South Florida Tech HubSouth Florida Tech Hub

By Adam Elitzur

18th annual SoFlo DevCon brings together developers, designers, tech professionals and educators

Read Time 7 Minutes

Just last month during #SoFloTechMonth, South Florida’s month-long celebration of all things tech and innovation across the region, South Florida Tech Hub hosted its 18th annual SoFlo DevCon once again bringing hundreds in attendance for the event.

Held at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, the location was a perfect place to bring together those from Miami, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin County and even a few from the west coast of the state. In attendance were software developers, designers, engineers, tech professionals and event school district teachers and college professors from across South Florida.

The event is the only fully regional tech education event FREE and open to the public with classes and sessions running all day long that are completely geared towards STEM and innovation. The event was free to attend, thanks to the support of community partners and sponsors such as this year’s Presenting Sponsor, Cognizant.

The day kicked off with breakfast (sponsored by FAU’s College of Engineering) and 8:30 AM sessions. The first 300 guests through the door were also given a free conference t-shirt (sponsored by Streann Media), and a pizza party lunch was provided for all attendees sponsored by CITY Furniture.

This year’s event featured a Leadership Track and Leadership Lunch in collaboration with Cognizant, CITY Furniture and SIM South Florida. Jeffrey Richman, Customer Relationship Manager and Kishore Dandu, Client Partner of Energy & Utilities at Cognizant addressed the audience as Presenting Sponsor. Kishore spoke about the importance of events such as SoFlo DevCon in the tech community and how proud they are to give back to a local organization helping build the local tech talent. With hundreds of thousands of employees across the globe, Cognizant employs many technical and sales people in the South Florida region. As tech in South Florida continues to blossom, they are happy to be a contributing part of the ecosystem.

Rebecca Bakels, Software Engineer and Tech Community Advocate at CITY Furniture, highlighted that CITY Furniture is more than just a furniture company. CITY Furniture employs hundreds of people in technology and is using all sorts of innovative tech such as AR, data science, and app development all in-house to ensure the best customer experience. CITY Furniture also gives back thousands of dollars towards local community programs and nonprofits each year.

Rebecca is a benefactor of local tech initiatives and the South Florida Tech Hub community. As she began her journey into tech in 2020, she connected with South Florida Tech Hub, completed Software Engineering course with Boca Code, became an intern at CITY Furniture and then was offered a full time role to continue with the company. Rebecca is now involved with many nonprofit organizations and initiatives in the tech space in the region.

Each year, the conference attracts almost 1000 attendees and over 100 speakers, sponsors and exhibitors. The event featured 6 time slots for workshops and 12 seperate tracks to choose from such as mobile/web development, professional development, entrepreneurship, AI/ML, blockchain & web3, UI/UX, and more. These tracks included a range of topics and workshops, including Machine Learning, AI, VR/AR/MR, IoT, .NET, DevOps, MVC Framework, JavaScript, JQuery, SQL Server, Business Intelligence, Software Testing, Xamarin/Mobile Development, Azure/Cloud, Business/Career Development.

