Innovate MIA week puts startups in the spotlight

By Nancy Dahlberg

If you think the next week is all about art, you may be surprised to learn there are also six entrepreneurship events vying for your time.

And that is all by design.

In much the way that Art Basel helped put Miami’s arts community on the international map, organizers of the first Innovate MIA hope their weeklong grouping of events will shine a light on the city’s growing tech startup community and its position as the gateway to Latin America.

Many of the events — ending with Florida International University’s Americas Venture Capital Conference — are after Art Basel. That’s also why the third annual AVCC was moved to Dec. 13-14 from its previous mid-November dates.

"Our message is come for Art Basel, and stay for AVCC," said Juan Pablo Cappello, a lawyer, entrepreneur and investor who is on the steering committee of the venture capital conference and several other Innovate MIA events. And all week, there will be plenty of opportunities for Miami’s entrepreneurs, creatives and investors to mingle with their counterparts from all over the Americas and beyond.

In addition to the AVCC, there’s Incubate Miami’s DemoDay, where its class of startups present their companies, the martial arts-inspired TekFight and HackDay, which dangles a $50,000 cash prize. Endeavor, the global nonprofit that promotes high-impact entrepreneurship in emerging economies, is bringing its two-day International Selection Panel to Miami, and Wayra, an international accelerator, is holding a one-day event to showcase its promising startups from Latin America and Spain. It’s all part of Innovate MIA week: "I don’t think anything like it has ever been organized here in South Florida," Cappello said.

The AVCC will be the big draw, with about 300 people expected to attend the two-day event at the JW Marriott Brickell. The conference, themed "Data, Design & Dollars," will feature thought leaders from all over the world, particularly Latin America, and presentations by 29 selected companies. This year, the format has been overhauled and energized, with lots of short talks and more time for question-and-answer sessions and networking, said Jerry Haar, associate dean of FIU’s College of Business, director of the Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center and AVCC co-chair (pictured at right).

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