April 12, 2016

An Open Challenge to Miami’s “tough-guy" coders

 

By Tim Berthold

Yesterday I read this in the Starting Gate.  

To recap, a UM female student seeking to improve her programming skills showed up to a “hackathon” and experienced what she felt was degrading behavior from her male teammates.  According to the article, other female students have experienced similar behavior at other events. 

Some might call it mild sexism.  It might not be rampant, but it seems to show up enough to be an issue.

Either way, it ticked me off.  Here are three reasons why:

Reason #1: Miami is young.  We have an opportunity to create the kind of tech ecosystem that we want, one that differs from Silicon Valley where gender and racial biases permeate the startup culture.  Not convinced it’s real?  Listen to this episode of the Startup Podcast.    

Reason #2:  I come from the military.  A very male-dominated part of the military.  And I’m proud to see the military I left over ten years ago become the inclusive organization it is today.  It didn’t get that way by belittling women, minorities, or anyone else.  I want no part of an ecosystem that condones such behavior toward anyone.  Thankfully, these adolescent-minded coders don’t reflect the entire community.

Reason #3: The behavior described is indicative of a culture that values status over learning.  “I’m good at coding” instead of “How can I become a better coder?”  Those who have this attitude will fail.  If too many people in Miami have this attitude then Miami will fail.  Growth only comes through the willingness to put oneself out there, show up, and try to get 1% better everyday . . . regardless of the outcome and regardless of who’s watching (reference Carol Dweck’s oft-cited book Mindset).

On that note, let’s get real . . . real quick.  Knowing how to code doesn’t make you tough.  Doing what this girl did makes you tough. 

She heard about an event she knew would be male-dominated and was probably scared to put her skills on display in front of better coders.  But she showed up anyway.  

For the women out there reading, I hope you continue to “show up.”  It won’t be the last time this kind of behavior happens.  It's also one of the “tamer” stories out there that makes no mention of the elephant in the room - social and sexual inappropriateness (or awkwardness, given we’re talking about coders).

For the coding boys - I think you’re just being “boys” and probably did not intend to cause harm by your comments and behavior.  This girl seems tough enough to get past it, but what harm have you done to the Miami ecosystem that can benefit from the skills, perspective, and hustle of female coders? 

Beyond inclusion I think the biggest lesson is one you already know - that growth takes risk . . . the same risk you've already faced in your coding career. Was there ever a point when you were afraid to take up coding?  Afraid to show your work to someone, thinking it might not be any good?  If you call yourself a “coder,” then chances are you did - then you faced that resistance and pushed past it.

Maybe it’s time to revisit that moment.  Here are some ideas for doing so:

Challenge #1: Pitch your business idea or your coding skills in front of an audience of at least 20 people who you don’t know.  Then put it on YouTube.  Brave graduates of Wyncode and Iron Hack do it every few months - why can’t you?

Challenge #2: Announce to the world that you are finally going to do something about the “idea for a startup I have.”  Put it on display for everyone to see you possibly fail.  Then show up and make a little progress everyday.  Maybe you fail, maybe you don’t.  The only certainty is you’ll learn.

Challenge #3: Show up to a 6:00 am workout with my military friends and me.  We’ll videotape it.  Perhaps you’ll be humbled, perhaps you’ll impress.  What matters is that you were scared and showed up anyway.  

If you pick #3, I will reciprocate and gladly attend one of your next coding sessions where you can run Ruby circles around me while playing “one-two-three-four, I declare thumb war" with your coding buddies.

I know the behavior of these boys doesn’t speak for the whole of the Miami tech community.  And to that community I say keep doing what you’re doing: showing up, making a little progress every day, and helping others around you become better.  Let’s keep up the momentum you’ve worked so hard to build.

