By Rob Wile
The Miami Herald
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) New “eMerge Americas” CEO Felice Gorordo says “eMerge is more than an event — it is a platform transforming Miami into the tech hub of the Americas.”
The Miami Herald
When real estate developer-turned-tech entrepreneur Manny Medina launched the eMerge Americas conference in 2014, the aim was to establish Miami as the tech hub of Latin America.
Five years later, eMerge is well on its way. This year, the conference has attracted leaders from across the hemisphere and beyond, including government officials from Chile and Denmark; SAP CEO Bill McDermott; and executives from SoftBank, Revolution, Amazon, Ultimate Software, Google and EY (formerly Ernst & Young).
Thousands of attendees — last year 15,000 — will turn out to hear sessions about women entrepreneurs, artificial intelligence, genomics and education, and check out startups vying for honors in eMerge’s Shark Tank-style pitch competition.
Once again, CNBC and Telemundo will broadcast live throughout the show, slated for April 29-30 at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
This year, eMerge has a new face driving the future. The new CEO is Felice Gorordo, hired last year to replace Xavier Gonzalez, who joined Medina as a vice president at data security group Cyxtera. Melissa Medina was named president.
A Miami native and Silver Knight award finalist, Gorordo brought the right mix of public and private sector experience to helm a conference that seeks to bring together tech stakeholders from all sectors.
Most recently, he was entrepreneur-in-residence at StartUp Health, an entrepreneurial organization aimed at health “moonshots,” like curing cancer. Prior to that, he was CEO of L1BRE, a Mexico-based taxi-software platform. Gorordo also served in both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.
The vision: expand eMerge’s role as year-round launching pad for new regional startups and meeting place for tech companies from across Latin America.
“eMerge is more than an event — it is a platform transforming Miami into the tech hub of the Americas,” Felice Gorordo says. “We’re convening world-class innovators and value-creators and inviting them to invest their time, talent and treasure into making the Miami tech ecosystem their own.”
eMerge, he says, now has partnerships “with the entire tech and entrepreneurial ecosystem, from government to higher-ed, startups to investors, corporate enterprises to media.”
And it is starting to hold “roadshow” events in countries across the region, where startups can showcase their latest products and tech leaders can convene. It’s most recent gathering took place in December in Colombia, Mexico and Brazil; the next one will expand to Argentina and Chile sometime later this year.
Gorordo is not neglecting Miami and South Florida. eMerge recently co-published a report documenting the region’s tech investment achievements of the past year. It showed deal flows topping Atlanta’s, and 11th nationwide.
“Ultimately, we want Miami to become a beacon of hope and opportunity — for all,” he says. “We want every entrepreneur with a good idea, who is willing to work hard and do what it takes, to have a fair shot at attracting the capital and talent they need to make it a reality.”
In a recent digital Q&A, Gorordo talked about his plans for eMerge, measures for its success and Miami’s future. Responses were edited for length.
Q: What is your vision for eMerge? You say it’s more than just an event but a platform–can you explain?
A: eMerge Americas is dedicated to building out South Florida’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. We’re helping connect the dots — between entrepreneurs, investors and talent. And we’re attracting the best and the brightest from around the world to come to Miami to launch, build and successfully scale their ideas.
At last year’s conference, eMerge Americas and the University of Miami launched the Hemispheric University Consortium, a platform for collaboration in technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.
This past fall, eMerge and UM launched a roadshow through Latin America, hosting startup pitch competitions and meeting with important ecosystem partners across the region. Those included with the Endeavor Mexico, Endeavor Colombia and Endeavor Brazil — as well as the Universidad de los Andes (Colombia), Technológico de Monterrey (Mexico), Universidad de las Américas (Mexico) and the Universidade de São Paulo (Brazil). The winners from each university pitch competition were fast-tracked into the eMerge Americas Startup Showcase. Next year, we plan on expanding our roadshow to include Argentina and Chile.
