Want to know about Miami startups? A user's guide to this blog

Dear reader, Starting Gate has been providing and archiving South Florida startup and tech community news, views and resources since 2012. New to the Miami area? Thinking about relocating here? Just want to keep up with news, events and opportunities? We're there for you.

How to use Starting Gate: Besides scrolling the blog for the latest entries, you can access news and views by category. The "Funding" category will capture venture capital and angel funding news of individual startups as well as stories about funders. The startup categories chronicle news and my regular "Spotlights," and in Q&As you'll find interviews with CEOs and leaders in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. There are also categories for guest posts, views, accelerators/incubators, resources, events and more.

Thank you for your support through the years and please come back often. Follow me on Twitter @ndahlberg. - Sincerely, Nancy Dahlberg

June 12, 2017

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.

October 15, 2015

Voices of the community: On challenges, opportunities

  In conjunction with my report marking the progress and challenges of efforts to build a tech hub, I gathered opinions from some of the leaders in the community. This week, I will run a sampling of the views expressed. What's your view? Please feel free to comment on this post or email me at ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Today: What's our biggest challenge in developing a thriving tech/entrepreneurship ecosystem?

"Our young South Florida ecosystem has done a good job in bringing angel/seed financing to the table.  But we still have a big gap in the Seed+/Series A capital stack that needs to be addressed quickly.  Otherwise, many of the promising companies receiving initial funding will not find the funding to sustain themselves as they scale to self-sufficient businesses." - Joanna Schwartz, Earlyshares

"Inclusion. And it's not the traditional cause and effect, but I think investors have a limited scope for deal flow because the circles are very tight. The intellectual capital is here but it's not being equally supported by the financial capital. Food distribution and food deserts are big issues and we have farms in South Florida but yet it seems an outside company has to verify a good idea. Everything great isn't from California. All innovation and tech doesn't conclude with an app." -Michael Hall, Digital Grass

"We need to convince rock stars entrepreneurs to believe on the benefits of the Miami entrepreneurial ecosystem. This will be done by more and better collaboration between all the right parts of the ecosystem and once these entrepreneurs are here and we can link them with the rights partners (universities, investors, mentors, coworking spaces, etc.) the magic happens. I see magic happening in many different startups across Miami and South FL and I’m positive on the fact that we will see more and better local success stories during the following years." - Marco Giberti, angel investor

"The biggest challenge to South Florida is that while there are many amazing, wealthy smart people, there is also a large percentage of bullshitters that waste lots of time talking about doing things and investing money when in fact they have no intention to.   The community needs to continue to police itself to protect entrepreneurs from individuals that lack the experience and capital to help build companies." -Brad Harrison, Scout Ventures

"Florida has everything an entrepreneur could ask for.  The one element across the board that could have a higher velocity of maturity is the number of serious and well funded VC's present in the state.  It would catapult the entire ecosystem." - Rodolfo Sacoman, AdMobilize

"Miami is behind other leading cities in recognizing social entrepreneurship as a vital part of the entrepreneurial system. Many people would embrace socially focused entrepreneurship if they could find local support, resources and capital." - Robert Hacker, entrepreneurship professor and advisor

Technical talent is #1.  We need more companies started by exceptional technical founders.  These will be the companies that build big businesses and change the landscape.  I say this as a non-technical entrepreneur.  I know how important it is. … But I’m really encouraged by the increasing number of people who are coming to Miami to start companies.  People vote with their feet and the increased activities tells me something is definitely happening." - Patrick McKenna, HighRidge Global

"The remaining challenge is talent, but at this point it has become an opportunity.  Out of the success of the entrepreneurial movement these past two years have come initiatives like Wyncode and Launchcode that are preparing coders at a fast rate and placing them in top companies.  I think the next interesting challenge would be to get institutions like Singularity University and MIT Media Lab to set up satellite campuses in Miami. It is institutions like these that can think deep, big and long… this would bring depth to our new city." - Adriana Cisneros, Endeavor Miami

"There needs to be more emphasis on drawing in big name companies, drawing in more early/mid stage venture capital funds, and looking to address the infrastructure challenges that may slow or impact the growth we're seeing." - Brian Breslin, Refresh Miami"

Miami is not only rich in capital but also rich and diverse in culture. Our tech and knowledge economy will be stronger and more successful when a spirit of inclusion is embraced.  More efforts must be made to activate portions of our community that are continually disenfranchised due to socio-economic and racial divides." - Tony Jimenez, Richmond Global

“At the present time, focusing on a single biggest challenge is less helpful that a general call for ‘more.’  We need more access to capital for the better-qualified teams, more entrepreneurial management talent in both the early and expansion stages, more service providers (attorneys, accountants, advisors) who are willing work with talented teams at deeply discounted rates in the early going.  I see all of these elements are in place at the present time, we just need ‘more, more, more’.” - Rhys L Williams, New World Angels "

"The rising cost of rent / real estate and inadequate transit will start to hurt Miami in attracting future talent." - Mario Cruz, Watsco Ventures

 

Season of the Startup: Save the dates

It’s not just the arts calendar that heats up at this time of year. Here are some of the major startup and tech conferences and events to put on your calendar — save the dates.

▪ FinTech: Fintech Americas bridges the divide between banks and disruptive startups, Oct. 22-23, Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus. Tickets and more info: fintechamericas.co.

▪ Emerging Technologies and Business Showcase: This all-day business matchmaker event includes a pitch competition with $150,000 in prizes, investor panel, luncheon and networking opportunities, Nov. 4, Hyatt Regency, Coral Gables. For tickets to the event:https://www.facebook.com/EDCofSouthFla.

 Miami Make Week: A 10-day celebration of creative co-working and maker spaces in the Greater Miami area kicks off Nov. 6 with educational workshops, networking opportunities and other public events, ending with a design and prototyping competition. More info:miamimakeweek.com.

▪ The TigerDirect Tech Bash: The free expo and party returns on Nov. 6 for an evening of innovation, emerging technology, interactive entertainment and shopping opportunities. Now in its fourth year, the free TigerDirect Tech Bash will take place at Miami Marlins Stadium. Get your ticket here: tigertechbash.com

▪ Startup Weekend Miami at FIU: Join a team and build a company in a weekend, Nov. 20-22, FIU’s Tech Station. More info on Eventbrite.

▪ Sime MIA: The conference that has explored technology trends by bringing in speakers from Singularity University, Hollywood and the Oslo Freedom Forum is returning to Miami Beach for a third year Dec. 1-2 with an expanded format focusing on big data and fintech. Buy tickets and get info here: simemia.co.

▪ ITPalooza: Now in its fourth year, the conference on Dec. 3 at NovaSoutheasternUniversity in Davie brings together the entire South Florida IT community from CIOs through tech user groups to top local, national and international presenters and guests. Buy tickets and get more info here: www.itpalooza.com.

AND NEXT YEAR ...

Sup-x: A startup expo for entrepreneurs, investors and service providers, Feb. 16-17, BrowardCountyConvention Center. More info: www.sup-x.org.

Miami Mini Maker Faire: The popular event returns in an expanded format Feb. 20-21 at YoungArts in Miami. More info: http://makerfairemiami.com/

eMerge Americas: The third annual eMerge Americas conference, with two days of speakers, exhibits, contests and celebrity fun, returns April 18-19. More info: emergeamericas.org.