Tim Berthold is a Navy veteran, advisor to young & fun companies, and runs the Miami Hustle Series Podcast covering stories of Miami startups & entrepreneurs (Twitter: @miamihustleco)

April 11, 2016

An Open Letter to the Miami Tech Community

By Kim Grinfeder

I direct and teach in the Interactive Media Program at the University of Miami, a new program that I helped create with hopes it would someday contribute to Miami’s budding tech scene. It was always my hope that the program be integrated into Miami’s community, and so I have always encouraged my students to participate in local meet-ups and hackathons. In fact, until recently, it was a requirement for students to attend at least five local meet-ups or hackathons as part of their class grades.

Last week, a female student shared her experience at a local hackathon. She attended the hackathon for the normal reasons: she wanted to hone her programming skills, meet new people, and have a good time. Because she did not know anyone there, she joined a group who happened to be all-male. She told them that she could help with design or front-end coding since she was proficient in both. One of the guys asked if he should “dumb it down for her.” The night went on with macho jokes that made her feel uncomfortable and ended in “not-bad-for-a-girl” high fives. Unfortunately, it is not the first time that I hear such a story from a student who attended a local coding event. I am not saying this type of gender-based disparagement happens all the time, but I have heard similar tales enough times from my students to warrant calling it out.

That being said, she also mentioned that a few of her teammates worked cordially with her and that she learned quite a bit from them. In fact, these teammates seemed put off by the rest of the team’s behavior, even though they did not exactly step in to stop it. It is unfortunate that too often good behavior is overshadowed by some vexatious comportment.

If we seriously aspire to become a blossoming tech community intent on recruiting and keeping talent in Miami, we cannot tolerate such behavior. Next time that you are at a local hackathon, look at the male/female ratio and ask yourself why this is so. We need to strive to make these events safe and fun for everyone if we want them to succeed. Meet-ups should implement a code of conduct and adhere to it so that everyone can feel welcome. This recommendation has already been carried out at some of our largest local meet-ups and has helped them grow (see http://www.meetup.com/South-Florida-PHP-Users-Group/pages/Anti-Harassment/). I would like, with this letter, to see more local groups and events adopt this policy.

Again, the vast majority of tech events in Miami have been welcoming to everyone, and great things are happening here like the WIN Lab and Girls Who Code, which are designed to attract women and encourage them to enter the industry. But we should also ensure that our mixed gender events are welcoming and safe for everyone. We should not have to rely only on gender exclusive events. It is hard enough to get things going in Miami without excluding people. Our new tech community should be built on shedding the old-school male-dominated STEM paradigm for a model that strengthens and benefits from our local gender diversity.

Kim Grinfeder is Associate Professor in the Department of Cinema and Interactive Media at the University of Miami. Twitter: @kimgrinfeder

April 07, 2016

Study: South Florida a hotspot for women-owned firms -- but they're small

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Florida ranked No. 1 in the nation for the growth of women-owned businesses, according to a new report. The Miami metropolitan area led the state in growth as well, and the Miami area ranked No. 3 in the nation for the number of women-owned firms. Yet, the vast majority of these businesses have no employees.

The 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses report, commissioned by American Express OPEN, found that Florida has an estimated 971,000 women-owned firms, employing 500,000. Florida is the fast-growing state in the growth of the number of firms (67.1 percent growth) over the past nine years and No. 31 for its 25.2 percent in growth of firm revenue between 2007 and 2016, the study found.

Nearly half the state’s total of women-owned businesses are in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro area, according to the report. In 2016, an estimated 453,100 firms employed 184,100 people, suggesting that the vast majority of these firms are one-women companies or employ solely contractors. In recent years, a number of small business and entrepreneurial organizations, including the Small Business Administration and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, have launched programs in South Florida to help these businesses grow. Most recently, WIN Lab, an accelerator for women-owned businesses expanding to Miami, cited this trend of South Florida’s women-owned businesses tending to stay very small . Still, the Miami area led the state with a 97 percent growth rate of women-owned companies between 2007 and 2016.

