Miami Tech & Startup News

8+ things to know in #MiamiTech: New fund for Black founders; SmartHop’s record year; Charts of the Week and more

8+ things to know in #MiamiTech: New fund for Black founders; SmartHop’s record year; Charts of the Week and more


Black Ops Ventures closes 1st seed fund

Black Ops Ventures, based in Miami, announced it has closed its first fund with $13 million. Investors include Bank of America, Northwestern Mutual and individuals in the networks. Black Ops will invest primarily in pre-seed and seed stage rounds of Black-led tech startups in the U.S. and Canada, but may co-invest in Series A investments.

Founded in 2020, Black Ops Venture is managed and led by an all-Black team of partners: Heather Hiles, James Normal and Sean Green, who between them have founded 12 startups. “I am eager to address the tremendous disparity among startups moving from seed funding  to Series A capital,” said  Hiles, managing partner of the firm.

The partners  say they are acutely aware of how under-capitalized Black-led startups are compared to their white-led peers and want to share their knowledge to help other founders succeed. Indeed only 1.2% of venture dollars in the US in the first half of the year went to Black founders, Crunchbase reported.

“I have advised and met with hundreds of Black founders. I know first-hand there is an abundance of talented and overlooked startups in the marketplace. I have watched dozens grow and many more struggle throughout the years. There is no lack of high-quality, Black-led companies. There is only a lack of access to capital,” said Hiles, who is based in South Florida and also the founder of Pathbrite, an edtech company.

Find out more here.


SmartHop debuts insurance offering to close record year

Miami-based SmartHop, the total dispatch solution that enables businesses to truck smarter not harder, is making serious tracks.

The startup today announced its insurance offering for owner-operators, giving smaller operators access to the same resources of their larger peers. SmartHop’s insurance solution offers access to commercial auto and cargo insurance carriers, enabling small trucking companies to protect their business and truckers in an increasingly challenging market.

As part of the announcement, SmartHop also unveiled key 2021 business metrics, which reveal a record year for the five-year-old Miami-based company as it continues to support small trucking companies, which make up over 90% of all trucking companies in the U.S., with everything they need to compete on a level playing field with larger peers. SmartHop dispatchers booked over 15,000 loads. This represented a 3.5x increase in available load access since January 2021

The also company said top SmartHop truckers earn around $370,000 per year, well above the industry average. “As we close out our most successful year to date and look ahead to 2022, SmartHop continues to expand our business-in-a-box platform to meet [truckers’] shifting demands, give them more control over their business and level the playing field,” said Guillermo Garcia, founder and CEO of SmartHop.


Miami Dade College awarded $1M DDA grant for AI training

Miami Dade College received a $1 million grant from the Miami Downtown Development Authority to create an industry-centered curriculum in Applied Artificial Intelligence. The DDA will also serve as a special anchor to connect students with in-demand, high-paying jobs. Through this initiative, MDC and DDA will customize connections between new and existing companies in downtown Miami and local talent.

DDA’s investment over the next three years will support:

  • Subject matter experts in applied AI to inform and assist in the development of credit and non-credit curriculum and provide hands-on professional development for new and existing faculty.
  • Faculty capacity building activities
  • Acquisition of AI-related equipment, software and materials
  • Hiring of a Tech Coordinator to support student placement

Earlier this year, MDC was also awarded nearly $1 million from the National Science Foundation to fund the development of artificial intelligence courses with an interdisciplinary approach and ultimately offer a College Credit Certificate in AI. The College’s new Artificial Intelligence Center is under construction at the North Campus.


Charts of the Week

The latest charts circulating #MiamiTech Twitter. Both are sourced from LinkedIn data.


Opportunity knocks: Venture Miami Opportunity Program deadline approaching

Female entrepreneurs of color have a new opportunity but act fast.  funded by JP Morgan Chase, FIU is leveraging an existing partnership between the City of Miami and FIU Engagement via Venture Miami to create a new program that provides targeted access and support to female founders of color, a significantly underrepresented group in the innovation economy. The cohort style program will provide leadership training and mentorship focused on four key areas: talent, technology, social network and access to capital.

Applications for the new Venture Miami Opportunity Program, which will select 20 founders (two 10 person cohorts), are now open but apply by Monday, Dec. 13. Questions: Reach out to Miguel Asencio at

Find out more and apply here.


Downtown moves: Unitea moves into landmark building for tech

One Flagler, a historic 15-story building designed by the architect Morris Lapidus and built in 1952.

Is filling up with tech. UniteaShokworks, and OTH are among companies who have recently moved into the building that was developed and co-owed by Amir Ben-Zion. The venture-backed Unitea, with 19 employees, created a mobile app loyalty platform that rewards fans of music and culture for engaging with their favorite artists. The company plans to double its team in the next year. Shokworks is a custom software development venture studio and OTH, a pre-seed influencer loyalty platform and partner company of Unitea and Shokworks.


South Florida founders make Forbes 30 Under 30

Seven entrepreneurs from five South Florida startups made the Forbes “30 Under 30” list. The annual list includes 600 entrepreneurs, celebrities, academics and C-suite executives in various categories.

In the education category, Strategio founder and CEO Conor Delanbanque, age 29, was honored.  Miami-based Strategio  is on a mission to improve representation, equity and inclusion for women and  people of color within enterprise IT with a unique business model that pays the talent seeker to get training. [Read more about the startup and founder here.] Chrissybil Boulin, age 29, of Jump Start Tutuoring, was also honored in the education category. The Broward based company is a SAT prep Center with impressive results.

In the retail category, founder Hussein Rakine, 26, was honored for his work withMiami-based JustCBD, an online store fCBD products pulling in tens of millions in sales.

In the consumer tech category, the Miami winners were Recur co-founders Max and Zach Bruch, 24 and 28 respectively. RECUR is planning to help brands and companies design and develop experiences that allow fans to buy, collect, and resell digital products such as NFTs. In September the startup raised $50 million in VC on a $333 million valuation. {Read more on Refresh here.] Also on the consumer tech list was Sextant Stays COO Brandreth Canaley, 29, and co-founder Iskander Karimov, 28. The Miami based Sextant Stays is a short-term renal platform.


MDC offers free Project Management Certificate with Google

 Miami Dade College’s (MDC) Business Innovation & Technology (BIT) Center is launching the Google Project Management Certificate in collaboration with, the company’s philanthropic arm, to offer training at no cost to individuals 18 and older interested in acquiring Project Management skills. No degree or prior experience is required. Upon completion, participants will receive the Google Project Management Professional Certificate. Space is limited to 25 spots and the deadline is Dec. 23, 2021.

To find out more and apply for the 16-week program, which starts in January, go here.


Miami Hack Week is back!

Still recovering from Techbasel? Don’t get too comfortable. The organizers behind Miami Hack Week have announced dates for the 2022 edition, and it’s right around the corner: Jan. 23-30. Organizers promise more hacker houses than last year and expect over a thousand people to participate. Learn more and apply to participate for Miami Hack Week here.   (Read our recap of 2021 edition here)

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