 

October 12, 2015

Nurturing a tech future: Voices of the community

 In conjunction with my report marking the progress and challenges of efforts to build a tech hub, I gathered opinions from some of the leaders in the community. Here is a sampling of the views expressed. What's your view? Please feel free to comment on this post or email me at ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

 When talking to others outside the area (startups, investors, etc) thinking about relocating, what is your one-liner about Miami? 

"The entrepreneurial ecosystem in Miami has all the ingredients to succeed, it needs support and  work to grow and with the right use of all resources we can make it happen. I describe the ecosystem as a teenager that needs support to grow as a healthy and thriving adult." - Laura Maydon, Endeavor Miami

"I think South Florida has an amazing base of smart people committed to building this into a true hub of Entrepreneuship.   We need the continued support of the Knight Foundation, Manny Medina, SIME, eMerge etc.    I think if we could figure out how to get govt and corporate money invested through a development fund that would be a huge win." - Brad Harrison, Scout Ventures  

"You can't beat the weather or the opportunity - it's not just sunshine, it's a new glow in Miami." - Michael Hall, Digital Grass"

"With the help of like minded individuals we can transform this place into a diverse and inclusive tech ecosystem.  It is an uphill battle but a battle worth fighting.  Miami is one of those places where you don't have to settle on trying to get a seat at the table because you have the ability to build your own table." - Felecia Hatcher, Code Fever and Black Tech Week

"Stop talking about diversity: come to Miami and see what diversity is- we are your best market for a pilot." David Cappelli, TECH Miami

""We are not JUST a pretty place; we are creating the innovation hub of the south." Kim Gramm, FAU Tech Runway

Forget what you think you know about Miami. Once you come here you will wonder why you didn’t come earlier. Miami is a burgeoning, dynamic, young city that is re-inventing itself and offers great opportunities and lifestyle for talented individuals who want to contribute to shaping the future Miami." - Ivan Rapin Smith, Watsco Ventures"

"Miami is a young, attractive, and growing international city with deep roots in Latin America and the Caribbean. If you want to build products with a diverse workforce for global consumption you need to build them here!" - Steve Luis, FIU 

"The time for Miami is now. If you want to bring your vision to life or join a team on their journey to do great things, there is no better place than Miami. The ability to have a positive impact in a short amount of time is incredibly motivating and exists right now in Miami." -  Johanna Mikkola, Wyncode Academy"

"This is an amazing city, but if we are honest, we know it's not for everyone - it's for people comfortable with less structure and more uncertainty. Miami is more suited for people who enjoy a little unruliness, because they know that's where opportunity exists." - Philip Houdard, Pipeline Workspaces

"As an emerging ecosystem there is tremendous opportunity for the highly skilled and innovative.  Miami's youth and diversity makes for a more innovative environment than most other major cities in the world." - Pandwe Gibson, EcoTech Visions

In the past year, where have you seen the most success in building an ecosystem? 

 “We're seeing more and more top-notch, high-profile people deciding to either stay or relocate to launch their next big thing in Miami. Folks like Jim McKelvey, David Koretz and Miami-natives like Natalia Martinez or Juan Calle are a few examples. Having mega talented folks build here is a key component in propelling everything forward.” – Nico Berardi, AGP

“Through my work at Endeavor I've found that world class mentors are available and really committed to helping entrepreneurs succeed. I've also seen the companies we support and some of the ones that are in our pipeline continue to grow and being able to attract good talent (although this last piece is still developing, it's on good track). Finally, it's great to have different stakeholders active in the ecosystem and it's great to see different players grow : co-working spaces /  accelerators that commit to Miami.” – Laura Maydon

“We are seeing growth and success in Media Tech (AdMobilize, Amp.it, SoStereo.com) and in FinTech (Waleteros, YellowPepper). However, I think the biggest growth in the ecosystem is in the community itself due to long-term commitments from many entrepreneurs and the Knight Foundation, Venture Hive, Watsco Ventures and Rokk3r Labs.” – Mario Cruz, Watsco Ventures

 “In the past year I have seen the most success in the entrepreneurial ecosystem through providing aspiring and/or early entrepreneurs the access to education and mentoring programs. We have seen programs such as Endeavor and the Idea Center at Miami-Dade College become amazing tools for up and coming entrepreneurs in South Florida.” – Michael McCord, LearnerNation

“One word: education. The community has done a great job making more people in Miami aware of the amazing things that are happening in the tech scene, which is leading to more opportunities all around. Also, organizations like Wyncode are doing phenomenal work educating the next wave of engineers and placing them at fantastic companies across South Florida.” - Will Weinraub, LiveNinja

 “The growth of the ecosystem in South Florida over the past five years has been nothing short of extraordinary.  There is still lots of room to grow and evolve, but if we continue on the path ahead of us, in five years time the world will be talking about how great Miami is for new business.” – Will Silverman, The Launch Pad at the University of Miami

"Workspaces and skill-building programs. Startups now have a wide variety of options when it comes to creative office, from the expansion of Buro, Pipeline to the opening of Building.CO and entrance of WeWork into the market. We also have more focused programs for digital skills. At The Idea Center, we've seen the success of our CS50 collaboration with Harvard and LaunchCode and MarketHack, our digital marketing initiative. The growth of Wyncode & Ironhack are also positive signals.” -Wifedo Fernandez, The Idea Center at MDC

“I’ve really enjoyed seeing the resounding success of FAU Tech Runway. This public-private partnership started in 2014 to foster tech startups and it has really taken off.” – Dan Cane, Modernizing Medicine

“Many people arrive in Miami these days and quickly connect with whoever and whatever they need, which suggests this is becoming an increasingly networked city. As opposed to a group of semi-autonomous individuals just randomly bumping into each other, as was the case in the past.” - Philippe Houdard, Pipeline Workspaces

“Without any doubt, Venture Hive is the one. Susan Amat is gathering in one place all the resources a start-up may need.” – Etienne Gillard, Waleteros

“The best events and innovation have occurred through collaboration and bridge building.  Whether it is Black Tech Week, which had a steering committee of 15 organizations, or Emerge America, which brought in hundreds of local, national and international organization to collaborate, we have worked well together.” - Pandwe Gibson, EcoTech Visions

“The only thing that I can use to measure the success of the ecosystem is success of companies or entrepreneurs in our ecosystem. In that sense, I’ve definitely noticed some improvements, including the increasing ability for local companies to raise big dollars and keep their company local. Modernizing Medicine, Open English, Pipeline, and just last week Autoweb was acquired by Autobytel. Don’t forget the biggest story of last 12 months, Magic Leap raising half a billion dollars over in Dania Beach.” – Jose Rasco, Building.co

"Not only do we get what we need from the ecosystem, I’d say we need to do even more to give back. Funding, talent, workshops, Endeavor, accelerators, etc, etc.   Miami has been SO generous to Kairos.com, we can’t wait to pay it forward." - Brian Brackeen, Kairos

"Historically the main difference between Miami and Silicon Valley/NY is our city’s lack of thought leadership. This is rapidly changing.  I think we are on the right track and we need to do more as entrepreneurs to cross pollinate our ideas and business to try and capitalize on the amazing talent and passion that we have in our amazing city." - Abhinav Gautam, Carevoyance 

 What challenges does South Florida face in developing a thriving tech/entrepreneurship ecosystem?