Nationally, the number of women-owned firms increased by 42 percent to 11.3 million enterprises, compared to just a 9 percent increase among all businesses since 2007. These businesses employ nearly 9 million people and are generating $1.6 trillion in revenue. Over the past nine years, the number of women-owned firms has grown at a rate five times faster than the national average.

"We are pleased to see the continued rise of the vital role that women-owned businesses play in our country’s post-recession recovery," said Susan Sobbott, president of American Express Global Commercial Payments. “We are inspired by these women who are continuing to pursue their entrepreneurial passions, and are strengthening our communities and economy even further.”

Among women-owned firms nationally, one of the fastest-growing sectors are businesses owned by women of color. Over the past nine years, the number of firms owned by women of color increased by 126 percent. In addition, the nearly five million businesses owned by women of color make up almost half of all women-owned firms. When comparing the growth in the number of firms owned by women of color with women-owned firms overall, nearly eight in 10 of the net new women-owned firms were started by a woman of color since 2007, the report found.

The sixth annual report is based on historical and current U.S. Census Bureau and Gross Domestic Product data. Read the full report here.

Women business owners: News to use

WHAT:

The free ChallengeHER event in North Miami will educate attendees on growth opportunities in government contracting as well as how to participate in the SBA’s Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract program. Additionally, business owners can sign up to participate in Contract Connections – one-on-one meetings with procurement officials, government buyers and large prime contractors.

ChallengeHER is a national initiative designed to promote the WOSB Federal Contract Program, bring more women-owned firms into the federal government’s supply chain and provide an avenue for government agencies to meet qualified women-owned small business contractors.

WHO:

ChallengeHER is a joint initiative from the U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) and AmericanExpress OPEN, the small business division of the financial services company.

A sample of confirmed participating speakers/organizations at the event include:

  • U.S. Army
  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs
  • Miami-Dade County Public Schools
  • Turner Construction Company

 

WHEN:

Friday, April 15, 2016

9:00 AM – 1:30 PM

*Registration begins at 8:00 AM

WHERE:

Florida International University – Biscayne Bay Campus

Hospitality Management Building

3000 NE 151st Street

North Miami, FL 33181

EVENT/TICKET INFORMATION: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/challengeher-miami-tickets-22369459656

MEDIA CONTACT:

Media must RSVP to attend. Please contact Alison at AlisonH@mbooth.com or (212) 539-3260.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced last month that the federal government met its goal of awarding 5% of federal contracts to women-owned businesses (WOSBs) for the first time in history. This is a huge milestone for women entrepreneurs – and for those that are newer to government contracting, now is a great time to get started.

March 29, 2016

Meet Nelly Farra, new leader of WIN Lab set to launch in Miami

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Wanted: South Florida women “with the fire to make it happen.”

Nelly farraThat’s Nelly Farra’s message. She’s the new director of the WIN Lab, a Miami accelerator for women entrepreneurs launching on Thursday. With the launch, the program plans to begin taking applications for its first cohort of 20 selected female founders that will start this fall.

The eight-month entrepreneurship program was the brainchild of Babson College, consistently ranked tops in the nation for entrepreneurship education, and its Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership. Its Miami expansion, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, will be modeled after Babson’s successful program in Boston.

The WIN (Women Innovating Now) Lab is looking for outstanding early-stage founders — so-called WINners — from South Florida.

 “We are industry-agnostic and age-agnostic. We are looking for women who might have come out of wonderful corporate jobs and now are starting their own businesses as well as individuals earlier on in their careers who have that idea and are going for it,” Farra said.

Farra, born and raised in South Florida, most recently led business development for the Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra (MBAF) accounting firm, where she expanded the firm’s reach into the entrepreneurial ecosystem through its work with Endeavor. Before joining MBAF, Farra partnered on the launch of a green-gym concept in the Los Angeles area and also pioneered wellness professional talent management in South Florida. Farra is a graduate of the University of Miami and received her MBA from Babson College in 2010, where she was also co-chair of the Babson Entrepreneurship Forum.

