6+ things to know in #MiamiTech: Miami Dade College offering bachelor’s degree in AI, there’s a new $20M VC fund in town, plus Blink, Cryptoys, coworking, UM & more news


MDC to offer state’s first bachelor’s in Applied AI

 Miami Dade College received state approval to offer Florida’s first Bachelor of Science in Applied Artificial Intelligence. The program will begin in 2024.

MDC says the new bachelor’s program will prepare students for immediate entry into the workforce as AI Analysts, Natural Language Processing Specialists, Computer Vision Analysts, Machine Learning Specialists and AI Programmers. The curriculum also prepares students to pursue advanced degrees in computer science or other STEM fields.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity projects more than 1,000 annual job openings in AI in South Florida with an average annual salary of $94,815. “There is a significant demand for AI professionals in our state, and MDC is poised to train that future workforce,” MDC President Madeline Pumariega said in a statement.

The news follows MDC’s announcements of a new Associate in Science in Applied Artificial Intelligence and two new College Credit Certificates in AI, available in the fall term.  MDC is also home to two state-of-the-art AI Centers offering access to the latest technology.

READ MORE: At MDC, the future is now, with new AI courses, AI Centers and a Metaversity


Big Sky Capital launches $20M Fund I

Venture capital firm Big Sky Capital announced the launch of its Fund I with $20 million in capital commitments. The firm operates in Miami, Kazakhstan, and Singapore and was founded by Jahn Karsybaev and Adil Nurgozhin, who met while studying at the University of Montana. They named their firm after their alma mater, TechCrunch reported.

Karsybaev and Nurgozhin had previous experience in corporate IT and venture capital and have launched five startups together, with one being a successful exit. After exiting their company, they began angel investing in enterprise SaaS companies, with a particular emphasis on supporting immigrant founders as they themselves had immigrated to the US from Kazakhstan.

Big Sky writes checks between $250,000 and $500,000 for companies in their earliest stages, including those pre-revenue. The fund started investing in February and has a portfolio of 12 companies in the areas of cybersecurity, health technology and fintech, including frontline worker software company Clockster, title search company Pippin and private debt investment company Swaypay, according to TechCrunch. Read more here.


New UM computer engineering scholarships focus on females

The Steven B Schonfeld Foundation is helping to accelerate the Miami tech hub’s trajectory with a recent donation to the University of Miami. The newly created Steven B Schonfeld Computer Science and Computer Engineering Scholarship and Award will support students pursuing computer science and computer engineering degrees, with a particular emphasis on female students, who continue to be underrepresented in these fields.

Two sophomores will be awarded fully funded academic scholarships annually over a period of eight years, resulting in 16 Schonfeld Scholars. Each will have their scholarship renewed for three years if the recipient remains in good academic standing. They also will receive a stipend to support research and special projects. The foundation’s gift also will help the University’s Women in Mathematical Sciences Program, which exposes high school students to advanced mathematics and offers career mentoring, among other efforts. Read more here.


Industrious expands space in Brickell

Industrious, a New York-based coworking company, has expanded its location in Miami’s Brickell Financial District, now occupying two-and-a-half floors, with 32 offices, 149 desks, four conference rooms and seven phone booths, in the Sabadell Financial Center, the South Florida Business Journal reported.

Industrious also operates at the Esperante Corporate Center in West Palm Beach, The Dorsey in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, and 350 Lincoln in Miami Beach. Another four locations are slated to open — the Mayfair in the Grove building in Coconut Grove, Optima Onyx tower in Hallandale, Esplanade at Aventura, and 200 East Las Olas in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The Industrious locations are part of a coworking wave that has also brought recent openings by Büro, Knotel, Mindspace, Quest and Office Evolution in South Florida. Read more here.


Blink adds 600 automotive dealers as customers in Q1

The publicly traded Blink Charging, a leading global manufacturer, owner, operator and provider of electric vehicle  charging equipment and services, announced that is it is now working with more than 4,000 automotive dealers in the US, Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific for purchase, installation and ongoing management of EV charging equipment and services.

During the first quarter of 2023, Blink successfully secured more than 600 agreements with dealers globally and foresees further growth throughout 2023 as leading auto manufacturers unveil new models and experience increased sales. Since 2020, Blink has sold or deployed over 950 DC Fast Chargers along with more than 7,500 Level 2 (L2) chargers to address the multiple needs dealers have in keeping vehicles charged and ready for customers. Read more here.