"Our young South Florida ecosystem has done a good job in bringing angel/seed financing to the table.  But we still have a big gap in the Seed+/Series A capital stack that needs to be addressed quickly.  Otherwise, many of the promising companies receiving initial funding will not find the funding to sustain themselves as they scale to self-sufficient businesses." - Joanna Schwartz, Earlyshares

"Inclusion. And it's not the traditional cause and effect, but I think investors have a limited scope for deal flow because the circles are very tight. The intellectual capital is here but it's not being equally supported by the financial capital. Food distribution and food deserts are big issues and we have farms in South Florida but yet it seems an outside company has to verify a good idea. Everything great isn't from California. All innovation and tech doesn't conclude with an app." -Michael Hall, Digital Grass

"We need to convince rock stars entrepreneurs to believe on the benefits of the Miami entrepreneurial ecosystem. This will be done by more and better collaboration between all the right parts of the ecosystem and once these entrepreneurs are here and we can link them with the rights partners (universities, investors, mentors, coworking spaces, etc.) the magic happens. I see magic happening in many different startups across Miami and South FL and I’m positive on the fact that we will see more and better local success stories during the following years." - Marco Giberti, angel investor

"The biggest challenge to South Florida is that while there are many amazing, wealthy smart people, there is also a large percentage of bullshitters that waste lots of time talking about doing things and investing money when in fact they have no intention to.   The community needs to continue to police itself to protect entrepreneurs from individuals that lack the experience and capital to help build companies." -Brad Harrison, Scout Ventures

"Florida has everything an entrepreneur could ask for.  The one element across the board that could have a higher velocity of maturity is the number of serious and well funded VC's present in the state.  It would catapult the entire ecosystem." - Rodolfo Saccoman, AdMobilize

"Miami is behind other leading cities in recognizing social entrepreneurship as a vital part of the entrepreneurial system. Many people would embrace socially focused entrepreneurship if they could find local support, resources and capital." - Robert Hacker, entrepreneurship professor and advisor

Technical talent is #1.  We need more companies started by exceptional technical founders.  These will be the companies that build big businesses and change the landscape.  I say this as a non-technical entrepreneur.  I know how important it is. … But I’m really encouraged by the increasing number of people who are coming to Miami to start companies.  People vote with their feet and the increased activities tells me something is definitely happening." - Patrick McKenna, HighRidge Global

"The remaining challenge is talent, but at this point it has become an opportunity.  Out of the success of the entrepreneurial movement these past two years have come initiatives like Wyncode and Launchcode that are preparing coders at a fast rate and placing them in top companies.  I think the next interesting challenge would be to get institutions like Singularity University and MIT Media Lab to set up satellite campuses in Miami. It is institutions like these that can think deep, big and long… this would bring depth to our new city." - Adriana Cisneros, Endeavor Miami

"There needs to be more emphasis on drawing in big name companies, drawing in more early/mid stage venture capital funds, and looking to address the infrastructure challenges that may slow or impact the growth we're seeing... There is also a big need for people to celebrate their being in Miami. We need to bring the bravado and pride that our local celebrities show in their work to the startup community." - Brian Breslin, Refresh Miami"

"Miami is not only rich in capital but also rich and diverse in culture. Our tech and knowledge economy will be stronger and more successful when a spirit of inclusion is embraced.  More efforts must be made to activate portions of our community that are continually disenfranchised due to socio-economic and racial divides." - Tony Jimenez, Richmond Global

“At the present time, focusing on a single biggest challenge is less helpful that a general call for ‘more.’  We need more access to capital for the better-qualified teams, more entrepreneurial management talent in both the early and expansion stages, more service providers (attorneys, accountants, advisors) who are willing work with talented teams at deeply discounted rates in the early going.  I see all of these elements are in place at the present time, we just need ‘more, more, more’.” - Rhys L Williams, New World Angels "

"The rising cost of rent / real estate and inadequate transit will start to hurt Miami in attracting future talent." - Mario Cruz, Watsco Ventures

"Capital is still the biggest constraint, we can find and hire talent elsewhere, but the money needs to come from your local community which we are not yet there on.    When this comes, we will attract better and better entrepreneurs." - Marc Billings, Blackdove

"Miami is at an inflection point.  It is time to move beyond the “story” of Miami having a thriving tech scene when in reality it’s just the early stages of one. We should focus more on the hard work of finding and building substantive, sustainable long-term new technology businesses – and in my opinion focusing in on key industries is the way to do that." -  Dan Sachar, consultant"

"South Florida has enormous potential to become a major startup hub if key stakeholders (i.e. investors, entrepreneurs, universities, cities, mentors, etc.) decide to work together." - Obduliio Piloto, Entopsis"

 "Funding is very good at the seed stage...very difficult at Series A.  Growth capital is in short supply and I'm seeing companies stretched to find growth capital here.  And this is still not an obvious place for Valley or Alley VCS to invest. I think Miami needs a pitch camp.  I'm seeing too many pitches that are not ready for primetime." - Mark Kingdon, Quixotic Ventures  

 

 

Cambridge Innovation Center makes big bet on Miami tech

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

A vision of Miami as a technology hub is coming into focus.

The Cambridge Innovation Center is the latest high-profile startup-centric organization to bet big on Miami’s future. The company chose Miami as its second U.S. expansion location, and its center will eventually house more than 500 tech startup companies.

LSTPThe new center, modeled on its successful spaces in the Boston-Cambridge area that house and support startups, will be in the University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park in Overtown. Organizers aim to open in the fall of 2016; some of the space may open in the spring. Initially it will take up 70,000 square feet in offices, co-working and event space for entrepreneurs, but plans call for an expansion of at least another 50,000 square feet. The CIC team hopes that it will help anchor an innovation district that will serve all of Latin America.

“Miami is the Hong Kong of Latin America. I lived and worked in Hong Kong and it is a place that emerged as the focus point for an entire continent’s business. We think that Miami has that potential. It’s an amazing opportunity,” CIC founder and CEO Tim Rowe said in a phone interview. “We are trying to build the infrastructure in the cities that have the potential to make an impact on the world.”

That’s just what community leaders, including Knight Foundation Miami program director Matt Haggman and eMerge Americas founder Manny Medina, like to hear.

The well-known startup center joins a number of outside players that have begun to place bets on Miami, including the giant WeWork co-working chain, which recently opened a 40,000-square-foot space in Miami Beach and leased the entire 96,575-square-foot Security Building in downtown Miami with plans to open early next year. Silicon Valley’s 500 Startups brought one of its accelerator programs to Miami this fall, and last week Founder Institute announced it is launching startup programs in both Miami-Dade and Broward, joining existing accelerator programs such as Venture Hive. Talks to bring other organizations to the region are ongoing.

All are betting on the future. Miami is still in the early stages of becoming a true center of tech innovation. But numbers of startups are growing rapidly, along with the support system: the Knight Foundation has made 164 investments committing about $16 million in the last three years, funding programs ranging from the weekly “Waffle Wednesdays” to Miami Dade College’s extensive Idea Center. The second annual eMerge Americas conference doubled attendance of its inaugural year, attracting more than 10,000 people as well as international media attention fostered through by its partnership with NBCUniversal.

