South Florida Tech HubSouth Florida Tech Hub

By Adam Elitzur

Driving South Florida’s Tech Landscape: Michael Fowler’s Journey Through Tech and Leadership

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Michael Fowler, former board chair of South Florida Tech Hub and current chair of TECHpalooza, is a driving force in the region’s tech landscape. With a career spanning decades in the energy industry, Fowler has held key roles at NextEra Energy and currently at its subsidiary, Florida Power & Light (FPL), serving as the business unit chief information officer.

In 2010, Fowler moved to Florida but initially struggled to find the pulse of the local technology community. However, he made it his mission to uncover pockets of innovation. “It took me a few years to find South Florida Tech Hub. When I found that, I jumped in with both feet,” he explained. For Fowler, a rewarding aspect of South Florida Tech Hub has been finding the intersection between local companies and the tech community.

As board chair of South Florida Tech Hub, a role he held for five years, Fowler played a pivotal role in merging TechLauderdale and Palm Beach Tech into the unified organization, South Florida Tech Hub. “As a region, it was beneficial to all if we operated as one tech community,” he said.

One of Fowler’s proudest achievements with South Florida Tech Hub was facilitating the expansion of Mark Cuban’s AI Boot Camp in South Florida, growing from one to three camps across Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. “The fact that we can be a unified tech region enables us to participate in programs like the boot camp and attract similar opportunities,” Fowler noted.

Cultivating close partnerships with local universities has been a key focus area for Fowler during his time at South Florida Tech Hub. He recognizes the importance of developing a strong pipeline of tech talent from within the region to meet industry demands. Fowler has worked diligently to engage higher education institutions like Miami Dade College, Florida Atlantic University, and Florida International University to align their curricula with industry needs. “Even with students who want to pursue degrees and interests outside of tech, I still think that having a core of tech is really powerful for any career,” Fowler mentioned.

Fostering tech talent remains a priority for Fowler, who believes in exposing students to STEM education from an early age. “I want us to continue getting more K-12 students involved in STEM,” Fowler remarked. “I think there’s more work we have to do to engage young minds and get them excited about STEM so that they want to pursue advanced degrees in this area.”

Looking ahead, Fowler is excited about his role as the incoming chair of TECHpalooza, an annual technology conference hosted by South Florida Tech Hub, aiming to double the event’s attendance to 5,000 this year. TECHpalooza will be hosted at the Broward Convention Center on December 11th, 2024.

Fowler envisions an exciting future for the tech industry, particularly in the realm of AI. “I’m an optimist and think it will take a lot of humans for this journey to be successful. I see AI being a tremendous tool that all of us will use in our daily lives,” he remarked, emphasizing AI’s role in augmenting human capabilities.

With his wealth of experience and vision, Michael Fowler continues to be a driving force in shaping the region’s tech landscape, nurturing talent, and fostering collaboration among industry giants and local innovators alike.

By Nikki Cabus

Mark Cuban & Anthropocene Ventures Back Climate-Tech Startup, Kind Designs

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Renowned entrepreneur and investor Mark Cuban, alongside early stage climate tech VC firm Anthropocene Ventures, has joined Kind Designs’ seed round.

The investment marks a significant milestone for the female-founded climate and construction tech startup, which has experienced exponential growth since its launch in June 2023. The new capital enables Kind Designs to triple production capacity and expand its team to meet explosive demand for its Living Seawalls™.

Major coastal cities in the United States, including Miami, New York City, and San Francisco, are at imminent risk from rising sea-levels with local and federal government agencies expecting to spend nearly $400B in seawall construction efforts.

According to FloodList.com, the study, titled High Tide Tax: The Price to Protect Coastal Communities from Rising Seas, reveals that “Florida will be by far the most heavily impacted state in such events, with projected costs of over $70 billion across the state, with 23 counties facing at least $1 billion in seawall expenses alone.”

As a result, the United States could be on track to destroy over 50,000 miles of marine habitat by 2040.

