced $1.2 million in new support for Code Fever’s signature event Blacktech Week, planned for September, and related programs that aim to expand opportunities for entrepreneurs of color.

RELATED STORIES: Why international tech startups are making Miami their U.S. base and Tech by the numbers

The foundation plans to continue investing in infrastructure projects and organizations that help support and accelerate the growth of an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“We’re just getting started,” Haggman said. “If this is a nine-inning game, we are at the bottom of the first or the top of the second. The important thing to understand is that it can happen.”

Recent studies shed light on the challenges of that long game ahead. South Florida is a startup and small-business factory, sprouting more new businesses every year than any other large U.S. metro area. But growing large companies has always been a challenge for the Miami area as well as for the state.

Last year, the Miami metro area ranked 39th among the 40 largest metro areas for growth entrepreneurship. Bloomberg’s 2016 U.S. State Innovation Index ranked Florida 34th. The Milken Institute’s State Technology and Science Index for 2016 put Florida in 41st place — four places lower than in 2014. Among the components of the Milken index, the state ranked the lowest, 46th, for science and technology workforce. Other indicators show the state and South Florida lagging in patent activity and venture capital. (See related data on tech and startups here.)

“If you look at startup activity in Miami — its new venture creation — it is incredibly high. When we look at growth entrepreneurship, it’s pretty low,” said Arnobio Morelix, senior research analyst at the Kauffman Foundation and one of the authors of recent reports on startup activity and growth entrepreneurship.

Another key challenge: Miami-Dade’s technology sector is dwarfed by the service economy and its low-paying jobs. Still, by number of employees, tech is growing faster than aviation, banking/finance, creative design, tourism, healthcare and trade/logistics — all industries targeted for growth by the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, the county’s public-private economic development agency.

“The tech sector is growing faster than the overall economy,” said Jaap Donath, the Beacon Council’s senior vice president of research and strategic planning. “What we are starting to see is growth subsets linked to existing sectors, such as fintech, health IT, trade/logistics and tourism.”

By number of employees, the technology sector has grown 27.6 percent from 2012 through 2016 to 10,413 employees in Miami-Dade, according to Beacon Council data. The number of tech companies, 1,654, is up 10.9 percent, and the average salary is $95,087, up 16.8 percent — the second-highest after banking/finance.

[READ MORE: Taking telehealth to the masses is his Uber-like mission]

In Broward County, where technology is a much larger sector with the likes of Magic Leap, MDLIVE, Chewy and JetSmarter, 3,742 technology companies employ 44,431, and the average salary is $94,273. That’s up 19.2 percent from 2012, when the industry employed 37,266, according to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance.

[READ MORE: What it’s like to run a billion-dollar startup — at age 28]

“The last five years have seen an enhancement of our tech ecosystem. For us, it is very exciting to see that growth, especially looking at potential scalability,” Donath said. “We’ve seen that with CareCloud — that was a local startup, and now [the health-tech company] is a mainstay of the Miami economy with hundreds of employees. Albert [Santalo, founder of CareCloud,] made a conscious choice to build and grow the company in Miami.”

This goes for companies focused on the Latin American market, too. “We’re seeing companies that come out of Latin America but find what they need in Miami to sell their products back into Latin America — a good example being YellowPepper, the fintech company,” said Donath. Based in Wynwood with a team of 61, YellowPepper is a pioneer and leading player in mobile payments and banking solutions in Latin America and has been recently valued by the Inter-American Development Bank at more than $100 million.

[READ MORE: Why mobile payment technology is leap-frogging in Latin America]

Community leaders point to progress on other fronts as well.

In the past year, new incubators and accelerators such as Startup FIU, Startupbootcamp and Babson WIN Lab have graduated their first cohorts, joining pioneer Venture Hive. Global fund 500 Startups has run a growth accelerator, conference and other events here; it is now planning to establish a permanent presence in Miami. Organizations such as LaunchCode and coding bootcamps train tech developers and designers and help match them with job openings.

What’s more, an international venture-builder called TheVentureCity, with Silicon Valley veterans at the helm, will be launched in Miami and was announced during eMerge Americas.

“When I came to Miami 2 1/2 years ago, the community here was very welcoming, everyone wants to meet you, every startup is welcome,” said Laura González-Estéfani, a former executive of Facebook in Miami, Silicon Valley and Europe who is now launching TheVentureCity. “It’s a tech community where you can build trust and relationships with people very, very fast. There is something definitely happening here.”

[READ MORE: How South Florida universities are revving up to be engines of innovation]

While funding is still a challenge and the region still lags badly in venture capital investment, several new funds have been announced in the past year, including Rokk3r Fuel and Las Olas Venture Capital. Local companies are attracting investment from beyond the region. They include JetSmarter, which raised $105 million in December, and Modernizing Medicine, which last month announced an investment of $231 million. Other firms — including Boatsetter, MealPal, Nearpod, Nymbus, Altor Bioscience and F1 Oncology — have each raised well north of $10 million in the last six months.

Wynwood’s Rokk3r Labs is announcing Monday the launch of 10xU, a global educational platform focused on teaching entrepreneurs to identify and assess opportunities for fast-growing, world-changing companies, as well as the nuts and bolts of team building, raising capital, scaling and exiting. Its content and programming will also be targeted at corporations whose models will likely face disruption.