“Our secret sauce is a developing community of women eager to build the next big idea,” said Farra, noting that just 15 percent of venture accelerator participants are women. That low level of diversity also pervades venture capital, the tech industry, CEO ranks and boards. To help build a stronger pipeline, Farra said: “We use near-peer role modeling so we have women who have been there and done that. We’ll have 20 female mentors matched up with the founders. We will also have entrepreneurs, executives and investors in residence.” Johanna Mikkola, co-founder of Wyncode Academy, will be an entrepreneur-in-residence, and others will be announced soon. The program will be free, and WINners will also get co-working space.

The program will meet one evening a week. It will begin with a two-day retreat for self exploration, idea investigation, inspiration and community building, Farra said. Then the WINners will get help in every step of launching and growing a business, including building a team, customer acquisition, capital raising and scaling.

The program is more spread out than a traditional three-month accelerator, so women may find it easier to work into their lives while their build their startups. They could also be students.

In Boston the WIN Lab has attracted founders such as Emily Levy and Maria Del Mar Gomes of PICCPerfect, maker of functional and fashionable medical dressings for chronic illness patients treated with PICC lines. Francine Gervazio of Cargo 42 created a platform where customers can post their shipping needs and shippers can make an offer to carry their cargo. Bernette Dawson launched Made Organics, a line of handcrafted personal-care products.

“We will expect a lot from our founders — an eight-month commitment — but we provide a lot in return,” Farra said.

The program embodies entrepreneurial thought and action — part of Babson’s methodology — to balance action, experimentation and creativity to create economic and social value. “That is what we are all about,” Farra said. “The concept is to take iterative steps to prove your model. That’s how I embody it: Everything I do is to go out and get it done.”

The deadline for applications will be May 2. For more information about the WIN Lab, go to www.babson.edu/WINLab and learn more about the program at the launch event on Thursday. (See accompanying box).

WIN Lab Miami Launch

When: 6-8 p.m. Thursday

Where: The Light Box, 404 NW 26th St., Miami

Speakers: Mary Biggins of ClassPass and MealPass; Julia Ford-Carther of Bammies; Jessica Do of PalmPress; Isabella Acker of Culture; Johanna Mikkola of Wyncode Academy

Cost: Free, but registration is required on Eventbrite.

For more information about WIN Lab: www.babson.edu/WINLab

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

Read more: Babson's Women Innovating Now Lab to launch in Miami

Read more: Numbers don't lie: Silicon Valley still has a diversity problem

 

March 17, 2016

SXSW: I'm Silicon Valley and I have a problem

Sxsw
By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Turns out the Elephant in the Valley was also the elephant in the room at the massive South by Southwest Festival this past week.

President Obama talked about it; so did his chief technology officer. Tech pioneers Steve and Jean Case discussed it, as did Pinterest and Twilio engineers, executives at Facebook and Yelp, several venture capitalists and the CEO of Vox Media.

The diversity issue in Silicon Valley took center stage at the SXSW Interactive Festival, in keynote speeches, panels, workshops and networkers. This comes several years after the embarrassing numbers that showed few women and minorities worked at Silicon Valley’s elite tech companies were brought to the forefront. One keynote session was even titled: Why we are still talking about it.

Why? Because the numbers are still going in the wrong direction, said Tracy Cho (pictured below), a software engineer at Pinterest. She was one of the people who raised the issue, penning a post on Medium in 2013 titled, “Where are the numbers?” Lack of diversity affects business results both through poorer products and lackluster shareholder returns, Cho said, citing research.

Her call to action and those of others helped spur employment reporting by Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and other Silicon Valley companies but she said two years later the numbers really hadn’t budged. “In hindsight, hoping the numbers would improve themselves was not a plan,” Cho said.

Now Pinterest and other companies are beginning to tackle the problem in a business-centric way: tracking metrics, setting goals, creating accountability, experimenting, learning and iterating, Cho said.

