South Florida Tech HubSouth Florida Tech Hub

By Adam Elitzur

New Leadership at the Helm of South Florida’s Tech Hub

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South Florida Tech Hub is under new board leadership for 2024 with Deana Pizzo, CEO at I.T. Solutions of South Florida, taking over as chair and Grace Kurian, Executive Director at NextEra Energy, as vice chair.

Deana Pizzo has been involved in the tech industry for two decades. “I like to serve for non-profits. And the fact that the South Florida Tech Hub is a non-profit within my industry, I felt it was an organization that I really wanted to be part of. I wanted to help strengthen the tech footprint in South Florida and I felt that the Tech Hub was the best place for me to serve.”

Grace Kurian has been working with NextEra Energy for 22 years, and most recently has been leading the digital journey for the nuclear fleet. “Having grown up in South Florida, I have a passion to see the region grow our technology footprint, so that it continues to be a great place to live and work,” Kurian remarked. “I connected with the South Florida Tech Hub when I served on the board of TechLauderdale. When Tech Hub joined forces to include the entire tri-county area, it was exciting for me both personally and professionally because I lived and worked in Palm Beach, grew up in Fort Lauderdale, and I felt like we were bringing the unique strengths of the tri-county together.”

Pizzo, who recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of her company, I.T. Solutions of South Florida, has goals to unify the tech community in South Florida. “The primary goal is collaboration,” Pizzo stated. “Right now we are working on taking the three counties, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade and creating a tech sector in the South Florida market. That is something that I want to continue pursuing this year and continue driving home. Collaboration for the tech community within South Florida.”

Kurian strives to expand the technology ecosystem. “I want to make sure that tech executives and professionals feel that South Florida is a great place to attract, develop and grow talent,” Kurian stated. “Florida’s economy is bigger than that of many countries. Our businesses are a vital part of Florida’s economic growth.”

Pizzo and Kurian are both looking forward to the role. “I’m very excited to lead the organization this year,” Pizzo remarked. “I’m very excited that at the helm are three women this year. Nikki, as the CEO, myself as chair and Grace as vice chair. I’m really excited about making a difference for girls in tech this year.”

“I have been in the energy and utility industry for more than two decades, so I’m excited to connect with technology professionals, beyond the energy sector, who are right here in my backyard,” Kurian stated.

Pizzo recognizes challenges that she is determined to overcome this year. “The biggest challenges right now are creating unity within the tech community in South Florida,” Pizzo mentioned. “It can be a little fractured. And this particular organization, the Tech Hub, we don’t want to take over where any other organization is. We want to help bring all of the different organizations together.”

Kurian sees another challenge. “Skill sets are constantly evolving and the programming language I learned when I first started my career after college is not what we need today,” Kurian remarked. “Attracting tech talent, but also keeping those skills fresh so that we are constantly innovating and keeping our skills current is a challenge we have to tackle. But one of our greatest opportunities is that the public and private sector are investing in powering our businesses with AI and the latest technology. So I feel that our trajectory in tech is bright.”

Both see major opportunities in capitalizing on emerging technologies like AI. “Data is king, and how businesses capitalize on that data to make good decisions by leveraging AI, by leveraging technology, which will be the differentiator between good and great businesses,” Kurian noted.

Fostering diversity is also a key focus. The Tech Hub works with organizations to inspire girls to pursue tech careers as early as high school. “We have a really strong women’s group and we foster the collaboration of women within tech,” Pizzo explained.

“I’m really excited that I get to work with two very talented women, Deana and Nikki,” Kurian stated. “I believe that diversity is not just diversity of gender and ethnicity, but diversity of thought. Inspiring more people to pursue careers, and sharing that this is a potential career path for young students who are thinking about where to start is important. I hope that the organization continues to grow, but also continues to diversify as more programs are opened up to students early on. One program that I’m really excited about is that the Tech Hub was a catalyst for bringing to South Florida the Mark Cuban Foundation AI Bootcamp for high school students.”

