Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Miami talks tech


OUR OPINION: Community can become a respected hub for innovation

This revolution is quiet, because the soldiers on the front lines are at their computers. But Miami is on its way to becoming a tech community, already nurturing startup companies, catching the eye of venture capitalists and “angel investors” and planting the seeds of innovative solutions to social challenges.

News of Miami’s emerging tech community led it to be included as one of 10 “Battle Cities” in PayPal’s $100,000 competition called Battle Hack. The winner of the South Florida hackathon in August will go on to compete in Silicon Valley against the winning teams from the other nine cities, including Austin and Washington D.C., and Moscow, London and Barcelona.

This is a huge recognition of greater Miami’s potential as a hub of tech innovation and as sign of what already has been accomplished, with more to come, many tech developers say. The resources are here, and growing: co-working spaces, meet-ups, hackathons, incubators, even investors.

At the beginning of the year, the Editorial Board urged the creation of clean, high-growth and sustainable industries to help diversify an economy still heavily reliant on tourism and hospitality.

The word “hack” has had a negative connotation. But tech innovators have turned the idea around. Local hackathons, many sponsored by the Knight Foundation, work for the common good. That’s the idea behind Battle Hack. Teams of developers will be charged with coming up with an app that can enhance the quality of life in this community. Obviously, there’s a wide range of challenges from which to choose.

Credit Diane Sanchez, CEO of the Technology Foundation of the Americas, persuading PayPal, Battle Hack’s sponsor, that Miami had enough high-caliber developers to participate.

Locals, too, must recognize the assets this community can reap from a well-supported, well-funded tech community. Talk to tech developers. What’s fascinating is what they don’t say. They don’t say that they necessarily need help from government. That’s a refreshing response in a community where so many institutions have their hands out.

Still, county government can do more to facilitate business development, removing needless obstacles to setting up shop or expanding. These tech developers want to be here — Miami is new, agile, gorgeous in winter — but Austin, Seattle and other hubs beckon.

What the innovators say they most need is the awareness and support of the broader community. Felecia Hatcher and Derick Pearson are the founders of Black Tech Miami, created to turn African-American tech consumers into tech creators. Their initiatives include workshops to teach young people coding.

Ms. Hatcher’s message clearly applies to a larger audience. She says: “So many people don’t understand the importance of technology and how it’s driving everyday choice.” Think iPhone. “As support happens and grows, it will spread into other industries — healthcare, civics — and make life a little easier.”

Mr. Pearson elaborated: “It’s about the flow of information, where young people get trained and take part. That is where they start tech training in Silicon Valley, in elementary school. They know the power of it.”

So should we here at “Silicon Beach.”

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