10xU will become a portfolio company of Rokk3r Labs, a company builder that has worked with more than 40 startups. In March, Rokk3r announced that it launched an investment fund, Rokk3r Fuel. It aims to raise a $150 million fund — it’s not there yet — and already has invested in startups AdMobilize, Hyp3r, Taxfyle and Emerge.me. Over the next few weeks, the fund plans to announce more capital deployments, locally and globally. A second set of investments is planned in the fourth quarter, said Nabyl Charania, CEO of Rokk3r Labs.

“The growth of an ecosystem is not an overnight thing. If we wait for someone else to come in and do things for us, we will just continue to wait,” he said. “That’s why we proceeded with Rokk3r Fuel and 10xU and will continue to co-build companies, because we believe that is the best way to help an ecosystem — providing all the right tools to build world-changing companies.”

Some local serial entrepreneurs are already beginning to sprout new ventures and invest in others. After the $2 billion sale of Terremark, Medina started eMerge, Medina Capital and now Cyxtera. The $1.65 billion sale of Mako Surgical made way for co-founder Rony Abovitz to start Magic Leap, while former Mako CEO Maurice Ferré is involved with several health-tech ventures, including running the Israel-based Insightec from Miami.

Adam Boalt sold his first company, RushMyPassport.com, in 2013. Last September, Boalt sold his second tech company, LiveAnswer.com, to Stericycle, a publicly traded Fortune 1000 company. Now he is building again.

“govWorks will be launching in January 2018 and will change the way the public interfaces with the government,” Boalt said. The platform is aimed at greatly simplifying the processes for travel visas, passports, fishing licenses and other documents by storing customer information securely. An earlier company, the original govWorks, collapsed after raising $60 million. Boalt acquired the domain name: “They had a good idea that was ahead of their time, and they had challenges executing. I know the time is right now, and we have the team that can pull it off.”

Govworks

Photo by Pedro Portal / Miami Herald 

govWorks (pictured above) has a team of 32 in Miami, 80 percent of them engineers. Boalt expects to add 20 more software engineers and product designers later this year.

“I’ve had opportunities to be in New York and the West Coast, but this is my home,” Boalt said. “I feel like people have doubts about Miami. I hate that. I feel like I can make a difference here.”

Other entrepreneurs have been urged to move elsewhere — sometimes by their own investors. Abovitz may be the most famous of these South Florida bulls, choosing Plantation as the base for his cutting-edge, mixed-reality technology startup, valued at an eye-popping $4.5 billion with a who’s who list of Silicon Valley and global investors, even though its initial product has yet to be released. Now Magic Leap is rumored to be raising another round of funding at a $6 billion to $8 billion valuation.

In Aventura, meanwhile, above a Bank of America office, Nearpod’s bright and open offices hum with employees at work on laptops or on the phone with customers. Two years ago, the company moved into 3,000 square feet; now Nearpod has filled 9,000 square feet, and it could already use more space.

As the co-founders demo the company’s virtual reality lessons, Abramzon explains that students virtually visit sites of history or culture like the Eiffel Tower, the Egyptian Pyramids and Checkpoint Charlie to learn about the Cold War or even concentration camps. The visits are accompanied by in-app videos, quizzes and opportunities for questions and interaction with teachers. Altogether, the VR lessons, which Nearpod began offering last year, have drawn more than 6 million views.

Nearpod

Photo of Emiliano Abramzon and Felipe Sommer by roberto Koltun/Miami Herald

Nearpod has users in one of every 10 schools nationwide, including more than 40 schools in the Miami-Dade and Broward County public school districts, Gulliver Prep, LaSalle, American Heritage and Pine Crest. About 4 million students worldwide view the content monthly. Nearpod also recently launched Nearpod for ELL at Miami-Dade public schools, which includes 500 ready-to-teach lessons designed specifically for non-native English speakers.

In March, Nearpod announced it had raised $21 million to fund its growth. “We are hiring for VPs of customer success and finance and a head of content,” said Abramzon. All will be based in South Florida because of its lifestyle, cost of living, diversity, growing entrepreneurial environment, strong partnerships with local schools, and support from local investors Krillion Ventures, Knight Enterprise Fund and the AGP network.

“Miami is in our DNA,” added Sommer. “We want everyone under the same roof, and that roof is going to be in Miami.”

But for all its growth, Rokk3r’s Charania believes South Florida’s startup ecosystem needs to develop more quickly: “What we need is more people from the community supporting the ecosystem. We need corporations to step into the game. We need the government and educational institutions … with a lot more impact. We’re not there yet but people are starting to pull together.”

Knight’s Haggman said it’s important to get the word out about the opportunities here: “There is still some disconnect, whether it is job opportunities, resources or funding, because there are still fixed ideas about this place, and we are changing. We are a much different place than we were, say, five years ago.”

Haggman also believes the ecosystem should connect the entire community, west of Miami’s urban corridor and well north of the Broward County line, and this isn’t the time to rest: “This is a work in progress. This is a long game.”

Nancy Dahlberg: 305-376-3595, @ndahlberg. This article was updated Monday morning.