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Building Relationships | South Florida’s Buzzing Startup Scene

on January 25, 2021 / by Rebecca Bakels ,

Read Time 3 Minutes

Palm Beach Tech’s Startup Founders Peer Group, led by Co-Chairs, Mike Maniscalco, Founder of Better Living Technologies and Gaida Zirkelbach, Founder of SustainaBase, met to discuss South Florida’s booming startup scene. Normally, this would be a members-only event, but with all the recent buzz surrounding local entrepreneurship, the meeting was open to the public for anyone wanting to learn more or get involved.

One of the first questions asked was ‘Where are we all from?’  The chat was flooded with answers from Miami and West Palm Beach to Tampa and even out of state to Texas and New York. “I recently moved to South Florida” was heard repeatedly throughout the evening. There is a clear gravitational pull to opportunities here and the need for community and support. A poll created by the Peer Group shed some light on what kind of support our community is in desperate need of: mentorship (and a little investment capital couldn’t hurt). Out of about 40 participants in the session roughly half had looked to friends and colleagues for resources which pointed out the need for more accessible programs like the 1909 Accelerator and the Florida Atlantic University’s Tech Runway.

Accessibility in itself is a major issue in any field, but entrepreneurship in particular is unequivocally linked with privilege. Imran Siddiqui, Founding Director of the Broward College Entrepreneurship Experience — the college’s business accelerator, also known as BCEx — touched on this and spoke about his effort to transform Broward’s most hard hit neighborhoods by joining forces with Broward UP, the college’s program that targets the six Broward County zip codes with the lowest education attainment and highest unemployment. Imran explained how reaching into these communities and offering workshops on developing an entrepreneurial mindset opened up a conversation with a community not often reached. These opening conversations are where Imran says he gets some of his best accelerator participants, working hard to prove to students and residents that it’s not out of reach. 

Towards the end of the session Monica Rojas, PBT’s Member & Engagement Specialist, encouraged some of the newer faces in the crowd to introduce themselves and their venture and asked them what they most wanted from the community. The need for mentorship was a recurring theme and Jonathan Cox encapsulates this perfectly. A recent entry to the startup scene, Cox is building an app that redefines agriculture and farming on a smaller scale, converting unused lots in urban areas into a source of food and community. With a background in tech and photography he’s in the process of switching gears to focus on his urban farming app (Grow Next Door) and he’s found himself asking a question all too familiar to entrepreneurs: “Who can I trust?” Felecia Hatcher, Co-Founder at Center for Black Innovation, and, once again, FAU’s Tech Runway were immediately recommended.

Throughout the evening, there were many magical moments like this where one participant heard about the needs of another and offered to help make introductions, suggest programs, and stay connected with them after they signed off. This is exactly what our community needs right now, to help those already here and make our newer members feel welcome and encouraged. As South Florida continues to bloom into a hub for start-ups, it’s important for us to share our knowledge and champion our fellow risk-takers. 

To learn more about our Startup Founders Peer Group, email

Building Relationships | South Florida’s Buzzing Startup Scene