October 21, 2016

It's showtime: MDC hosts MIA Animation Conference & Festival today and Saturday

The popular annual event includes panel discussions, master classes, a pitching contest and Game Jam

Miami Dade College  is hosting the MIA Animation Conference & Festival on Friday, Oct. 21 and Saturday, Oct. 22, at MDC’s Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami. The renowned event features world-renowned speakers, technology influencers from the nation’s top animation studios, universities, and the best talent in the industry. It has become one of the most exciting and cutting edge events in Miami, alongside a community of advanced technology-explorers, decision-makers, trend-setters, software developers, and creative industry professionals.

The industry conference focuses on Computer Animation, Gaming, Visual Effects and Motion Graphics, Film, Web Design and Visual Arts.  It draws some of the world’s top leaders in animation and education, and features exhibitions, workshops and master classes.  It has been designed to be a forum for active networking and practical information exchange with strong commitment and emphasis in education while developing and nourishing new talent. 

Featured speakers at this year’s MIA Animation Festival include Bill Buckley, a senior animator on blockbuster games such as Call of Duty, NBA and Guitar Hero; Mark Anthony Austin, a supervising animator for films including Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem 3D, The Avengers and Casper; David Steinberg, senior VP production for Nick Animation Studios; and Aaron Parry, CCO and executive vice president of Deluxe 3D.

Some of the highlights include a Breakfast on Arts & Technology, the Pitching Contest and the MIA Game Jam.

A Breakfast on Arts & Technology will kick off the festival at 8 a.m., Oct. 21, where it will be explored the ways in which the arts and tech industries can work together to build a connected creative ecosystem.  The panel discussion will include: Eldredge Bermingham, Frost Science CSO); Howard Herring, New World Symphony CEO; and Juan “JC” Acosta, Viacom International EVP and COO. The keynote speaker will be Aaron Parry, EVP & Chief Creative Officer at DELUXE 3D LLC.

Participants can also compete in the Pitching Contest where all creators are encouraged to submit their projects for consideration in the animation for television and web series for adults or children. The top pitch overall will be set up with three meetings with relevant buyers and/or talent representatives, providing a great start to getting a pitch sold.  

Attendees can also take part in MIA Game Jam, a 24-hour game development event on Oct. 22 and Oct. 23 at 6 p.m. The event is organized by students from the MAGIC Club mentored by MLH (Major League Hacking). Within 24 hours, the attendees will form teams to create a video game, either a playable prototype, or formalized technical or artistic concept. Attendees will be given a theme they must follow, but can use it to make a video game of any kind on their own laptop.

The conference is free for MDC students and faculty; $135 for students and $250 for professionals.

For more information, visit miaanimation.com.

- Submitted by Miami Dade College

October 18, 2016

Rokk3r Labs relocating its headquarters from Miami Beach to Wynwood


Cobuilding platform Rokk3r Labs is moving its headquarters to Wynwood, Miami's booming arts hotspot. The new office space will further facilitate creativity and cobuilding between the team, entrepreneurs, investors and other partners, its founders said.

“The move into our new headquarters provides the impetus to blend art and technology to further connect our offices, teammates, entrepreneurs, investors and partners at a global scale,” said Lorenzo de Leo, Rokk3r Labs’ managing director, in a news release. “We wanted to create more private work spaces alongside open, collaborative, areas, to help our team members find the best work environment for them. Now we plan to have dedicated space - dubbed the Decompression Zone - to help people relax, meditate and more.”

As well as the Decompression Zone, Rokk3r Labs’ new 6,000-square-foot headquarters, at 2121 NW Second Ave., will include a dedicated learning area, a rooftop patio and a “Global Dashboard” in the main work area to relay real-time data about the group’s portfolio companies around the world. Rokk3r Labs plans to eventually offer space to content creators in residencies for pre-determined periods of time. Rokk3r is the main tenant in the building and occupies much of the second floor; art galleries and a restaurant occupy the first floor. 

