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,
• In addition to a packed day of speakers and workshops Friday designed to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses, The Entrepreneur Summit, produced by Hispanic Unity, also honored successful South Florida entrepreneurs and business leaders also active in making the community better. Honored as “American Dreamers”:· Mitchell Kaplan of Books & Books; Maria Elena Ibañez of Intermark Foods / El Latino Brands;· John Ruffin Jr. of J.D. Ruffin Associates; Remedios Díaz-Oliver of All American Containers; and Stanley, Kenny and Jimmy Tate of Tate Capital. The Entrepreneur Catalyst Award went to Susan Amat, and Alina Villasante of Peace Love World was honored as the Entrepreneur to Watch..
• In Florida Atlantic University’s Business Plan Competition that concluded on Friday with two days of presentations and events, Stadson Technology, led by Mathew Hudson, won the FAU student category, and AspirEDU, an Orlando-based tech company, took top honors in the entrepreneur track, which was open to Florida-based companies and no FAU affiliation was required. Find out the other contest winners here.
If you missed the talk at The LAB Miami in Wynwood on Friday by Silicon Valley entrepreneur, strategist and speaker Salim Ismail about what the next 15 years of tech will took like, don’t worry, there are other interesting discussions coming up.
Investors and business leaders are gathering later this week at a forum hosted by AS/COA and LAVCA to present findings and discuss venture capital in Latin America. The event is private, but you can tune in for the livestream at 6:30 p.m. Thursday: http://www.as-coa.org /live
On April 29, Brad Feld, venture capitalist, TechStars co-founder and author of Startup Communities, will be giving a presentation/book signing at The LAB Miami at 4 p.m. Register here. He is also helping leaders create a road map for building a community here.
On Sunday, April 21, the Miami Chapter of Awesome Foundation will be holding a launch party and information session at The LAB from 2 p.m.-6 p.m. Awesome Foundation rewards grants, typically $1,000, to entrepreneurial projects through an easy entry process.
Read more about these stories and more on The Starting Gate. Follow me on Twitter @ndahlberg