By Opportunity Miami
Opportunity MiamiSep 20, 2023
Miami: An Emerging Global City Featuring Author Dr. Alejandro Portes
A conversation with Dr. Alejandro Portes, author of "Emerging Global Cities," which traces the rise of Miami, Dubai, and Singapore. This conversation was part of Opportunity Miami's Academic Leaders Council, which includes the presidents of the local colleges and universities, as they collectively focus on meeting the talent development needs of the future. The event was hosted by Miami Dade College.
Episode 33: What to do with all that seaweed? Turn it into bio-fertilizer
What can we do with all that seaweed washing up on our shores? Algas Organics has a possible solution: harvest that Sargassum and turn it into bio-fertilizer for farms across the country and Caribbean. The St. Lucia-based company was founded in 2014 by Johanan Dujon to help combat the invasive seaweed that continues to threaten tourism-dependent economies globally. Once harvested by Algas, the seaweed is turned into a biological fertilizer that can reduce chemical fertilizer costs by up to 20%, he said. "My neighbors are farmers and they have always gotten the short end of the stick. This was an opportunity I saw to empower them, not just in Saint Lucia, but globally to put food on our tables because I think farmers are the most important people on earth. The world can feed itself sustainably using this product from this invasive seaweed,” Dujon added.
Episode 32: OBE Power is making EV charging cheaper, more convenient
Miami-based OBE Power is betting on the EV revolution by identifying places where there will be significant car charging activity and assuming all of the upfront costs. They have launched charging locations at apartment buildings, offices, and government facilities. “We identify properties that are suitable for good demand levels for charging. We approach them,” said Alejandro Burgana, Co-founder and Managing Partner of OBE Power. He calls it “charging-as-a-service.” Rather than requiring apartment buildings or shopping malls to spend large sums to install EV charging infrastructure for customers, OBE Power is taking on all of that expense and risk. In return, it takes a cut of the proceeds from people charging up their cars.
Episode 31: Miami Dade College is Democratizing AI Education
How can artificial intelligence shape Miami’s workforce in tech? Colleges and universities already offer courses in AI, but Miami Dade College is taking one step further: it is the first college in the state that will offer a Bachelor’s degree in AI beginning in 2024. It’s already offering associate degrees and certificates in AI, with classes provided across its campuses. The college also has two centers devoted to AI, and the courses will prepare students for jobs such as AI analysis, machine learning specialists, and AI programmers. “We've reached that inflection point where artificial intelligence is going to go from being this generally used system to something that's used on a daily level,” said data scientist Aaron Burciaga who founded DataPrime and helped to design the programs at Miami Dade College, where he serves on the Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee. “And as we do more and more of that, it's not about having these large computers. It's about having many small computers and many small artificial intelligence systems, and to do that, we're going to need a much larger workforce.” Those jobs include what Burciaga calls “blue-collar workforce” such as data engineering, data operations, data pipelines and application development.
Episode 30: Decarbonizing America’s 3rd largest school district
Can the third largest school district in America be powered by 100 percent clean energy by 2030? Across the country, it may hard to find any organization of this size contemplating such an ambitious goal. In this conversation with Miami-Dade School Board Member Luisa Santos, we explore where this bid stands. Santos is a product of the local public school system, and is focused on transitioning the school district to a clean energy revolution with electric school buses and solar powered schools, to start. “It's very exciting to lead in this and for the third largest school district in the nation to do it really could set an example for the whole nation and how school districts can and should play a big role in moving our country forward,” she told Opportunity Miami.
Episode 29: How mass transit can transform Miami into a true world-class community
Greater access to public transportation means greater opportunity, according to Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Oliver Gilbert. From housing affordability and income inequality to driving economic growth and decarbonizing our economy, how people get around is at the center of it all. The way Greater Miami builds its transportation future over the next two decades will play an outsized role in determining what the broader future will look like. Gilbert joins us to discuss the future of mass transit in Miami-Dade County.
Episode 28: Life on concrete: greener marine infrastructure
Established in 2012, ECOncrete is a manufacturer of concrete products intended to enhance the biological and ecological value of coastal and marine infrastructure. By enabling life on concrete, projects can meet both climate action goals as well as business goals. Chief Commercial Officer Michal Judovits told us. “I am confident that by 2040 no one will think about putting traditional gray concrete in the water, knowing what it does,” she said in our recent interview.
Episode 27: The boomerang effect: Creating careers and opportunities to retain local talent
Miami native Francesca “Cesi” de Quesada Covey leads the county’s efforts to accelerate innovation, entrepreneurship, and investment as part of Mayor Cava’s #FutureReady economic development strategy. This includes determining how innovation and new technologies can help our economic future by focusing on three pillars: unleashing innovation, advancing workforce talent, and supporting small businesses.