How bad are the numbers?

The current status at Silicon Valley tech companies that have reported their numbers: Less than 20 percent of tech employees are female. Under-represented minorities in tech number in the low single-digit percentages. Women in senior leadership roles make up 15 percent to 30 percent of the companies reporting, but for blacks and Latinos in senior leadership, it’s back to the single digits.

The investing landscape looks similarly bleak. Women comprise less than 8 percent of investment decision makers in venture capital firms. Less than 1 percent of VCs are black; 1.3 percent are Hispanic, Cho said. A paltry 3 percent of funding goes to women-led startups and 1 percent to African American founders, said investor Trae Vassallo. In an earlier session at SXSW, Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation, said half of all successful Kickstarter campaigns are led by women, proving that good concepts and the appetite for funding are out there.

Vassallo and Michele Madansky recently released Elephantinthevalley.com, inspired by conversation coming out of the Ellen Pao/Kleiner Perkins trial last year that served to raise the issue no one wanted to talk about once again. They were joined on a panel by Obama’s CTO Megan Smith and Laura Weidman Powers, CEO of Code2040, a nonprofit aimed at increasing the numbers of minorities in tech (panel pictured above).

"

“We believe this is a systemic ecosystem issue,” said Powers to a packed SXSW ballroom. In 1984, 35 percent of the computer science degrees went to women; now it is about 19 percent. In high school AP classes in computer science, the trend is similar.

There are many reasons commonly cited for why fewer women are going into computer science, much of it cultural. Noting that Grace Hopper invented the first programming language and the history-making computing team documented in The Imitation Game was actually heavily powered by women, Smith said, “We kind of ran our history through a rinse cycle and washed the women and people of color out and wrote the story without them.”

In the Elephant in the Room survey, the authors found some alarming results, including 60 percent of women suffered unwanted sexual advances in the workplace, and about the same number perceived they did not have the same opportunities as men. The authors also surveyed SXSW’s female attendees, and 74 percent said they believed they were less well compensated to their peers. [story can end here for print] "

"

Research abounds showing the diverse teams perform better, Smith said. “We are at version 1.0 in solving this but we have to do it together.” Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff admitted on stage that his biggest misstep was not building a diverse team from the start.

Some of the solutions offered by the panelists: Widen your net. Go outside your network for candidates. Have a surfing party with your team, look at award sites and other unconventional places for possible candidates. Mentor and sponsor promising women and minorities. Be role models. Get in the classrooms and help the teachers.

Cho added some of her own: To create a welcoming culture, it starts with the founders. Set goals and hold people accountable. She was also heartened to see some universities making their intro CS courses “more friendly,” rather than weed-out courses.

Earlier at SXSW, Obama spoke of the 1.5 million job openings expected in tech by the end of this decade, and that universities will not be able to fill that need. Help us get more Americans into these jobs, including women and people of color, and encourage them to tackle the biggest challenges of our time, he said.

Smith and Obama also brought up the White House’s TechHire initiative to train and place thousands of coders, which now includes 50 metro areas, including Miami. Coding boot camps are great placed to diversify your pool of candidates, the panelists said.

Diversity was a hot topic at Miami’s recent Blacktech Week, including Magic Leap founder Rony Abovitz asking the crowd to apply because he does not want his company to look like Silicon Valley. Code Fever, Codella, Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code are offering coding programs locally to inspire more youth into tech. Recent moves to help prime the pipeline include the announcements that PowerMoves, a fellowship program and national network for entrepreneurs of color, and WIN Lab, an accelerator for women entrepreneurs run by Babson College, are setting up operations in Miami this year.

“If everyone in this room would take an action, we could move incredibly quickly as a tech community because that is how we roll,” said Smith.