Rokk3r Labs, which had been headquartered in Miami Beach off Lincoln Road since its founding in 2012, has offices in London, Bogotá, Mexico City and Toronto.  the company partners with entrepreneurs to cobuild ventures, and it currently has 40 companies in its portolio, including AdMobilize, AlzhUp and Hyp3r.

October 12, 2016

One reason the tech ecosystem isn’t growing the way it could

Jim McKelvey at Toqueville tighter

Photo provided by United Way

By Alma Kadragic

Since arriving in Miami three years ago, I’ve been hearing about the developing technology ecosystem, spurred by eMerge Americas and bolstered by funding from the Knight Foundation.

I’ve been a believer, having attended the past three eMerge conferences, each year bigger with more entrepreneurs participating and tech companies sponsoring, and followed the growth of The Lab Miami, Venture Hive, WIN Lab Miami, Endeavor and other organizations dedicated to building the tech ecosystem here.

But Tuesday morning I attended a session of the Toqueville Society, a networking and fundraising arm of United Way where a group of corporate leaders invest a considerable amount to attend and hear significant speakers.

The speaker Tuesday was Jim McKelvey, co-founder of Square, and founder of the nonprofit LaunchCode. He came to talk about his challenges establishing LaunchCode in South Florida, which according to a recent survey is among the worst metropolitan areas in the U.S. for technology development.

Just three years ago, McKelvey founded LaunchCode in his hometown of St. Louis. He trained 400 people to code – a process that takes six months, he says - and was able to find what became permanent jobs for 40 or 10 percent of them by calling CEOs of companies like Boeing and Anheiser-Busch.

That same method hasn’t worked here. Somehow, McKelvey says due to his own mistake, LaunchCode became identified as a charity and instead of CEOs, he or Matt Mawhinney, the head of LaunchCode in Miami, are sent to HR departments and community relations officers, none of whom understand what LaunchCode has to offer and that some of those trained through LaunchCode could become top level IT employees even though they lack traditional credentials.

All this while, says McKelvey, at least 500 well-paying IT jobs go unfilled here. One reason is that traditional hires are based on academic record, graduation from a respectable institution of higher education, and so on. He has spent enough time in Silicon Valley where not only stars like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates never completed college but also many top employees whose names we don’t know draw six figure salaries and stock options, sometimes going straight from high school to high tech employment.

Perhaps because the tech ecosystem is so new in South Florida, few people in a position to hire are ready for disruptive hires of people who never graduated from college or do not have a resume full of enlightened volunteer activities.

One of the reasons McKelvey came to the Toqueville Society was to ask the approximately 40 people there to each contact the CEO of a top organization in South Florida and tell that person what LaunchCode has to offer. Maybe this kind of indirect approach will work and help connect good jobs and trained coders.

For more information on LaunchCode, go to launchcode.org/Miami

Alma Kadragic is president of Alcat Communications International and president of the Miami chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). Follow here on Twitter @almakad.

Read more: Launch, grow, invest: Ways to make women count in the tech ecosystem

Read more: Q&A with Jim McKelvey: LauchCode ‘just flat-out life changing’

October 10, 2016

itopia raises $3.5 million to fund growth

Jon Lieberman Photoitopia  has secured $3.5 million in funding to accelerate its growth, the Miami-based technology company’s CEO said on Monday.

itopia, founded in 2012, is in the “Workspace-as-a-Service space and is the only technology company offering an end-to-end, cloud workspace management platform designed exclusively to help IT service providers simplify the migration to and ongoing management of cloud services from a single dashboard, said Jonathan Lieberman, itopia co-founder and CEO.

“The global market is rapidly moving to a cloud-first world where businesses are demanding that their IT service providers deliver secure and seamless access to data anywhere, anytime and on every device,” said Lieberman, in a statement (pictured at right). “Our new funding exceeded our target and the time is now to capitalize on the market growth and the potential around WaaS by providing channel partners with the technology and tools they need to lead and thrive in this new reality.”