CIC’s Rowe and Stas Gayshan, managing director, visited Miami periodically for the past two years to study the area. It was an inaugural eMerge event, a hackathon held at the UM Life Science Park that attracted more than 150 techies to develop apps for social good, that helped Gayshan understand Miami’s potential.

“I remember being in that room and thinking this is an interesting slice of Miami that’s here on a weekend, not outside, but getting together thinking about what’s a better way to make the world a better, more interesting place,” said Gayshan, who served as a hackathon judge. For CIC, “That was a defining moment. Miami got it,” Rowe said.

For Rowe, a meeting at The LAB Miami, one of the original Miami entrepreneurial co-working centers, also helped crystallize the vision. “I walked in and thought ... this is exactly what I was hoping to see there, the energy, the sense of collaboration that we are growing something together, it’s all there.”

But beyond warm and fuzzy feelings, the life science park and surrounding area needed to meet CIC’s criteria. That included available space for the innovation district’s expansion well beyond CIC to create a district serving all of Latin America. The location needed to be central with links to universities, particularly those involved in the life sciences — that’s provided by the University of Miami’s programs in the life science park and the health district that surrounds it. The CIC would need to be close to an airport — check — and near future modes of public transport, such as the proposed All Aboard station and TriRail hub. The numbers worked, too: Miami has well under 200,000 square feet of existing startup spaces (such as The LAB Miami, WeWork and Venture Hive) while the Boston area has about 700,000.

Haggman, who has led the Knight Foundation’s efforts to support and propel Miami’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, visited CIC’s spaces in Boston and Cambridge over the summer and was impressed with the thriving environments for entrepreneurs. “But what I especially liked is seeing how they are such collaborative, community-focused leaders aiming to help build the broader startup ecosystem, too. Their leadership in not only creating a world-class co-working space, but also in continuing to grow and shape Miami’s young but rapidly evolving startup community, will be invaluable,” he said.

The nine-acre University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park, adjacent to the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, is owned and operated by Wexford Science + Technology, a BioMed Realty company, and sits on UM-owned land. Wexford was an early adopter of the thesis that Miami could someday be a technology hub, opening the life science park in 2011. With CIC’s long-term lease, the park’s first phase is now 98 percent leased with more than 50 companies, said Bill Hunter, Wexford’s director of leasing.

“We see Miami as a true melting pot of innovation that is at the intersection of technology and the life sciences,” Hunter said. “It’s a big win for Wexford, the UM Life Science & Technology Park, and especially for Miami overall.”

CIC Miami plans to open officially in early fall 2016, with preliminary space becoming available and events commencing in spring/summer of 2016. CIC Miami will launch in Building 1 of the life science park, creating public space on the ground floor, co-working on the third floor and premium flexible office on the sixth floor. CIC will also be launching its nonprofit arm, the Venture Cafe Foundation, to run events and initiatives, collaborate with existing innovation organizations and run a public innovation space. In its other CIC centers, events and programs have typically included youth entrepreneurship programs, education fellowships, pitch events, regular Thursday meetups and a visiting investor program.

Natalia Martinez-Kalinina will be the general manager of CIC Miami. Martinez-Kalinina, a Harvard and Columbia graduate who attended high school in South Florida, returned in 2012 to serve as product strategist for Ultimate Software. Known as a community builder, she founded the Miami chapter of the Awesome Foundation and most recently has been chief innovation and technology officer of Roots of Hope, a nonprofit.

Natalia“I envision CIC becoming an engine and accelerator of innovation and technology in this city, a hub of collaboration, binding together a lot of entities that are siloed or dispersed. I imagine us as playing a role in deepening the ecosystem, including in the Overtown area, and creating a more well-versed investor community,” said Martinez-Kalinina, who is familiar with CIC from her time in Harvard and working in Boston after graduation. “One of the things that excites me most about CIC in Miami is the philosophy that CIC has about community impact and economic impact. They’ve proven their case in Boston, Cambridge and St. Louis.”

St. Louis was CIC’s first expansion outside the Boston area, opening one year ago in 120,000 square feet of space. “We just informed our landlord we need more space,” Rowe said. CIC also recently opened in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

CIC was founded in 1999 in Kendall Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as a place for Rowe and his MIT buddies to work on their startups, but the concept evolved. Rowe calls his model “an innovation concentrator.” CIC spaces are more than shared office space and not an incubator, though they may have incubators inside. Some founding teams move in and stay, growing to dozens or even more than a hundred employees. Today, CIC houses more than 1,000 companies in 500,000 square feet of office and co-working space across its locations. The densest concentration is in Cambridge, with about 750 startups, Rowe said.

“When you create an intense cluster ... it creates a beacon effect, as this large collection of companies becomes a destination,” Rowe said. “If you are making it more visible to the rest of the world, then more people will pay attention. That’s important because what you need is investors to come and start hunting there.”

When CIC opened in Cambridge, there was only one small venture fund in the area; now there are 15 funds with $7 billion under management, said Rowe, who is also a venture capitalist. “Miami is awash in cash, but how much is flowing into startups in Miami, creating jobs in Miami? Not much. There is an opportunity to link those resources together.”

High-profile companies started at CIC include marketing automation startup Hubspot, which employs more than 1,100 people and raised $125 million through its initial public offering in October 2014. Greatpoint Energy, a company revolutionizing the global energy industry, was founded at CIC; in 2012 it announced a $1.25 billion deal to build 34 nuclear reactors in China. Android co-founder Rich Miner built his portion of Google Android and established Google’s New England headquarters at CIC; Google now employs 800 people in the neighborhood.

CIC in Cambridge also has been a leader in supporting entrepreneurs in the life sciences and biotech areas. Positioned in the UM life science park, the Miami center has the potential to better connect the startup community with the the healthcare and life science industries.

“This will be a game changer,” said Norma Kenyon, chief innovation officer at the Miller School of Medicine who often works with startups at the life science park and UM’s medical school. “The high-collision environment created among innovators, investors and others will have a positive impact on the ability of the University of Miami and others to bring their ideas and inventions to market.”

Nancy Dahlberg: 305-376-3595, @ndahlberg

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article38767662.html#storylink=cpy

October 11, 2015

Nurturing a future tech hub: South Florida efforts accelerate

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

By at least one measure, South Florida is buzzing with tech startups.

The number of startups registered on AngelList, a platform for startups and investors, shot up 46 percent in the past year, to more than 1,600 companies in the tri-county area. While not scientific, it’s an indicator of momentum in South Florida’s effort to develop a thriving tech hub and startup ecosystem, a long-term project that is beginning to clock results.

The past year’s successes have included an explosion of co-working spaces for entrepreneurs to work, share ideas and find a community, said Matt Haggman (pictured above), the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Miami program director. Under his leadership, Knight has been spearheading much of Miami’s effort to grow an entrepreneurship and tech ecosystem. Funding for The LAB Miami, one of the Miami’s first entrepreneurial co-working spaces, came from Knight and other backers in 2012. This past year saw expansions of Buro and Pipeline, as well as new entrants including New York-based WeWork. WeWork, the co-working network with at least 42 locations opened or announced in 16 cities in four countries, opened a center on Lincoln Road this summer and recently leased a 96,575-square-foot building in downtown Miami.

And there’s more to come: The highly regarded Cambridge Innovation Center is putting down stakes locally, with plans to open next year and eventually house 500 tech startups at the University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park. (See related story here.)

