MIAMI May 6 Silicon Valley need have no fear,
but look out for the latest upstart to enter the tech arena:
A south Florida millionaire investor is seeking to turn the
city into a science and technology startup hub with a focus on
the Americas, leveraging the region's better-known assets -
beach condos, low taxes and capital flight from all over Latin
America - to attract a new generation of Hispanic entrepreneurs.
More than 5,000 people have been lured to a pitch this week
by Manny Medina, attending a five-day tech conference he founded
titled eMerge Americas. More than 150 speakers discussing
everything from serial entrepreneurship in Latin America to
groundbreaking medical technologies, organizers said.
Medina, who left Cuba in 1965, sold Miami-based info-tech
company Terremark to Verizon in 2011 for $1.4
billion. He hopes the conference will boost the profile of the
city's nascent startup scene and position it as a place for
Latin American entrepreneurs looking to get a foothold in the
"If you're a Latin American company and you go to Boston or
New York, there's a prejudice," said Medina, who now heads his
own private equity firm, Medina Capital. "In Miami you feel more
at home, you have your same culture."
A long way from rivaling California's high-tech corridor,
the "Silicon Beach" concept, as some have dubbed it, faces big
"We continue to have the problem that our best and brightest
leave and don't come back," said Jerry Haar, associate dean at
Florida International University's business school, noting the
brain drain caused by a lack of local opportunities for
Despite the enthusiasm, experts say Miami still lacks
essential tech ingredients, such as top-tier universities,
Fortune 500 technology companies, and a robust group of
investors, all of which helped propel California into the
spotlight for startups over the past two decades.
"We're moving in the right direction, but we shouldn't
flatter ourselves into thinking we're there," Haar said.
Some signs suggest things are already changing. Microsoft
last week announced it would open its first U.S.
innovation center in Miami in partnership with a startup
incubator, Venture Hive. The company has more than 100 similar
centers around the world that offer everything from mentorship
to new companies to public classes for coding and computer
"The work that's relevant in Miami can have an impact around
the world, and Miami is really a launching point for Latin
America," said Sanket Akerkar, vice president for developer
experience and evangelism for Microsoft.
The city is hoping to tie its future to an ongoing
technology boom in Latin America, where throngs of new Internet
users are coming online via smartphones.
"There are 600 million people (in Latin America) all coming
online in the next three to five years," said Arturo Galvan,
chief executive officer of Mexico City-based mobile commerce
Microsoft's center opens alongside other prominent startup
programs including Endeavor, a global nonprofit that each year
selects a handful of companies to mentor and fund.
Other online startups targeting Latin America have also
found success in Miami, including Open English, a browser-based
English-learning system started in founder Andres Moreno's
Caracas apartment in 2008.
Since then it has raised more than $130 million from venture
capitalists around the United States and moved its offices to
City leaders also see a tech opportunity in the area's large
health industry. In 2012 the University of Miami launched a Life
Science and Technology Park, which includes a stem cell
institute, offering space to medical entrepreneurs and research
Miami is also home to CareCloud, which launched in 2009
offering cloud-based medical practice management software to
4,000 medical providers in 48 states and $2.5 billion in
accounts receivable under its software's management.
(Editing by David Adams and Prudence Crowther)