A. We currently have one foreign client that we are assisting in successfully establishing themselves in the US. We are also exploring a more structured offering for both foreign start-ups as well as more mature companies. We see these activities as a natural leveraging of the international assets South Florida has. Needless to say, I believe this sort of sponsoring could be an enormous economic engine for our region.
Q. Are you planning another Emerging Technology Business Showcase this year?
A. Yes, and the date is Nov. 30. We have a growing list of some great start-ups, some of which are already raising significant capital. And our focus of panel discussions and speakers will be hearing from entrepreneurs who have had successful raises — what works, what doesn’t.
Q. Any other changes or plans at EDC you would like to mention?
A. We have a close relationship with New World Angels and have additional plans of expanding our network of other individual investors. Every month, New World takes a close look at a large number of very high quality deals and we are assisting them as they expand their membership and enhance their process. Separately, we see an enormous number of early through later stage start-ups that I believe could be very attractive to a broader angel/VC network as we build a number of strong relationships within the investment communities both in and out of the state.
Q. What does the tech ecosystem in South Florida most need to grow?
A. If I had to focus one item, it would be far more collaboration between all of the players so that we can create a far larger critical mass of high quality assistance to entrepreneurs, resulting in a larger number of investable start-ups that will, in turn, result in a far higher interest from investors. In my opinion, South Florida has a lot of support entities down here going it alone and in some instances, simply not providing valuable assistance. Our total ecosystem needs to better pull together collectively and not view collaboration as a zero sum exercise. If we could assemble individuals from all of our elements — academic institutions, corporate partners, experienced tech execs/mentors and credible members of the investment community — we could better pool and focus our resources so our start-ups would have far better chances for success.
Q. What is the region’s biggest challenge right now in growing a thriving and sustainable tech ecosystem?
A. I would highlight three items: 1. Efficient access to quality, relevant business advisors. 2. Access to start-up and later stage capital. And 3. Having been a CEO and director of tech companies throughout the US and knowing Boston, New York and California tech communities quite well, we need to do a far better job of attracting corporations. I believe that we must attract many more corporations to South Florida by highlighting our world-class assets - quality of life, great educational institutions, international culture, easy access to the emerging economies of Latin America, etc. Corporations are unquestionably the best source of entrepreneurs - they provide engineers and key functional talent – the necessary raw materials for a tech ecosystem. Also, a large corporate community offers entrepreneurs career “safety nets”, should their start-up plans derail.
Q. If you could ask for any kind of assistance for the EDC, what would it be?
A. First, EDC is fortunate to have some of the most generous and highly experienced Board members I have ever worked with – great lawyers, accountants, commercial and investment bankers, other service providers as well as members from the academic community and, perhaps most importantly, private enterprise executives. So, firstly, if there is anyone that has a passion to help entrepreneurs and would like to join the EDC Board team, we would love to invite them on. Secondly, we are constantly looking for highly experienced mentors, particularly those who have deep experiences in relevant functional and/or technology areas. Finally, we are always looking to expand our network of accredited investors as we have an increasing number of high potential start-ups that are definitely worth taking a look at. We are developing quite a database of exciting South Florida start-ups that angels and VCs can anonymously review and, if there is interest, the EDC can make introductions, facilitate meetings, provide more detailed info, etc.