“That’s hugely validating, and for us at Knight Foundation, that is exactly what we hoped to see. We hope our dollars will be catalytic with other players coming in, and that is what we’ve seen around co-working,” Haggman said in an interview in his office earlier this month.

With $2.18 million Knight funding, the past year also saw the launch of the Idea Center at Miami Dade College, comprised of an innovation lab to develop ideas, an accelerator to launch startups, tech training and other support to MDC’s 165,000 students. MAGIC, an innovation space for creative industries, also opened its doors at MDC. A large Knight investment went to LaunchCode, which links trained apprentices with tech companies to fill the jobs of the future.

“It’s been remarkable to see how the Knight Foundation’s entrepreneurial mandate has helped springboard the entrepreneurial scene in Miami,” said Adriana Cisneros, CEO of The Cisneros Companies and chair of Endeavor Miami, which selects, mentors and accelerates high-potential entrepreneurs. “It’s about creating the environment where entrepreneurs can thrive: This is where Knight has been successful and why Miami is now a great place to start or run a business.”

Altogether, in the past three years Knight has committed $16 million in funding to 164 entrepreneurship initiatives in the Miami area. That’s up from about 90 investments a year ago.

To be sure, nurturing a startup ecosystem is a tri-county effort. The past year also saw the opening of Tech Runway, Florida Atlantic University’s comprehensive entrepreneurship hub and startup accelerator for students, faculty and the Broward County community. Broward and Palm Beach counties were home to the area’s three biggest fundraising rounds in the past year. Boca Raton-based electronic medical records company Modernizing Medicine recently raised $38 million, for a total of $87 million, and Fort Lauderdale-based telemedicine company MDLIVE attracted $50 million in the second quarter, on top of $23.6 million last year.

And jumping out of the headlines last October was Magic Leap, the secretive “mixed reality” technology company that attracted an eye-popping $542 million in venture funding from the likes of Google and other Silicon Valley heavyweights. Magic Leap, believed to have several hundred employees already, is building its headquarters in a 260,000-square-foot space in Plantation, with plans to hire hundreds more.

Earlier this year, the three counties came together, along with entrepreneurs and tech executives from around the world, for the second edition of eMerge Americas, a conference founded by tech entrepreneur Manny Medina, with the goal of making Miami a hub for the Americas. eMerge partnered with NBCUniversal, which resulted in reams of national and international coverage; conference attendance doubled to more than 10,000.

“We had attendees from over 50 countries. They’re coming because they recognize the opportunity here in South Florida,” Michael Rodriguez, CEO of eMerge Americas, said via email from a road trip with the eMerge team in Latin America last week.

In the next year, Knight will focus its ecosystem-building strategy on broadening support initiatives, including funding more programs serving low-income communities, and continuing to build a funding network and talent pool, Haggman said.

“Diversity is our great differentiator. The more we can create collisions and connections among people of different backgrounds and life experiences and challenges, ultimately that leads to a richer set of ideas that people come up with and ultimately the greater the impact,” he said.

Building the type of technology hub and startup ecosystem envisioned by Haggman, Cisneros, Medina and other South Florida startup leaders takes time. How much time? Research about such efforts has not been able to adequately answer that question so far, said Yasuyuki Motoyama, director of Research and Policy with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which researches, supports and funds entrepreneurship initiatives. “[Entrepreneur and well-known venture capitalist] Brad Feld says the leaders have to commit to the long term, at least 20 years, and I have a pretty close view with his,” Motoyama said. “Creating new companies is the beginning phase and you have to successfully scale it up. That scale-up part will take many more years to mature.”

Beyond new-company creation — and the Miami area was No. 2 in the nation for new startup activity in 2014, according to Kauffman’s research — Motoyama said emerging areas will see a cluster of companies attracting large funding rounds, as South Florida has seen. Another important indicator that South Florida may be on the road to success is if entrepreneurs feel connected to other entrepreneurs and to support organizations so they can learn from each other, he said. A growing list of support organizations is another indicator.

By those measures, South Florida is on the right track, with a growing list of accelerators and incubators, mentorship organizations, talent-development initiatives and, slowly, investors. Haggman talks about the support network like a subway map, where entrepreneurs can hop on and off based on their needs. There is no one path for an entrepreneur.

Miami newcomer Seth Forsgren hopped on through Venture for America, one of the Knight-funded initiatives brought to Miami last year. Venture for America matches bright college graduates from anywhere with Miami area startups. Forsgren, originally from Iowa, moved here 14 months ago with a degree in molecular biology from Princeton and was placed at Rokk3r Labs, a young Miami Beach company that helps build startups. “I never thought of moving here, but was excited to work at Rokk3r Labs so I came on down.”

As he helped Rokk3r formulate internal strategy, Forsgren caught the bug himself. Forsgren, who started a nonprofit in college, recruited his childhood friend who graduated from Cornell and a lead developer from Miami he met during late nights at the Rokk3r ping-pong table. After a few months of nights and weekends, they quit their jobs and went all-in in May, Forsgren said during an interview at Panther Coffee, where he first got the idea for his tech startup. The team, now four people, is based at WeWork. “We’re hiring,” he said. “We’re trying to build the future of communications.”

What this team is building is called Yodel, formerly called Tracks, an app designed to make texting more like face-to-face communication through video and other visuals, with a new version expected soon. The ecosystem at work: Rokk3r and VFA were supportive of him going out on his own and Haggman connected him with potential advisors and funders. Patrick McKenna of HighRidge Global became his first seed investor. Alberto Chang-Rajii, founder of Grupo Arcano who is also on Endeavor Miami’s board, joined as an an investor, as did Andres Moreno, founder of Miami-based Open English, who is also his advisor, and others.

While that is the way an ecosystem is supposed to work, challenges remain. The Miami Herald surveyed 50 entrepreneurs, investors and community leaders for this report, and many of them pointed to a lack of startup funding, particularly Series A rounds of $1 million or more, as one of the area’s biggest challenges.

McKenna, who moved here in 2014 from San Francisco, said he has been impressed with the seed-level funding networks and the commitment the community has to supporting startups. “There is, however, a big gap for Series A and it’s not clear how [it] will be filled. There are some good companies coming up who will face the Series A challenge soon.”

He believes there should be a bigger focus on attracting successful entrepreneurs to the area. “This group is already equipped to solve many of the current challenges — attracting talent, funding and scaling. Consider that most of the entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley are transplants.”

One new initiative of the AGP Network, a growing angel group led by Managing Director Nico Berardi, is an education series aimed at growing the angel base. Miami is overflowing with wealthy people, but most are unfamiliar with tech investing, particularly in high-risk startups.

Other challenges identified in the Miami Herald survey included the region’s low corporate density and involvement, bridging the digital divide, a shortage of quality mentorship and lingering perceptions of Miami as a party city.

“We can’t have a tech ecosystem without a true pipeline with dedicated long-term partners. We need large tech companies to hire tech talent from Miami and create tech jobs for Miamians,” said Felecia Hatcher, co-founder of Feverish Pops and Code Fever, a nonprofit focused on teaching youth in low-income communities about coding and entrepreneurship.

