Tech Talk

Wanted: A taste of the startup life

 

ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com

Around South Florida, organizations have mobilized to immerse talented college and high school students into the startup life.

Venture Hive, the accelerator/incubator in downtown Miami, held an Intern Open House last week with 19 startup companies and 57 high school and college students, said Susan Amat, Venture Hive’s founder. The high school students were part of Miami-Dade Schools’ tech-oriented magnet programs, said Amat, who also chairs the Miami-Dade County Schools STEM Board, and university students came from FIU and other schools.

Some startups hired interns on the spot while others scheduled follow-on interviews. “These companies see the importance of preparing the next generation of technologists and entrepreneurs in South Florida,” said Amat, who was on her way Friday to South Africa, where she was speaking at the World Bank Global Innovation Conference and running a workshop for startups.

The LAB Miami in Wynwood is holding a Startup Speed Interviewing event from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday for rising seniors from magnet high schools, said Wifredo Fernandez, the LAB’s CEO. While the internship program through the Miami-Dade Schools is not new, promoting it to startups is.

As part of the internship, students will be working 30 hours a week for five weeks. “We really commend the startups who are stepping up as leaders and providing life-changing opportunities for these students,” said Fernandez, adding that the project is a result of a recommendation made during the Rokk Miami event last month..

There are more than 30 startups signed up, and some of them would like more than one intern. Fernandez expects at least 60 high school students to participate in the “speed interviewing” event. Companies can still sign up through midnight Monday by registering here.

The Enterprise Development Corp. launched an internship program for college-level business students, including MBAs, who are paired with startup tech companies. The interns work at their sponsoring companies Monday through Thursday and come together on Fridays for workshops, speakers and networking at MEC261, a new entrepreneurship center in downtown Miami, said Gerard Roy, who is directing the EDC program.

Roy, who had five internships himself, is modeling the program after one he ran in San Francisco. In addition to helping the companies with marketing, finance or operations, the interns work on a major project throughout the summer. “I want the interns to feel a sense of ownership,” he said.

As part of the One Community One Goal initiative, a Beacon Council committee is working on a county-wide internship program with a goal of placing at least 200 students from local universities and high schools into paid internships every year, said Irma Becerra-Fernandez, vice president of Engagement at FIU, who is helping coordinate the project. The idea is to create one central clearinghouse for college and high school internships.

The intern positions will be aligned with the seven industries outlined in One Community One Goal. Sponsors from companies, nonprofits and government are being lined up and the working group hopes to get the program off the ground shortly, said Becerra-Fernandez. For students that seek real world experience, companies that want an efficient way to find interns and an economy that needs to combat brain drain, the program will be a win-win-win, she said.

Gregory Johnson didn’t wait around for a program. As a senior at Miami Union Academy, he became interested in all things entrepreneurial and began networking at local tech events. That led to an opportunity at Project Lift Miami, the new healthcare-tech accelerator at the University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park.. He graduated this month and is interning about 30 hours a week, learning as much as he can from the five businesses in the accelerator and helping them with social media strategy and research. Johnson plans to attend Oakwood University in Alabama in the fall, studying finance and marketing. “My career goal is to be a social entrepreneur,” said Johnson, who also interned for the Obama campaign. “I want to learn as much as I can.”

Thanks for the memories

It was a launch week not to be forgotten for DoYouRemember.com, a nostalgia company that recently moved from New York to accelerate at Venture Hive. The company not only went live with its new site and five apps, but it also won the startup presentation competition at Refresh Miami’s Demo Night, taking home the $1,000 prize provided by New Frontier Nomads. Do You Remember is already a team of 20, headquartered at Venture Hive.

Do You Remember is the first social website and series of mobile apps created to bring together people passionate about nostalgia and it does this by connecting them through memories, said its founder Michael Gitter. The site offers news, places to post memories and a highly interactive chat room. Gitter literally wrote the book on nostalgia, several of them in fact — The Do You Remember? series in the 1990s.

Refresh Miami, the largest tech networking group in South Florida, also had a memorable week. The group announced it will expand its programming and services with $150,000 in support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Brian Breslin and Peter Martinez, co-directors of the seven-year-old all-volunteer organization that now has about 5,000 members, say they will use the funding to upgrade programming and revamp RefreshMiami.com with more resources for its members. Other plans include co-hosting a multi-university career fair with local startup DemoHire in September.

Linking the Americas

Miami-based startup Inversiones.com, an Angellist or Gust for Latin Americans, launched only six months ago but already has 6,000 members. With no marketing except on its Facebook page, the social site for connecting entrepreneurs and investors in Latin America and U.S. Hispanic communities recently launched a business plan competition with a $5,000 cash prize.

In less than four weeks, Inversiones received 150 entries from 12 countries, said Inversiones.com’s founder, Michael Konig. The entries were narrowed down to five finalists, including Elebev from Miami, and today Inversiones announced its winner: Vientos de Energia from Colombia. Meaning ’Winds of Energy,’ the plan was presented by a consortium of university professors who propose to use new technologies to bring energy solutions to indigenous and rural areas of Colombia and other Latin American countries. The plan offers an innovative approach to funding and profitability through public and private partnerships.

Read more about South Florida startups on The Starting Gate blog on MiamiHerald.com/business and follow me on Twitter@ndahlberg.

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