Pizzo and Kurian have distinctive leadership qualities. “I like to describe them as three tenets: character, commitment, and curiosity,” Kurian shared. “Character is showing up. Commitment is being fully devoted to the organization’s mission and values. And lastly, curiosity is being a continuous learner.”

The Tech Hub has an active year planned under Pizzo and Kurian’s leadership, including the Golden Palms Awards in August and TECHpalooza in December. “We just had our golf tournament, which was a huge success,” Pizzo stated. “We’re really looking forward to Golden Palms. We already have the wheels turning on TECHpalooza and it’s going to be huge. We’re moving it to a new location at the convention center, and it will knock it out of the park this year.”

Pizzo and Kurian offered advice for aspiring technology leaders. “Don’t take no for an answer,” Pizzo stated. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and you can find it. Work hard and be a good person.”

“Be willing to learn and take risks,” Kurian recommended. “Be willing to listen to the ideas of other individuals and have a willingness to experiment and innovate so that we are incrementally finding improvements that will be game changers over time.”

Pizzo envisions a bright future for the Tech Hub. “I see the Tech Hub in a few years as the pivotal go-to tech organization in South Florida that everybody can go to to find tech resources for the whole region. We can get there through collaboration and relationships.”

Kurian is hopeful for the future of the region. “I hope that the businesses that are here today have a bigger footprint in South Florida” Kurian stated. “I also hope that we’ve attracted a wide range of national and international businesses so that South Florida will be synonymous with the Silicon Valley of the South.”

By Nikki Cabus

Miami Dade College Becomes the First Florida College with Two Cybersecurity Programs Validated by the NSA

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Miami Dade College announced it has become the first institute in Florida to offer both associate and bachelor’s degree programs in cybersecurity after receiving its second validation from the NSA.

The National Security Agency (NSA) is a U.S. Department of Defense combat support agency and member of the U.S. Intelligence Community leading the U.S. Government in cryptology that encompasses both signals intelligence (SIGINT) insights and cybersecurity products and services, and enables computer network operations to gain a decisive advantage for the nation and allies.

At the 2nd annual South Florida Tech Hub Higher Education Conference held at MDC Wolfson Campus, College officials announced the NSA validation for the Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity through 2029, the highest standard of quality for a cybersecurity degree in the nation. MDC received NSA validation in 2022 for the Associate of Science in Cybersecurity.

“We are honored to receive this prestigious recognition from the National Security Agency,” said MDC President Madeline Pumariega.

“It underscores our commitment to expanding our cybersecurity program, solidifying the College’s position as a leader in talent development for the future workforce. We couldn’t do this without the unwavering support of our world-class faculty, esteemed partners, and industry-leading advisors.”

The distinction acknowledges MDC’s rigorous cybersecurity curriculum standards and academic delivery excellence from faculty to equip students with expert knowledge and skills to protect and defend against the cyber threat landscape. According to a letter from the NSA, the college’s ability to meet the increasing demands of the program criteria will serve the nation well in contributing to the protection of the National Information Infrastructure. The NSA’s National Cyber Strategy addresses the critical shortage of professionals with cybersecurity skills and highlights the importance of higher education as a solution to defending America’s cyberspace.

This news is a welcome addition to MDC’s prestigious designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense by NSA for its impressive cybersecurity curriculum. With this recent validation, students who complete MDC’s bachelor’s in cybersecurity receive explicit recognition in their transcripts. They are also eligible to apply for grants, training and scholarships from NSA and other federal partners.

With Miami Dade College (MDC) being the most diverse institution in the nation, with 167 nations and 63 languages represented in its student body, the College changes lives through accessible, high-quality teaching and learning experiences. MDC’s eight campuses and outreach centers offer over 300 distinct degree pathways, including associate and baccalaureate degrees, certifications and apprenticeships. MDC has admitted more than 2.5 million students and counting, since it opened its doors in 1960 and approximately 120,000 students are currently enrolled.

“This achievement underscores our commitment to excellence in cybersecurity education and solidifies our leadership in talent development for the future workforce,” shared Antonio Delgado, MDC’s VP of Innovation & Technology Partnerships.

