Tech Basel Week: One big party, yes, but with an eye on the future and Miami’s part in it

By Nancy Dahlberg

At the Tech Basel Summit this week, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez was asked to describe Miami in one word. He picked “future.”

The future – both Miami’s future as a thriving tech hub and world-class metropolis and the future of technology more broadly – was a front and center theme throughout the “Tech Basel” slice of Miami Art Week. Whether it was conversations on stages about AI, quantum computing, the future of NFTs, the rise of digital art and museums without walls, or the endless convos at happy hours, private dinners and VIP parties about how far Miami Tech has come and where it’s going,  it seemed to always come back to “the best is yet to come.”

Tim Draper, in a fireside chat with founder Natalia Karayaneva of Miami startup Propy, talked about Miami and its future at the Tech Basel Summit on Wednesday. “Congratulations to all of you … this place is on fire,” said the renowned investor, who spoke at the Tech Basel Summit on Wednesday. He has also put some of his money in Miami Tech startups – including Propy and in Wisecut.

RELATED: Explore the intersection of AI, web3, and real estate with Propy CEO

“It’s great to see Miami grabbing crypto by the horns and I hope they will grab AI soon,” Draper said, more broadly speaking about coming waves in Bitcoin, particularly in light of a run on the US dollar he foresees in the next decade, and AI, as well as disruptions by stem cell technologies and space transportation.

Draper urged the founders in the audience to begin adding applied AI and robotics to their businesses now. He believes in 10 years we’ll all have personal robots or drones and personal jetpacks aren’t far behind, he said at the Tech Basel Summit, which was produced by eMerge Americas and Florida Funders.

Of course, the convergence of art and tech is what Miami is all about, and the week included multiple talks and gatherings by Miami tech company Blackdove focused on education, including one featuring leading generative artist Zach Lieberman.

RELATED: Miami’s Blackdove highlights digital art for all during Miami Art Week

“I’m very long on this city and the opportunity,” said Miami entrepreneur and community builder Chris Adamo, and for him the future is also museums without walls. He runs a new art fund for Arkive, a company that aims to be the world’s first distributed museum that is owned by its supporters and creates communities around the art.

“Our entire business model is having the community give us input and direction on what they really want to see … what’s bubbling up in their world,” said Adamo, who spoke at both Tuesday’s Art + Tech Summit organized by Open Web Collective and at the Tech Basel Summit with Arkive Founder Tom McLeod on Wednesday. He also co-hosted Wednesday’s Miami Tech Happy Hour featuring Animus, a collective of visual artists at the intersection of art and tech.  

Through its new Arkive Fund, led by Adamo, Arkive aims to purchase art – physical or digital pieces – and put it on display everywhere. “We’re looking to bring a ton of people into the art world via this onramp of supporting artists and putting artists on display around the world in public places like libraries, schools, hospitals, baseball stadiums, places you encounter in your daily life,” Adamo said.

The future is also our kids, and the tech industry isn’t paying enough attention to these web3 natives, said Will Weinraub, founder and CEO of Cryptoys who spoke at the Art + Tech Summit along with Luca Netz, founder and CEO of Pudgy Penguins, and Alexander Salniko of Rarible.

RELATED: Meet the 25-year-old entrepreneur out to transform brand ownership with NFTs

They are all bullish on the future of NFTs, crypto and blockchain tech, despite tainting by some bad actors, and it’s use cases, not just the talk, that will bring full adoption, Weinraub said. “We have to have a different conversation completely and make this easy to use for mainstream consumers and then show them how great all those other aspects are.” What’s more, he said, the strength of the space is it offers the tools to galvanize a passionate community but that needs to be cultivated.

The technology fundamentally solves problems that are really “basic human rights,” like being able to send money to family across the world that is accessible instantly or to sell digital products for whatever the market will bear, Netz said. “It’s going to happen a little later than some assumed but it will happen.”

With so many use cases still to be discovered, Netz said, the kids will be web3 native, disrupting the collecting markets for generations to come. 

Kids’ digital works were in the spotlight at Art Week, including students of Miami-based nonprofit Code/Art that teaches kids about technology through their love of art. A traveling art exhibit at the Context art fair featured a gallery of coded self-portraits made by girls in grades 3-12, all of whom are past winners of Code/Art’s annual CodeYourSelf competition and likely to be first-time coders. Attendees, like South Florida techie and community builder Michelle Bakels, engaged with the projects by clicking on each one and seeing the student’s code and written reflections.

“It was so exciting to see the Code/Art students’ self portraits displayed in one of the most popular Miami Art Week exhibitions,” said Bakels. “Code/Art does an exceptional job at creating the greatest opportunities imaginable for local girls to learn important career skills while connecting them with extremely valuable experiences and networking.”

RELATED: Code/Art paints a more equitable tech future for Miami

And of course Demo Days were a chance to showcase Miami’s entrepreneurial talent and how they are embracing the new technologies, particularly AI. Both Techstars MIA and Endeavor Miami’s EndeavorLAB had capacity crowds for their Demo Days. Between the two, 21 early-stage companies pitched their hearts out. Let us leave you with a couple of photos of the emerging talent from these cohorts.

Read more about the 12 startups selected for Techstars Miami’s Fall 2023 class here.

Read more about the 10 Black founder-led startups selected for EndeavorLAB’s cohort for Black founders here.

Nancy Dahlberg