South Florida Tech HubSouth Florida Tech Hub

By Riley Kaminer

Tech Hub South Florida hosts region’s top Tech Leaders at Summer BBQ

Read Time 3 Minutes

Last week, Tech Hub South Florida hosted a barbecue for members of its Startup Founders and CxO peer groups. This event provided a laid-back environment for founders and executives to connect, network, and celebrate the start of summer.

The event was held at the new Delray Beach headquarters of Premier Virtual, which recently held a ribbon cutting ceremony. The startup, which has developed a platform for holding large-scale virtual event and career fairs, has experienced exponential growth as in-person events became replaced by digital alternatives.

Nikki Cabus, Tech Hub South Florida’s Interim CEO, said that “these kinds of informal events are so important because people ultimately work with people they like. It’s that simple.” 

She continued, “It removes the transactional business card exchange that seldomly yields any genuine connection. Once you have a chance to connect over beer and BBQ, have a conversation about baseball and family, you really get to know somebody. This is where friendships are made, business opportunities arise, and referrals stem from.”

Tech Hub South Florida’s peer groups offer an opportunity for members to meet, learn from, and share best practices with each other. Benefits include regular meetings, exclusive member communications, and access to unique speakers and networking opportunities.

The Startup Founders Peer Group brings together our region’s most ambitious entrepreneurs leading companies with fewer than 10 employees. Its chair, Mike Maniscalco, is the founder of Better Living Technologies, which develops products to help patients manage their type 1 diabetes. Gaida Zirkelback, Co-Founder & CEO of carbon accounting platform SustainaBase is the peer group’s co-chair. As the South Florida tech ecosystem grows, this Peer Group will continue to act as a resource for founders looking to scale in this dynamic region.

CxO Peer Group members include top executives of tech companies with more than 10 employees that are headquartered in South Florida. Manish Hirapara, CEO of Boynton Beach-based digital strategy firm PeakActivity, is Chair of the peer group. He sits alongside Co-Chair Amit Rastogi, physician and CEO at Jupiter Medical Center. Tech Hub South Florida believes that it is crucial to have more established tech firms supporting younger companies that are pushing the boundaries of innovation in South Florida.

Tech Hub South Florida would like to thank Think Consulting and their President Tony Gruebl, which sponsored the event. 

Gruebel said that Tech Hub South Florida “curated an amazing event with a great turnout of founders and C-Level Executives from the area.” He continued, “The relaxed atmosphere created the perfect space to connect, network, and have some fun. We are looking forward to the next event.”

Ed Mullin, Vice President & CIO at Think, said that he especially enjoyed Premier Virtual’s diverse contributions to the night’s success: “Steve Edwards CEO of Premier Virtual cooks an awesome brisket! It was also nice to see Premier Virtual’s brand new offices and meet their inspired staff. They have quite the story to tell.”

Think is a national technology and operations advisory practice that provides on-the-ground transformation and consulting, led by executives, adapted for the mid-market. The team aligns company culture to business mission and goals, leading to positive and sustainable change and meaningful results. Think is engaged in a variety of sectors including EdTech, financial services, and publishing.

Tech Hub would also like to thank Premier Virtual and Co-Founders, Steve Edwards and Gary Chambers for hosting this event in their beautiful new space.

Might you be interested in joining a Tech Hub South Florida peer group? If so, please get in touch via our website.

By Riley Kaminer

Member Spotlight | Steve Edwards & Premier Virtual

Read Time 3 Minutes

Business: Digital platform for virtual events like job fairs and trade shows

Launched: 2018

HQ: Delray Beach

Full-time employees: 19

Website: PremierVirtual.com

In early 2020, no one was really ready for a global pandemic. The one exception just might be Steve Edwards, Founder and CEO of Delray Beach-based startup Premier Virtual.

Edwards had worked in the job fair industry for the better part of a decade, “living on the road” and traveling as far north as North Carolina and as far west as Texas. He started running virtual events in 2018, and decided to build and license out a platform to help others run virtual job fairs too.

In 2019, when Edwards launched Premier Virtual’s first platform, he did not have a very receptive audience. “People laughed at me,” said Edwards of his early days. “People told me that I would never have clients.”

Enter the pandemic. “We went from small – just me, my business partner, and an administrative assistant – to international almost overnight,” recalled Edwards. Premier Virtual hosted 1,500 events on their platform from April to December 2020. 

Now, the startup has hosted over 200,000 candidates across more than 2,000 virtual events. They have a diverse set of clients including the US Army, who has run their national recruiting event through Premier Virtual’s platform, as well as colleges like the University of Arizona and a host of private corporations. All in all, 25,000 organizations have participated in job fairs run on Premier Virtual’s platform.

