Miami has been deemed the new “it girl’ when it comes to tech and innovation. Not only does the mayor support cryptocurrency and the evolution of Web3, but many of Silicon Valley’s finest relocated to the area during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, it has become a new hot spot for tech companies, workshops, and even conferences. 2023 eMerge Americas last week was no different.
For those of you who don’t know, the eMerge Americas global technology conference is a yearly event put on by the venture-backed platform that is focused on transforming Miami into a global tech hub. The conference launched back in 2014 with an additional mission to bolster diversity and inclusion within the tech industry. Since then, they have attracted over 20,000 attendees from 50 countries across the world, as well as attracting over 4,000 organizations including the likes of Dell, Microsoft, and Google, just to name a few. When the signature event isn’t happening, eMerge Americas is hosting executive summits, innovation challenges, startup pitch competitions, master classes, and webinars to further push tech innovation around the country.
I had the privilege of attending and covering the 2023 eMerge Americas conference and let me tell you, it’s definitely something you DON’T want to miss next year. Let’s start off with the keynote speaker, Tom Brady — yes, NFL player Tom Brady. Now you might be wondering what type of conversation a football player would have at a tech conference, but to many’s surprise it was quite inspiring. He discussed his uphill battle as an average football player who was seventh string in college and had to work to gain the trust of his teammates. But it didn’t stop there — Brady also spoke about how he worked one on one with coaches outside of normal practice time, which allowed him to reach the success he has now. And for those of you who are wondering, yes, he is officially retiring and will be happily supporting his friends who are still in the league from the sidelines. The football icon further explained that his retirement will include a lot of water sports, since he moved to the Florida area, and entrepreneurship endeavors. Brady is ready to be his own boss and set foot into his next chapter, which will also include his digital asset — yes, Web3 — company. Though I wasn’t able to get a direct quote from Brady (Man, he moves fast… I don’t know why I thought I could keep up with an NFL legend), I am excited to see the role he will play in the Miami tech community.
The 2023 eMerge Americas conference didn’t just have A-list keynote speakers; there were also smaller workshops and stages aimed at founders and entrepreneurs that allowed for a more intimate conversation. Included topics were mental health and entrepreneurship, cannabis and cryptocurrency, the metaverse, and my favorite, the “That’s What She Said” panel from a female founders point of view. This discussion was led by Kenasha Paul, who works within the Miami community to provide opportunities and capital to POC startups. The conversation was a bit different from the rest as it touched on the good and bad that comes with being a female founder. One of the biggest commonalities between them all was that they didn’t see much female representation in the spaces they occupied, which made it difficult for them to become successful. Many people talk about the positives of tech, such as the big salaries and capital-raising potential, but leave out the stigma and racism that is also faced. That’s one of the reasons I loved the conversation — it allowed for a full point of view regarding what to expect as a female founder coming into the startup world.
But the best part — and maybe most important — was the pitch competition. Every year, 100 startups compete to get awarded over $400,000 in cash. They go through different stages of pitching to top investors and business owners in the country. The best part about this? Even if you don’t win the top prize, you get exposed to investors and potential consumers. Most of the startups left with at least one investor, and that’s a win-win if you ask me. I got to speak with a few interesting startups while at the conference, one of them being WeTrain, an app that pairs high school students with NCAA athletes for group and individual training sessions. This app helps youth who don’t have the luxury of hiring private coaches but who want to learn important skills and even get a mentor in the process. Another startup I spoke with was Joolep. This company connects with local eateries and showcases what makes them special. Now, I had to ask them how they are different from Yelp. They said their app allows you to filter out information more efficiently and faster than Yelp and their competitors. I also found a sustainable fashion app that enables you to swap clothes with people around the country. There was even an AI-driven recruitment company called HR Bot Factory that uses their AI-powered virtual assistant to screen candidates faster.
So, what is my overall review of the eMerge Americas conference? Whether you’re into tech or not, you should definitely attend. Tech is used in every industry, and there was no shortage of people to network with from major companies all the way to niche areas. Another important aspect was the free resources and information available by just being in the room. There were a large number of college students and a few high schoolers who attended the conference. Being exposed to that type of business and technology at such a young age is a priceless experience. I love what eMerge America is doing, not only for the Miami tech community but for tech progression around the world.
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