Kind Designs addresses this concern.  The company is a climate-tech startup addressing rising sea-levels by revolutionizing the outdated and traditionally toxic seawall construction industry. Through its use of sustainable materials, and patent-pending 3D printing technology, Kind Designs is producing the world’s first 3D-printed Living Seawalls™️. The Living Seawalls protect coastal communities from floods and storm surges, while creating marine habitats, sequestering carbon and collecting essential water quality data.

Unlike traditional seawalls, which are typically flat, Living Seawalls incorporate biomimicry design principles and function as artificial reefs. The Living Seawalls also sequester carbon and collect essential water data. Kind’s innovative approach to seawall construction cuts production time by 95% and has zero green premium, making it both a sustainable and economical solution to at-risk communities.

“The investment decision was swift and resolute,” comments Anthropocene Ventures’ Managing Partner, Matthew McGraw.

Anthropocene Ventures is a global, early-stage VC firm investing in founders that leverage exponential technologies & hard science to make humanity more resilient. Kind Designs was the perfect for for the VC firm.

“Kind Designs surpasses our criteria with its immediate real-world application, clear business model, path to revenue, and the merging of nature’s smarts through biomimicry with 3D printing technology. Yet, what truly solidified our commitment is the performance of the founder, Anya. In a brief span, she has demonstrated exceptional execution.”

Earlier this summer, The Florida Venture Forum and co-host, Space Florida, hosted the 2023 Aerospace + EmergingTech Forum awarding over $200,000 in cash and VC investment. Kind Designs won first place taking home $40,000. In addition to the cash prizes awarded, DeepWork Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm based in Orlando, announced they will invest $100,000 in Kind Designs.

Soon after, GOVO Venture Partners, along with M4 Investing and the Florida Opportunity Fund, announced the decision to co-lead the $5M seed investment round in Miami-based Kind Designs.

In under five months, Kind Designs launched its warehouse, became fully operational and achieved revenue by starting to deliver the first Living Seawall panels in November 2023. The company plans to triple its production capacity by February 2024, with its recent purchase of two additional printing robots, showcasing the widespread demand for its pioneering products.

This month, Kind Designs also reached a workforce milestone, hiring its tenth full-time employee, a testament to its commitment to creating meaningful job opportunities in tech and fostering local talent in Miami. Other hires joining Kind’s founder and CEO, Anya Freeman, include Leandro Fernandez as Lead Structural Engineer and Jeremy Morris as Chief Operating Officer. Morris previously held roles at The Boring Company and Icon.

“Having investors with a global reach, like Mark Cuban and Anthro Ventures on our team is a huge vote of confidence in our mission to regenerate marine ecosystems and protect coastal communities,” shared Anya Freeman, Kind Designs’ Founder and CEO.

“With their strategic backing, we are positioned to propel Kind Designs into a massive global business, while simultaneously making an immense environmental impact. Together, we’re putting economical and environmentally beneficial coastal resilience on the map.”

Looking ahead, Kind Designs plans to further disrupt the coastal construction industry by working with government agencies to offer Living Seawall tax incentives on the county, state and federal levels. This program will be similar to incentives already in place such as solar energy and EV tax credits. Kind Designs’ Living Seawalls check several boxes by merging the structural integrity of traditional seawalls with a sustainable design that nurtures marine life and is more cost effective for coastal communities.

As Kind Designs continues to grow and innovate, this strategic investment will play a pivotal role in advancing its mission to protect coastal communities and marine life globally. Mark Cuban and Anthropocene Ventures join an impressive list of supporters within Kind Design’s $5M seed round.

To learn more about Kind Designs, visit https://www.kinddesigns.com/

By Nikki Cabus

South Florida high school student wins FBLA nationals

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South Florida student Archit Namboodiri has won the championship at the 2023 National Leadership Conference of Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA).

Archit finished second in the Management Information Systems (MIS) competition where more than 300 students competed. The final awards ceremony was held in Atlanta, Georgia. This is a very prestigious honor that is only awarded to a few students in each category every year.

