Black-owned face recognition company sets high goals
Miami has been labeled the Gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean. At the start of the year, Miami received …
Miami has been labeled the Gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean. At the start of the year, Miami received a new label. Business news cable channel CNBC cited Miami as a tech hub. Heads of Black companies had already noticed the nascent tech industry and have relocated or are in plans to relocate their companies here. But, as with anything new, there are challenges to the new sector including finding qualified employees and garnering economic development support, since some tech companies are basically startups with big ideas and little capital.
Miami’s tech sector will get more attention next week when The Big Summit arrives on Tuesday. Put on by former rocket scientist Mary Spio, the summit is about making connections with global visionaries in wearable technology – think Google glass and virtual reality. Spio, who is president of Next Galaxy, was able to draw Randi Zuckerberg, sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, to headline the summit.
Spio said bringing people like Zuckerberg to Miami is part of what will help Miami stay a tech hot spot. Spio, who is originally from Syracuse, New York, has held the summit in Orlando for three years. She came to Miami to visit friends and enjoy the beaches and heard about last year’s eMerge Americas tech conference and places such as Lab Miami and got the idea to not only hold a summit in Miami but to also move her whole operation here.
Spio said she hopes to land a spot in Miami’s Film and Entertainment complex set to open in October in Overtown but in the meantime she is looking for a place in downtown to continue her work in virtual reality and 3-D headphones.
Spio said Florida in general is a good place to bring a tech business, especially since there are displayed workers from NASA’s Space Shuttle Program at Cape Canaveral, which shut down in 2011.
“These people can be easily retrained to contribute to the tech sector,” Spio said.
Miami-Dade in particular has been working hard the last three years or so to end up on the list, with heavy financial support from the Knight Foundation. The foundation has been building the base for the tech sector for the last three years, leading the way for others to invest in the growing community. Knight has provided funding for The Lab Miami, a place that bills itself as a campus for creative entrepreneurs and Launch Code, which will teach people how to code, to name a couple of organizations. The CNBC article said Knight has funded at least 90 startups in the last two years.
“We have been very smart in our funding,” said Matt Haggman, program director at Knight. “We serve as a catalyst for others.”
The Beach Council is another resource for companies like Next Galaxy. It is currently assisting Next Galaxy with marketing for The Big Summit and finding a location in Miami.
Lyndi Bowman, director of Economic Development at the Beacon Council, focuses on the supporting and growing the Information Technology sector, one of the seven targeted industries of the council. Her colleague Sheri Colas-Gervais, vice president, Economic Development & Urban Initiatives, focuses on supporting small businesses relocating to Miami. Both Bowman and Gervais have been working with Spio.
Bowman cited a few tech companies that The Beach Council has supported in Miami. Karios, a facial recognition software company located in Wynwood and co-founded by Brian Brackeen, is a company that Bowman is watching grow. The company relocated three years ago from Philadelphia and employs about 14 people making average wages of $80,000.
Bowman said she tries to appeal to startups looking at Miami from San Francisco and Silicon Valley that they will be big fish in a small pond.
“Miami is less expensive in terms of cost and we have a better quality of life,” Bowman said.
She credits the Knight Foundation for setting up the infrastructure for training for tech companies. “The Knight Foundation has propelled us into the future.”