Ubaldo Don Photo (1)itopia said it plans to use this funding for expanding channel development teams, including inside and field sales, digital marketing and partner support; enhancing itopia’s IT service provider partner program with additional training and educational resources; and accelerating itopia’s innovative engineering effort.  “With this new funding, itopia gains the resources to generate greater awareness for its proprietary Cielo cloud workspace management platform,” said Ubaldo Don (pictured at left), itopia co-founder and CTO. itopia would not disclose total funding raised.

The new funding is co-led by John McIntire and Eric Kamisher, both early investors in Open English and other ventures, and IT industry leader Sean Charnock. McIntire and Kamisher will join Charnock on itopia’s Board of Directors. Other prominent local investors who are also on itopia's board include Bill Pruitt, founding investor in Mako and VirtualStream, Sherrill Hudson, former Chairman of the Board and CEO at TECO Energy and Managing Partner at Deloitte, and Steve McKean, Co-Founder at Acceller and BillShark.

itopia has 33 employees including its software development team and plans to grow to more than 50 soon, Lieberman said. Nearly 1,500 leading enterprise software applications are certified on itopia’s platform, with new applications added regularly. Last year, itopia was just named one of the 15 coolest cloud companies by CRN, a well-respected technology industry publication.

September 28, 2016

Popular ITPalooza to return Dec. 8 at new location


The South Florida Technology Alliance announced its 5th annual ITPalooza will take place on Thursday, Dec. 8, at a new venue, the Signature Grand, located at 6900 W State Road 84 in Davie.

ITPalooza is an annual gathering of South Florida's technology professionals, CIOs and CTOs, user groups, educators and companies. Anticipating more than 2,000 registrants, 30 speakers, 100 sponsors and 30 tech groups from across South Florida, it is primed to deliver unbelievable value to the South Florida Tech community.

This event is one of South Florida’s largest tech conferences and  includes educational speaker tracks, a hiring fair, hackathon, Agile Group, CIO track, IT Expo, charity toy drive and after-party. ITPalooza will feature a dedicated Management Track in conjunction with the iCoast CIO Council and will focus on the unique needs of CIOs and other top-level IT executives. Last year, about 1,500 attended ITPalooza, then held at Nova Southeastern University (pictured above).  

“ITPalooza 2016 is a celebration of technologists in South Florida,” said SFTA President and ITPalooza event chairman Rick Sebaly.  “Connie Cabrera and her ITP Planning Committee have done a great job making this year’s event the best it can be.”

Registrations start at 8 AM and there will be a 9 AM keynote speech from Centrify. The event will also feature a second keynote at 5:00 PM featuring an executive from Amazon Web Services. The evening party and social event will commence at 6 PM.

Since its inception, ITPalooza has raised more than $125,000 in cash and toys for various South Florida non-profits including Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ STEM Advisory Board, The Stockdale Foundation and US Marine’s Toys for Tots.   

The event culminates in a networking holiday party with food and drink available for sale.

Admission is $60, granting individuals access to all activities taking place throughout the day. Unwrapped toys  for the “Toys for Tots” charity are welcome.

Online registration can be accessed at itpalooza.com or on Eventbrite at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/itpalooza-2016-tickets-25847957938?aff=itpsite. VIP and Student tickets are also available for purchase. Student admission is $15 with the presentation of a valid student ID. Information on sponsorship opportunities is also available on the site.

 - Submitted by ITPalooza

Read 2015 coverage of ITPalooza here.

Carlton Fields provides free legal resources to Florida tech entrepreneurs

Florida-based law firm Carlton Fields has unveiled LaunchtoThrive.com, a microsite that provides legal documents, resources, and free counsel to entrepreneurs in the technology industry.

The aim is to help startups in regional tech-growth markets – including Miami, Tampa and Orlando – master multiple business challenges by providing startup-specific legal services and support at no cost. The site has launched in English and Spanish to ensure that Hispanic entrepreneurs are provided with resources catered to their needs.