  • In the Web Development track, Todd Albert, Lead Instructor and Founder at Boca Code remarked, “This year, we added several code-along workshops to our lineup, including Next.JS and ChatGPT by Jonathan Sanchez, building a game in Unity with SoFlo DevCon’s youngest speaker, 19-year-old Idan Fischer, and my talk where we live-coded a mobile app in React-Native. Each year, the conference seems to be more energetic and attended by more people. It’s always a great place to expand our knowledge and our networks.”
  • In the AI/ML track, Founder of Indulgent Gifts and Thrivve Group, Roberta Barbosa, and US Managing Director of Exo Mindset, Bruno Savoca Albors, spoke. Barbosa presented the workshop Intro to Intelligent RPA. The workshop covered “the fundamentals of intelligent process automation and how it is helping businesses become more efficient and increase employee engagement. It also shared the RPA leaders in the industry, the tools available on the market, and the most common use cases.” Albors delivered a talk on the evolution of AI and ML, tracing its journey from early beginnings to the present day. He highlighted key milestones, including the emergence of machine learning as a subfield of AI, the rise of neural networks and deep learning, and the transformative impact of the digital age on AI and ML. Albors showcased modern applications across industries such as healthcare and finance and addressed ethical considerations and challenges, including bias and privacy. In conclusion, he provided a future outlook for AI and ML, emphasizing their significance in solving complex problems and shaping the future of technology.
  • In the Web Development track, Todd Albert, Lead Instructor and Founder at Boca Code remarked, “This year, we added several code-along workshops to our lineup, including Next.JS and ChatGPT by Jonathan Sanchez, building a game in Unity with SoFlo DevCon’s youngest speaker, 19-year-old Idan Fischer, and my talk where we live-coded a mobile app in React-Native. Each year, the conference seems to be more energetic and attended by more people. It’s always a great place to expand our knowledge and our networks.”
  • In the blockchain track, ApparelMagic CEO and cryptocurrency veteran Brandon Ginsberg, and Azure Migrate & Modernize Lead at Microsoft and Co-Founder of Nebulai, Renatto Garro were two of the presenters. Ginsberg spoke about recent developments in the Ethereum ecosystem, including The Merge, Shanghai updates, and ERC-4337. His talk highlighted the importance of these updates in enhancing Ethereum’s scalability, security, and efficiency, and their potential implications for decentralized applications and the broader cryptocurrency landscape. Garro led the workshop Unlock the Power of Decentralized Identities. “Decentralized Identities promise to change the way we use the Internet giving us more control, security, and the ability to monetize our data,” Garro stated. “We discussed about solutions from Microsoft like Entra and PolygonID, among others. It is truly inspiring what developers can start building with this technology.”
  • In the AR/VR track, Principal engineer at Microsoft for Mixed Reality, Denise Mendez, Head of Emerging Tech & Innovation Division at PeakActivity, Rob Petrosino, and Harshal Sanghvi, Doctoral Candidate at Florida Atlantic University and Research and Development Specialist at Advanced Research LLC, presented workshops. Mendez talked about the scale of the XR industry, its value in the South Florida economy, and well as how to get started building cross-platform XR experiences in Unity. Petrosino spoke about AI & its impact on 3D, AR & XR. “Generative AI has changed how most organizations and teams will approach visualizing information, floor plans and their standard operating procedures without additional technical teams.” Sanghvi discussed the impacts of AI & AR on Medical Interventions and Imaging as diagnosing and treatment methods.
  • In the Leadership track, Founder of B-Grade Media and Technology Advisor at Leafplanner, Q. Wade Billings led the session on “How to engineer a thriving engineering culture”. “In 2019, I had the opportunity to build an engineering culture from scratch, which is more complicated than it might sound,” Billings remarked. “To help my team and me in the effort, we designed a framework called the “Cultural Development Lifecycle (CDLC)” modeled after the well-known Software Development Lifecycle. This framework enabled us to conceive of, plan, develop, test, and measure our thriving engineering culture. My sincere hope and goal are that presenting the CDLC at SoFlo DevCon will inspire others to think about culture in a new and exciting light.”
  • In the Entrepreneurship track, was a session, “Practical Steps to Turn Your Idea Into a Revenue Generating Business”, Managing Partner at Argent Strategies and CSO of Doxci, Aaron Chavez, covered everything from ideation to product development to early-stage scaling activities. His talk emphasized the significance of proper solution validation, as well as a heavy focus on non-capital-intensive activities that are accessible to all founders. During his talk, he stressed the significance of South Florida’s idea-rich founder economy and the need for said founders to progress by taking practical and cost-effective steps to move their ventures forward.

One of the unique aspects of SoFlo DevCon is that it is open to anyone interested in the tech and innovation community in South Florida. Attendees did not need to be developers to participate in the conference. Designers, project managers, creatives, entrepreneurs, founders, and anyone connected to the tech industry were all welcome to attend.

Software engineer and game developer presented the workshop ‘Unleashing Your Creativity: Unity game development.’ “Participants learned how to create a game where the player collects coins while avoiding obstacles,” Fischer explained.

“We went through the process of making a game, from making game objects to making scripts to control our objects. Overall, speaking at SoFlo Devcon was an amazing experience, especially for my first time speaking anywhere and first time at SoFlo Devcon. Thank you to everyone who came!”

Idan was also voted the audience favorite receiving the Scott Katarincic Speaker Award, in remembrance of Scott who recently passed this year. He was a major part of planning past SoFlo DevCon events and working with all the speakers to ensure a successful event. It was only fitting that our youngest speaker ever at only 19 years old received the award and on his birthday, no less! The award was presented to Idan by Naomi Gayz, Scott’s girlfriend, and Annette Katarancic, Scott’s mother.

SoFlo DevCon 2023 was a huge success, bringing together the South Florida tech community and providing a platform for learning, networking, and collaboration. The day ended with an after-party happy hour and karaoke!

South Florida Tech Hub’s Dev Con 2023 was made possible because of its sponsors: Presenting Sponsor, Cognizant, T-shirts, Streann Media, City Furniture provided lunch and Telerik by Progress sponsored ASL interpretation. Thanks to the supporting sponsors, including Florida Atlantic University, OZ Digital Consulting, NRG Way, Boca Code, SIM, Algorand, Agile Infoways, Total Wine & More, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft TEALS Program, Code Magazine, FPL, Office Depot, Carrier, Modernizing Medicine, Florida Crystals, Social Mobile, Verizon, and Dedicated IT, for their contributions to the event.

See more photos here.

By Nikki Cabus

Inspire CIO announces 20 finalists for South Florida CIO Awards 2023

Read Time 3 Minutes

SouthFloridaCIO has announced the 20 finalists for the 2023 South Florida CIO ORBIE® Awards. 

For over 20 years, the CIO ORBIE Awards have recognized technology executives for leadership and excellence across the country. Since inception in 1998, over 500 CIO of the Year winners have received the prestigious ORBIE Award. SouthFloridaCIO is one of 25 chapters of the InspireCIO Leadership Network, a national membership organization comprised exclusively of CIOs from public and private businesses, government, education, healthcare and nonprofit institutions.

The South Florida CIO ORBIE® Awards will honor the CIOs who are driving innovation and transforming South Florida’s leading organizations. The CIOs are typically recognized in multiple categories, based on the size and scope of their organization and responsibilities.

“Every organization is technology-dependent, but strong leadership is the X-factor that can turn day to day IT into a remarkable strategic differentiator,” said Ann Dozier, SouthFloridaCIO Chair and Large Enterprise category winner in 2022.