Find more South By Southwest coverage, including about President Obama’s keynote talk as well as talks about the Hyperloop and the Google self-driving car, on the Starting Gate blog. Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

Cho

March 11, 2016

Rise of the Rest: Steve and Jean Case at SXSW

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Seventy-five percent of venture capital last year went to California, New York and Massachusetts. When the other 47 states divide up just 25 percent, it deprives the nation from having a broader innovation economy, said technology pioneer Steve Case.

Furthermore, 85 percent goes to men, and just 15 percent to women. “That’s not right,” said Case, who co-founded AOL and now is leading a number of programs promoting entrepreneurship.  “We are trying to level the playing field.”

IMG_4199Steve and Jean Case founded Rise of the Rest, to promote entrepreneurship in other hubs around the country as well as by women and under-represented minorities. They gave a feature presentation at South By Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas.

“I think there will be more opportunities for more entrepreneurs in more places in this third wave of entrepreneurship,” said Steve Case.

The reasons for diversity are rooted in economics. Harvard and McKinsey research shows diverse teams perform better and a lack of diversity limits ideas, said Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation. Half of all successful Kickstarter campaigns are run by women, yet women take just 15 percent of the venture capital.

IMG_4198New programs are popping up to increase diversity. Washington DC has an inclusive accelerator in 1776, and Village Capital is starting a national program, the Cases said.

Locally, PowerMoves has started a fellowship program for entrepreneurs of color, Black Tech Week is an annual conference and platform for events and programs throughout the year, and Babson College is opening a WIN (Women Innovating Now) LAB accelerator in Miami this fall.

 

March 08, 2016

Construction underway at CIC Miami; Venture Cafe selects executive director

IMG_3912

Dynamic duo: Natalia Martinez Kalinina, left, leads CIC Miami; Leigh-Ann Buchanan leads Venture Cafe.

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@maimiherald.com

Construction and renovation are well underway at the new Cambridge Innovation Center in Miami, and the large new space for entrepreneurs aims to open fully this fall at the University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park. Meanwhile, the co-working center's nonprofit arm, called the Venture Café, is moving ahead with building out a full roster of community events at CIC Miami.

Leigh­-Ann Buchanan has been named executive director of Venture Café Miami. Although directing separate entities, she and Natalia Martinez-Kalinina, general manager of CIC Miami, are working in partnership to create a hub for innovation at the Overtown location.

Venture Café Miami will offer weekly networking and educational events as well as support programs for entrepreneurs, investors, students and innovation and educational organizations. “The success of CIC as a physical platform relies on our ability to converge the kinds of stakeholders, programming, and collisions that will turn Miami into a mature ecosystem. Venture Café Miami is a core piece of that puzzle,” said Martinez-Kalinina, who also founded the  Miami chapter of the Awesome Foundation and most recently was chief innovation and technology officer of Roots of Hope, a nonprofit.

With a thriving event scene already in Miami, Buchanan said a big focus of Venture Café will not be to reinvent the wheel but rather to amplify the impact of existing institutions, open the door for new players and increase collaborations. “Connecting innovators to make things happen ­ -- that is what is at the heart of Venture Café,” she said.

For instance, Venture Café will have weekly Thursday events called “The Gathering,” which will run from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. at CIC Miami. It will include concurrent programming in various breakout rooms, often put on by South Florida organizations, as well be a place for networking and meeting new people, Buchanan said. That’s a cornerstone of all the Venture Cafes, which launched in Boston at District Hall, and now is also in St. Louis, Missouri and Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Gatherings at other locations have typically drawn 400-plus people, Buchanan said.

Typical programming might be an investor sharing knowledge with startups in one room, while an educational organization holds a session on coding in another while a new entrepreneurial organization introduces its services in still another. Buchanan has attended a Gathering in St. Louis and said one interesting detail is that nametags display the number of times the person has been to a gathering. That helps break the ice, particularly for newcomers. What the Gathering is not about – pitching your own business. In fact, that practice is intentionally banned so that real human connections are made, Buchanan said.

