8 things to know in #MiamiTech: NFT BZL speakers announced; big made-in-Miami NFT sale; air taxi vertiport proposed for PB County & more


Initial speakers announced for NFT BZL conference; what not to miss

Tim Draper, billionaire venture capitalist and cryptocurrency enthusiast. Justin Blau (3LAU), CEO and Co-Founder of Royal-the music ownership platform funded by Paradigm and Founders Fund. Elena Silenok, founder and CEO of Clothia, the luxury fashion retailer for the cryptocurrency space. Krista Kim, groundbreaking digital artist who recently led the  Steve Aoki-curated auction from Sotheby’s with a $110,000+ winning bid. Alex Mashinsky, CEO & Co-Founder of Celsius, the crypto-banking platform. Miami’s own Will Weinraub, CEO & Co-Founder of OnChain Studios, and Jonathan Ovadio, CEO and co-founder of AEX LABS. These are just a few of the speakers that Moishe Mana’s Mana Tech and Miami-Dade County announced for NFT BZL, a new NFT-focused conference on Nov. 30 during Art Week at FTX Arena. More will be announced in coming weeks.

NFT BZL’s program aims to educate and inspire its audience, presenting key collaborators and thought leaders to speak on use cases, strategy and execution for this unique digital asset. Come for the speakers, but stay for the digital galleries, auctions, interactive holograms and more. Tickets start at $199.

“This is an exciting moment for the future of tech and the arts in our County,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, in a statement. “We in Miami-Dade pride ourselves on standing at the intersection of culture and innovation, and the NFT BZL conference is a great example of how we can bring tech and the arts together to showcase the vibrancy of our community and lead our economy into the future.”

We reached out to Michelle Abbs, Mana Tech’s Managing Director, for a few of her not-to-miss experiences planned for NFT BZL:

  • Watch the sunrise over the East Plaza at FTX arena while enjoying the digital activations, including VR experiences, interactive holograms, and live art creation from physical to digital and musical performances.
  • Hear Justin Blau, an international DJ and musician turned tech founder who is revolutionizing NFT contracts and royalties for creators with company called Royal.
  • Meet Emily Yang, an artist better known as pplpleasr and the inspiration for the @pleasrDAO. She ranked No. 5 on Fortune’s list of  NFTy 50.

“This conference is for everyone. It’s not a siloed space for techies who have it all figured out. The NFT revolution is happening in real time and in essence we are all beginners. Now is the time to start learning and this day-long event is the perfect place to do it!” said Abbs.

Find out more at NFTBZL.com.


Palm Beach International Airport may house air taxi vertiport for regional hops

One of South Florida’s first “vertiport” for air taxis could be developed at Palm Beach International Airport.

Lilium, a Germany-based aviation company manufacturing eVTOLs, or electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, along with Ferrovial, a Spanish company that develops and maintains airports like Heathrow in London — pitched their proposal to county commissioners on Tuesday, as part of its proposed Florida network for eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) aircraft. Commissioners reportedly were receptive and positive about the proposal.

Lilium’s eVTOL can accommodate up to four passengers and a pilot, with a range of more than 155 miles on a single charge. Lilium has announced plans for a Florida eVTOL network headquartered in the Orlando areas. Lilium says its vehicles are for hops between cities, like Miami to Palm Beach or Palm Beach to Orlando.

The companies want to propose vertiport locations in Melbourne, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Fort Myers, Miami and The Keys, the Palm Beach Post reported. On the Lilium eVTOL, passengers can get from West Palm to Tampa in one hour, to Orlando in 50 minutes and to Miami in 20 minutes. Lilium said it hopes to offer the service for about $1 a mile, so that 20-minute ride from Miami to Palm Beach could roughly $75 per passenger. Read more here.

Lilium is not the only air taxi company with Miami in its sights. Archer and Joby also plan to launch initial service in Miami. Their services specialize in shorter hops, such as Brickell to South Beach.

A rendering of a Florida vertiport by Lilium and Ferrovial.


 Sale of Miami-based artist’s NFT project surpasses $15.5M

Boonji Project, the first NFT project by renowned Miami artist Brendan Murphy, has surpassed $15.5 million in its Dutch Auction Primary Sale, making it the largest NFT primary sale in history, Boonji’s announcement said. Created in partnership with digital art pioneer Jupiter Group, Boonji Project brought Murphy’s iconic ‘Boonji Spaceman’ series to life in the metaverse and marks the first time a ‘traditional’ artist’ has reimagined a lifetime portfolio of physical work digitally.

Taking an unconventional approach to a primary sale of this scale, Boonji Project launched with a Dutch Auction format to enable its cult-following a fairer chance at minting a Boonji Spaceman Avatar. The sale sold out in less than three hours and minted 7,444 Avatars at a starting price of 3.3ET and offered buyers a first-of-kind-opportunity to win over $5 million in physical artwork created exclusively for the sale.  Pioneering a new ‘phygital’ art world, the unprecedented giveaway included 500 limited-edition sculptures, 30 single-edition paintings and one iconic seven-foot ‘Monumental Boonji Spaceman.’

I am humbled to be part of this wild and unexpected ride into the metaverse,” said Murphy, a contemporary artist whose work is represented in over 600 private collection. “One of the most exciting parts of this journey has been the incredible support for the Boonji Project and seeing the Boonji community grow. The creative energy has been incredibly inspiring and rewarding.”

