Last week, the business community was celebrating how far the South Florida tech community has come while at the same time acknowledging the hard road ahead.
At an evening gathering of entrepreneurs, corporate executives, education and government leaders and investors, Manny Medina officially announced the launch of the Technology Foundation of the Americas, which will bring a major tech conference, called eMerge Americas, to South Florida next May. But make no mistake, the greater goal is for Miami to be a tech hub for Latin America. Let’s get this done, said the Foundation’s CEO, Diane Sanchez: “We are not just bringing a tech conference here, we are building a movement.”
As Medina, the Foundation’s chairman and founder, and Sanchez laid out their vision and detailed plans for the year ahead, the general sentiment in the audience of supporters was that Miami was in the right place at the right time with the right people to bring the dream of a tech hub to fruition.
Yet, the next morning, at a Greater Miami Chamber event exploring the role of education in building a tech hub, the mood was all business. How does Miami nurture tech talent and stop brain drain?
Albert Santalo, CEO of Miami-based CareCloud, expressed how his fast-growing company has had to recruit and open offices elsewhere to meet his talent needs. Other panelists discussed strategies to fill the pipeline with homegrown engineering talent and make South Florida a place students want to stay after graduation. There has been success with dual-enrollment programs in high schools as well as initiatives such as FIU’s partnership with Ultimate Software in Weston and Miami Dade College’s program for mobile-app development.
“We are asking companies to step up and be more aggressive about internships,” said FIU President Mark Rosenberg. Panelists’ call to action: Offer a meaningful internship to one or more college, high school or middle school students this summer. If you have a tech startup that could take on an intern, that’s even better because you are providing an immersion experience in the startup culture, said Susan Amat, who co-founded The Launch Pad, founded Venture Hive and who chairs the STEM board for Miami-Dade Schools. Want a high school intern? There is a site called getmyinterns.org for a Miami-Dade County Schools program. There is work underway to create a comprehensive community portal for college-level and possibly high school internships in technology.
Other tech and startup news of the week and what’s ahead:
New World Angels led a $1 .1 million funding round for the latest venture of Dr. Stewart Davis, a serial entrepreneur in medical Devices. Davis is CEO of Bioceptive, which is developing solutions in women’s health.
Awards season is in high gear:
• The Great Miami Chamber of Commerce held its Technology Leader of the Year awards banquet on Thursday at Jungle Island. And the winners were: Technology Executive: Juan Rodriguez, Advanced Processing & Imaging; Technology Company: CareCloud; Technology Entrepreneur: Jonathan Lieberman, iTopia; Technology Organization: South Florida Digital Alliance; Technology Project: Miami Children’s Hospital; Bioscience Company: Bolton Medical’ Technology Student: Jesse Domack, Florida International University,