Over the past few months, we have been asking South Florida entrepreneurs, community leaders and investors what they think are the biggest challenges facing the start-up community and what the ecosystem most needs to grow. Below is a excerpted sampling of their responses. Also see more views in the accompanying story here.
• Susan Amat, co-founder and executive director of University of Miami’s Launch Pad and chair of Startup Florida: “Public-private partnerships are key to making the ecosystem grow. Look at New York City. Google donated 10 million square feet of office space to help entrepreneurs. … We also need more of the mentoring mindset. Other places have that. Donating a couple hours mentoring an entrepreneur has a huge return.”
• Demian Bellumio, COO of Senzari, investor, partner in Quotidian Ventures: Challenges? “Sophisticating financing, venture capital. There’s a short-term mentality about technology investments here. In the valley it is not just to make money -- it is to back cool projects that they love.” Another challenge is developing talent:: “Universities need to do a better job to create programs that both students and companies can benefit from. …We will be doubling our team and I do worry about finding talent. The challenge is the skilled people move away.”
• Nicolai Bezsonoff, co-founder and COO of .CO Internet: “We love Miami but it’s tough. What Miami-Dade, Susan [Amat] and Launch Pad are doing [opening a tech accelerator] is great, but there has to be more of that. You need to get the talent, you need to get the schools to start teaching front-end development and design, things that are much more practical. … More formal angel networks will help a lot.”
• Marc Billings, co-founder of Incubate Miami and CEO of Digiport: “Our marketplace is still of the belief that we are competing internally for success, this when the rest of the country does not know we exist.” As to challenges, “training is significantly lagging in the marketplace. We are not developing sufficient young talent in the skills needed for the new economy.”
• Brian Breslin, Refresh Miami founder and owner of Infinimedia: Spreading the word to the outside world is a challenge. “We need a more cohesive message sent. … government and the EDC and the Beacon Council should be helping to send that message. … We need marketing from the top down and we need to play to our strengths.”
• David Clarke, CEO and co-founder of BGT Partners: Biggest challenge? “Creating national awareness that some of the world’s most impactful digital work is coming from this market. We need a specialty college like Full Sail University or Hyper Island to open a location in South Florida, or a major university to make a significant investment in creating a digital college.”
• Alex de Carvalho, founder of Social Media Club South Florida, Mobile Monday Miami, BarCamp and other groups and events: “There is a core group who attend events and who collaborate on ideas, but the tech community as a whole flies under the radar of most of the population and politicians in South Florida. … Our next challenge is creating the infrastructure to support start-ups; developing government programs to incent activity; and attracting venture capital with tech experience.”