“The ORBIE Awards are meaningful because they are judged by peers – CIOs who understand the challenges of technology leadership.”

Finalists and winners are selected by an independent peer review process, led by prior ORBIE recipients, based upon leadership and management effectiveness, business value created by technology innovation, and engagement in industry and community endeavors.

According to the South Florida Business Journal, the finalists were named in 5 categories including:

  • Global: Over $5 billion annual revenue and multi-national operations.
  • Large Enterprise: Over $5 billion annual revenue.
  • Enterprise: Up to $5 billion annual revenue.
  • Large Corporate: Up to $1 billion annual revenue.
  • Corporate: Up to $500 million annual revenue.

 

Meet Our 2023 Finalists:

  • Global Finalists:
    • Eric Firer (Bacardi)
    • Kevin Grayling (Florida Crystals)
    • Tim Langley-Hawthorne (Hertz)
    • Rocky Wiggins (spirit)
  • Large Enterprise:
    • Margaret Brisbane (Miami Dade County)
    • Sam Jaddi (ADT), Christos Kotsakis (AutoNation)
    • Tom Moreno (Lennar Financial Services)
  • Enterprise:
    • Patrick Hale (VITAS Healthcare)
    • Steven May (JenCare – a ChenMed Company)
    • Ram Puppala (ACI Worldwide)
    • Brad Rohrer (University of Miami)
  • Large Corporate:
    • Mary Desmarais (NCH Healthcare System)
    • David Seo (Nicklaus Children’s Health System)
    • Daniel Tehrani (ScribeAmerica)
    • William M. Velez (Harvard Maintenance Inc.)
  •  Corporate:
    • Lakshmi.N B. (Now Optics)
    • Tony Casciotta (Broward College)
    • Ely Garcia (Cisneros)
    • Mark Moch (American Oncology Network)

“Being a finalist for the SouthFlorida CIO ORBIE awards is a recognition of the entire team and the work they have delivered through our digital transformation agenda over the last 5 years. This journey has been delivered with great quality and is driving enormous value for the company,” said Kevin Grayling, CIO of Florida Crystals and one of the 2023 finalists told South Florida Tech Hub,

It is because this award is judged by our peers that sets it apart from others.

Winners will be announced at the CIO ORBIE Awards on June 9, 2023 at the The Diplomat Beach Resort.

 

Check out highlights from the South Florida CIO ORBIE Awards 200 here —>>> https://sofloridacio.org/awards#highlights

 

By Nikki Cabus

South Florida-based PeakActivity acquires eCommerce software agency Lexima

Read Time 3 Minutes

PeakActivity, an eCommerce and technology services company based in Boynton Beach, recently acquired Lexima, an eCommerce software agency specializing in eCommerce platform technology implementations. PeakActivity’s  already robust technology and eCommerce capabilities will be further deepen their expertise with the acquisition of Lexima.

In 2019, Lexima was founded in Palm Beach County in 2019 just prior to the covid-19 pandemic by Lancey Lexima, a Graphic Designer turned Software Engineer who loved developing apps with amazing user experiences. The company grew quickly. By 2022, the company had a remote team with team members all across North America – from Canada to Tennessee to Florida. Lancey opened their headquarters right in the heart of downtown West Palm Beach.

Lancey  founded Lexima with an intent to build an agency that partners with brands to provide a quality development service. Lexima quickly garnered a reputation for its expertise in the headless eCommerce market, beginning with the Shopify platform and growing to include additional platform technologies, including BigCommerce, Vue.js, and Next.js. Having worked in software development for companies such as MDLIVE, 4Ocean, and MCNA Dental, Lancey began his journey with great experience and needed connections in the industry. Thanks to Lexima’s forethought and early success, the was able to attract the attention of such clients as 4ocean, The Genie Company, and Charleston Wine + Food.

“Joining forces with PeakActivity made perfect sense,” says Lexima Founder & CEO, Lancey Lexima. “We built the business from the ground up to engage with clients as a partner on their eCommerce journey. Through partnering with PeakActivity, we are able to deliver eCommerce excellence at scale.”

The coming together of PeakActivity and Lexima represents an alignment of values, as both organizations focus on ROI-driven user experiences & solutions focusing on four main areas of expertise: Modernization, Optimization, Innovation and Engineering.

More and more businesses seek eCommerce technologies that deliver fast and rich experiences for their customers, such as Shopify and BigCommerce. Lexima provides PeakActivity with another conduit to success thanks to its expertise on platforms that everyone knows of, but few are experts at. Adding Lexima’s talent, leadership, and experience to existing and future clients will allow them to drive better business outcomes and elevate business growth for today and tomorrow.

Since the acquisition, Lancey has stepped into the VP of Technology Solutions for PeakActivity. His role will be focused on leading the company’s eCommerce technology implementations. Lancey will be using tools such as Shopify and Big Commerce to support PeakActivity’s clients through their implementation process and ultimately overall growth.

“Leadership, expertise, and excellence drive everything we do here at PeakActivity,” says PeakActivity CEO, Manish B. Hirapara.

“Having Lexima as part of our team further strengthens our depth of expertise. With Lexima’s eCommerce experts onboard, PeakActivity is now even better positioned to provide value quickly, effectively, and at scale.”