“LaunchtoThrive.com expands on Carlton Fields’ longstanding commitment to entrepreneurs in Florida and across the nation. It allows our lawyers to form new relationships and help entrepreneurs grow their businesses from the ground up,” said Joe Swanson, an attorney in the firm’s Tampa office. “Local institutions, such as the University of South Florida and the Tampa Innovation Alliance, provide further, invaluable support to our relationships with these pioneers at a time when Tampa is undergoing a startup boom.”

Carlton Fields’ commitment to local entrepreneurs has led to multiple partnerships throughout Florida.

“The Spanish language component of LaunchtoThrive.com is essential in that it allows us to reach out to a population of entrepreneurs that has been underserviced nationwide, and that is essential to Florida’s future economic growth,” said Swanson.

Hispanics are indeed at the forefront of creating businesses across sectors. A 2015 report by Geoscape and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce revealed that Hispanics are the most likely to become entrepreneurs; in fact, the number of Hispanic owned businesses was projected to increase to more than 4.07 million in 2015, a 57 percent increase since 2007.

Free legal resources become especially crucial in light of recent data showing that less than half of all startups reach the five-year anniversary of their founding. Furthermore, legal issues are frequently cited as an impediment to success; the cost of top-notch lawyers often discourages startups from even seeking counsel – a problem Carlton Fields intends to solve.

LaunchtoThrive.com features easy-to-access links and downloads of documents such as bylaws, articles of organization and incorporation, trademark assignment and license forms, nondisclosure and employment agreements, and much more. A ‘Recent Resources’ queue includes expert articles and interviews on time management, wage and hour laws, considerations for going public, and data security preparedness, among other topics.

“We’re partnering with diverse entrepreneurs to support the comprehensive business strategies of Florida’s emerging companies,” said Jack Clabby, a shareholder in Carlton Fields’ Tampa office, who has worked with startups and other growing businesses throughout Florida.

“There’s an adventuresome spirit in Florida right now, and we’re happy to be a part of it,” added Gary Sasso, Carlton Fields’ President and CEO.

Visit LaunchtoThrive.com to learn more. Connect with us on Twitter @LaunchtoThrive.

- Submitted by Carlton Fields

September 27, 2016

How to get a hot tech job? Miami Dade College offering big data degree


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Data scientist, data analyst, data architect, business intelligence analyst – the job titles vary but companies can’t seem to get enough of them in this hot tech sector.

What’s more, these data analysts that prepare and analyze large data sets are garnering average salaries exceeding $100,000, several recent national salary surveys show. Yet, companies say workers lack the skills for the abundant opportunities in both public and private sectors, including healthcare, finance, manufacturing, energy, education, logistics and construction.

To help fill that gap, Miami Dade College’s School of Engineering and Technology on the Wolfson campus plans to launch a new big data program in spring 2017, becoming the first educational institution in Florida to offer an undergraduate degree in data analytics. The program was recently approved by the State of Florida.

“Data science and analytics has been identified as a field where the shortfall in the workforce will be in the hundreds of thousands,” said Djuradj Babic, director of MDC’s School of Engineering and Technology, citing a McKinsey & Co. report that forecast nearly 200,000 vacancies nationwide in the field by 2018. “The effect of this gap in related fields such as information technology and cybersecurity will be threefold.” 

The program will begin with a College Credit Certificate in Business Intelligence, progress to an Associate in Science in Business Intelligence, and culminate in a Bachelor of Science in Data Analytics. “As we researched nationwide, we found that degrees were only being offered at the graduate or post-graduate level. Our undergraduate pathway is a model that can be replicated and applied nationwide,” Babic said. 

 Industry partners include NextEra Energy, Siemens Energy, the Business Higher Education Forum, Oracle, SAS, Accenture, Miami-Dade County, Miami Children’s Hospital and Miami-Dade County Public Schools, MDC said. For more information on the program, visit http://entec.mdc.edu/BS-DA.htm.

[Read more: Tech talent in South Florida: Making progress?