Future Business Leaders of America, Inc. (FBLA) is the largest business Career and Technical Student Organization in the world. Each year, FBLA helps over 230,000 members prepare for careers in business. As the premier business education association in the country, FBLA is on a mission to inspire and prepare students to become community-minded business leaders in a global society through relevant career preparation and leadership experiences. According to their organizational bylaws, “The organization provides an integral part of the instructional program, additional opportunities for secondary students (grades 9-12) in business and/or business-related fields to develop vocational and career supportive competencies, and to promote civic and personal responsibilities.”

The first FBLA high school chapter in Florida was founded in 1948 at Hillsborough High School in Tampa and has since spread with over 11,000 members across Florida, making it one of the largest FBLA chapters in the country!

Florida FBLA offers opportunities as early as middle school through high school, college and into their professional careers. The top five takeaways of Florida FBLA are aimed at developing your business leadership skills, increasing confidence in yourself and your work, learning how to become involved in leadership opportunities, having a better understanding of American business enterprises, and developing a path towards future college and career goals.

Archit’s interest in Information Systems grew after attending the Mark Cuban Foundation’s AI bootcamp in the fall of 2022. The hands on classes were co-sponsored by South Florida Tech-Hub and Florida Power & Light and held at FPL’s Manatee Lagoon in West Palm Beach.  They learned several artificial intelligence-specific methods and tools and made powerful connections with fellow students and instructors.

Archit and fellow students had the opportunity to listen and interact with tech executives such as Michael Fowler, IT Business Unit CIO at FPL. FPL is known for it’s philanthropic efforts, passion for driving tech talent, and giving back to the Florida community through multiple education initiatives such as STEM classroom makeovers, working with organizations such as Tech Hub, Mark Cuban AI bootcamps, Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code and so many more. FPL is also known for their one-of-a-kind internship program aimed at developing new talent and identifying candidates for a suitable future full-time employment opportunity.

Inspired by the AI Bootcamp, Archit then attended a Cyber Security bootcamp organized by the University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa during the summer this year. He learned about several core cybersecurity topics, such as penetration testing, cross-browser scripting, and ransomware detection and negotiation. Archit had the opportunity to interact and network with several leading technology leaders from companies such as CISCO and Microsoft.

“The Marc Cuban AI boot camp sponsored by South Florida Tech-Hub and FPL opened a new world for me,” said Archit. “I learned about AI and how it is applied in our day-to-day lives. Through hands-on activities in the camp. I was exposed to several cutting-edge AI concepts, such as Machine Learning, Big Data, and Computer Vision and used these concepts in my FBLA competition to
demonstrate how organizations can make effective use of AI.”

He continued, “I’m thankful to the South Florida Tech Hub and FPL for providing me with this opportunity and to my school’s FBLA advisor, Mr. Pardo, for his continued guidance and support throughout the competition process.”

Archit is also the Treasurer of a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization run solely by students, Surface 71, with a mission to raise awareness about plastic pollution and keep our cities and oceans cleaner and more beautiful. The students hold beach clean ups every month and have installed water refill stations into eleven local schools. He joined Surface71 in 2023 and is passionate about how technology can improve the environment.

Archit wants to pursue his college education in IT business with a focus on cyber security and data privacy and looking forward to helping the tech community by teaching middle and high school students what he has learned.

We wish you all the best Archit – we are sure to see you creating positive change for our future. Keep up the great work!

Click here for the complete 2023 list of winners. To learn more about Florida FBLA, visit https://www.floridafbla-pbl.com/

By Nikki Cabus

For the second year in a row, South Florida will once again welcome the Mark Cuban AI Bootcamp for high schoolers

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For the second year in a row, South Florida will once again welcome the Mark Cuban AI Bootcamp for high schoolers to our region in the Fall. BUT, this year will be even better!

South Florida Tech Hub was able to connect the Mark Cuban Foundation with the wonderful folks at Florida Power & Light and with offices in both Palm Beach and Miami, FPL immediately saw potential to bring this program to the entire region.  Having a great relationship with Miami Dade College, FPL reached out to the MDC team who quickly hopped on board to be the first Miami location. The program launched in October 2022 in both Miami and Palm Beach counties.