Founded in Boynton Beach in 2012, PeakActivity has already expanded into 7 different countries across 4 continents and employing more than 250 people. Their diverse team believes that their collective experience binds them together, unifying their purpose and infusing and influencing everything—from what we create and develop, to what we believe and value.

PeackActivity recently celebrated their 10 year anniversary in 2022. The company’s background in corporate retail, combined it with their entrepreneurial spirit, enabled them to create a company that leverages the latest technologies to quickly anticipate clients’ needs, solve their business challenges, and enable their progress on their digital journey. Those same ingredients attracted companies such as CITY Furniture, one of America’s Top 20 furniture retailers based in Broward county who announced they took an equity stake in PeakActivity just last year. This news, along with the Lexima acquisition put PeakActivity

PeakActivity provides expert leadership, skilled resources, and growth programs to elevate eCommerce and technology outcomes. The company’s talented strategists, designers and engineers have launched some of the largest eCommerce initiatives using the latest in headless technology, site optimization, and machine learning-enabled solutions.

If you’re looking to elevate your eCommerce experience, we’re the proven partner to climb with. For more information, visit www.PeakActivity.com or contact Hello@PeakActivity.com.

By Nikki Cabus

Cox Science Center announces they are increasing their campaign goal after receiving multimillions in donations

Read Time 5 Minutes

Cox Science Center and Aquarium (CSCA) leadership announced they are nearly doubling their campaign goal to $85 million.

According to CSCA board and capital campaign chairman Lew Crampton, a recent $8 million gift from Citadel founder and CEO Ken Griffin, coupled with a $10 million award from the State of Florida this summer, gave campaign leadership the confidence to nearly double their original goal announced last year.

In November 2021 Cox Science Center and Aquarium announced a $40 million capital campaign and $5 million endowment initiative and changed its name to reflect a transformational $20 million lead gift from Palm Beach residents Wendy and Howard Cox.

“Just 1 year ago we launched a hugely significant campaign for the Science Center,” said Lew Crampton, Board Member & former Director of the Cox Science Center & Aquarium, “and thanks to tremendous support, we are confident in expanding our original plans with a new goal of $85 million.

We’ve raised $60 million to date, which is 70% of our total goal, in the silent phase alone. Ken Griffin’s momentous commitment to prepare the next generation with STEM education – mastering data science, cloud computing, engineering and more – will make America competitive in a global market and is reflective of our board and other supporters’ vision for the Cox Science Center. We know Palm Beach County deserves a new, cutting-edge science center and our supporters agree.”

The expansion will include renovated spaces, a new three-story science pavilion visible from I-95, new outdoor exhibition spaces and one of Florida’s largest indoor aquariums.

Kate Arrizza, President and CEO for the Cox Science Center and Aquarium said, “Our strategic planning process has considered the projected growth of Palm Beach and surrounding counties – among the fastest in the nation.

Ken Griffin’s move of Citadel to South Florida and his investments in STEM Education is indicative of the influx of new residents in our market and the need for the community to have a state-of-the-art science center has increased exponentially. The expanded campaign goal will allow us to grow our attendance capabilities to serve nearly 1 million guests annually.”

Known for his catalytic giving across a range of areas including education and STEM initiatives, Griffin’s funding is earmarked for the expanded aquarium, with capacity of 200,000 gallons to take visitors through the Everglades, Florida’s inland rivers and Gulf Stream waters. With a focus on sharing the South Florida native’s love of the ocean, Griffin’s funding will also improve interactive educational experiences in Florida’s fifth largest aquarium setting. This will impact nearly 500,000 students annually, 70% of whom are Title 1.

“When students engage with the natural world, they develop an excitement about science that will drive progress for decades to come,” said Ken Griffin. “I hope the expanded aquarium will increase appreciation for our region’s dynamic ecosystem and the work required to preserve and protect it for future generations.”

New additions to the Cox Science Center and Aquarium’s expanded plans include:

  • An interactive extended reality experience, which will be an immersive space featuring 40-foot-tall projections on all four walls, displaying signature programs from rocket launches to deep sea exploration. Visitors will be able to directly interact with the projections using touch screens.
  • An expanded traveling exhibit designed to host more megahit exhibitions.
  • A Digital Arts Studio, which will expand to provide more skill set training such as software programming that aligns with high-demand jobs. An outreach program in partnership with Florida Atlantic University will digitize and nationally distribute the Center’s current video programs.
  • An indoor/outdoor exhibit area designed for early learners ages 6 and under.
  • Expanded programming in the Dekelboum Planetarium and Observatory.
  • An immersive learning lab that will serve as home base for FIRST LEGO League Teams and competitions.
  • An expanded biology lab that consolidates the Center’s preferred provider status to all medical magnet schools in Palm Beach County. Currently, the Center provides 30,000 frog/squid/shark/pig dissections annually, which could be doubled in the new space.
  • Expansion of the existing STEM Education Center that houses a state-of-the-art 3D printing program, coding instruction, and the Palm Beach Florida Chess Club.
  • The Center’s educational partnership with the Palm Beach County School District (the 10th largest district in the nation) will grow, doubling schools served to over 200, including 70 percent of Title I schools to serve English and Spanish speaking students.
  • GEMS (Girls Excelling in Math and Science) program and other distance learning programs will be expanded.

