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Seen and heard at Sime MIA: Day 1

Tuesday is Sime MIA's big day, but Sime MIA officially opened on Monday afternoon with a smaller crowd and intimate conversations that were more local in nature than what is on tap for Day 2.

Called “The Gathering,” the half-day grouping of talks held at the LAB Miami and LightBox next door also included a showcase of local startups -- Videoo, LiveNinja, Accredify, AdMobilize and Everypost. Of a local nature, there were also talks about VC trends, Urban.us’s “urban tech” investing strategy (and demos on the OneWheel, one of its investments in personal mobility), Latin America’s venture community  and Rokk3r Labs’ cobuilding strategy, in which Rokk3r works alongside its portfolio startups on everything from team-building and product development to marketing and capital raising. “This is the age of collective genious,” said Nabyl Charania, CEO and co-founder of Rokk3r Labs.

A recent run of news developments has put funding in the spotlight in South Florida, with about a half dozen new funds and angel networks launching this year. Three investors who are active in both the New York and Miami investing communities reflected on where Miami is and what still needs to be done to develop a capital ecosystem.

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Bradley Harrison of Scout Ventures said the energy is palpable here but Miami needs to do a better job of marketing itself. He said he and others have been meeting with the Beacon Council and other civic organizations. “We’ve been talking about how to market Miami differently around entrepreneurship. We need to put that all together so people will take us seriously. Miami needs to define what makes Miami unique and market it to the rest of the world.”

Mark Kingdon, an active angel investor who recently moved from New York, also said it’s incumbent on government leaders to make themselves available and help. Melissa Krinzman, who recently launched Krillion Ventures with  Jeffrey Miller, and the other panelists said  that this is a long-term play, and it will take time.

“Entrepreneurs are becoming more sophisticated with the process. They are learning from each other,” Krinzman said. She said she is especially seeing improvements at the seed stage. “Series A and B needs more finetuning.”

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Partners from three venture funds with significatn portfolios in Latin America -- Gonzalo Costa from NXTP Labs,  Mariano Amartino of Wayra and Bedy Yang from 500 Startups -- offered their views on whether Miami could really be a technology hub for Latin America. The consensus seemed to be that while Miami's cultural ties, multinational offices and the relative ease of doing business in the U.S. are attractive, there is still more work to do to develop the critical mass, investor networks and other resources needed to be considered the hub of the ecosystem, they said.

To that end, Sime MIA also hosted a half-day invitation-only program to facilitate discussions about investing in venture-backed startups for the community of high net-worth individuals and family offices. Sime MIA hosted the workshop for The Latin American Private Equity & Venture Capital Association (LAVCA), in partnership with Knight Foundation and Omidyar Network, and it was part of the community’s education efforts aimed at helping to boost venture investing in South Florida.

Sime MIA continues today at the New World Symphony Center with the main event: The Summit. Connected devices, robotics, big data, 3D printing and other tech trends that are driving this era of unprecedented exponential growth will be part of the agenda. "There are going to be 50 billion connected devices by 2020 -- everything that can have a chip will have a chip," said Ola Ahlvarsson, who co-founded  Sime MIA with Demian Bellumio and emceed Sime MIA.

"The next frontier is the Internet of the body," continued Ahlvarsson, adding that Sime may be implanting a chip in a volunteer on Tuesday. "The Internet of Things is the Internet of Everything."

Posted Dec. 1, 2014