In recent years, Buchanan founded the International Human Factor Youth Leadership Program, designed to expose youth from underserved communities to social entrepreneurship and international cultural exchange and is a founding member of Get Linked Miami, which helps diverse youth acquire STEM­ based skills. In addition to other leadership affiliations, she is currently a member of the Executive Committee of Friends of the New World Symphony, and appointed Chair for the American Bar Association’s Coalition on Racial and Ethnic Justice.

 “Miami is already a beacon for entrepreneurs globally, but we still have room for significant growth. I am eager to advance our mission to facilitate greater connectivity within Miami's burgeoning innovation community, to catalyze new startup and investment activity, and to meaningfully engage diverse and underrepresented groups who historically have not been included in the innovation movement,” said Buchanan.

CIC Miami, which will have spaces and offices for entrepreneurs to work and collaborate, has already opened in a limited way as design and buildout gets underway; a full opening is planned for the fall, adding an additional 80,000 square feet. During a recent tour of the space, Martinez-Kalinina explained that the sixth floor will be an event space and hub for Venture Café, as well as offices.  There will also be redesigned public space, event and co-working space on the first floor and offices on the third, including the state-of-the-art wet labs that are already part of the facility. There are hopes to expand into the second building in the life science park when it is completed. Venture Café will begin its full slate of programming at CIC Miami in the fall but plans to have some events around town this summer.  

 “This is about thinking hyper­local but also hyper­global,” said Stas Gayshan, managing director at CIC. “Miami is a young, dynamic, and evolving city at the crossroads of the Americas. Our goal, and Venture Café’s mission, is to empower the local community of innovators, and weave it together with the global innovation ecosystem.”

Read more: CIC makes big bet on Miami

February 16, 2016

PowerMoves launches in Miami at start of Blacktech Week

IMG_3588

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Close your eyes and picture a typical "tech entrepreneur." If you always see a young white man -- perhaps a hoodie is involved -- you are not alone, and PowerMoves, Blacktech Week, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Case Foundation and many other organizations want to change that.

The statistics are alarming. As the second annual Blacktech Week got underway in Miami, and PowerMoves Miami launched its operations with a bootcamp and pitch contests, a new study recently surfaced that showed that  of the 10,000-plus venture deals sealed  from 2012 to 2014, just 24 of them were led by a black women founder. Of those few that have raised money, the average amount of funding was just  $36,000, even though black women comprise the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S., according to the report, Project Diane by Digital Undivided, which calls black women founders “the real unicorns of tech.”

The statistics are only a little better for all minority entrepreneurs. PowerMoves, an entrepreneurship organization for entrepreneurs of color that just launched in Miami through Knight Foundation support, offers these numbers: While African-American and Hispanic students earn nearly 20 percent of computer science degrees, they make up only 9 percent of the technology industry and less than 1 percent of technology company founders. To help close this gap, PowerMoves is connecting entrepreneurs of color to mentors, capital, support and investment opportunities. The national initiative launched in New Orleans in 2014 has helped roughly 100 companies from across the country secure more than $27 million in capital commitments, the organization said.


This week, in partnership with Blacktech Week, PowerMoves held three-day  bootcamp (which followed six weeks of virtual programming) for about 15 entrepreneurs -- among them from South Florida were Daddy Knows Too, FlyScan, Jurnid, Kurator, Radifit and Renal Trkrr. It will culminate in a demo day open to the public Wednesday morning at the Fontainebleau. After holding a Disrupters Showcase on Monday night with Kairos and VOO Media representing the 305, on Tuesday PowerMoves  held two pitch competitions with $50K in prize money for eight selected entrepreneurs around the country, including two teams from South Florida: Court Buddy, a Miami-based matching service for a la carte legal services,  and Kweak, a video messaging platform company based in Miami and Berlin. Taking home $25K each  were Better Weekdays, a mobile job-matching platform, and Virgil, a mobile-first career navigation platform. Other teams pitching from around the country were Kudzoo, Unshrinkit,  CyberReef Solutions and Zoobean. 

