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eMerge Americas receives $1.5M in Knight funding

eMerge Americas founder Manny Medina and Armando Christian Perez, aka Pitbull, speak at the closing of the inaugural eMerge Americas conference, May 6, 2014, at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
eMerge Americas founder Manny Medina and Armando Christian Perez, aka Pitbull, speak at the closing of the inaugural eMerge Americas conference, May 6, 2014, at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

eMerge Americas, the multiday homegrown Miami tech conference started by Manny Medina and his Technology Foundation of the Americas, will receive $1.5 million in new support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The main event will take place May 4-5 at Miami Beach Convention Center and will bring together entrepreneurs, business leaders and technologists from around the world. The mission: “We are committed to establishing South Florida as a key hub in the global tech community,” said Medina, who also heads Medina Capital and founded and ran Terremark Worldwide.

The first eMerge Americas conference, hosted in May 2014, attracted 6,000 participants, 400 participating companies, more than 150 speakers and 115 startups from Miami and across the globe.

“Year One was a big success and now we want to build on that success,” said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation’s Miami program director, in announcing the funding. “eMerge is an important convening that focuses attention and changes perceptions in a meaningful way. We’ve seen this in Austin with South By Southwest, and the bet is that eMerge will do the same for Miami.”

Speakers announced so far for the 2015 eMerge Americas include Deepak Chopra, physician and best-selling author, and Jim McKelvey, founder of mobile payment company Square and the nonprofit LaunchCode, who will share insights into the latest innovations disrupting industries and changing the way people live, work and play.

Daan Roosegaarde, creative director of the social design lab Studio Roosegaarde, will also keynote and be an important speaker in eMerge’s Smart Cities track, said Xavier Gonzalez, executive director of eMerge Americas. With studios in Rotterdam and Shanghai, Roosegaarde develops innovative, interactive landscapes that are accomplished through the objective of pulling technology “out of the screen” and integrating it into the real world.

The conference for the first time will feature a Women Innovation & Technology Summit on May 4, with 12 speakers announced so far, including Yoani Sanchez, executive director of 14ymedio, and Monique Manso, publisher of People en Español. It will also feature a Government Innovation Summit withi government officials from the U.S., Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. Gonzalez also said there will be 10 to 20 country pavilions next year.

Like last year, there will also be an eMerge Startup Showcase (startups can apply here) and an eMerge Hackathon. A hiring fair will help connect top talent with more than 50 companies.

Gonzalez said South Florida’s universities are stepping up their participation next year. “The university community is really behind this. They are interested in using eMerge as a platform to showcase the innovation they are generating and also target opportunities for their students. ... Florida International University, Nova Southeastern and Florida Atlantic University are already signed up, and we expect University of Miami and Miami Dade College to come on board soon,” he said.

The $1.5 million in new Knight funding is a three-year grant, which adds to the $250,000 seed funding Knight provided last year, Haggman said. Support for eMerge Americas is part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to invest in building Miami’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Over the past two years, Knight has invested more than $12 million in more than 90 investments in entrepreneurship in South Florida, including large investments in the new Miami Dade College Idea Center and Endeavor Miami.

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