It would be easier to just bring a prepackaged conference to town — fly in, fly out — but that’s not Ouali Benmeziane’s way.
Benmeziane is the founder of WebCongress, a digital marketing and media conference he originated in Spain, expanded around the world and is bringing to Miami Nov. 7-8 for its second year. For the past several months, he has been in South Florida getting to know entrepreneurs and other tech community members, partnering with local organizations and evolving the agenda by the minute to give the conference an “only in Miami” vibe.
The two-day conference, which will be held at the James L. Knight Center in downtown Miami, is packed with workshops and international speakers — including a session on Google Glass and how it could revolutionize online education, a speech by a 13-year-old CEO and game developer who is becoming a European sensation, and sessions by YouTube, Google, Facebook, ESPN, Blackberry and Microsoft experts, among many others. But for the Miami twist, Benmeziane has added an “Unconference” packed with local appeal. And if the ticket prices for other parts of the conference are too steep, the Unconference at $20 won’t be.
The Unconference will be 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 7. It will include tech talks and demos by local startups and end with AppCircus, an open and free contest giving developers, startups and other organizations the opportunity to present their apps on stage for the chance for prizes and an opportunity to present at the Mobile Premier Awards in Barcelona. Ten apps will be selected to pitch at WebCongress. Apply by Oct. 25 on appcircus.com/
The second day of WebCongress offers eight small-group workshops, which can be purchased separately at $60 apiece. There will be time for parties too, including the free TigerDirect Tech Summit and Holiday Bash at Marlin’s Park on Thursday night (register at tigertechsummit.eventbrite.com) and WebCongress’ 5th Birthday Party Friday night at Miami Innovation Center.
For more information and to purchase tickets to WebCongress:: webcongress.com/miami/register. Use the promotional code miamiherald for a conference discount and the code startinggate for a free ticket to the Unconference while supplies last.
Benmeziane says WebCongress will be planning more events in South Florida, and he also wants to start a foundation that offers technology education for kids. Lately he has also been spending a lot of time in Bogota, an emerging tech hub that WebCongress chose for its next conference Nov. 19-20. “I live in my luggage, I have no home. Born in Africa, raised in Paris, made in Barcelona and now I live in Miami and Bogota.”
Need to know: Thinking about applying to the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program? The new 12-week offered by Miami Dade College offers free class instruction, mentoring and resources for selected small businesses in their growth phase. The deadline to apply for the program’s first class is Nov. 22. There will be eight information sessions that will explain the program benefits, criteria, how to apply and what to expect.
Four information sessions have been scheduled so far:
• Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2 p.m. at Miami Dade College North Campus, 11380 NW 27th Ave, Miami, Room 2151
• Friday, Oct. 25, 2 p.m., at Miami Dade College Kendall Campus, 11011 SW 104th St. Miami, Bldg. 6, Room 6120
• Thursday, Oct. 31, 3 p.m., at Miami Dade College InterAmerican Campus, 627 SW 27th Ave, Miami, Room 3103
• Friday, Nov. 8, 10:30 a.m., at Miami Dade College Hialeah Campus, 1800 W 49th St. Miami, Multipurpose Room.
Just launched: HASH (hash.me), a startup incubating at Venture Hive, has released an app that allows people to communicate privately through messages that are untraceable and screenshot-proof. Especially targeted at politicians and business people who value their privacy, HASH Private Messenger brings to mobile the confidence and security that feel when they have a private conversation in person, says Mayer Mizrachi, the founder of HASH, now a team of five. The free app launched recently at the Apple AppStore. An Android app is in beta testing, says Mizrachi.
Calling all makers: Oct. 27 is the deadline to apply to exhibit your project or product at the first Miami Mini Maker Faire Nov. 16 at The LAB Miami. The Mini Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, makers, engineers, tinkerers and artists who get together to show their creations and share what they have learned. It's a festival of do-it-yourself creativity, innovation and resourcefulness in celebration of the Maker Movement, says organizer Ric Herrero. Find out more and apply to exhibit here: makerfairemiami.com. Buy your $5 ticket to attend here: makerfairemiami.eventbrite.com.
Follow startup news on the Starting Gate blog on MiamiHerald.com/business and follow me on Twitter @ndahlberg