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Former Bay Area startup experts convene at LAB Miami for Seedfunders pitch competition

on September 20, 2022 / by Riley Kaminer ,

Read Time 4 Minutes

Dave Chitester

Three startup experts who recently relocated from the Bay Area to South Florida judged an early stage startup pitch at the LAB Miami to compete for a $5,000 investment from Seedfunders Miami.

Seedfunders founder, Dave Chitester, told South Florida Tech Hub that they all didn’t realize the connection until sitting on the judges panel. Technologist and Seedfunders Miami investor Tahl Milburn, Miami Angels Principal Jared Schwitzke, and Silicon Valley Bank executive Derek Barnett judged the startups at the event. All three of these startup experts relocated to South Florida.

Barnett told South Florida Tech Hub that he was attracted to South Florida because it is an emerging tech hub with a lower cost of living, exciting culture, and ideal location near the beach. “Miami and South Florida have an amazing multi-cultural community,” he said. “The community here is very warm and inviting. They want to get to know you and they make you feel welcome.”

Barnett believes that South Florida is at an inflection point. “There are a lot of home grown founders that have been working hard to make the Miami ecosystem great,” he noted. That, combined with the influx of founders from other places, leads to the right conditions for startup success.

South Florida’s inviting environment also attracted Milburn. For our region to continue to grow, Milburn hopes that more technical talent and investors move to our region.

“We don’t have enough senior / strategic technology people in SoFlo at this point,” he told South Florida Tech Hub. “We also don’t have any notable technology-oriented colleges in Florida or enough technology majors.”

Schwitzke also underscored the need of talent in the South Florida market. “It’s no secret that Florida, particularly Southern Florida, lags far behind areas like the Northeast or California when considering the availability of tier-1 computer engineering programs. In order for us to truly rival Silicon Valley, it won’t be enough just to recruit talent; we’ll need to be able to produce it ourselves.”

That said, Schwitzke is still bullish on the South Florida market: “I like Miami because I believe it has the potential to become a global hub (rather than just a North American hub) for early-stage tech. Miami’s ties to Latin America are obvious and need no introduction. And as the Latin American early-stage tech market continues to mature, no city is better positioned than Miami to become the de facto HQ.”

For Barnett, the key to continued success for South Florida’s tech scene will be constantly evolving. “Florida needs a consistent reminder that it is unique and should not try to be like Silicon Valley but keep its own identity.”

“We need to focus on evolving and making each other better,” he added. Barnett also believes we need to focus on developing a startup talent pipeline – as well as enough housing stock to keep providing a high standard of living at a reasonable cost for South Floridians.

Events like these are crucial to helping build and support the tech, innovation and startup ecosystem in South Florida.

Israel Hernandez

Ultimately, Miami-based fintech Dinerazo prevailed. The startup, which focuses on the Hispanic community, has developed an app that aims to make investing easy, low-cost, and transparent. Co-founder and CEO Israel Hernandez, who presented at the event, is a computer scientist and serial entrepreneur.

The other two startups chosen to present at the event were emergency response GovTech startup Emergency Ventures and catering talent marketplace Bookstaff.

Seedfunders founder David Chitester told South Florida Tech Hub that these three startups were chosen from around 25 submissions. “We narrowed it down by focusing on two things. First: Is it investible? And second: Are the founders coachable?”

For Chitester, a company’s investability often boils down to its uniqueness. “If there is a lot of competition already in their space, that means that it’s not unique.”

This event was unique because it featured South Florida companies that are pre-revenue. “At other pitch events, you see companies that are well established, with some revenue,” Chitester noted. He underscored that this event furthers Seedfunders’ unique mission of investing in pre-revenue, scalable tech companies in Florida.

Approximately 40 people were in attendance, with companies given 10 minutes to pitch and then a further 10 minutes for questions and answers. Chitester saw this event as a success for three reasons: it featured high quality companies, had good attendance, and featured a credible group of judges.

Former Bay Area startup experts convene at LAB Miami for Seedfunders pitch competition