Episode 26: Food Tech & the Future of Food
Rini Greenfield is the Founding General Partner at Rethink Food – a venture capital firm that invests in entrepreneurs who are helping build the future of food. They invest in companies that help support the production, availability, and demand for healthier and more sustainable food for all people. As an impact investor, Rethink Food is looking for disruptive businesses operating across the entire food system with a focus on entrepreneurs seeking to provide sustainable and accessible food and beverage solutions for a growing population.
Episode 25: Fortifying our tech talent pipeline
Terri-Ann Brown is the Director of the $10M grant from the Good Jobs Challenge initiative by the US Economic Development Administration behind Miami Tech Works. Launched in February 2023 at Miami Dade College Idea Center, the main goal is to create a sustainable and fortified local tech talent pipeline, closing the gap between companies looking for tech talent and the number of talented students and people in Miami for those high-paying jobs.
Episode 24: On the way to the vertiport
Eve Air Mobility is one of the electrical vertical takeoff and landing vehicle (or eVTOL) companies focused on taking four passengers on short trips in major cities. Eve expects to be certified by 2025 with commercial operations beginning the following year. The market will grow quickly and scale toward high-frequency operations within a decade, said Matthew Land, who leads government relations and public policy for Eve. For Miami-Dade County, that signals a need for an integrated ecosystem of regulations, technologies, and infrastructure to support safe and efficient operations, while meeting growing passenger demand for urban flights. Eve is already working on a Miami-Dade County Urban Air Mobility blueprint to engage with the community, different departments, and public-private stakeholders to figure out what needs to be put into place before eVTOLs can become a reality. Eve is collaborating with the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization on a final report that’s expected to be released within a few months. The county is “certainly well on the path towards preparing for eVTOL operations in the coming future,” Land said.
Episode 23: From music to tech: How one Miami native is breaking down the racial digital divide
It’s often said that talent is everywhere but opportunity is not. This has long been the case in tech. To bridge the racial digital divide, one Miami native is going from the music to the tech industry. “There’s some very talented people right here in South Florida and all they need is an opportunity, and that’s what TechNolij is here to do,” said Ted Lucas of the nonprofit. Lucas founded Slip-N-Slide Records in 1994 and sold more than 30 million records with artists like Trina, Trick Daddy, and Rick Ross before starting TechNolij (pronounced “tech-knowledge”), an innovation center on Florida Memorial’s campus in Miami Gardens “to have creative people come, we’re gonna find you a job at these major corporations and get you an opportunity and apprentice program and we’re gonna make sure you go through it.”
Episode 22: How Miami can become a global climate solutions hub
Miami has been described as the epicenter of the climate change crisis in the country. But how can Miami transform its climate vulnerability into solutions? Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter released a study in 2022 that focused on Miami’s climate action and economic growth. In our interview, she describes how Miami can become a global climate solutions hub by reinventing its tech and climate scene.
Episode 21: Making the “Energy of Tomorrow” available today
We are undergoing an electric revolution. With electric vehicle registrations up, so is demand and interest in technology and infrastructure that can make charging more convenient, not just for cars but for our everyday lives. “The way the grid has operated for 100 years is going to change dramatically, and we're enabling that transition, and we're going to make it work as a very positive experience for consumers,” said Ty Jagerson of General Motors. He leads GM Energy’s V2X team, which focuses on energy services that can power more than just vehicles. “So if you've ever talked to someone that's had a chance to drive around in one of the GM electric vehicles, there's just this, pop, this power that you get, and all that power is also available for other applications. So you can literally use it to power your home, or if you're at a construction site, you'll be able to use it to power tools or lighting whole buildings.” That power of electricity creates additional opportunities to offset some costs and save on energy bills while also having an exciting driving experience. GM Energy will be supporting the rollout of the home hardware solutions that will enable this transformation toward a zero-emission future, led by GM’s vehicles, all of which are expected to be electric by 2035.
Episode 20: Investing in and creating opportunities for Latino entrepreneurs
L’ATTITUDE Ventures is changing the Latino narrative by investing in early-stage businesses led by Latinos. Its mission is to transform the VC ecosystem for Latinos. Laura Moreno Lucas, a partner at the firm, explained how LAT VC started in 2019 with a smaller fund that invested in five entrepreneurs. It now has over 30 companies in its portfolio and closed a $100 million investment in August 2022. Meanwhile, Moreno is spearheading the next L’ATTITUDE conference, which will be in Miami September 27-30, aimed at creating a forum for founders to compete for up to $20 million of capital. “We want to be at the forefront of the big thriving community that’s growing in Miami and brings all of our talent and all of our resources to partner with Miami and in the local community,” Moreno Lucas said.