Boonji Project Artist Brendan Murphy’s art


All aboard? Brightline service returns Nov. 8

The first ride is free.

Brightline officially announced it will relaunch its express train service between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach beginning on Nov. 8. Passengers can purchase tickets and book future travel plans through Brightline’s new website and mobile app. For those who want to take their first ride in November, the train service is offering the first ride free through their new Brightline app. Introductory ticket prices will start at $10 for SMART rides and $27 for PREMIUM rides for a limited time only.

The relaunch will include enhancements such as door-to-door transportation through several mobility modes to help move passengers to and from the station. There will be more announced about that service later this week.

At the MiamiCentral station, expect to see Citizens MiamiCentral, a new, 26,000-square foot culinary center by C3, a global food tech platform, which will house restaurant offerings inspired by renowned chefs such as “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto, Chef Katsuya Uechi, Michelin Starred chef Dani García, and Chef Dario Cecchini.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm for Brightline’s return and we are excited to welcome back past riders and all our new riders on Nov. 8,” says Patrick Goddard, president of Brightline, in a statement. “Our relaunch opens a new chapter for Brightline that includes an enhanced guest experience, from the moment they book their travel plans on our app, to the moment they reach their final destination. Every stage of the Brightline journey has been built through the lens of today’s modern traveler and creates a travel experience unlike any other.”

Find out more here.


ShipMonk announces first international expansion

ShipMonk, an e-commerce and fulfillment startup and one of South Florida’s fastest growing companies, announced its international expansion with the acquisition of El Mar Mexico, its first warehouse outside of the U.S.  That will enable ShipMonk to take advantage of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Section 321 Program, which eliminates tariffs and import taxes for international shipments valued at less than $800, potentially resulting in significant savings for e-commerce merchants who import items subjected to tariffs, such as clothing and luggage.

Over the past 12 months ShipMonk, founded in 2014, has raised $355 million to accelerate its strategic growth and international expansion. ShipMonk Mexico is the first new location in the company’s plan for expanded carrier geographies and will be critical in efforts to enhance its technology platform to serve existing and new customers internationally, particularly during this time in which supply chains and warehouses, in particular, are plagued by shortages of available labor.

“Every e-commerce retailer has been negatively impacted by supply chain hold-ups in some manner and seeks to operate more efficiently. We base our business decisions on how we can enhance our platform so it provides the foundation of clients’ continued success and growth,” said Jan Bednar, ShipMonk’s founder and CEO. “Expanding our footprint globally not only widens the scale of our operations, but diversifies the customer base we can attract with ShipMonk’s services – the more resources and locations we can offer enables our customers to scale to new geographies seamlessly.”


New report on women in tech entrepreneurship

Embarc Collective, the Tampa-based startup accelerator program, launched the Glaring Gap Report in 2020 to understand the discrepancy between women and men in their participation in founding tech startups, raising investment to scale tech startups, and investing in tech startups across Florida. In the 2021 report, released last week based mainly on 2020 data, Florida logged a year-over-year decrease in the number of women founders launching startups in Florida, the same time period saw a significant increase in the number of women participating in startup investing across the state.

Among the findings in the 2021 report

  • 18% of new startups in Florida have a woman founder, down from 23% in 2019.
  • Women founders have identified access to talent as their key need when building their businesses followed by access to capital
  • The proportion of venture capital funding going to women-founded companies is up nominally year-over-year from 7% to 8%. However, this proportion still trails 3 points behind the national average.
  • There has been a marked growth in the number of women involved with venture investing in Florida – there was a 36% increase in the number of women at Florida-based investment firms in 2021. However, Florida still lags the national average with the percentage of women partners at venture funds (21% Florida v. 36% National).

Read the full report here.


RECUR expands collegiate NFT marketplace

RECUR, a  Miami-based venture-funded tech startup that designs and develops on-chain branded experiences allowing fans to buy, collect, and resell digital products and collectibles, or NFTs, announced this week seven additional collegiate university partnerships for NTFU, its new collegiate sports NFT marketplace.

Florida State University, Mississippi State University, Michigan State University, Texas Tech University, Virginia Tech, West Virginia University, and The University of Utah have officially announced partnerships with RECUR to bring their college sports moments as digital collectibles to fans everywhere. They join the Pac-12 Conference, as well as Syracuse and Louisiana State University. The NFTU marketplace will launch in 2022.

“As we bring these schools’ biggest moments to life as NFTs for the first time, we couldn’t be prouder to help their fans, students and alumni engage with their favorite schools in an entirely new way,” said Trevor George, Co-CEO of RECUR, which raised $50 million in venture funding in September.


Opportunity knocks

The Tech Hub Hackathon is a virtual event Nov. 5-7 where participants form teams, vet ideas, create a project, then present their work to an expert panel of judges. Teams will consist of developers, designers, project managers, and entrepreneurs, with successful teams having a mix of these areas of expertise and winners walking away with a combination of cash and in-­kind prizes. This year’s theme is “Hack for Inclusion” with each project addressing issues of bias, diversity, accessibility and overall inclusion. Teams will collaborate to build a solution to combat DE&I struggles within an organization and/or municipality. Learn more here.

Have news? Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter @ndahlberg

Nancy Dahlberg