Entrepreneurs and investors map Miami’s tech future at finance

Above: At Wednesday’s Miami Finance Forum event, Manuel Medina, founder of Medina Capital, said Miami is “at the forefront of becoming the tech hub of the Americas.” Photo by Jenna Buehler

More than 300 executives, investors, and entrepreneurs attended “Mapping Miami’s Financial Future” hosted by the Miami Finance Forum at the downtown Conrad hotel Wednesday. Champions of the city’s tech scene said that, in securing Miami’s role as the tech hub of the Americas, it’s important to celebrate success and prepare to scale.

Manuel Medina, founder of Medina Capital, opened the forum with a keynote speech on the future of Miami’s economy.  Introduced as a  “titan of tech” by KPMG partner Jean-Pierre Trouillot, Medina, a pioneer investor in Miami who fueled the city’s tech ecosystem throughout the dot-com boom and during the Great Recession, reminded attendees of the many historic opportunities in innovation that have revolutionized society and disrupted capital investments around the globe.

“Today, what we are seeing is another revolution,” Medina said. “Only the opportunity is much bigger than what we have ever experienced before because there isn’t a single industry that has not been affected by this new, massive amount of data.”

Medina said that his more recent endeavor, eMerge Americas, a tech conference sponsored by Knight Foundation scheduled for early May, helps bridge the gap that exists between disruptive innovation and legacy institutions. He said that while the gap exists globally eMerge is a platform to unite the two in Miami, a multicultural epicenter for people and institutions from around the world.

“It’s amazing how many countries are coming back to eMerge to join us and who want to be a part of this movement,” Medina said. “We are at the forefront of turning Miami into the technology hub of the Americas.”

The panels that followed featured people interested in Miami’s tech and media future. Several panelists, such as Brad Harrison, founder and managing partner of Scout Ventures, discussed what led them to both invest in and move to South Florida.

“The reason we are doing this is because, like the other panelists here, we believe in Miami’s tech ecosystem,” Scout said. “There are a lot of incentives to offer tech talent here–the beach, the weather, the taxes–and what we’re working to do is build the foundation and lay the groundwork to build on that.”

Harrison said because of the growing tech scene Scout Ventures is announcing its first investment in Rokk3r Labs, a business incubator that works with entrepreneurs to co-build and launch their companies. The state of tech in Miami, he said, is at the beginning of a 20-year cycle. He added that untapped financial opportunities exist for the alternative asset class, a community of investors who choose to invest in Miami’s startup scene because they believe in its potential.

Matt Haggman, Miami program director for Knight Foundation, delivered closing remarks and mapped the effect of  Knight’s last three years of  investment in the community. Haggman said that investments have resulted in stronger entrepreneurial support networks in the city, a rich calendar of events and opportunities for talented people to exchange ideas, news and information platforms, and more skills-based opportunities for entrepreneurs.

“Mapping Miami’s financial future hinges on building a network with entrepreneurs in mind–a network that has multiple centers of gravity,” Haggman said. “It’s hard to believe that two years ago many of the organizations you see up here [during the presentation and on stage] didn’t exist yet or hadn’t gained the momentum that they have today.”

As examples of recent success, Haggman said Miami ranked at the top of the list for cities with entrepreneurial activity last year. He applauded recent efforts that have been made to scale that economic growth, including the recent launch of LaunchCode Miami and the startup success stories within Miami’s internationally acclaimed incubator Endeavor, which Knight launched in Miami. He added that the Idea Center at Miami Dade College has announced a new program that supports local entrepreneurs.

“We want to create a virtuous cycle of growth that operates on the multiplier effect,” Haggman said. “We’re trying to propel the startup ecosystem in Miami so that our community offers a robust supportive network, solves your particular problems, and becomes the place to be to build your idea.”

Jenna Buehler is a Miami-based freelance writer.

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