To this end, eMerge will also be partnering with The Association of Entrepreneurs of Latin America (ASELA), a professional network of over 90,000 entrepreneurs in Latin America. ASELA will convene at eMerge Americas 2019 to formally sign a memorandum of understanding that will induct Miami into the ASELA network.
The ASELA network is comprised of entrepreneurs from Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, and Paraguay. It will now expand to include Miami and further leverage our platform to connect entrepreneurs across the Americas.
At this year’s conference, eMerge Americas is also launching our investor-matchmaking platform, powered by Eventtia, for accredited investors to directly engage and connect with more than 100 startups participating in the annual eMerge Startup Showcase.
Q: How do you measure success at eMerge? What are the goals for the organization, and how do you plan to meet them?
A: Our success is Miami’s success. Over the course of the last five years, we have been able to generate critical mass — growing exponentially in terms of our ecosystem partners, activities and attendees. But more important than that, we have been able to attract the leading investors, entrepreneurs and innovators to take a closer look at Miami — and even get many of them to relocate or invest here.
We want to help foster a diverse and inclusive culture and ecosystem. We are a city built by immigrants — and to a great extent, led by women. We can be a model for what a modern global hub of innovation and entrepreneurship looks like. Where diversity and inclusivity are at the heart of who we are and what we do.
In the next five years, we will continue to build on the foundation we’ve helped to lay over the course of the last five years in order to make this vision for Miami a reality.
Q: Where is Miami in its evolution as an ecosystem? How can it move forward?
A: We believe that Miami is on the cusp of something transformative — and we know the data and trends back it up.
It’s undeniable that South Florida is a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity and opportunity. In addition to being ranked No. 1 in startup activity in the U.S. in 2017, 2018 was also an amazing year. That was especially true for venture capital in South Florida, with Miami startups attracting almost $1.4 billion in VC funding. That brought it to No. 11 in the nation in terms of investments dollars by volume.
The eMerge Insights Report will be an annual publication that will track venture capital investments and trends in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale Metro area and across the state of Florida, with plans to expand and include deal flow throughout Latin America.
While we are a national leader in startup activity and funding, one area where I think we can help move our community forward is in connecting our incredible homegrown talent with high-growth companies and entrepreneurs.
There’s a tendency for our top engineers to go out west or up north in search of opportunities. And there’s a sense amongst local entrepreneurs that they can’t find the talent they need locally. I think part of the challenge is that we have still not been able to make it easy enough for our entrepreneurs and engineering talent to connect with one another. This is an area where we think we can make a difference.
At this year’s conference, we are furthering our efforts in this space by hosting the first-ever Florida intercollegiate engineering competition in conjunction with UM, FIU and the top 10 engineering schools in the state. Well-beyond the conference, we will be connecting these emerging, high-performing engineers directly with our corporate partners and leading startups. But this is only the beginning and we will be rolling out additional year-round programming to help bridge this divide.
Q: You have described Miami as a bridge for Latin America and the U.S. Can it also be a destination in itself?
A: We believe that Miami help bridge divides and fuel innovation by building out a sustainable, diverse and inclusive ecosystem.
The City has become a model for immigrant integration — with 52 percent of the population foreign-born and as a Top 5 metro area for immigrant-owned businesses.
Miami is also a leader in diversity and inclusion — the No. 2 metro area in 2015 for female entrepreneurs. We still have a ways to go in this area, but we’re leading the pack on this important front and have partnered with Babson’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership to help develop a report on best practices and recommendations to further bridge the gender gap in tech and entrepreneurship.
Following the recent announcement of the launch of the SoftBank Innovation Fund, the largest-ever technology fund focused exclusively on the fast-growing Latin American market, SoftBank has announced the new fund’s office will be located in Miami. This further signals the growing role of Miami as much more than a bridge and very much a hub for the Americas.
We are incredibly excited to have SoftBank’s Paulo Passoni and Revolution’s Steve Murray open this year’s eMerge Americas conference. It underscores the important way that the eMerge platform can play in connecting world-class investors with emerging entrepreneurs across the Americas.