South Florida Tech HubSouth Florida Tech Hub

By Adam Elitzur

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

Read Time 2 Minutes

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

Guest Blog: Digital Transformation South Florida Style at TECHpalooza

Read Time 3 Minutes

I was privileged to be invited to participate on a panel for the CIO Breakfast as part of the recent TECHpalooza event here in South Florida (Ft. Lauderdale to be exact). The panel was entitled, “The Future of the AI Revolution.”

I must admit I had modest hopes for the discussion taking place at the ungodly hour of 7am, but I was pleasantly surprised – not only with the sophistication and maturity of the state of digital transformation at the companies represented on the panel, but equally so by the companies represented in the audience.

Having lived in South Florida for almost 22 years now, I have come to accept that this isn’t Silicon Valley, Boston, Austin or any of the other hot tech markets. However, due to Covid, digital nomads and the hard work of local organizations like Tech Hub South Florida, that isn’t the case anymore.

There is a vibrant tech scene stretching from Miami, past Ft. Lauderdale and all the way up to Northern Palm Beach County – and even beyond.

Besides myself, on the panel was Michael Fowler, who is a VP and business unit CIO at Florida Power and Light (FPL), Sam Jaddi, SVP and CIO at ADT, Caroline Roche, VP and Senior Partner IBM’s Transformation Services, and Chad Simpson, the CIO for City Furniture. The panel was moderated by Colby Brannan and Lee Buchness, senior partners at Culture Partners.

Also not able to join us, and missed, were John Machado, the CTO of UKG and Tamecka Mckay, CIO of the City of Ft. Lauderdale. The audience had an equally impressive roster of well-known brands, as well as a good mix of consultants, smaller companies and startups.  All attendees were pre-approved and had to be a CIO or of the equivalent level to attend.

Though the discussion centered primarily around how the attendees were using AI or planned on using AI in their organizations, I was struck by the state-of-the-art technology that was being used almost universally across the board. These companies were almost all hybrid cloud users, shifting more and more of their infrastructure to the cloud.

To a person, they all were deep into DevOps and Cloud Native. Because several of them were in highly regulated industries, security and compliance processes were also very sophisticated. The level of digitization of these businesses was remarkable. ADT, for instance, is looking at how the smart home of the future will function and how they can be the hub of that. FPL is extremely forward thinking in communication with their customers via an app and being able to monitor their grid using every technology within their reach. Even City Furniture is digital first, with supply, shopping and delivery services all highly automated and digital.

We tend to think of our local companies, as just that – local. But hearing how they have transformed in the last few years and what their plans are to harness AI and other technologies to become the providers of tomorrow was extremely uplifting. The panel ran for near 90 minutes, as the standing room only audience would not let us off the stage.

Many members of the audience shared their own transformation stories with us. One interesting fact shared was that near 75% of the audience was already using gen AI in their business. Near 100% were well ahead on their digital transformation journeys. Another surprise for me was that their budgets for these initiatives were full speed ahead. I deal so much with tech tool vendors and venture backed companies that I have become used to hearing about budget cuts and delays on projects; but these participants whose companies are not generally thought of as “tech companies” were full speed ahead on their transformations.

We should remember that in the tech world. There is a big economy out there of companies doing exciting things around transformation. More than that, they are really jazzed about what else is coming down the pike and what that can mean as they seek to transform the very fabric of our day-to-day lives – not just in South Florida, but in the entire US and the world beyond that.

Shout out to the South Florida Tech Hub folks for putting on an amazing event.


Posted with permission from TechStrong Group and Digital CXO. Visit their website here.

By Nikki Cabus

Re-Discovering Innovation at TECHPalooza 2022!

Read Time 7 Minutes

Where do we start?

You may think that not having a main highlight at this year’s event would be a bad thing. In fact, it’s just the opposite. There were so many exciting things happening this year, we don’t know which was better. I guess it depends on who you ask.

From flying cars, augmented reality dodgeball, robot dogs, 3D printers, speaking sessions and taking over an entire museum, this year’s TECHpalooza was one for the books!

Over the past couple decades, Florida has consistently been ranked as one of the top states in the country for entrepreneurial activity, but has struggled to gain national attention as a true technology hub attracting businesses, talent, and funding. Technology and STEM related fields such as fintech, healthtech, proptech, oceantech and aerospace have been a focus for the state for years, but now just starting to the attention. Over the past few years, others areas of the state such as Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville have really stepped up and helped put Florida on a national (and international) level.

TECHpalooza is here to showcase that technology.

Formerly known as ITpalooza, the event has been know as one of the main annual tech events in South Florida attracting approximately 1000 – 1500 each year. It started as a holiday party and local meetup with many IT and MSP folks in the community and grew over the years into something much more.

Being at the intersection of it’s 10th year anniversary and the first one back in person since the pandemic, TECHpalooza 2022 was due for a little shakeup!

The 2022 theme was Re-discovering Innovation so we wanted to create an environment where our tech professionals and executives could re-discover that child-like wonder of discovery STEM for the first time. Presenting sponsor, Dynatrace, was on board!

The Tech Hub team decided to move the event from the Broward County Convention Center to the Museum of Discovery & Science in downtown Ft. Lauderdale. MODS was gracious enough to allow Tech Hub to do a museum takeover and use the IMAX theatre, multiple classrooms, and the entire 2-story museum to feature the events’ keynote sessions, panel discussions, interactive activities, and 50 featured exhibitors. Imagine having your booth right next to a life size replica of an extinct megalodon or the live otter viewing area!

There were almost 20 sessions with discussions touching on topics from cybersecurity to mixed reality, but the opening keynote sure made a splash that morning.

