Susan Amat and her husband, Luis, own Venture Hive, an accelerator and incubator in Miami. A public-private venture with Miami-Dade County and the Miami Downtown Development Authority, Venture Hive at Miami World Center houses an entrepreneurship education program called Venture Hive U and the upcoming Venture Hive Prep for high school students. Amat, who also helped found The Launch Pad entrepreneurship center at the University of Miami, spoke with Florida Trend about efforts to build a technology community in south Florida.
Florida Trend: What do you mean when you talk about building a technology community in the region?
Susan Amat: We do have quite a few technology companies that are starting to grow and do really well here — from CareCloud to Open English to Guide. But part of the challenge is that, when they are expanding, they can’t find the talent they need to build their own infrastructures locally.
FT: Why is it important to build a technology community?
SA: Because it’s really challenging to convince a world-class technologist to pick up and relocate their family to Miami when, if it doesn’t work out with the company they came here to work with, they have nowhere else to go. … People want to be here, but having them come when they’re in their late 20s, 30s, 40s to raise a company and a family — to really have their careers and their long-term life plans in the city — if we don’t build out the infrastructure, they won’t come.
FT: Are our universities offering the right education?
SA: FIU graduates the third-highest number in the country of students with computer science degrees. But because they’re not able to find internships and entry-level job opportunities in local tech companies, they’re not finishing their degrees with real applied experience.
FT: How do technology startups change the landscape?
SA: In mature ecosystems, tech startups are very generous in giving equity positions in lieu of a salary, or in addition to a lower salary — which then means that when a company is sold or goes public, you have lots of people with money who then start their own tech businesses or invest in other startups.
FT: What are some of the efforts that are helping build a tech community in the region?
SA: The one that’s getting the most attention is the eMerge Americas conference, which is the brainchild of Manny Medina, founder of Terremark. eMerge is happening next May in Miami, and they are focusing on pulling in the entire technology community, including Latin America, Silicon Valley, etc., so that Miami can really be seen by all of those people as the tech hub of the Americas. It’s given the national tech community a reason to look at Miami.
The LAB Miami is a co-working space that does incredible amounts of programming. And it’s not just about coding. They also do a lot with design and the arts. They’re trying to do basic education and be that place where … you go and meet a lot of smart people and take the cool workshops that they do.
FT: How is Venture Hive contributing?
SA: The county commission and the school board voted to do the first technology entrepreneurship high school magnet program in the world. Students will spend half of their day at their normal schools and the other half at Venture Hive working alongside and collaborating with entrepreneurs. It is scheduled to start in January, alongside our next accelerator class. The first year, we will pilot it with 20 kids from 11th and 12th grade.