Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Silicon Valley of the subtropics


OUR OPINION: eMerge conference highlights region’s potential as a technology hub

On closing day of eMerger Americas Techweek, founder Manny Medina and rapper Pitbull discuss Miami’s tech space. “This is going to be a silicon paradise,” the singer said.
On closing day of eMerger Americas Techweek, founder Manny Medina and rapper Pitbull discuss Miami’s tech space. “This is going to be a silicon paradise,” the singer said.
Jane Wooldridge / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Miami-Dade just played host to a quiet industry boom. But many people may not have realized it. After all, it didn’t have to do with tourism, manufacturing or real estate. Rather, it was all about innovation and invention.

And it’s definitely the industry of our future.

The eye-opening boom occurred at the inaugural and highly successful eMerge Americas Techweek conference, which just ended at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

The idea was to bring money and the brain trust together and promote South Florida as the Petri dish where such a pairing could be the birthplace of profitable start-ups. Picture Miami as a technology hub, a new Silicon Valley. With this event, organizers succeeded in setting the right course for Miami-Dade.

Some are calling it a technology wave, and Miami appears to be riding it well. We encourage this growth.

More than 6,000 people — that’s 1,000 more than expected — attended the eMerge conference. Even Miami rapper Pitbull was there. Yes, he’s a savvy businessman and a local cheerleader. Pitbull thinks Miami-Dade is in the cusp of something big here. All indications are that he’s right.

Commend technology entrepreneur Manny Medina, the brains behind eMerge, for his vision to recognize the need and appeal of such an event — one that could open a new highway in Miami’s economic landscape with an eye on Latin America.

“The inaugural eMerge Americas Techweek surpassed our most optimistic expectations and provides us with a tremendous base from which to build,” Mr. Medina told the Editorial Board. “We are receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees and sponsors.” That’s great news.

Mr. Medina’s idea was to stage an Art Basel-like tech conference that would showcase South Florida and draw start-ups to the region, accelerating the area’s ingrained entrepreneurial spirit. As a community of immigrants and hardy natives, such spirit is ingrained in the palm trees. And with our diversity, weather and geographic position, Miami is a natural locale.

Mr. Medina believes start-ups are really at the heart of the ecosystem — companies starting here, hiring local employees, customers buying from these companies. Mr. Medina sees Miami quickly evolving into a city conducive to start-ups.

Praise, too, the Knight Foundation. In recent years, the foundation has funded scores of projects and hackathons related to start-ups.

At eMerge, six tracks linked to the South Florida economy — innovation, money, healthcare, cities, education and entertainment — were explored for their possible roles in a tech hub.

Mr. Medina’s vision now is to help build an “Innovation Center of the Americas” with a data center, office and incubator space, living facilities and expo center with the support of the real-estate community. That sounds like it could generate more jobs for the area.

But like anything new, this venture needs tending. Despite the enthusiasm, Miami tech companies face obstacles not commonly found in more-established communities such as Silicon Valley.

Capital is limited in South Florida, and some companies complain of a brain drain, saying talent is harder to find here.

But with the leadership of people like Mr. Medina and the Knight Foundation, this region stands a great chance to forge a new business frontier.

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