Serial entrepreneur, inventor and Founder of Magic Leap, Rony Abovitz, was interviewed by David Coddington, Sr. VP of Business Development at The Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance.

Abovitz is not only the Founder of Magic Leap, but also the founder of Z-Kat Inc, Mako Surgical Corporation, and Sun and Thunder. He had never shared his founder journey publicly so it was a great honor for all in attendance.

The other two keynote sessions of the day were Sam Jaddi, CIO at ADT, who spoke about the importance of culture within a company in his talk titled ‘Change the Culture – Change the Game,’ and Chuck Miller, VP of Global Solutions Engineering at Dynatrace, educated the audience on the topic of ‘Modern Cloud Done Right.”

Additional sessions topics included Smart Cities, ClimateTech, Cybersecurity, Web3, Data and AI, The Future of Work, Mixed Reality Tech, Digital Transformation, Cloud Migration, Robotic Process Automation, and the Future of Flying Cars. Yup – flying cars.

Sessions were sponsored by Dynatrace (the event’s Presenting Sponsor), LAN Info Tech, Excess IT Hardware, Focus Global Talent Solutions, Brightline Trains and South Florida Business & Wealth.

In between educational speaking sessions and networking with exhibitors, VIP attendees got a chance to relax and get some coffee and food in the VIP Lounge, sponsored by the TechStrong Group with Coffee Bar sponsored by General Provision and VIP swag bags by OZ Digital Consulting.

There were food trucks and outdoor food court area sponsored by Culture Partners and a station with free snacks and water for all guests, sponsored by Origina.

Some of the featured interactive exhibitors featured this year were:

Doroni Aerospace, an eVTOL, short for electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle (AKA ‘flying cars’) gave attendees to see their first flying car prototype ever. Over $6B was invested in eVTOLs in 2021 alone, and 5 of the largest air taxi companies went public for a combined market cap of $10.7B

They are already a leader in the 2-seater segment of this industry, with a vehicle designed for personal use with potential use cases in law enforcement, search & rescue, and emergency response. The company had a cockpit protype there to educate attendees about their soon-to-launch vehicles for pre-purchase.

HADO featured an exciting interactive arena where you could challenge another team to a dodgeball game by launching virtual blue fireballs, blocking those thrown at you with energy walls, and racking up points for your team. HADO combines traditional sports with competitive gameplay as the world’s first Augmented Reality (AR) physical Esport.

The company launched in Japan where the game is highly competitive and sold out arenas bring thousands of players and fans together to watch a team battle it out for cash prizes. HADO was recently launched right here in South Florida as the U.S.-based headquarters and the company is starting with schools as an immediate target audience.

It’s fast-paced, fun, and catching on quickly.

NextEra Energy brought out some of their drone technology as well as a little friend named Spot.

Spot may not be a cuddly puppy, but this robot dog built by Boston Dynamics can be deployed amidst storms to perform essentials functions that would normally be required to be performed manually. Spot can collect substation data earlier, allowing improved coverage without risk to humans. He even had his first Super Bowl ad cameo in 2020.

Spot became fast friends with Florida Robotics’ walking and talking robot Izzy. The new pair were certainly a sight to see.

The SilverLogic, a custom software development company, had a large interactive space showcasing multiple technologies they had built for some of their clients.

They are a global organization of full-time software engineers, designers and architects focused on developing and delivering products that help businesses grow. TSL works with clients in all sorts of industries tacking issues through app creation to process automation.

Three of the featured interactive technologies that TSL featured were Lumentender, a lighting controller app, Why The Face, a facial feature detection app, ZF, an augmented reality boat parking assistance app, and a generative AI demo using test-to-image AI models to generate images with Demo Stable Diffusion and GPT3.

Lime Design, one of the leading product design companies in the U.S. and a local tech and creative hub in Hollywood, was there to feature some of the cool technologies they use when designing, prototyping and developing their one-of-a-kind products for clients.

From 3D printers, CNC machine, plasma cutters, laser cutters, blasters, graphics machines and so many more, Lime Design has all the equipment and professionals needed to bring products to life.

Attendees got the opportunity to learn more about how products are created and built, see a couple 3D printers and CNC machines at work. Just in time for the World Cup, Founder Rodrigo Lima, even printed a replica World Cup trophy that was later raffled off that night.

EventFy, a Miami-based startup company and XR virtual event metaverse cross device platform showcased its futuristic technology to business executives.

The platform allows users to be transported to another world using AR, VR, and XR tech. You can get comfortable, enjoy and relax in this new immersive experience while attending a concert, trade show, or board meeting. The possibilities are endless.

EventFy has already nabbed clients such as the NFL and Televisa Univision!

The day ended with live music from our Tech Hub band, The Cyberdelics which includes Kelly Boyle, Tech Hub board member, Jeb Reynolds, Tech Hub Ambassador, and Lenny Chesal, former board member and current Tech Hub advocate. Food and drinks were sponsored by Semantix and Gravity IT Resources.

Thank you to all the wonderful people who came together to make this year a success. The City of Ft. Lauderdale, Mayor Dean Trantalis, City Manager Greg Chavarria, NBC South Florida, our volunteers, the Dan Marino Foundation, organizing committee and so many others. Although you may not be mentioned here, we know who you are and thank you!

We have big plans over the coming years so make sure you are a part of all the action. See you at TECHpalooza 2023!

Driving South Florida’s Tech Landscape: Michael Fowler’s Journey Through Tech and Leadership
Guest Blog: Digital Transformation South Florida Style at TECHpalooza
Re-Discovering Innovation at TECHPalooza 2022!