"I was blown away by the ideas and the execution of the ideas so far. The ideas presented not only solved big social problems but would have great multiplier effects," said Carla Harris, a judge in the pitch contest and vice chairman of wealth management for Morgan Stanley, presenting sponsor of the event. "It is my thought that this will become the place for sophisticated investors who are looking for next generation technology and are specifically looking for entrepreneurs of color -- they will have to come to PowerMoves to find them."

She said that Earl Robinson, founder of PowerMoves, first asked her to be a judge for PowerMoves New Orleans in the first panel it ever had in 2014. "I was so impressed by the caliber of the entrepreneurs that I knew he was onto something that I wanted to get my firm involved in, because after all we are in the business of connecting capital with people and bringing leaders to the public and private capital markets. ... We helped support [PowerMoves] to go national."

The Case Foundation has also been a partner of PowerMoves for about a year and a half. Started by AOL founder Steve Case and his wife Jean, the foundation has been leading entrepreneurship initiatives  for decades. "But we really got to this point where the American Dream seemed to be fading, there was a full series of entrepreneurs that were being left on the sideline," said Sheila Herrling, senior vice present of social innovation for the foundation. "How could we exploit this potential to drive the economy, to drive jobs, to drive ideas, and source them from all places and all people?"

 In addition to PowerMoves, the Case Foundation is involved in JumpStart's Diversity Fund and Forward Cities and is looking for other partners.   To VCs who say 'I'd love to invest I am just not finding the deals,' PowerMoves is  creating this pipeline of entrepreneurs for them, Herrling said. The big goal: When you think of an entrepreneur, "that face that comes to you has just as much of a chance of being a women or an entrepreneur of color as the white guy in the hoodie," she said. 

That Project Diane report found that just 11 black female founders raised more than $1 million. "Four of them are PowerMoves alumni," said Herrling. "There is a secret sauce in that. Something is working. I'm optimistic we're going to level the playing field."

The second annual Blacktech Week, open to all,  also kicked off with a DiscoTech on Monday and youth event and opening reception on Tuesday. It moves into high gear Wednesday evening with the start of its 2 1/2 day summit at FIU's Biscayne Bay campus, featuring entrepreneurs and investors from around the world. On Saturday, Project Diane's author, Kathryn Finney, will keynote at the Blacktech Week Women's Innovation Brunch. Read more here from Blacktech Week co-founder Felecia Hatcher about why it's in Miami. 

MORE INFORMATION

See a complete schedule of events at BlackTechWeek.com

See more information about PowerMoves at powermovesnola.org.

See past coverage of Black Tech Week 2015 here.

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 Judges watch pitches at PowerMoves Series A pitch Tuesday. At top, Disrupters Showcase at the Fountainebleau on Monday.

January 26, 2016

Dawn Dickson a finalist for SBA’s InnovateHER Business Challenge

DawndicksonDawn Dickson, founder and CEO of Flat out of Heels, is one of 10 finalists of the 2016 InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge, a nationwide business competition on March 17 presented by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Dickson’s Miami Beach-based companies makes and sells rollable ballet flats that can easily fit in a purse -- a convenient way for women to relieve stiletto sore feet on the go.

An executive committee of SBA officials reviewed more than 180 semi-finalist nominations and selected 10 finalists whose products and services best met the competition criteria and presented the greatest potential for success. The semi-finalists were chosen at more than 200 local competitions across the country hosted by universities, accelerators, clusters, scale-up communities, SBA’s resource partners and other local community organizations and involving more than 1,000 entrepreneurs.

These 10 finalists are invited to the National InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge during Women’s History Month in Washington, D.C., where they will pitch their businesses to a panel of expert judges for an opportunity to win $70,000 in cash and prizes from Microsoft.

For more details on the competition and the other finalists, visit www.sba.gov/innovateHER.