Business Monday

Sime MIA will bring luminaries, surprises

EMCEE: Ola Ahlvarsson will host Sime MIA, a tech conference with some only-in-Miami twists, Dec. 1-3. He is shown here during the 2013 event.
EMCEE: Ola Ahlvarsson will host Sime MIA, a tech conference with some only-in-Miami twists, Dec. 1-3. He is shown here during the 2013 event. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Sime MIA returns next week with one big promise: This won’t be your typical tech conference.

Adriana López Vermut, the sister of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López, will talk about how technology can be used for democratic purposes. “She is going to tell the story about how her brother organized hundreds of thousands of people on the streets through social media ... and how he is communicating today through social media from a jail cell,” said Demian Bellumio, one of the organizers of the conference’s second year.

The Oslo Freedom Forum is bringing two speakers, Yeonmi Park, a North Korean defector, and Suleiman Bakhit, an anti-extremist comic-book publisher from Jordan. There will also be a talk by Bobby Moresco, screenwriter of Crash and Million Dollar Baby who almost went bankrupt. Royce Gracie, a legendary martial artist, will speak about his Jiu-Jitsu philosophy inside and outside the dojo. “We have more this year that goes beyond tech, although there is a tech story line that ties everything together,” said Bellumio, who is also COO of Senzari, a big data company focused on music.

Sime MIA returns Dec. 1-3, but the main day, called the Summit, is Dec. 2, and organizers are expecting 600 people at the New World Symphony Center. Sime conferences started in Stockholm by Ola Ahlvarsson, a part-time Miami Beach resident, and are held all over the world. Like last year’s event, Ahlvarsson will emcee Sime MIA, which is a partnership of Sime and MIA Collective and supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and other sponsors.

Other speakers confirmed for the Summit include Nico Sell, who among other things organizes DEF CON, the largest hacker gathering in the world, and preaches escaping the Internet and never using social media again. Matt Mahan of Brigade will talk about how to change society through technology. Writer Carl Honore will discuss the “slow movement” he created. The 60 speakers will also include executives from Eventbrite, Flickr, Gigaom and other tech companies.

As Sime is known for, expect a production. Beyond short talks, there will be artistic and musical performances – and some surprises. “We are going to take Miami back 100 years,” Bellumio said. “We are going to make an analogy between the Miami of 100 years ago, a city just being born, to today having a second renaissance through technology,” Bellumio said.

Day 1, or “The Gathering,” will be a half-day grouping of more intimate talks about community building and tech trends. It also will include a showcase of local startups, and will be at The LAB Miami and Lightbox in Wynwood. “A lot of the conversation will be about Miami,” Bellumio said, including talks on VC trends in Miami, its connection to Latin America, “urban tech,” co-building and more.

Day 3 will be a focus on Miami’s Latin America connection, with a Wayra Latam Showcase offering the chance to meet entrepreneurs who are driving the culture of growth and innovation in Latin America. Some of companies that are part of Wayra, an accelerator and innovation platform started by Telefónica Group, will pitch to an audience of U.S. and regional investors and the corporate community. Sime MIA is also partnering with Citi on its free Citi Fintech Meetup at 6:30 p.m. at The LAB Miami.

More information and tickets are available at

Sime MIA will also host a half-day invitation-only program to facilitate discussions about investing in venture-backed startups for the community of high net-worth individuals and family offices. Sime MIA is hosting the workshop for The Latin American Private Equity & Venture Capital Association (LAVCA), in partnership with Knight Foundation and Omidyar Network, and it’s part of the community’s education efforts aimed at helping to boost venture investing in South Florida.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.