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    Welcome to Miami: Emerge Americas 2014

What is Emerge Americas? At Miami Beach, where it was held on the first week of May, not many people knew. Until it happened.

Over 6,000 people, among investors, business executives, startups and high representatives from different organizations joined in more events that one could attend. A true beach party of entrepreneurship and innovation, where we got to see presentations by Open English’s CEO and founder, Andrés Moreno and Armando Christian “Pitbull” himself, to name just a few of the attractions. I personally was left wondering who could they bring next year, specifically from April 29th to May 5th, right there at Miami Beach Convention Center.

“I got this idea from frustration” reflects Manny D. Medina, cuban, businessman and the head behind this massive conference, in one of the many interviews he gave during the frantic Emerge week. When I got to talk to him one on one, he told me about how he personally lived the lack of entrepreneurship culture in South Florida, and how he had to fight to raise investments for his IT Solutions company “Terremark” (acquired in 2011 by Verizon for nearly 2 billion. Ok, he made it happen!). Today, he is chairman and partner at his investments company Medina Capital, with which he took Terremark over to the american dream clouds.

“We want to turn Miami into the latinamerican center for entrepreneurship and innovation”, he said to me with true conviction. “I always stumbled upon the concept of this city being good for shopping, entertainment and the beaches, but never as a tech and innovation hub. We have to change that”.

That conviction is what gave life to the first Emerge Americas, the convention where 6,000 attendies, 220 organizations, over 150 speakers and 115 startups converged, networked and set the bases for the future role of technology and innovation in industries such as health, education, banking, smart cities, among other subjects. The same place where Microsoft announced their new innovation center in Downtown Miami and big partnerships like the one between Mission Asset Fund (San Francisco) and Catalyst Miami where sealed.

It seems somewhat intimidating how someone’s dream became such a massive and powerful new hotspot for raising resources, partnerships, networking and setting the grounds for innovation to truly go somewhere productive in this ‘latin door to the Americas’. Many people that I talked to throughout the event had a similar idea, but nobody is really surprised, more than they are certain: “Manny wants to be the entrepreneurship lord of Miami, and he’s making it happen”. It’s still intimidating, but also SO attractive.

So, I kinda ‘crashed’ the VIP welcoming inauguration. Between Cosmos, I met incredible people, such as high executives from IBM, Microsoft, the Miami Museum of Science, University of Miami, lots of investment funds representatives, speakers and even Dennis Rodman! All of them excited about changing the world and helping Miami become this hub for tech, innovation and new dreams. All of them feeling so VIP and really truly sure of what they can acomplish as the powerful group of people they are. Let’s all go there! And live the NEW american dream.

There’s always one chilean. And more than one

As myself, a simple attendee to the event, there where many chileans, but some of them got more attention than others. I got to live from a close view the experience of one of the 3 chilean speakers, Camilo Erazo. He is co-founder of Viralizando, and Clinical head manager on  eHealth Systems, and was invited to talk about this health and tech community he co-created, as well as the entrepreneurial scene in Chile, these days. He presented in a panel with Axel Barceló from Incubando Salud Argentina and Javier Lozano, mexican and founder of Clínicas del Azúcar. After the applauded presentation, over 20 people were waiting to meet and congratulate him. Universities, clinics, startups and communities from LATAM and the US exchanged ideas with him, as well as bussiness cards and invitations. The power of networking.

When I asked Medina where did he see a bigger ‘fuzz’, he did not doubt much: “Definitely the health industry is one of the most influenced by this event. Yesterday I was talking to a doctor attending the keynotes and he told me ‘Do you know what is a heart attack’s first symptom? It’s death’ (He laughs out loud and continues) and it doesn’t need to be like that, technology has a great impact on the changes we can make in this area.”

Camilo-Erazo

Camilo Erazo agreed, he went to Miami with that reflection as a mission, and was sure to evangelize: “Its time to turn around the vision we have on the roles that different actors play in health”, he explains, “to better the market, the products and, especially the patients quality of life and their participation in this discussion. This is why the current entrepreneurship in Chile is so important, it is the environment that will allow a true improvement in that direction, giving more room for new investigation, competitiveness and more involved patients”.

Another chilean, but based in Miami, was Gustavo Brunser, Development Manager for Adobe Systems in Latin America. He was a part of the panel named “Making human connections in a digital world”. Since he lives in the new ‘tech hub wannabe for the Americas’, I asked him his opinion about that idea. He was a lot less enthusiastic, but faithful: “Miami is the latin entrance to the States, today the spanish speaking population is the fastest growing one in the US, and that opens many opportunities for LATAM countries, to export their products into this market. I think Miami still has some structural issues to solve in order to play a better role as tech and innovation hub”.

And he’s actually more faithful about Chile, although he throws quite the criticism: “the country is perceived as a commodity exporter, and also for specific products like wine. I think Chile has a good image (in the US), but we are lacking the ability to show more specialized tech solutions, to show more of that growing industry of ours”. So, the ball is surely on our side.

Not only presentations took place at Emerge Americas, while big thinkers fixed the world, we also got to see the “Startup Village” that brought together over 115 entrepreneurs with investors, big companies and mentors from different fields. One of them was the chilean startup “Babybe”, a device that gives preterm babies the chance to experience their mother’s presence even when confined to an incubator, through wireless technology. This company was selected in the ‘early stage startups’ competition and its co-founder, Camilo Anabalón, was thrilled: “It’s fantastic to be able to participate, with such a great audience, in such an important competition and with open doors to such a developed market. We are very happy to have such an opportunity to make our business grow”.

One that also got selected, but to the ‘late stage startups’ competition was chilean Domingo Godoy, with Inzpiral, a company that provides a suite of business intelligence solutions that improve the decision making based on information on company’s operations. Godoy said that they are very proud of being selected among 200 other competitors. “We know our strength; it’s the kind of solutions that we provide and how they  compliment each other, and this is something that visitors like investors and other entrepreneurs told us throughout the event. Everybody also agreed on the potential that we have and, Chile as well, which is a perfect place to look for good examples and practices”.

After 2 weeks (I obviously did not stay just for the conference!) of beach, palm trees, air conditioning, party, keynotes, meetings, business cards, cosmos, site seeing and dozens of new amazing people in my life, I returned to Chile covinced that Manny has already made it. Behold the new tech hub for the Americas. 

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