Naming and support opportunities are available for the expanded offerings. A groundbreaking is expected in late spring 2023 with a new targeted completion set for early 2026.

The Cox Science Center and Aquarium is located at 4801 Dreher Trail North in West Palm Beach, FL and its current indoor/outdoor venue features more than 100 hands-on educational exhibits, a 10,000-gallon fresh and saltwater aquarium, digital planetarium, Pre-K focused “Discovery Center,” 18-hole conservation-themed Mini-Golf Course and quarter mile-long outdoor science trail. The Cox Amphitheater hosts daily live science shows, seasonal laser shows and special event programming. One of its celebrated displays includes “Journey Through the Human Brain,” a permanent exhibit that features the most advanced neuroscience research in the world.

As of 2022, Cox Science Center and Aquarium earned the highest Candid Platinum Seal of Transparency rating on GuideStar in tandem with its perfect Charity Navigator score. The Platinum Seal of Transparency indicates that the Center shares clear and important information with the public about its goals, strategies, capabilities, achievements and progress indicators that highlight how it’s advancing its mission.

To learn more about the Cox Science Center’s capital campaign, visit www.CoxScienceCenter.org/Support-us.

By Nikki Cabus

Space Florida and Florida Venture Forum Award $100,000 to Early Stage Companies

Read Time 4 Minutes

Space Florida and the Florida Venture Forum, Florida’s largest statewide support organization for investors and entrepreneurs, are pleased to announce the award winners at the 2022 Florida Early Stage Capital Conference in Tampa will receive a total of $100,000. The Early Stage Capital Conference is “where capital and innovation meet!”

This event marks the 15th year the Florida Venture Forum has hosted the Florida Early Stage Capital Conference. The 19 presenting companies including 8 from southeast Florida were selected from a pool of more than 150 applicants by a committee of active Florida venture capital investors. The companies eligible to win originated from one of several industries including aerospace, artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, cybersecurity, and others.

A total of 19 companies presented this year and 3 of the 5 winners were from South Florida!

Grand Prize Winner ($40,000) – Miami (Miami-Dade County)

EVQLV leverages advances in computation to revolutionize the design and development of therapeutic antibodies. We work with partners at the discovery stage to accelerate the speed of antibody discovery. For those collaborators who have preclinical, clinical, or commercial assets, we support the optimization of antibody candidates, develop assets that expand IP protection, and design next generation and innovative immunotherapies. All of our work is performed at accelerated speeds and scale only feasible by leveraging computational tools that learn from massive and diverse datasets.

 

2nd Place Winner ($30,000) –  Daytona Beach (Volusia County)

Novineer, Inc. is a design hub where novel engineering design meets 3D printing. The company plans to bring a 3D printing design and simulation software to market that will streamline the process of designing, modeling and fabricating parts

 

 

 

3rd Place Winner ($20,000) – Juno Beach (Palm Beach County)

Revterra Corporation is developing a modular kinetic battery designed to mitigate demand charges and infrastructure upgrade requirements in applications such as high-power electric vehicle charging and larger grid-scale applications. They are a 35 Mules (powered by FPL) innovation hub startup.

 

 

Additionally, OverTheShoulder and Pet HealthCare Innovations were the recipients of the 13th annual 2022 Statewide Collegiate Startup Competition, attracting the “best of the best” in collegiate competitors from 11 of Florida’s leading innovation-focused colleges and universities.  They were an FAU Tech Runway startup. They will receive $5,000.

“This year’s applicants exemplify the ingenuity and forward-thinking that is essential to success in the today’s business climate. The ingenuity of this year’s winners is a testament to the innovative and entrepreneurial culture we have fostered here in Florida,” said Space Florida president and CEO Frank DiBello. “Together with the Florida Venture Forum we are proud to support these businesses as they continue to push boundaries and bring new technologies and solutions to market.”

Space Florida provided the Accelerating Innovation prize money totaling $100,000. The goal of the Early Stage Capital Conference is to provide Florida entrepreneurs and innovators an opportunity to engage with potential investors. Space Florida supported capital accelerators have attracted more than $640 million in funding and investments for the participating companies. Seven colleges and universities were chosen to participate in this year’s Statewide Collegiate Startup Competition.

Space Florida was created to strengthen Florida’s position as the global leader in aerospace research, investment, exploration and commerce. The Florida Venture Forum is Florida’s largest statewide support organization for investors and entrepreneurs, helping fast-growth companies connect with sources of capital from across the country.

“Congratulations to EVQLV, Novineer, Inc., Revterra Corporation and to all the winners and participants at the 2022 Early Stage Capital Conference,” said Kevin Burgoyne, president and CEO of the Florida Venture Forum. “We are extremely grateful to our partners at Space Florida for their support and commitment to the Forum, and to Florida’s innovation ecosystem. Cash awards like this one, plus the venture capital Forum members invest in startups, are like rocket fuel for the companies powering Florida’s future.”

The Forum provides programs and programming statewide throughout the year in addition to hosting major annual conferences like the Florida Venture Capital Conference, the Statewide Collegiate Startup Competition, the Early Stage Capital Conference, and industry-focused events including aerospace and healthcare.