The startup is leveraging this growth to continue improving on its core product. Edwards told Tech Hub South Florida that Premier Virtual will launch its 2.0 platform later this year. “Our goal is to make it one of the most user-friendly platforms out there.”

Edwards explained how Premier Virtual’s platform both aims to replicate and improve upon the in-person job fair experience. Jobseekers can easily learn about participating companies and share a video resume. Through Premier Virtual’s “my journey” feature, candidates can keep track of the companies they have seen. They can also customize their resume for each company, which is crucial to stand apart in an increasingly competitive job market.

The platform offers a suite of tools to make it easier for organizers to set up fairs, and more attractive for companies to join them. This includes live reporting, which gives these parties an easily-digestible and constantly-updating dashboard with figures about what is happening on the platform.

Premier Virtual’s success is also a success of the South Florida tech ecosystem. Edwards took part in 1909’s accelerator program, which he credits with helping him learn the ropes of leading a startup. Equally, he noted that the Premier Virtual team actively participates in Tech Hub South Florida events: “there’s always something going on – from peer groups to coffee chats. I feel like Tech Hub is creating a really good community, so we try to give back.”

Ultimately, Edwards said that Premier Virtual’s MO is simple: “We connect people.” After a year of social distancing, perhaps there is no more important pursuit in the business world than forging strong digital connections. For that, Premier Virtual is happy to help.

By Nikki Cabus

This Just In | Steve Edwards and Premier Virtual

Read Time 3 Minutes

From Local Startup Founder to Nationwide Connector

Last week, Palm Beach Tech member and local startup, Premier Virtual, signed a contract with CareerSource Florida who enables the local entities to provide needed job placement services across the state.

“Providing a virtual career fair platform to the CareerSource Florida network statewide eliminates geographical barriers and enables better accessibility to events for both career seekers and employers,” writes Andrew Collins, COO of CareerSource Florida. “Additionally, a single platform used by all local workforce development boards provides the opportunity for statewide outreach and hiring events.”

U.S. Army Veteran and small town Wisconsin guy, Steve Edwards, is the Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Premier Virtual. He moved to South Florida where he received his Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from Florida Atlantic University. After getting into sales and running a successful job fair company for over seven years, Steve noticed changes in hiring practices within large organizations. 

In 2018, Palm Beach Tech’s VP of Development, Nikki Cabus, met Steve at a local event where Steve discussed his ideas and plans for Premier Virtual, a virtual career fair platform. In November 2019, she was a guest judge for a 1909 Pitch Competition which included Steve where he was in the pitch competition because he took part in 1909’s, Startup Spark program, a mini accelerator hosted in Boynton Beach. 1909’s Executive Director Shana Ostrovtiz, also connected him to mentors through the program that have helped him refine his pitch deck and connected him to Kevin Cox at FAU for the Veterans Program. He also won the Veteran’s Expo Pitch Competition.

His company was just starting to get off the ground. He was a great presenter, truly believed in his service, and understood his market, but there were still lots of questions from the audience about whether people really were ready to move virtual. He was one of the 6 finalists to make it to the final pitch competition.

“My biggest obstacles were getting people to believe that virtual career fairs could work. I had a lot of people tell me I was wasting my time and money on building the software,” said Steve. He was one of the 6 finalists to make it to the final pitch competition. 

Then COVID hit.  

Over the past year, Steve put his blood, sweat, and tears into building a virtual platform that unknowingly then would save many unemployed professionals from these current uncertain times during the pandemic. Today, Premier Virtual is actively one of the fastest growing startups within our South Florida Tech Association. 

His wife and two young boys is what encourages Steve to get up early and work hard. Building a virtual world that connects the right candidates and companies is what drives him to get the job done. 

From Tech Associations to Workforce/CareerSource Organizations to Colleges and individual companies, Steve has landed gigs with organizations throughout the country including Workforce Texas, Baltimore Public School District, Kentucky Dept. of Education, Maryland Dept. of Labor/Veteran Program and Maryland National Guard and more.

He was also accepted into FAU Tech Runway’s Venture Class 8. Rhys L. Williams, Managing Director of FAU Tech Runway, says that he is “confident that this Venture Class will leave its mark as South Florida’s next generation of global entrepreneurs.” We tend to agree. 

Bravo Steve Edwards!


 

Tech Hub South Florida hosts region’s top Tech Leaders at Summer BBQ
Member Spotlight | Steve Edwards & Premier Virtual
This Just In | Steve Edwards and Premier Virtual