More tech and startup news to note

Cryptoys integrating kid-friendly AI chatbot: Miami-based OnChain Studios, the parent of Cryptoys, is planning to integrate a kid-friendly artificial intelligence chatbot into its character-based digital collectibles. The AI software, called ChatGuardian, features a chat filter that parents can customize to ensure that their kids have safe, appropriate conversations with their NFT characters. Parents will be able to log into Cryptoys’ Guardian Control Center and prohibit specific keywords and topics at their discretion. CEO Will Weinraub told CoinDesk: “You get the same kind of AI functionality that [kids] are so used to, and it’s so natural for them these days – but with their favorite characters. That’s a big focus with this, and doing it in a safe way, which is why ChatGuardian was built.” Read more here.

New data center opens:  iM Critical, a Fort Lauderdale-based data center and IT services company, this week announced the newest location in its growing footprint: the iM Critical Miami data center. This 100,000 square-foot building is purpose-built with a focus on sustainability,  offering 50,000 square feet and 5MW of available space and power, the company said. Located in the LIttle River area of Miami, this strategic IT hub resides above the 100+ year flood plain and is situated outside of hurricane evacuation zones, while offering high floor load capacity and 13’8’’ clear ceiling heights.

New online discount grocer launches in Miami: Martie, the online grocery store that sells heavily discounted surplus groceries and household items to prevent waste while saving shoppers up to 70% off retail, today announced it is now live in Miami and shipping across Florida.  Martie works with over 1,500 brands and producers, including Kellogg’s, Quaker, Tate’s and Annie’s Homegrown, to shop their surplus pantry goods such as pasta and sauces, rice and beans, coffees and teas, and snacks that otherwise might be thrown out due to overstock, package changing, or seasonality. Since launching in 2021, Martie says it has saved more than 1.5 million pounds of food from going to the landfill and saved shoppers more than $2.5 million.


Opportunity knocks

  • Venture Café Miami has partnered with The Shrimp Society and CPD Advisors  to bring Miami entrepreneurs and founders the Summer Scale Series, a three-part course that focuses on critical pillars that are essential for success, including unlocking the power of cutting-edge AI tools to elevate your content and marketing strategy, streamlining your business operations with innovative technology, and  discovering the most effective strategies for fundraising and investment that drive sustainable growth. Learn more here.
  • Venture Atlanta 2023, Sept. 27-28, is accepting applications for pitching opportunities. For 16 years, the annual Venture Atlanta conference has been selecting the most promising tech companies in the Southeast and bringing in top investment firms from across the country to hear them pitch; this year the prize is $500K. Over 1,300 attendees and 350 funds expected to attend.  Applications accepted here through July 28.
  • Women in Tech and Entrepreneurship launched its fourth chapter in Fort Lauderdale in partnership with the Alan B. Levan, NSU Broward Center of Innovation. Based in Tampa, the organization was founded to empower women in technology and entrepreneurship. The groups are hosting an open house at the Levan Center  July 26. 
  • Want to build a career in tech but facing financial barriers? The Ironhack x eMerge Americas Community Impact Scholarship can help you break down those barriers and launch your dream career. Apply here.
  •  Venture Miami  and The Shrimp Society have partnered up to launch the Built in Miami Startup Program, a year-long initiative designed to support early-stage entrepreneurs in Miami. The Built in Miami Startup Program, free for participants, will feature three tracts for entrepreneurs at each stage of their startup journey: the Zero to One Sprint program, the Builders Summer Series, and the Miami Startup Accelerator. Applications can be accessed via builtmiami.com 
  • The Venture Miami Scholarship Fund provides tuition support to provide gap funding for at-need City of Miami residents who have been accepted into STEM or defined-demand occupation programs at participating colleges and universities, including Florida International University, Florida Memorial University, Miami Dade College, and the University of Miami. How to apply: Students who meet the program requirements and are interested in applying to the Venture Miami scholarship are encourage to complete this survey to begin the application process.
  • EndeavorLAB, an 8-week cohort-based initiative that equips founders with curriculum, mentorship and resources to grow their business, is accepting applications for its Black Founders Cohort Powered by Dell For Startups that begins in October. To be eligible, Black founders must be based in Florida, have achieved product-market fit, and are generating $50K to $500K in annual revenue. The program costs are covered by the sponsors.  Apply here by Sept. 10.
  • The Alan B. Levan/NSU Broward Center of Innovation is accepting applications for the 100 Startup Project. Applicants who are accepted will receive a yearlong membership to the Levan Center of Innovation. Apply here


Got #MiamiTech news to share? Email Nancy Dahlberg at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @ndahlberg

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Nancy Dahlberg