Added Steve Luis, a director in Florida International University’s School of Computing and Information Sciences: “Our biggest challenge in building our ecosystems is keeping our talent and companies from leaving Miami. To do this we need to consider competitive salaries for engineers, creative incentives for companies to stay, and marketing strategies to attract tech companies.” The average software developer salary in South Florida is about two-thirds of what it is in San Francisco, according to government data.

FIU recently opened Tech Station on its western Miami-Dade campus and the CARTA Innovation Lab in Miami Beach as places for education, collaboration and experiential learning. FIU has a MOOC entrepreneurship course available to all its students and it opened a Small Business Development Center at FIU in 2014 to help entrepreneurs in the community. Its School of Hospitality and Tourism Management has an innovation program in the works, said FIU President Mark Rosenberg. “We’re not done.”

Coming soon: Startup FIU.

Rosenberg described it as “a one-stop hub for our students to come in and get assistance with their ideas and get those ideas off the ground into new businesses. It will also be a source of support for faculty to get products to market and to finish out the licensing and patenting,” he said. Satellite centers will likely be established for each academic field of study; the centers will be linked with the main Startup FIU hub, which will be available to students and faculty from any area of study. “We are putting the final details together.”

Locating the hub on FIU’s Mitch Maidique campus on SW Eighth Street is strategic, too. “We’re not downtown and we get that, but one of our strategic advantages is our talent. We have one of the largest engineering schools in the country … We want to focus on incubating, nurturing, getting prepared for the innovative 21st century that is upon us. There’s life out here, there is a lot of good stuff happening, and a lot are startups by FIU students and graduates. The time has come for us to focus on that,” Rosenberg said.

A wider reach to bring more parts of South Florida into the ecosystem is part of Haggman’s vision, too.

Events like Black Tech Week, which launched in February, and organizations such as Code Fever, the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, LaunchCode and the Idea Center — all funded by the Knight Foundation — help to expand the entrepreneurship movement. “There’s a lot more work to do there, but we’ve made some gains,” Haggman said. “If we can be that example of an emerging startup community that at its foundation is about diversity and inclusiveness, then we’ve cut a new path.”

He said Knight would also be laser-focused on developing the talent pool, citing the early success of programs like LaunchCode that has already signed up more than 120 companies to hire tech apprentices. “LaunchCode is making a market for tech talent in South Florida. We need both talented coders and companies who need to grow,” said Jim McKelvey, the co-founder of Square and LaunchCode, who expanded his nonprofit to South Florida earlier this year.

Coders don’t need a degree to be successful, McKelvey said. He pointed to programs like Harvard’s online CS50x coding course, offered this year at a low or no cost to 300-plus students by the Idea Center and LaunchCode.

Before the year is out, expect to see more programs coming to Miami, thanks to Knight funding. Still, Haggman said, it’s a long game.

“All this requires ongoing work by everyone. Ultimately the long-term success of this is going to be from the bottom up ... People will be engaging in ways they want to engage and pursuing ideas that they want to pursue. And each person should feel license to just go for it in an ecosystem that is fluid and agile with lots of ways to participate,” Haggman said. “Everyone is a champion — that’s how it really works.”

More success stories are critical, but the community needs patience, said investor Mark Kingdon, who moved to Miami from New York last year. “Like a fine wine, building a startup takes time. Average exits are eight to 10 years. We need some big exits, and those are years away.”

And even a long game deserves some timeouts, it seems. Last month, more than 300 local entrepreneurship fans gathered to celebrate milestones, including the launch of 500 Startups’ growth marketing accelerator and the opening of the co-working space Building.co. The evening end a group selfie shot from a drone. This is Miami, after all.

Nancy Dahlberg: 305-376-3595, @ndahlberg

 See photo gallery of 16 events and highlights of the year here.

Report card

A look at some metrics for South Florida and Florida technology:

Number of tech startups in South Florida:Hard to quantify because of the high failure rate, but by one measure, AngelList registrations, there are 1,682 startups and early stage companies seeking funding in the tri-county area. That is up 46.4 percent since a year ago, when the number was 1,149.

Job growth:20 percent from 2012 to 2015, the top performing of The Beacon Council’s seven targeted industries, according to The Beacon Council’s 2015 One Community One Goal report. By number of jobs, 1,629, technology is also by far the smallest of the seven targeted industries.

Average salary: Software developer: $75,380 (Miami-Dade); $73,278 (Broward).

Venture capital: Florida ranked 13th in the nation based on venture capital flows into Florida companies in the first half of the year, taking in $239 million, or 0.8 percent of the U.S. total; 68 percent of the dollars and 50 percent of the deals went to South Florida companies. South Florida’s slice of the VC pie was about 1/2 percent of the U.S. total.

Patents per capita: Florida ranked 19th for patents per capita in 2013.

Pipeline: South Florida ranks seventh in the nation for college students per capita. According to the 2014 edition of the ASEE Profiles of Engineering & Engineering Technology Colleges, FIU placed seventh in the country for number of bachelor’s degrees in computer science.

Entrepreneurial activity and growth: The Miami metropolitan area ranked second among 40 big markets studied in new entrepreneurial activity in 2014, behind Austin and ahead of San Jose, according to the Kauffman Foundation. Eighteen South Florida companies made the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies this year.

Immigrant tech entrepreneurs:The Miami and Fort Lauderdale metro areas were No. 1 and No. 2 for growth rates of immigrant tech entrepreneurs, 2000-11.

Sources: U.S. Labor Dept., Beacon Council, Pwc MoneyTree reports, Internet Coast, Kauffman Foundation, AngelList, Herald research

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article38767662.html#storylink=cpy

October 11, 2014

Voices of the tech community – Part 5: And about the money…

Tech eggAs part of a look back -- and look ahead -- at community-wide efforts to build or accelerate a technology-entrepreneurial  ecosystem in South Florida, I asked a sampling of entrepreneurs, investors and service providers for their views with a variety of questions. We've put a sampling on this blog throughout the week. This is the last installment.

Find the main stories in the tech hub series here: fundraising and progress/challengesSee Part 1 herePart 2 here,  Part 3 here and Part 4. Find the entire series easily under the Tech Hub Series category of this blog. 

 What's your view? Add your comment on this post, email me at ndahlberg@miamiherald.com or tweet me @ndahlberg. Thank your for reading.

Today's questions:

As an investor, how would you describe the quality of deals you are seeing in South Florida?

"The deal are getting better in quality but we still need to see more companies. It's a numbers game and we need to increase the size of the funnel to increase the number of successful companies coming out of South Florida." - Ed Boland, Scout Ventures

"Improving with confidence and organization, such as the newly launched AGP, where I sense palpable excitement." - Peter Kellner, Richmond Global, Endeavor

 “Without doubt I am seeing a larger and better deals out flowing, driven by the emergence of the number of accelerators and incubators during the last 12-24 months.  The quality and preparation of the entrepreneur teams is also unequivocally superior.  However, I am still not seeing deals that seem to ‘jump the curve’ in uniqueness and potential.” - Ricardo Weisz, NorthVest, Miami Innovation Fund

Deal quality has been extremely high over the past two years.  We are seeing (1) technologies and products that address real and often novel market needs, (2) more complete management teams with deeper domain expertise, (3) realistic expectations from founders regarding their venture's intrinsic valuation and acceptance of the deal terms which investors require in order to make an attractive risk-adjusted return." - Rhys Williams, New World Angels

If you have raised funds, have the sources been local or elsewhere?