For more info on the Florida Early Stage Capital Conference, visit flventure.org/2022-early-stage-capital-conference/

By Nikki Cabus

CITY Furniture announces equity stake in Palm Beach County-based PeakActivity

Read Time 3 Minutes

Broward-based CITY Furniture, a family-owned American furniture and mattress retailer, fine upholstery manufacturer, and one of America’s Top 20 furniture retailers, announced it has recently taken an equity stake in PeakActivity, a digital acceleration and technology services company based in Palm Beach county that enables progress for businesses at every point of their digital journey through modernization, optimization, innovation, and engineering services.

As long-time partners, CITY’s equity stake, which represents a minority position, is a win-win for both parties. For CITY, this investment solidifies their position as a pioneer in Home Tech, integrating technology into everything they do. PeakActivity will use this investment to accelerate their overall growth and fund further innovation in the home furnishings category.

With shared goals and shared financial outcomes, the partnership between the companies will be strengthened to a level they have not had previously and is a testament to the quality of the work they have done together over the past five years.

“CITY is working hard to build a world class organization that is best in class in technology. The future of the home industry and all industries hinge on technology and innovation,” said Andrew Koenig, CEO of CITY. “Our partnership with PeakActivity is more important now than it has ever been. We are convinced that taking a position in PeakActivity will accelerate our technological advantages in the market and result in a better customer and associate experience overall.”

CITY Furniture operates over twenty-two showrooms from Miami through Vero Beach, and in Southwest and Central Florida, as well as fourteen Ashley Home Store showrooms as the brand’s Southeast and Southwest Florida licensee. The company is one of the country’s top furniture retailers and continuing to grow.

As technology becomes more and more fundamental to everyday business and everyday living, CITY looks to embrace it and actively learn about the opportunities that tech provides businesses. CITY looks to be a driving force in taking the home furnishing world from “old school” to “industry cool” by investing in their long-time tech partner, PeakActivity.

As part of its investment, CITY looks forward to their ability to share knowledge, ideas, and strategies, while leveraging both companies skilled tech teams to work on some of the best home projects in the industry. Given their long-standing client-agency relationship, the companies are already working on several projects together in the areas of ecommerce, AR Design, CITY Moves, and more, that will continue to grow and expand as their relationship advances in the months and years to come.

“CITY has been one of our longest standing and best clients, driving us to innovate, to think, and work both faster and better,” said Manish B. Hirapara, CEO of PeakActivity.

“With this investment, our relationship becomes even more significant and is unlike that of any other client relationship we have. I expect that we continue to grow together and thrive together in the future. We are stronger than we’ve ever been before now as true partners.”

PeakActivity is a digital strategy and implementation company, partnering with businesses to accelerate their growth through eCommerce, Digital Marketing, and Technology solutions. By leveraging its unique methodology of Dream, Deliver, Elevate, PeakActivity simultaneously focuses on short-term wins with a constant eye towards longer-term innovation and business growth.

This relationship with PeakActivity just further reinforces CITY’s long-time commitment to being tech forward for both their internal stakeholders and external stakeholders. For CITY, seamless technology integration is just as important to a customer looking to furnish their living room in Miami, as it is to a warehouse worker in Orlando and a corporate employee in Tampa. Over the years, the company has enjoyed significant success building out their own tech department, making all of areas of the company better, faster, easier, and safer, while building out teams for e-commerce, data analytics and cybersecurity.

With tech at the forefront of CITY’s business strategy from the start, this relationship is an investment in the success of CITY’s tech-focused future and a step towards achieving their long-term goals.

By Nikki Cabus

Apply to Tech.Co’s Startup of the Year Competition!

Read Time 2 Minutes

 

Attention startups! Tech.Co is accepting application for their 5th annual Startup of the Year Competition. This annual event attracts tech leaders, influencers and investors to early-stage startup companies.  Deadline is May 31st, 2017! Apply now!

 

What is Tech.Co’s Startup of the Year Program?

Each year, thousands of startups vie for a chance to compete at the annual Startup of the Year competition hosted at the Innovate! and Celebrate conference. Produced in partnership with Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the producers of CES, the 3-day event will happen in San Francisco in October 2017. Startups selected to participate will have the opportunity to win the title of Startup of the Year, as well as prizes, potential investment, and more.

 

What makes this competition different?

Tech.Co’s Startup of the Year program encourages women and minority founders to apply and connects them to a vast network of resources looking to help such entrepreneurs thrive. We strive to have startups from all 50 states represented at our competition as well, and recognize local ecosystems that the mainstream media often overlooks.  

Application Deadline: May 31, 2017-  CLICK HERE TO APPLY NOW!

 

What types of startups are eligible to participate in the competition?

Tech.Co seeks the most innovative early-stage companies out there from a variety of verticals.

Startup Qualifications:

  • Startups must have less than $4 MM USD in funding
  • Startups must be less than 4 years old
  • Startups must have a live, operating product or service
  • Startups must be INNOVATIVE!

By Adam Ross

Connecting Dots: Helping People Find Jobs, Helping Jobs find People

Read Time 2 Minutes

Connecting Dots: Helping People Find Jobs, Helping Jobs find People

Part of membership within The Palm Beach Tech Association is community advocacy; helping connect the technology dots throughout Palm Beach County.

Everyday at Palm Beach Tech we help great companies and awesome people who are working hard to build our tech industry. It’s our honor to build this community and we sure love doing it.