MDC's Idea Center, Tel Aviv University hosting daylong CyberMiami tech conference

 The Idea Center at Miami Dade College (MDC), in collaboration with Tel Aviv University, will host CyberMiami, a one-day technology conference featuring cybersecurity experts from business, education, and intelligence fields on Thursday, Sept. 29, at 9 a.m. at MDC's Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami.

The conference will connect the business ecosystem of the Latin American market with top entrepreneurs from the U.S. and Israel, where there are currently more than 400 cybersecurity companies in operation.

“We live in an increasingly risky world, from private information, personal banking and government infrastructure,” said Leandro Finol, executive director of the Idea Center.  “Cyber risk should be at the top of the agenda of both executives and the general public.  CyberMiami is a forum where we are bringing top cybersecurity leaders to discuss the most relevant issues of today and tomorrow.”

Attendees at CyberMiami will learn from cybersecurity industry leaders about defending and protecting their organization against imminent cyber-attacks in order to prevent data breaches. The conference will include discussions about cyber threats as well as an exhibition of cybersecurity technologies.

The lineup of guest speakers at CyberMiami includes: Hadar Blutrich, CEO of Source Defence; Inon Elroy, Economic Minister of North America; Sam Friedman, director of sales of Cyberbit; David Gladshtein, director of business at Minerva Labs; Avital Grushcovski, V.P Product of Source Defence; Yasmin Hami, business development manager of Votiro; Greg Lenox director of sales of Secdo; Derek Schwartz, CEO North America of Safe-T; and Shay Zandani, CEO of Cytegic.

To register or for more information, please visit http://cyberweekmiami.com.

 WHAT:            The Idea Center @MDC to Host CyberMiami

WHEN:            Thursday, Sept. 29, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.

WHERE:         The Idea Center @MDC, Building 8, 1st Floor, 315 N.E. Second Ave.

COST: $150

- Submitted by Miami Dade College

September 19, 2016

Following up on White House pledge, Wyncode releases its graduation, placement rates

  WyncodedayWyncode bootcamps end with pitch days. This one is Pitch Day IX at The LAB Miami. Photo by David Salazar.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

While Miami's Wyncode Academy has been busy growing its bootcamp business, the coding education startup has also been at the forefront of a national effort to  build a strong -- and transparent -- foundation for its emerging industry.

Last year, in support of the White House and President Obama's TechHire initiative, Wyncode and nine other young coding schools formed a new trade organization called the New Economy Skills Training Association (NESTA). NESTA's purpose is  to establish best practices, standards and increase accountability for claims such as graduation and placement rates for students nationwide who typically plunk down $10,000 to $12,000 or more  to learn to code in under three months. One only has to look at the mess the for-profit college industry is now mired in to know the importance of building in  standards and transparency from the beginning.

Today, Wyncode will release its first independently verified job placement report for 2014 and 2015,  following its commitment made publicly in a letter to  President Obama in March 2015. Wyncode follows New York’s Flatiron School, San Francisco’s Hack Reactor and Austin’s MakerSquare  with its results. (Other bootcamps that have pledged are App Academy, Dev Bootcamp,  General Assembly, Galvanize, Turing School and Hackbright Academy.)

“Wyncode continues to lead the way for transparency in the coding bootcamp industry,” Wyncode co-founder Juha Mikkola said. "This is a major milestone for this type of education, not only in Florida but across the country. We are just the fourth school in the nation to release reviewed outcome results, something that is a major topic in for-profit education."

The findings, verified by accounting firm MBAF, show that  Wyncode's graduation rate is 97 percent and nearly all of its job-seeking graduates found jobs in time. Today, Wyncode is also releasing an interactive web app that allows interested parties, including potential students, to drill down using gender, ethnicity and educational background in order to visualize how students with particular  backgrounds have fared after the program, said Johanna Mikkola, the other half of the co-founding team.

Later today, find the app at http://wyncode.co/studentoutcomes/ and the job placement report at http://wyncode.co/jobs-report/.