“With this validation, our students gain explicit recognition on their transcripts and are eligible for internships, training and scholarships from NSA and other federal partners.”

For more information about MDC’s ‘Cybersecurity Center of the Americas’ programs, visit www.mdc.edu/cybersecurity.

 

By Nikki Cabus

Bravent recognized at the Miami-Dade Beacon Council annual Key Ceremony

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Bravent, an IT solutions firm, was recently recognized at the annual Miami-Dade Beacon Council Key Ceremony.

After meeting with organizations such as South Florida Tech Hub, The Miami-Dade Beacon Council, Lab Miami, and The Miami-Dade Chamber back in November 2022, the firm, based in Madrid, Spain, decided to open a United States office in 2023. The energy, passion and entrepreneurial drive of the South Florida community, in addition to the language and culture influences in the region attracted Bravent to the region.

Founded in 2013, Bravent was created with the objective of improving companies’ processes and results, through the use of customized technological developments. The IT consulting firm specializing in Microsoft technologies has a team of professionals who combine experience, creativity, and commitment. From web development to AI to Blockchain, the companies use a slew of technologies to support their customers as they grow, scale and innovate.

Just this year, Bravent opened their first office in Coral Gables, Miami and immediately began getting engrained in the local tech community by attending events, hosting workshops and conducting lunch & learns. The firm has recently hired many new staff including Allison Fierro, Sales Manager USA, based out of Florida.

The Miami-Dade Beacon Council concludes its fiscal year and begins another with the Annual Meeting and Key Ceremony which provides business and community leaders with a unique overview of the progress of economic development in Miami-Dade County over the past year and insights into the most pressing issues for the coming year.

The event also celebrates the passing of the gavel to the incoming Chairperson of the organization and honors companies who have either expanded, relocated or are new in Miami- Dade County with a Key to Miami-Dade County from the Mayor and other local dignitaries.

Bravent had the privilege of being one of the nine outstanding Spanish companies recognized at the Miami-Dade Beacon Council annual Key Ceremony. The company’s President of the U.S. Board of Directors, Luis Benito Matías Igea, received the key from Miami-Dade Count’s Mayor Daniela Levine Cava.

The key to The City of Miami represents Bravent’s commitment to their part of economic development within the community, steadfast dedication to bringing valuable jobs and investments to Miami-Dade County, and continuing to make a positive impact on the business landscape and the South Florida community.

To learn more about Bravent, visit https://www.bravent.net/en/

By Nikki Cabus

First ever Ignite Florida launch to Global Entrepreneurship Week in South Florida

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With the end of November comes the close of National Entrepreneurship Month. From Global Entrepreneurship Week to Small Business Saturday, startups and entrepreneurs were celebrated all month long both statewide, national and around the globe.

South Florida Tech Hub and Synapse Florida were nominated the statewide organizers for Global Entrepreneurship Week or “GEW” 2022 in Florida. The first ever Ignite Florida Startup Summit, presented by South Florida Tech Hub, helped launch Global Entrepreneurship Week in the state. From a statewide calendar, social media posts about activities each day during the week, and organizations from all across the state getting involved in activities in their cities, GEW Florida was a huge success.

Ignite Florida was hosted in collaboration with the Boca Raton Innovation Campus (BRIC), RaiseLink, and sponsored by 35 Mules, an Florida Power & Light innovation incubator. The 2-day event was held on Friday and Saturday, November 11th and 12th just prior to GEW held November 14th – 20th, 2022.

 

DAY 1

The event was launched on Veteran’s Day, November 11th, and featured speakers, founders, and judges who were all veterans including keynote speaker, Rhys Williams, retired Detachment Commander in U.S. Army Special Forces, Steve Edwards, former Army Specialist in the 82nd Airborne Division, U.S. Army, and John Riley III, former Desert Shield/Desert Storm Infantry Corporal in the United States Marine Corps.

The City of Boca Raton is the birthplace of the personal computer, many patents still being used today, and home to many of South Florida’s major companies and growing startups. Recently re-elected Mayor Scott Singer of the City of Boca Raton helped open the event during welcome remarks alongside the Olympic Heights Community High School’s JROTC Color Guard led by Master Sergeant Wayne Byron with The Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem, and an official proclamation presented to Nikki Cabus, South Florida Tech Hub’s CEO.

