By Jai-Leen James, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – For two days, investors and innovators met in Miami Beach for the eMerge Americas, the premier technology networking event in North and South America. Over 16,000 attendees gathered at the Miami Beach Convention Center from April 29th to the 30th.
With more than 400 companies from over forty different countries participating, in its sixth year, the annual event is helping position Miami as a potential new Silicon Valley.
More than 100 companies pitched their business models in front of audience members but more importantly, to attentive investors. In typical South Beach fashion, high profile investors known “worldwide” were in attendance for looking for lucrative business ideas.
“Mr. Worldwide” himself, Latin superstar Pitbull (born Armando Christian Perez) is a partner with the eMerge Americas conference. The Grammy award-winning artist and Miami native judged the Startup Showcase Finale.
“I always like to look at what’s going on the biotech side of things,” said Pitbull, self-proclaimed ‘Mr. 305’. “That’s a field that is always going to continue to grow and people are always going to be looking for technology to make humans better or to be able to cure humans.”
Also in attendance was Paulo Passoni, Managing Investment Director of Softbank International. Earlier this year, SoftBank International and Shu Nyatta, an addition investment partner, launched the Softbank Innovation Fund, a $5 billion investment dedicated to new Latin American technology firms.
Currently, the group operates out of a Miami WeWork office. Tokyo-based SoftBank announced that the fund’s new office will be located in Miami.
“We are talking to them,” Miami – Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said at the convention. He attended the conference, as well as Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and Doral Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez.
Gimenez added, “You can get to Latin America faster through Miami than anywhere probably through Latin America. We have the infrastructure, the entrepreneurial infrastructure.”
Other notable investors include Systems, Applications & Products in Data Processing (SAP SE) CEO Bill McDermott, singer – songwriter Imogen Heap and National Geographic Society and Case Foundation CEO Jean Case.
For the first time ever, eMerge Americas also used an investor-matchmaking platform for certified investors to personally meet and arrange one-on-one meetings with start-up organizers.
Miami – Dade is joining a regional entrepreneurial network. The county signed a memorandum of understanding with the Association of Entrepreneurs in Latin America (ASELA), one of the largest entrepreneurial networks in the area.
“We want to make sure no entrepreneur who has a good idea is left behind, and everybody gets a fair shot. At the heart of what we are trying to do is connect them to talent and resources in terms of investors and corporate partners. By plugging them into our platform, we can further our mission to do just that,” said eMerge Americas CEO Felice Gorordo.
In 2018, $1.3 billion was invested into South Florida business startups via 128 deals. According to eMerge Americas, the Miami – Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area is ranked 11th in the nation in venture capital investments by dollar volume.