Published by The Starting Gate
Besides offering entrepreneurs and investors time to connect, mingle and potentially make deals, the events of MIA Innovate also brought in thought leaders from around the world.
At the two-day AVCC, themed “Data, Design & Dollars,” dozens of speakers the trends in the technology and investing arenas. “Venture capital is the most effective form of job creation,” said keynote speaker Gerald Brady, managing director of Silicon Valley Bank, which has served 30,000 startups over 30 years. He’s seen no slowdown in startup creation this year. “We are 8 to 10 percent up from a year ago. It isn’t going away.”
Brady, pictured at left, also said half of all the software companies the bank is serving are going mobile first. And hardware isn’t dead, as 40 percent of startups getting VC funding are hardware companies, he said. In late 2008-early 2009, the venture flows started moving into early-stage funding.
There were sessions on what VCs and angel investors are looking for and what role Latin America plays in their portfolios. A lot of the focus was on Brazil, which is a new hotspot because just three or four years ago there was virtually not venture activity in Brazil, the panelists said. Colombia, Mexico and Chile were also mentioned as markets with the potential to take off. Industry areas of interest to the panelists: heathcare, education, big data and mobile.
A potential problem for investors: The market — meaning valuations — may be getting too hot. “The U.S. VC market wants us to co-invest but the valuations are too high, they are two to three times higher than what we want to pay. I’ve had to pass on investments.” said Veronica Allende Serra (pictured at right) of Pacific Investments, a sentiment echoed by some investors who attended.. “If you go wrong on the value, a lot of other things can go wrong.”
The wide-ranging conference also looked at trends in design. Jason Baptiste of OnSwipe (pictured at left), Dan Maccarone of Charming Robot and Nora Abousteit of Kollabora presented some of the hits and misses on digital design. The big takeaways: It’s not about looking pretty, but the user experience. Think carefully about design for each of your platforms, whether it’s the phone, tablet or desktop. Don’t just clone, but try to make it personal. And perhaps most important: Design is never done. Push your product out there, see how it is received and continue to finesse or revamp as needed to enhance user experience.
Other speakers included Gaston Legorburu of SapientNitro, Albert Santalo of CareCloud and Juan Diego Calle of .Co Internet, all South Florida entrepreneurs. Jerry Haar, executive director of FIU’s Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center, which produced the conference with a host of sponsors, said the organizers worked hard to make the conference relevant to both the local and Latin American audience.
As is usual, the conference took place as much in the hallways, small meeting rooms, restaurants and cocktail hours as in the grand ballroom. There were investor introductions made and plenty of business opportunities to consider, as well as a number of tours, meetings and satellite events.