Miami Tech Month, where developers get their own conference, VCs take the stage, and anything is POSSIBLE

By Refresh Miami

Who needs sleep? The Refresh team was out and about to sample some of Miami Tech Month. Read our first installment here.

The POSSIBLE Conference that brought Elon Musk to the stage last year was a massive takeover of the Fontainebleau hotel again this year. Although the event is geared toward the marketing industry, the underlying theme of the headlining sessions was the impact of tech, particularly AI, on marketing strategy and its potential to unlock limitless creativity.

Sean Downey of Google’s Americas & Global Partners said that AI is transforming the role of the Chief Marketing Officer into a ‘Change Management Officer’ due to the effect AI has on business strategy on a daily basis. He suggested that businesses should not focus on creating a standalone AI strategy, but rather, using AI to run your existing business strategy. Downey emphasized the importance of prioritizing creativity amidst the AI efficiency boom, noting that 15% of Google searches are new each day, and AI can help us cater to that ongoing curiosity.

Laura Jones, CMO of Instacart, showcased their new Caper cart, an AI-powered shopping assistant cart that streamlines the shopping experience by automatically calculating items placed in the cart, offering pairing suggestions, and providing automatic discounts.

Gary Vaynerchuk’s session focused on the importance of meeting consumers where they are and not underestimating the power of organic social media. He urged marketing companies to recognize that they aren’t in control, pointing out that in his view, organic social media remains the top media buy. He argued that social media still gives the most creative people and content the best chance to gain traction.

According to Vaynerchuk, failing to understand how organic social media shapes opinions and influences people’s thinking is a grave mistake for businesses. – Nicole Vasquez

React, not reactive! React Miami attracts top developers to technical conference

Parallel to the general entry eMerge Americas conference was a more specialized technical conference, React Miami. JavaScript is the most used language for building on the internet, and React is the most used JavaScript. React engaged a global audience of 425 developers, engineers, and technical founders. 

“Attendees came from more than 20 countries, and as close as walking distance to the conference center,” said Michelle Bakels, the event’s co-organizer and a program director at G2i. “This is a worldwide community that is very well connected, so it’s great to bring all this technical talent right here to Miami.”

The two-day conference was keynoted by Kent C. Dodds, a prominent JavaScript engineer and teacher, whose seminar was provocatively entitled “Stop Lying to your Users.” Other notable events included “Robot Rock: How to use AI to make beats,” led by React developer and musician Ken Wheeler; plus a live recording of, a top podcast for web developers. –Riley Kaminer

Bring on the money: Miami Venture Day

Where there’s strong startups, the VCs will follow, and in Miami during Miami Tech Month they were out in force.

Now in Miami, Justis Mendez and Pablo Casilimas started OneSixOne Ventures in Gainesville, after they saw a big need for an early-stage venture fund. They started with events and an accelerator that helped 40 very early stage startups raise over $13 million. They launched fund one about two years ago and so far have deployed about $2.5 million into 13 deals, including Miami-based Betr (where this event was held) and most recently AI-chips startup RAIN, which got its start in Gainesville (Go Gators!).

The need for early-stage capital, the importance of ROI in startups, and the art of fundraising were some of the topics discussed at Miami Venture Day that attracted a couple hundred people. The April 17 event was hosted by OneSixOne along with four ot,her venture firms: Miami-based Fuel Venture Capital (Jeff Ransdell), La’ttitude Ventures, with a focus on Latino and Latina founders (Laura Lucas), and Ridge Ventures (Yousuf Khan), both bansed in San Francisco, and Orlando-based DeepWork Capital (Kathy Chiu). In a panel of the VCs, topics included scaling fintech startups, achieving success through hard work, calculated risks and self-awareness, investment opportunities in Latin America, and the importance of having more women cutting VC checks.

An event highlight was a conversation with Josh Hug, co-founder of fintech startup Seattle-based Remitly and a now a resident of Miami. He spoke about being a Techstars mentor for Remitly before joining as COO. The cross-border startup launched its solution in the Philippines, and tested marketing and various features, iterating continuously before scaling. Now they are in over 170 counties, said Hug, who lived in Tel Aviv before moving to Miami. Among the keys to success, he said, are to surround yourself with good mentors and a talented group of founders and spend a lot of time discussing the culture you want to create within the company. For fintechs and we have a lot of them in Miami – he advised them not to skip steps to avoid regulation. That may work in the short term but not when you scale. And as you scale, “the hardest thing to measure in a startup is return on investment, but it is also the most important thing.”

Hug said he was excited by how international Miami is, even beyond the region’s deep ties with Latin America; they include Europe and Israel. “That is a huge opportunity for  this ecosystem to leverage because it’s about creating things that can solves big problems around the world.” – Nancy Dahlberg

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on X @ndahlberg and email her at [email protected]. Sign up for the free weekly Refresh Miami newsletter here.


Nancy Dahlberg