Wyncode offers 10-week full-time coding bootcamps in Wynwood and Fort Lauderdale. The program attracts people without a programming background from a variety of careers, including chefs, lawyers, salespeople, accountants, concierges, marketing executives and entrepreneurs, and it focuses on tech skills like Ruby, JavaScript, HTML and CSS and the business skills that startups require to be successful.

Wyncode's report showed that 97 percent of its job-seeking graduates in 2014 and 2015 found work, though some took more than four months; 43 percent were placed in jobs within 30 days of graduation and 77 percent within 90 days. Of those that found work, 73 percent were fulltime jobs; the others were entrepreneurial, internships, apprentices,  part-time or  contract. The percentage of students placed in "technical" roles was 84 percent. The average age of Wyncode graduates is 30.

Here are a few other highlights of Wyncode's report for 2014 and 2015:

 * Straight out of Wyncode, more than 1 in 10 students make over $60,000 per year and 1 in 20 make more than $80,000. The average salary, based on available information from 111 respondents, was $46,200. The majority of graduates stayed in South Florida. 

 * Females graduating from Wyncode have a higher starting salary than males. Females started at an average of $2,000 more, despite the fact the technology industry is male dominated;

 * Wyncode graduates have created 12 startups and counting;

 * Post-Wyncode, students with a high school diploma perform at similar levels to those with advanced degrees and overall placement rates are similar among all ethnicities.

Wyncode Academy is licensed by the Florida Department of Education and has graduated over 300 Wyncoders. About 80 companies have hired Wyncoders and more than 30 companies hiring at least a second Wyncoder. Wyncode's campuses are in the Wynwood Arts District of Miami and Fort Lauderdale’s Flagler Arts and Technology Village, and it is the leading student reviewed in-person program on  Course Report, with over 100 reviews and a 4.7 out of 5 star rating. Current bootcamps cost $11,500.

Wyncode’s next 30-person cohorts, which always end with popular demo nights, begin in Miami on Oct. 3 and Jan. 9 and in Ft. Lauderdale on Oct. 10 and Jan. 17. Apply at wyncode.co.

“Learning to code is the new literacy,” Johanna Mikkola said. “We get a lot of questions if this is really possible after our 10 week course. This is why transparency of outcomes is extremely important to Wyncode, so that prospective students can see the real picture of Wyncode grads after graduation.”

Read more: Learn to code in 10 weeks? Try one day  

September 08, 2016

Aventura-based Zenedge, a cybersecurity company, closes $6.2 million financing round

Zenedge, a  provider of cybersecurity solutions, announced Thursday that  it has completed a $6.2 million Series C investment led by growth equity investor Pilot Growth Equity.  Pilot Growth led the round with a $5 million investment, with additional funds coming from Zoho Corporation, as well as from existing investors TELUS Ventures and Yehuda Neuberger. 

The financing will be used to fund Zenedge's continued global expansion, sales and marketing activities and for further investment in its patent-pending technology. William Lee, co-founder and managing director at Pilot Growth, will join Zenedge's board of directors. With this new Series C round, total investment in the Aventura-based company is $13.7 million.

Founded in July 2014, Zenedge provides organizations a cloud-based enterprise-class, managed cybersecurity Infrastructure-as-a-Service to help secure their web applications and networks against vulnerabilities and DDoS attacks. Unlike other Web Application Security solutions in the market, Zenedge said it leverages patent-pending deep machine-learning capabilities to detect anomalies, dynamically alter security postures, and initiate auto-mitigation and automatic routing with minimal to no human intervention. This allows the company to provide better cybersecurity and faster time to mitigation than traditional cloud and on-premise cybersecurity vendors, ultimately resulting in less and shorter business interruptions, while helping reduce operational costs, said its founder and CEO, Yuri Frayman.

 “We are thrilled to welcome Pilot Growth to lead our Series C round and have William Lee join our board of directors, as they represent a partner that provides us not only with capital, but vast strategic experience and relationships,” said  Frayman, who sold his last company to Google. "We are also excited to welcome Zoho, already a strategic Zenedge customer, as a new investor in this round.”