In part, we strive to help talented people find talented companies, and talented companies find talented people. These are not unique situations in the very least, but here are a few examples:

VX IT

“Joe Russo was kind enough to introduce us to a gentlemen named Adrian who had been interning at a local hospital without pay. He moved to Florida from Cuba about 3 years prior and had previously done IT there.

We were able to bring him on as a paid intern and he is doing great! Our businesses live and die on great relationships, and Joe bringing Adrian to us not only helps VXIT in a time of need, but Adrian is now in a better spot with a paid internship instead of a non-paid internship.”

– Paul Veddar, Managing Partner VXIT

 

MyTaskit

“We are pretty selective of the people that join MyTaskit – they go through multiple interviews before even becoming a final candidate.

Joe Russo and the Palm Beach Tech Association introduced a candidate to us for a Senior UX/UI position. One of the best candidates we have hired this year and flew through our process with flying colors.”

-Kevin Hutchinson, Co-Founder & CEO of MyTaskit

 

What’s More

It is Palm Beach Tech’s mission to cultivate a community centered around the technology industry. Along with our Career Board, we take extra steps to find good fits for companies and people.

By Daniel Lofaso

How to Raise $382,658 on Kickstarter: Kate Reddy with DreamScreen

Read Time 5 Minutes

Recently I was lucky enough to interview Kate Reddy from DreamScreen, a local Boca Raton startup that recently spoke at one of our Meetups. Reddy shined some light on her success with Kickstarter, the popular crowdfunding website.

  1. Please tell us about your product, DreamScreen, and why you choose Kickstarter to launch it?

DreamScreen is smart LED backlighting for home theater. DreamScreen works with any HDMI TV and enhances the size of the TV, softens the image and even makes watching TV easier on your eyes. Other products in the past had to be connected through computers and had a delay in responsiveness. This was a solution in that space, as it offers a responsive rate of 60 f/s for any TV, movie or video game.  We chose Kickstarter because it has a large technology community and is full of tech early adopters.

  1. How did you get so savvy at Kickstarter?

It’s like any other marketing launch, it’s about understanding consumer behavior and knowing your target customer. This was my first venture into the platform, but I have previous experience managing digital marketing campaigns so I used that knowledge to create a buzz.

  1. You raised $382,658 dollars for your startup through Kickstarter, yet you only asked for $25,000. What’s the secret to your success?

Yes! It is a numbers game. Put a very conservative goal on Kickstarter. You want the project to fund in the first 24-48 hours of your launch. It impresses people, and gives you the availability to say you were 1,500% funded, and so forth.

Kickstarter is its own animal, most of the backers of our campaign were backers of other projects. If you meet goals quickly Kickstarter can give you better exposure on their homepage or through other internal features on the site. When people write articles about you and mention that you have sailed past your goals it makes people more likely to take notice.

If you post a really large goal and you don’t meet that mark, you won’t get a dollar. It’s kind of a gamble, so you really want to put an amount you know you can reach.

  1. What kind of startup product/service is Kickstarter right for?

Technology products are probably the best category. I’ve seen success in many other avenues though, including games, theater and arts, new food and beverage ideas, etc.; I don’t think it’s necessarily about the category, but more the quality of the product.

  1. How long would you suggest a company push a funding round on Kickstarter?

Kickstarter recommends 30-40 days, and that is ample time.

  1. How important is showing a budget for one’s company and what should this include or not include?

I didn’t do that and I think it’s more important to show a viable product. The backers are taking a gamble on you, convince them it is real, it is happening. We spent a great deal of time creating visuals, a great video, and helping to inform potential backers of all the specifics of our product. Showcasing that you know your stuff can often be a trust-earning aspect of a campaign that negates the need to show line-by-line what you intend to do with money you may earn.

  1. How can a company actively market their Kickstarter campaign? Is it ever too early to drum up pre-launch buzz?

I choose to do a soft launch and sent it to promoters – other people in tech, my immediate network, technology writers and editors, etc. I sent it out to editors and YouTubers so the general public knew it was real and that if they backed the project, they were going to receive a DreamScreen. This resulted in some good press which we later used to showcase as social proof on our Kickstarter page. It added another trust element to backers because they could see that tech magazines and blogs had already featured us.

The takeaway is that people who do a soft launch (pre-Kickstarter) probably have more success than those who are making their first impression on Kickstarter. It goes back to the trust element; if tech writers like the product why wouldn’t a consumer?

Other advice: We also spent a lot of time writing a good press release and translating it into as many languages as possible. I even closed-captioned it in English, because I found that deaf people were interested in the visual effects of DreamScreen. I had the video translated into five languages because Kickstarter is such an international community and I didn’t want to exclude anyone.  Next time I launch something I’m going to push it out to 10 languages or more.

  1. How can companies come up with good stories that will help to sell themselves as well as their products?

We wanted the product to be the face of the company, not us as founders. A lot of people wanted us to put ourselves on our video we created. We went to conferences and people suggested putting ourselves in our video and we decided against it.

That said, my DreamScreen profile is my husband and I and we linked our Facebook page to show we are real people. Other than that, we showed pictures of the team on the campaign page to show that we were a viable company. We remained product-focused and tried to keep the spotlight away from us and onto our product, and it worked out well for us.

