Microsoft to open innovation center in downtown Miami


The center, Microsoft’s first in the U.S., would provide tools and services to startups, students, faculty and others.

Microsoft plans to announce Friday morning that it will open its first U.S.-based Microsoft Innovation Center in downtown Miami’s Venture Hive in June.

The Microsoft Innovation Center will offer technology, tools and services to startups, governments, students, faculty and the greater Miami community to help foster innovation, collaboration and economic growth, said Sanket Akerkar, vice president of developer and platform evangelism for Microsoft. It will join a startup accelerator, incubator and educational programs already located at Venture Hive.

Microsoft has more than 100 innovation centers around the world, including in India, Singapore and Uganda, Akerkar said. The tech giant plans to open other innovation centers across the United States after the Miami facility is launched.

Developed and operated in partnership with Miami-Dade County, the city of Miami and Venture Hive, the Miami center will be used to host technology trainings and workshops, provide entrepreneurs, technologists and governments access to networking opportunities and potential talent for future job opportunities. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and Susan Amat, founder of Venture Hive, were expected to join Microsoft to make the announcement.

Why Miami? “There’s a great commitment to the local economy in Miami, and it’s a vibrant community. We also see a lot of alignment with the universities there,” said Akerkar. “It’s also a great hub and launching off point for Latin America from a business-building standpoint.”

The Microsoft Innovation Center will comprise about 5,000 square feet, with options for expansion, and will contain tools and technology for individuals as well as physical space for for training and collaboration. It will be open to everyone, not only the 29 companies housed in Venture Hive, Akerkar said. The innovation center has been in discussions with Florida International University, Florida Atlantic University, University of Miami, Nova Southeastern and Miami Dade College about collaborations, Akerkar said.

Said Amat, “The MIC will be a central gathering place for the tech and business community — with classes, mentoring and a full support ecosystem for both beginning developers and later stage technologists. We will have hardware for testing applications, a training area, and room for startups and support” that will enhance Venture Hive’s mission of entrepreneurship education.

One of the first projects, still in the planning stages, could be a summer program to teach 200 Miami-Dade County teachers about building apps so they could take that knowledge back to their students, Akerkar said. People using the innovation center will also have access to Microsoft’s BizSpark program, which offers free software and other tools to startups as well as access to mentors from the local community and globally.

Microsoft is no stranger to South Florida; it has had a Latin American headquarters here for two decades. From its offices in Fort Lauderdale that now employ 400 people, Microsoft oversees operations in 46 countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean, where it employs about 2,000 people in factories, research, sales and other operations.

Microsoft’s business in Latin America and the Caribbean tops $1 billion per year, and the region ranked as the fastest growth area for Microsoft worldwide in recent years, Microsoft Latin America President Hernan Rincon told the Sun Sentinel.

Microsoft is also involved with the inaugural eMerge Americas Techweek that started Friday, and is participating in sessions next week about how cities can use technology to better connect systems, data and people. Microsoft already is working on its CityNext programs with officials in Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and Medellin, Colombia, to make information more accessible and services more affordable, Rincon told the Sun Sentinel.

Doreen Hemlock of the Sun Sentinel contributed to this report. Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

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