First day of global conference shines a spotlight on the continued growth of #MiamiTech
By Riley Kaminer and Nancy Dahlberg
The best of Miami tech was on display on Thursday at the first day of the eMerge Americas conference in Miami Beach. The event took place upon the backdrop of a local tech ecosystem that is on the rise.
“The data speaks for itself,” proclaimed eMerge Americas CEO Felice Gorordo. “While the rest of the world seems to be contracting, Miami’s tech ecosystem only continues to expand. We’re the fastest growing venture capital market in the nation, growing by 248% since the beginning of the pandemic. And we’re just getting started.”
This energy could be felt in the auditorium, which was standing-room-only during the opening remarks. It also extended into the other areas of the conference, which included a wide range of lectures and fireside chats, booths sponsored by companies, governments, academic institutions and organizations, and three auxiliary conferences: a Latin American venture conference, a tech policy-focused conference, and a React conference that attracted technical talent from 21 countries and 33 US states.
Refresh Miami was there in full force to share the main highlights from this year’s premiere Miami tech conference.
Tom Brady opines on the overlap between tech and sports
New Miami resident Tom Brady graced the stage to share his learnings from his 23 seasons in the NFL. Brady drew parallels between the sports world and entrepreneurship. For instance: how to build confidence as a leader.
“Confidence is fragile in all of us,” he shared. “When we succeed, we build a little confidence. When we don’t succeed, maybe we lose a little confidence.”
“But whether you succeed or don’t succeed, the whole point is to learn from it. The hardest times in our life are always the moments where we’ve learned the most from because we’re very vulnerable and open and receptive to the acknowledgement that we don’t know everything.”
In talking about the pressure put on young people – especially entrepreneurs – Brady suggested to avoid playing the comparison game. “Don’t try to be the best at something; be the best that you can be at something.”
And the real key to success in Brady’s estimation: “enjoy the process.”
Miami-Dade Mayor and Kaseya present a shared vision for public-private collaboration
Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County sat down with Kaseya CEO Fred Voccola to chart the growth of the Miami tech movement.
“Miami is the single best place in the United States, Canada, Western Europe, and Eastern Europe to do business – hands down,” said Voccola. “The local government here is a pragmatic government,” he explained, noting that this made it easy for Kaseya to double down on the Magic City and put 3,400 new jobs here.
For her part, Levine Cava shared her vision of a world in which local tech companies collaborate with government organizations to build a better Miami for all. “Government cannot solve our problems on our own. It has to be a partnership – whether its housing, flooding, et cetera. We need to do it together.”
AI top of mind across the conference
From startups in the showcase to major companies on stage, artificial intelligence was top of mind.
Black Women in Artificial Intelligence founder Angle Bush urged the audience to consider who is “they” – or the people behind the AI we are growing increasingly accustomed to using. “Who will we blame when AI goes wrong?”
A subsequent conversation featuring Bush alongside the University of Miami’s Kenneth Goodman and Social Chat founder Frost Li seemed to raise more questions than provide answers.
“The history of our civilization is shaped by the evolution of technology,” said Goodman, noting that a thirst for innovation is part of human nature. Therefore, he posits, we should find ways to develop AI that will have a net positive on our lives.
For Bush, diversity is key – both for equality and business outcomes. “If you want your bottom line to get better, diversify the people that are in the room and give them power, authority, and influence.”
Spotlight on startups
Startups were quite literally at the center of today’s conference. So-called ‘startup alley,’ or a conglomeration of 100 startup booths, were prominently on display as attendees walked into the main conference area. While some startups were international, Miami tech was well represented.
Nailstry reported that it has landed its first B2B client, a key milestone for the company that provides an easy way for users to try on nails virtually. Davie-based founder Aurelia Edwards told us that their app now has upwards of 6,000 users.
AI-powered video editing platform Wisecut shared that the rapidly-increasing interest in AI has been a boon for the company’s growth. CEO Ivo Machado said that the company grew its user base by 500% in January alone. Subsequently, the startup has on average been doubling its user base every month.
During last year’s Miami Tech Week, Miami startup Storybook reeled in upwards of $700,000 in funding – including $50,000 from winning eMerge Americas’ and City National Bank’s Startup Studio pitch competition. Today, founder Francisco Cornejo shared that the company has grown 320% in the last seven months.
Miami-based low-code platform Slingr took part in this year’s startup showcase. The company, which now has around 120 employees, has recently created new products geared towards commercial labs and companies in need of staff augmentation.
And Broward-born Clockout was also in attendance at this year’s eMerge Americas conference. The startup, which helps employees get instant access to their daily earnings, is about to start onboarding a waiting list of 10,000 people. On average, users make seven transactions a week on the platform at an average value of $65 each.
Keep following Refresh Miami for more coverage of this year’s eMerge Americas conference. On Friday, former Google CEO will talk about AI and more in a mainstage conversation with Miami Mayor Frances Suarez and the top five startups will compete for a $420,000 investment.
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