  1. What kind of stretch goals do you suggest?

We got so much feedback from the backers that we based our goals on what backers were asking for. For example, some people wanted a Windows app, others wanted integration with a Smart Watch, some wanted new Ambient Scenes and others wanted us to integrate DreamScreen with their home lighting, so we added those to the campaign as Stretch Goals, and are currently developing those add-ons.

The backers loved it when we listened to them and did as they requested. Let the backers tell you how to improve your product and you win their loyalty and get free consumer perspective.

  1. What are good Kickstarter resources that you like?

Kicktraq.com is good resource to see where you are trending and gives you a lot of analytics on your campaign [that Kickstarter doesn’t]. We went there almost every day to see how our campaign was doing.

Other vital things to these campaigns are strong targeting of:

  • Facebook ad campaigns
  • Behavioral targeting ads
  • PPC
  • Paid Search
  • Digital Banner Ads with retargeting

 

  1. What other preparation did you do before launching?

We had all our developer work already done, we had our app built, and we encouraged people to download it. A lot of Kickstarter products don’t deliver so whatever you can do to alleviate those concerns the better off you’ll be.

The more information you can put on the page the better. My campaign page has tons of specs, timelines, photos, and a desire to inundate the user with as much info as possible.

  1. Any other advice?

One piece of advice I’d give is to not to launch your crowdfunding project on Indiegogo. Kickstarter has a higher level of legitimacy because you actually have to have a tangible product or service and a working prototype, whereas with Indiegogo you just have to have an idea, so it is a much bigger gamble to the consumer. People want to back a product that is ready to go and have the assurance their money is being well spent.

By Adam Ross

Looking Past Stereotypes: The real story of doing business in Palm Beach County.

Read Time 2 Minutes

Looking Past Stereotypes: The real story of doing business in Palm Beach County

Forget The Stereotype

The Palm Beaches have been undergoing a massive rebirth in recent years, ditching it’s retiree saturated stereotype for that of a tech and cultural center in South Florida. As a business owner who moved his business here 5 years ago, I am happy to report that this is not the Palm Beach that you (or I) thought it was.

I am always hosting out of town clients to see it for themselves and it takes as little as one day to turn impressions around.

Resources, Connections and Support

Something I find most unique about this area is that for a small city, the sense of community is big. Having lived in cities like San Francisco and New York, there is less organization within the business community because, frankly, they don’t require it, it’s everywhere. Palm Beach businesses have a desire to get involved, and in turn, build a stronger sense of community. Since moving to West Palm Beach, I have attended more conferences, Meet-Ups and events in than I did in NYC and my network of business associates is stronger for it.

Come for the Weather, Stay for The Lifestyle

It’s a common misconception that Florida’s only draw is it’s sunny skies, and while Palm Beach county certainly has it in spades, there is so much more:

  • Free Money – Did you know that Florida residents pay no state income tax? How about that for a sales pitch? Move to Florida, enjoy beautiful weather, and save thousands of dollars on your personal taxes.
  • Live Music – West Palm Beach has an annual 5 day music festival called SunFest that draws massive crowds from all over the world. Add in the new Okeechobee Festival and Tortuga down the road and you have a vibrant selection of music to see.
  • Baseball, Art and Entertainment – We are the East Coast epicenter for baseball Spring training, have 3 fine art museums, host Broadway shows at the Kravis Center, and are the go-to destination for International polo matches.
  • Beaches – South Florida beaches are some of the nicest in the country and have year round water temperatures that make swimming in December delightful. They are all public (unlike the private beaches of California) and a perfect escape from your busy business schedule.
  • Easy Lifestyle – Ditch your parka, South Florida rarely sees temperatures drop below 50 degrees making warm jackets, boots, scarves, hats and all your other winter gear a waste of space. Our year round temperatures are by far the nicest you will find.
  • Miami, The Gulf,  Key West and Disney – West Palm Beach is a perfect jumping off point for accessing all that Florida has to offer. Looking for some of the best nightlife in the world, Miami is just a ‘Flo-Rida album’ drive down 95. Feel like giving Mickey Mouse a hug, you can be there before you say Mousekatootle. Or how about dining al fresco while enjoying some fresh gulf seafood, it is less than a gas tank away.

On The Horizon

With opinions changing fast, South Florida is seeing a boom in it’s technology environment and commercial development. Startups are appreciating the sense of community, businesses are moving their headquarters to enjoy the perks of the area and schools are building programs to fulfill the need of tech minded students.

If there ever was a time to get on the bandwagon, this is it. Palm Beach County is in full bloom and only getting better.

18th annual SoFlo DevCon brings together developers, designers, tech professionals and educators
Inspire CIO announces 20 finalists for South Florida CIO Awards 2023
South Florida-based PeakActivity acquires eCommerce software agency Lexima
Cox Science Center announces they are increasing their campaign goal after receiving multimillions in donations
Space Florida and Florida Venture Forum Award $100,000 to Early Stage Companies
CITY Furniture announces equity stake in Palm Beach County-based PeakActivity
Apply to Tech.Co’s Startup of the Year Competition!
Connecting Dots: Helping People Find Jobs, Helping Jobs find People
How to Raise $382,658 on Kickstarter: Kate Reddy with DreamScreen
Looking Past Stereotypes: The real story of doing business in Palm Beach County.