We are proud to announce that this year, not two, but four Tech Hub member organizations have committed to bringing this program to South Florida ensuring that students all across all three counties (Miami, Broward and Palm Beach) can apply!

The AI Bootcamp will be targeted at underserved high school students (9th -12th grade) especially those from underrepresented groups and will introduce these high school students to basic AI concepts and skills.

“The future global competitiveness of our country depends on having as many AI literate people as possible. I think there is an untapped wealth of knowledge and innovation in underserved communities,” stated Mark Cuban, entrepreneur and founder, Mark Cuban Foundation.

The Bootcamp sessions will be held over four consecutive Saturdays starting on Oct. 14 and ending on Nov. 4. The bootcamp will run each Saturday from 2-6 PM and if accepted, high school students must commit to attending all four sessions. Aimed to increase AI literacy and understanding in students from underserved communities, the high schools students don’t need any prior experience with computer science, programming, or robotics to apply and attend. Students interested should apply by Friday, Sept. 8. (Apply at bottom of article.)

With AI being a relevant topic on many news sources, students will learn what artificial intelligence is and is not, where they already interact with AI in their own lives, and the ethical implications of AI systems—including but not limited to TikTok recommendations, smart home assistants, facial recognition, and self-driving cars, to name a few. Participants will also learn how Large Language Models like ChatGPT are changing life as we know it by answering questions, telling original stories, and even writing computer code.   

Students will benefit from volunteer corporate mentor instructors who are knowledgeable about AI, ML and data science and able to help students quickly understand material normally taught at a collegiate level. As part of the 4-hour curriculum, students will work with open source tools each day to build their own AI applications related to Computer Vision, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing and Generative AI.  

In 2022, Grace Kurian, Executive Director of Information Technology-Nuclear at NextEra Energy Inc, led the launch of the AI Bootcamp in Palm Beach County. She told South Florida Tech Hub that months of planning, hundreds of hours, and over 22 volunteers brought the program to life. From entry-level developers to tech executives such as Grace and Michael Fowler, VP of IT and Business Unit CIO at FPL the students got to interact with tech professionals of all levels.

In it’s fifth year, the Mark Cuban AI Bootcamp is still a fairly new initiative that was founded in 2019 by the Mark Cuban Foundation. With just about 30 locations across the entire United States chosen for this program, we are so proud to have three of them right here in our backyard. The Mark Cuban Foundation has impacted 900+ students to date and has a goal to increase that number year over year.

FPL is pleased to be the host company for Mark Cuban’s AI Boot Camp (Palm Beach) for the second consecutive year. As a company, we believe success begins with people, and this program helps introduce STEM and computer science to students that grew up with limited technology exposure,” said Jason Price, Agile Leader – EP Technologies & Innovation @ NextEra Energy Inc. (FPL parent company). “We are excited to help inspire bright young talent right in our backyard about how technology can elevate the world around them.”

Normally taught at the collegiate level, students had the opportunity to interact in hands-on workshops about chatbots, AI, Machine learning and Natural Language processing – topics many had never encountered before.

FPL is excited to welcome this year’s students into the new PGA Office Center.

 

Office Depot is excited to support such a wonderful program this year. Exposing our students and future talent to new technologies will help the talent pool down the road by sparking their interest in AI and showcasing how it’s being used in the real world,” said Andy Parry, VP of Application Development & Support at Office Depot.

Being able to add Broward county to the programming this year and support students in the underserved community fits right in line with Office Depot’s giving efforts.

Office Depot will be sponsoring the Broward bootcamp and partnering with Nova Southeastern University’s  Levan Center of Innovation as the host venue.

“We believe that this program will help to cultivate the next generation of AI leaders, who will shape the future of technology and create a more equitable world,” said John Wensveen, Ph.D., NSU’s Chief Innovation Officer and Executive Director of the Levan Center of Innovation.

 

Miami Dade College‘s Mark Cuban Foundation AI Bootcamp was a huge success. After only 4 weeks the high school students that attended created impressive projects around AI in Music, AI in Healthcare and AI in Safety and Security,” wrote Antonio Delgado, VP of Innovation and Technology Partnerships at Miami Dade College, in a social media post.