"SportsManias has been able to raise funds locally with ideal investors whom not only have provided the resources needed, but completely understand our vision. Jorge Mas of Mas Equity Partners is the ultimate sports fan that is precisely whom our app and website is designed for, therefore, he gives us important feedback as an end user, as well as, providing us the investment and network needed to continue to grow exponentially." - Aymara Del Aguila, SportsManias

"We were fortunate to have worked in our industry for over a decade before launching our business and initially raised funds from a friend who knew of our background. Eighteen months later, one of our new customers, which is based in Broward county, loved our solution so much they initiated a conversation that's leading to us closing a round of funding on Oct 1st. - Marlon Williams, Fenero

 How would you characterize the fund-raising environment here?

"Very poor. Investors do not pull the trigger fast enough and only a couple are truly doing early stage. B2B startups can have revenue early but B2C startups have a very hard time getting revenue until after a launch and sometimes months of customer acquisition, which is a prerequisite for most investors here." - Susan Amat

"Unhealthy for entrepreneurs. Slim pickings, low evaluations, and lacking in network reach critical for future fundraising needs." - Stonly Baptiste, Urban.Us

"The fund raising environment is slim to none in South Florida. It is dominated by a small handful of organizations which all seem to be part of each other. Makes it tough for entrepreneurs to get the best deal in their fund-raising activity. We raised a small pre-seed locally, but had to find sources outside of the market for my next round, which came from an angel in New York." - Darren Atinsky, WedWu
 
"On the seed level, it's thriving. There is a lot of new angel activity. However, it's still difficult for startups to make the jump from seed level rounds to a proper Series A or B round locally. Most entrepreneurs here are still going to have to go out West or to the Northeast to get those kind of deals done." - Will Weinraub, LiveNinja 

What will it take to develop a stronger investor network here?

"Money follows talent. We need to incubate companies at the earliest stages and allow talent, drive and opportunity to thrive," Jeff Brown, Palm Beach Angels

"Investors network with other investors constantly. For investors here or from out-of-state, we need draws to bring them together – things like eMerge and the Forum’s Capital Conferences, and other networking opportunities. There is a tremendous amount of money in Florida that doesn’t get deployed in early or venture-stage companies – often referred to as “money behind the palm trees” – but that is changing thanks to initiatives like the Forum’s that educate investors on becoming angels, and South Florida’s own EarlyShares that provides a platform for investors to find and invest in growing companies." - Kevin Burgoyne, Florida Venture Forum

 "Education, success cases of local entrepreneurs and investors from other cities coming to Miami are helping to develop a stronger investor network here. Talent attracts capital too. There are many local leaders that are supporting younger entrepreneurs which is critical for the ecosystem. In the same spirit, at Endeavor Miami we believe that a key to success is the example and commitment that a few local high-impact entrepreneurs dedicate to their local community - by supporting others as mentors and/or eventually as investors." – Laura Maydon, Endeavor Miami

We need leaders and role models in our investor community. We need more investors like Mark Kingdon, highly connected individuals who are experienced investors and tech entrepreneurs themselves.” – Carlos Garcia, Nobox

"Continued examples of success, greater connectivity and easier ways to plug in to the community we are continuing to build, and telling our story well. We've seen more and more opportunities for investors to learn more and connect around successful startups through initiatives like Endeavor, Accelerated Growth Partners, Florida Institute for Commercialization of Public Research angel investor seminars, and Enterprise Development Corporation. As a result, the momentum is growing." - Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation

If you could add one ingredient to the South Florida entrepreneurial ecosystem right now, what would it be? 

"Liquidity. The more exits that our market experiences, the more smart-money that'll be on the table. Excellent entrepreneurs tend to fund excellent entrepreneurs. The council of folks who have been through the journey and can relate empathetically is extremely valuable. A confluence of both will lead to a more robust ecosystem." Richard Lent, Thesis Ventures

Leadership, growth and mentorship are all vital to the tech scene in South Florida.  However, more important are the cutting-edge technologies that leverage Miami’s unique Latin American footprint.  We should focus on leveraging our strengths and seek to innovatively remedy issues that affect the Latin American market.  With the recent Apple Pay news, the mobile payments industry is on the forefront of technology growth. At YellowPepper, we’re harnessing similar mobile technology that has historically had its sights set on the U.S. market, and enabling its use for a growing middle class across the region. We want to see more of this taking place in our Miami backyard and are eager to help fuel future innovation.” -   Serge Elkiner, YellowPepper

"A BIG Google office!  A mega billion dollar exit!  Seriously, though, we could use more developer entrepreneurs." - Mark Kingdon, angel investor

In building an ecosystem, in what area has the most progress been made in the last year?

Exposure.  Thanks to the national and international efforts of eMerge Americas, the Knight Foundation and some far reaching programs such as Venture Hive, Miami is becoming known for its pioneering and entrepreneurial community.” – Mike Tomas, Bioheart

"South Florida’s technology community has grown beyond the plethora of great ideas; we have built a support system, providing entrepreneurs with the tools, resources, talent and funding that are needed to turn their ideas into viable products.  In parallel, top talent from the corporate world is joining the community. At Rokk3r Labs, we are gaining leaders and entrepreneurs from this pool, providing the tech hub with a wealth of knowledge and experience to help co-build amazing companies. Attracting more talent and investors to the community will be key for the upcoming year to help continue the development momentum." - Nabyl Charania, Rokk3r Labs 

"Organizations have been doing a great job of bringing in individuals and institutions that have brought technology to the forefront of Miami's political and business communities.  Many conferences have taken place, educational institutions have taken notice, and the local community has expressed interest in taking part in the tech movement.  Unfortunately, the low income communities are still being left behind and out of the conversation." - Derick Pearson, Code Fever

If it takes a village to raise a child I believe it takes a city to raise a startup. Diverse new players​ have come in the ecosystem in the last year (eMerge conference, Scout Ventures, MaverixLab, the "new" AGP, Wyncode, Thesis Ventures, Code for America, the Microsoft Innovation Center at the Venture Hive to name a few) creating ​a higher "density” of people who can be there at the right time and ​at the right place to connect startups with money, experience, knowledge and services.” - Ivan Rapin Smith, Idealy

 Posted Oct. 11, 2014

October 09, 2014

Voices of the tech community: Part 4

Tech eggAs part of a look back -- and look ahead -- at community-wide efforts to build or accelerate a technology-entrepreneurial  ecosystem in South Florida, I asked a sampling of entrepreneurs, investors and service providers for their views with a variety of questions. We'll put a sampling on this blog throughout the week.

Find the main stories here: fundraising and progress/challengesSee Part 1 herePart 2 here and Part 3 here.

 What's your view? Add your comment on this post or email me at ndahlberg@miamiherald.com. What's next: fund-raising. 

Today's questions:

Have you been able to find the talent you need locally?

