Florida's tech and entrepreneurship scene is growing at a fast pace. A large part of this is thanks to our close connection with many companies and tech groups in Latin and South America. I attended the 2011 Americas Venture Capital Conference hosted by Florida International University's Eugenio Pino and Family Global Entrepreneurship Center. A part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, the event is two days of excellent panel discussions and startup help and recognition. Thanks to an aggressive PR team at CVOX Group, I was included and given a pass to attend.
Likely the best part of the event are the prizes for new ventures, with this year's winners being among many great others consultadr.com and passthenotes.com. Really classy was the return of the $10,000 prize money by consultadr, asking that it be put towards funding next year's event.
Florida International University is working hard to expand their allure to those wishing to get into IT fields, entrepreneurship in tech, etc. Rather than scaling back or cutting out "non-core programs" like many universities have done in the past couple of years, FIU is aggressively expanding and thinking outside of the standard university box. They are hoping to bring in 60,000 students by 2020 and bring in hundreds of new professors, most of them in the tech and business fields. Their plan is simply to attract the new, smart, technical entrepreneurs of tomorrow from all of the Americas.
Another popular event that excitingly arose out of the AVCC was a loosely based offshoot of the show Shark Tank, hosted separately from the FIU event by some of the sponsors. I must compliment Faquiry Diaz from Tres Mares for spearheading it. This was a chance for entrepreneurs to pitch a round of investors in only a few minutes. Many of those wishing to pitch this harsh panel which included the likes of Dave McClure, and Artem Mikhlin, were from the previous weeks hackathon, that took place during Global Entrepreneurship Week. With only 24 hours to use, teams had to come up with an idea, create a business plan, and then build the company's starting tech. Some of the ideas were truly wacky and not likely to get anywhere in reality, but the winner was a cool little app idea called What Up Bridge that alerts people when drawbridges are up so they can avoid the traffic jams that go with that. Given the tiny 24-hour time frame to conceive and implement the idea, this one was definitely tops. Personally I expected more out of those who participated. Many will argue that 24 hours isn't a lot of time, but events around the world, including TechCrunch Disrupt, have produced some amazing applications in the same timeframe.
Will Florida become the new Silicon Valley? Honestly, I hope not. Florida is unique and should remain that way. Our greatest strength is in our diversity of people, opinions, and ideas. Our close links with Latin America and the Eastern Seaboard mean that we have opportunities that no other place in the world does.
FIU and events like Global Entrepreneurship Week are highlighting that.