“Kudos to everyone involved to bring this opportunity for free to Miami students. They represent a diversity that it’s not widely seen in tech companies today. They are the next generation that will be creating meaningful AI products and applications.”

Antonio told South Florida Tech Hub that this year Miami-Dade College will be sponsoring the Miami bootcamp and hosting two camps in Miami, one at each of their AI Centers (North Campus and Downtown Wolfson) allowing them to impact even more student within the county.

The Mark Cuban Foundation is a 501(c)(3) private non-profit led by Dallas Mavericks proprietor Mark Cuban. The AI Bootcamps Program at MCF seeks to inspire young people with emerging technology so that they can create more equitable futures for themselves and their communities. The Mark Cuban Foundation provides the Bootcamp’s curriculum materials, trains corporate volunteer mentors, and recruits and scores applications for local student selected to attend camp. In addition, the corporate sponsors, work to provide food, transportation, and access to laptops for students at no cost throughout the duration of Bootcamp.

Over the course of the four four-hour-long sessions, students will:

  • identify AI in the real world
  • build their own application
  • discuss AI ethics and bias in data
  • meet and learn from AI experts

The AI Bootcamp is open to students who:

  • live and attend high school (9th–12th grade) in Miami, Broward or Palm Beach county
  • have an interest in technology and machine learning
  • can attend in-person at one of the locations outlined below

Application deadline: Friday, September 8, 2023. For answers to some of your questions, please visit markcubanai.org/faq

👉🏽 Click here to apply today!

By Nikki Cabus

NextEra completes successful 4-week AI Bootcamp through Mark Cuban Foundation

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Just this past weekend, NextEra Energy Resources completed the 4-week AI Bootcamp in collaboration with the Mark Cuban Foundation.

There were only 30 locations across the entire United States chosen for this program and two were approved here in South Florida: one in Miami and one in Palm Beach County. Although a fairly new initiative founded in 2019 by the Mark Cuban Foundation, the program attracted over 600 high school students in 9th – 12th grades.

There were over 20 high school students in attendance for the Palm Beach County program. Florida Power and Light sponsored and hosted the program at no cost to students. The classes were held in the beautiful FPL Manatee Lagoon in West Palm Beach which is an FPL Eco-Discovery Center.

Grace Kurian (pictured above on right) , Executive Director of Information Technology-Nuclear at NextEra Energy Inc, previously stated that “FPL is proud to serve as the host company for Mark Cuban’s AI Boot Camp for students who would otherwise not have exposure to programs in STEM. Our corporate culture is focused on giving back to the communities where we live and work. We are intentional about supporting and building thriving communities for the next generation.”

The program spanned 4 Saturdays from October 22nd to November 12th, but took months of planning, 22 volunteers and over 100+ volunteer hours to make this bootcamp come to life. Volunteers ranged from entry-level developers to the VP of IT and Business Unit CIO at FPL, Michael Fowler.

Normally taught at the collegiate level, students had the opportunity to interact in hands-on workshops about chatbots, AI, Machine learning and Natural Language processing – topics many had never encountered before.

Aimed to increase AI literacy and understanding in students from underserved communities, the high schools students didn’t need any prior experience with computer science, programming, or robotics to apply and attend.

Students completed a final project and made a presentation to the entire class. This not only helped them showcase their newly found technical skills, but the ability to present, communicate and practice public speaking skills.

At the close of the bootcamp, one students gave a thank you card with a kind message to his volunteer instructor: “Thank you for helping me with this bootcamp. I appreciate all your time and efforts into organizing this camp. I really learned a lot these past 4 weeks. Thank you!” 

Driving South Florida’s Tech Landscape: Michael Fowler’s Journey Through Tech and Leadership
Mark Cuban & Anthropocene Ventures Back Climate-Tech Startup, Kind Designs
South Florida high school student wins FBLA nationals
For the second year in a row, South Florida will once again welcome the Mark Cuban AI Bootcamp for high schoolers
NextEra completes successful 4-week AI Bootcamp through Mark Cuban Foundation