Although Miami has not yet been recognized as a city that is tech-savvy, SportsManias has found amazing tech talent in our hometown. Our team includes a group of expert programmers that have built and maintained our website, as well as, our mobile app that is consistently rated 5-stars, validating the quality of content and functionality.” - Aymara Del Aguila, SportsManias

Finding talent is really no longer an issue.  Technology startups should be virtual, and hire the best talent wherever you can find it.  We are on 4 continents. “ Brian Garr, LinguaSys 

As we began recruiting our developer team we looked to tech hubs like Silicon Valley, New York and Boston thinking those individuals would be tough to find here. Fortunately (and to our surprise) we found incredibly skilled people right here in Miami. Our team is mostly local which brought with it the added value of having team members who have been working to build this ecosystem for some time and know the history but are also passionate about its future.” – Johanna Mikkola, Wyncode 

Absolutely! South Florida is a net-exporter of top talent – we keep sending our best and brightest off and need to do a better job of making sure that people – such as the leadership, professors and students at our area universities – know about the opportunities right here at home.” – Dan Cane, Modernizing Medicine

We have an amazing team and building this team was probably the biggest challenge we overcame.  I stuck with it and kept recruiting locally. I think people underestimate the talent in this area. But the truth is, you just have to keep looking and you'll find your perfect team." –Adam Boalt, LiveAnswer

Absolutely. Contrary to popular belief, there’s a huge and impressive talent pool here. My entire team – development, marketing, sales – was recruited from the local workforce and previously, as Managing Director of Silver Hill Financial, I grew a team to several hundred in South Florida. I’m proud of that, and I think the human capital in the region is only going to get better in years to come.” Joanna Schwartz, EarlyShares

We have had great success finding talent here as well as bringing talent here. We live in a truly global city that people want to move to from all over the world. Our Head of Design is moving here from London next month, a world class talent, and I'd dare to say that he feels blessed to have the opportunity to live and work in Miami.” – Brian Brackeen, Kairos  

 “So far, so good but I’ve been fortunate to work with Rokk3r Labs.  It’s definitely a challenge to convince US based development talent to move to Miami.” – Brad Liff, Fitting Room Social

Yes, but we had to import most of our top-engineering talent. In some cases we had to invest in getting them visas. If you are serious about building a tech company in South Florida you have to be willing to travel a lot and recruit talent outside of our community.” – Carlos Garcia, Nobox

"We are location agnostic for talent.  Since our raise, we now have 28 employees and have opened offices in London, Bogota, Tel Aviv, Washington.  Nowadays, collaboration tools make it possible to cross boundaries to achieve challenging milestones." - Rodolfo Saccoman, AdMobilize

In your view, what is the biggest challenge South Florida faces in developing a tech hub and what will it take to overcome that challenge?

"One of our greatest challenges is the disconnect between talent and opportunity. There is great talent here, but it is not as visible as it needs to be to fuel mobility. When talking to startups, tech talent doesn't seem to be a grave concern, but managerial talent that understands the dynamics of a startup is difficult to find. It isn't as simple as plucking a successful manager from a leading local corporation. As they say, startups are not smaller versions of corporations. Furthermore,  our graduates across institutions are facing a market that is not as clear in determining a long-term career path, hence why equipping them with an entrepreneurial skill set and mindset is key to their survival in a "gig economy." –Wifredo Fernandez, Idea Center @ MDC

"There is a tendency to continually assess Miami, to define its weak spots or seek validation from elsewhere. Don’t. Instead, just build. We’ve seen lots of success by entrepreneurs in Miami who identify an opportunity and pursue it. We’re seeing success comes from doing, not assessing or defining. We should stay focused on that." - Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation 

 "Early stage investor capital is by far the largest issue but a more subtle challenge (that is tough to fix in the short term) is our lack of a large tech job “safety net” for entrepreneurs to fall back on if their startup plans get derailed.  ...   While in SFL we have great universities graduating very strong business students, engineers and scientists, our corporate community – both small and large firms – is still relatively thin;   particularly compared to the other US regions where tech startups are flourishing in larger numbers.    And despite what I believe are some huge advantages for employers in South Florida, to fix this corporate density issue, we need to continue to focus on the core high level factors – quality of our public schools (so companies will more easily decide to relocate or add S FL branches), continued enhancements in transportation infrastructure, business tax incentives, labor training incentives, R&D tax credits, etc."  –Rob Strandberg, Enterprise Development Corp.  

"The biggest challenge is the misalignment, in fact disconnect, between what technology companies are seeking and what our universities are supplying. Tech firms complain our workforce is not up to par, while our graduates complain there are not enough tech companies here to employ them. The failure of the state of Florida to adequately fund university research and commercialization in STEM (compared to North Carolina, Texas. California, Massachusetts and New York) impedes tech hub development." –Jerry Haar, FIU College of Business

"A lot have been done in the ecosystem to develop a tech hub in Miami including top tech events such as SIME and eMerge, the opening of Endeavor office, WeXchange.com to promote women entrepreneurship and  amazing co-working and innovation centers such as  The Lab Miami and Venture Hive. 
 
Areas of opportunity: 
  • The VC and angel ecosystem can be  further developed and expanded. There is a lot of money in Miami, coming from Latam that it is not invested in tech startups mainly because they don't know how to do it .  
  • A more organized network of mentors can be greatly beneficial for entrepreneurs. 
  • It will also be nice to have more support and programas that foster and drive women entrepreneurship." - Silvina Moschini, Yandiki.com
"

I'd say that it's the false perceptions that many people have of the scene. I've heard lots of notable people in the industry discount South Florida for it's lack of success stories, but all that tells me is that they haven't been paying close enough attention. There have been a ton of success stories here." - Will Weinraub, LiveNinja 

 

 

"Outside of South Florida, changing the perception of Miami is still an ongoing challenge. Until we see serious exits, solid growth and long-term sustainability of the ecosystem, shedding the "South Beach image" could take some time." - Brett Hudson, Axis Space

 If you could add one ingredient to the entrepreneurial ecosystem, what would it be?

"Significant, organized involvement from experienced, well-known investors.  Boulder has Techstars and the Foundry Group, Vegas has Tony Hsieh's group, and San Francisco has countless Sand Hill types. South Florida needs an experienced group that mentors and cultivates founders and deploys strategic investment tactics.    -- Kubs Lalchandani, Lalchandani Simon PL

"I would like to increase visibility into the growth and talent of our community. One of the ways we could do this is by taking some of the best representatives of our local tech scene to present and showcase as a collective at events like SXSW, TechCrunch Disrupt, Collision Conf and demonstrating the level of talent and growth through our strength in numbers. We have startups doing really innovative things like LiveNinja and Kairos, budding funds like Urban.Us and educational organizations like Refresh Miami, The LAB Miami and Wyncode that deserve more attention and recognition. Many have no idea there is a growing community here in South Florida and it's time we made some noise. We may not be Silicon Alley, Silicon Beach, Boulder or Austin, but even those startup cities started somewhere. It's about creating awareness both home and away." - Pabla Ayala, pFunk Media

"A centralized, coordinated communications effort to get the message out to the local community and to the world that South Florida has strong technology that is getting better." - Bob Nagro, Next Horizon Communications
 
Formal small groups of entrepreneurs/CEOs/Founders willing to share their mistakes, lessons learned. “ Jose Li, 71 Lbs.
 
"More accelerators to come like 500Startups, NXTP Labs and others that can complete the rising ecosystem and attract more investors interested to invest in an excellent place to make business, pretty close to Latam and with great connections to all US." - Fernando Cuscuela, Everypost
 
"Harness more talent. We need a swell of brilliant people working on crazy ideas." –Stonly Baptiste, Urban.Us

 Posted Oct. 9, 2014