Conference hopes to put Miami on America's tech startup map
By Zachary Fagenson
MIAMI (Reuters) - Silicon Valley need have no fear, but look out for the latest upstart to enter the tech arena: Miami.
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 United States.
"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 challenges.
"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 technology graduates.
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. Continued...