Miami Tech Entrepreneurs Convene to Discuss the “Real versus Hype” In Miami’s Tech Startup Ecosystem

Miami tech entrepreneurs and leaders convened on Aril 27th at Bar Works-Wynwood in yet another exclusive Jurnid session entitled “Miami’s Tech Hub, Real vs. Hype.” Moderated by Jurnid Founder Andrew Quarrie, the speaker panel included leaders from some of the most esteemed Miami tech startup companies and supporters:

Maria Derchi Russo, Executive Director of Refresh Miami
Juan Carlos, Co-Founder of HYP3R
Wifredo Fernandez, Associate Director of StartupFIU
Antonio Manueco, Lead Software Engineer at blubeta

The event began with a startup spotlight presented by Daniel Schoonover, a Florida native and CEO of the Florida tech startup iWinks. iWinks developed and markets a groundbreaking “brain sensing headband” called the Aurora Dreamband, a device designed to help individuals improve their sleep.

The event moved on to its panel discussion, which began with a “real” or unbiased overview of the Miami tech startup industry’s current state affairs. Andrew Quarrie prefaced the panel discussion by telling the audience, “It’s OK to be “real” about where we are… if there’s anything I don’t ask, I want you to ask yourselves.” According to current AngelList numbers, there are over 1600 tech startups/companies in Miami. Magic Leap, a tech startup based in Plantation, FL, received the bulk of South Florida’s tech investments in 2016, raising a total of $1.39 billion to date in venture capital funds. However, in contrast to Magic Leap’s success, the Miami tech startup industry saw overall activity from only 2 venture capitalists in 2016. These disparaging facts led Andrew Quarrie to ask the panelists: “What are the major challenges against Miami’s tech ecosystem growth?”

Overall, the panelists and audience agreed that Miami faces three key challenges: 1) the Miami tech industry’s siloed existence and “closed-door” social culture, which ultimately prohibits team collaboration and the formation of successful partnerships; 2) limited educational opportunities to attain core technical skills, which are essential to successfully building a tech startup company and business model; and importantly, 3) access to venture capital funding, which would undoubtedly catalyze talented and competitive tech startup companies, like Magic Leap.

“There’s a lot of great talent here, especially at the senior level… but [the industry] is so siloed… you can’t get these guys under the same roof and say ‘let’s work on open source software or something that can really change the industry,’” quotes Antonio Manueco.

Maria Derchi Russo provided further insight from her prior work with Miami’s Downtown Development Authority, where she helped analyze results from a city-wide survey that sought to understand the Miami tech startup industry’s growth challenges. The survey identified many key challenges, two of which were access to both tech talent and seed funding. Maria thus encouraged the panel and audience to consider the following question: “We don’t have the schools like some of the other cities have, so how can we nurture and retain talent and also attract talent from other cities?” This question resonated

with the audience, as there was consensus around the constant pressure to migrate to other states like California and Massachusetts that harbor some of the most successful tech companies and active investors.

The audience continued to engage with the panelists in an intense Q&A session. Look out for an exclusive and full recap video of the event here. Also, learn how to access tech-driven mentors and education such as through Wyncode, a web development/coding bootcamp with 400 graduates to date, and Mentor Day, a program that provides one on one mentorship with top leaders in respective tech industries. Visit here to learn more about Jurnid and upcoming Jurnid sessions like this one.

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Rachele Hendricks-Sturrup
Writer and business development professional in the science/tech innovation space, and member of the Association for Women in Science, National Association of Science Writers, and Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.