In addition to proclaiming, November 11th & 12th, 2022 as the launch to GEW Florida 2022 right here in South Florida at the Boca Raton Innovation Campus, the document and Mayor Singer recognized “the contributions of city and regional ecosystem partners including South Florida Tech Hub, Research Park of Florida Atlantic University, FAU Tech Runway and Florida SBDC at FAU, all providing programs that support job creation, education, innovation, and economic growth in our community.”

Throughout the first day, guests heard from speakers about entrepreneurship, the importance of supporting our veterans as they integrate back into the local community, start businesses and look for work, and veteran-owned startup pitches. Dr. Marlon Atherton, Founder and CEO of ATEAM Solution Services won the Friday night veteran-owned pitch contest.

“As a veteran, supporting our military veterans is very important to me. I was recently a judge in the IGNITE Veteran Pitch contest, it hammered home how important it is to support veteran-owned companies, especially veteran-owned start-ups,” said John Riley III, VP of Gov’t Services at Orion Innovations and USMC Veteran.

“For many veterans just getting out of the service, the transition to civilian life can be very challenging and even more when they are trying to start their own businesses. For them to have access to mentors and groups like South Florida Tech Hub that can align them with potential opportunities and investors will be of great benefit to many new veteran entrepreneurs in the future.”

 

DAY 2

The second day kicked off with coffee and breakfast for all and a keynote by the event’s presenting sponsor, Danielle Mousseau, Manager of Economic Development at 35 Mules. The day’s agenda included panels, guest speakers, an workshop on startup law, and pitches from all sorts of tech startups from healthcare to web3.

Startup exhibitors showcased their tech to all attendees. From Big Motion Studios in the metaverse to Chargefon, a power bank rental service, and Fitness At Your Door, an app bringing healthand fitness right to your living room on demand.

Panel topics included Trends in Florida’s Investment Landscape ( sponsored by Tahl Milburn), Avoiding Common IP Mistakes for Startups (sponsored by Greenberg Traurig), The People Asset (sponsored by Focus GTS), South Florida Entrepreneur Journeys (sponsored by Semantix), and the Value of Accelerators & Incubators which featured accelerator program leaders from 35 Mules, 1909, Broward Colllege’s BECx Program, and the Eglavator (sponsored by Egla Corp.)

Almost twenty startup founders who applied through the newly launched RaiseLink platform, pitched their ideas to a panel of judges. RaiseLink Founder, Boca Raton IBM tech historian and local celebrity, Pete Martinez and and RaiseLink’s CEO, Chris Houghtlaing, facilitated the picthes. Local Boca Code students built the application used for judging and it was quite impressive to see the numbers totaled in real time!

Those startups were:

Roomaters Modern Trials Everwood (a Desafío Ambiente Chile brand)
Rosi Giving Boca Code Show Agents
Fearless Mind Pet HealthCare Innovations™ 2nd Vault
EpiPaws Beach Box ARC LLC.
Synchronix Owwll EVQLV
Coping Card Inc. Mind+
Big Motion Studio Walky

In the end, Chris Ochner, Co-Founder of Modern Trials and Dr. Marlon Atherton, Founder and CEO of ATEAM Solution Services (from Friday’s pitches) both took home almost $20k in services to support their startups. Those services included everything from a South Florida Tech Hub annual membership to consulting services with IP lawyer, Howard Gitten from Lewis Brisbois to pitch review and practice with Nate Vasel from Las Olas Venture Capital and more!!

This year was a kickoff to something great, but stay tuned for GEW 2023 which kicks off November 13th, 2023!

New Leadership at the Helm of South Florida’s Tech Hub
Miami Dade College Becomes the First Florida College with Two Cybersecurity Programs Validated by the NSA
Bravent recognized at the Miami-Dade Beacon Council annual Key Ceremony
First ever Ignite Florida launch to Global Entrepreneurship Week in South Florida