Episode 19: Mayor Cava: Building a future-ready Miami-Dade County
From climate change to rising housing costs, how can Miami-Dade County be ready – today – for the future? Mayor Daniella Levin Cava has called on public and partner sectors to team up to create an economic future that is focused on local talent, small businesses, and innovation. Elected in 2020, Mayor Cava is the first female to lead the county, and her focus – as she said – is on getting us future-ready, with climate a top concern. She joins us to discuss her economic plan for 2023 – and well beyond.
Episode 18: Navigating jobs in tech and building up a diverse tech ecosystem
There are huge inequities in how companies of the future are being built and huge gaps in the opportunities for people to develop talent. On top of that, access to capital is especially unequal: Black founders received not even one percent of venture capital funding nationwide in the third quarter of this year. Black startup founders accounted for just over one percent of funding in the year's first half. But the Miami of 2040 can and will look different. For more on how Miami can be the leader in writing a different future for Black Tech, we are joined by Chandler Malone, CEO of the educational labor marketplace Bootup that helps individuals get their first jobs in tech; he's also Managing Partner of Underground Ventures - a global venture studio based in Miami that supports promising underrepresented founders.
Episode 17: Augmented Reality: The Future of Work & Education
How can augmented reality impact the future of work and education? The technology offers an opportunity to serve as “the beginning of a new medium,” said Peggy Johnson, CEO of the augmented-reality venture Magic Leap. She explains AR’s true potential when it comes to how we interact with technology in our latest podcast. “Right here, right now, we can make South Florida a center for mixed reality: augmented reality, virtual reality. We need more people content builders. We need more people to work on the next-generation products,” Johnson said at our second Opportunity Miami Live event with the Academic Leaders Council. The group consists of all six presidents of our colleges and universities across Miami-Dade County, along with the Superintendent of Schools. It is focused on the future of work and education, which Johnson also addressed.
Episode 16: First wave: Connecting and supporting sea change makers in Miami and beyond
Restoring our oceans goes beyond philanthropy. Companies that address environmental issues such as coastal resilience, plastic removal, or limiting greenhouse gas emissions can be viable enterprises. “It is creating jobs. It’s driving economic growth. It’s expanding opportunity. It’s sort of the confluence of both sustainability and economic growth,” said Daniel Kleinman, CEO of Seaworthy Collective, a startup community and venture studio that works to connect and empower entrepreneurs and investors at all levels in ocean and climate impact. Kleinman spoke with us about Miami becoming the next ocean technology hub – or blue tech hub – with scalable economic development because “oceans should be the greatest driver of climate.” Seaworthy connects and supports sea change makers through its cohorts and other initiatives in Miami and beyond.
Episode 15: Megatrend of the century: the transition to net-zero
Miami is leaning into a net zero future as part of a national green energy transition. The Inflation Reduction Act is paving the way to transform America, injecting hundreds of billions of dollars into climate solutions on the pathway for a 40% carbon reduction by 2030. Investing in our climate is already a boom for the future, a transition described as the “mega-trend of the century” by Vijay Vaitheeswaran, Global Energy & Climate Innovation Editor for The Economist. He joins us on the podcast to give us a global perspective on sustainability, EVs, climate tech innovation, net-zero emissions, the climate provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act, decarbonizing the world’s energy, and more.
Episode 14: Can blockchain and climate tech tackle global warming?
Reducing our carbon footprint is essential to tackling global warming, but doing so is going to take a lot of money and energy. Enter the carbon-credit market, which is becoming a big business worldwide, including here in Miami which is ground zero for climate change. Many of our top leaders are betting on a combination of public and private partnerships to help get Miami-Dade County to net-zero emissions by 2050. Miami-based ClimateTrade makes it easier – and more transparent – for companies to fiscally manage carbon offsets through a virtual marketplace. “Our mission is to help the companies in Miami (and the United States) to understand why this is important for them and the path they have to do it to decarbonize,” co-founder and CEO Francisco “Fran” Benedito told us during our studio interview. ClimateTrade recently relocated its headquarters from Spain to Miami, which is “a great place to experiment” and “bring our company to help evangelize about this,” Benedito explained about their efforts to help companies decarbonize by using climate tech and blockchain.
Episode 13: The Future of Talent, Work, and Education
Miami is in a unique position to help build Miami’s future workforce by meeting the needs of a changing student body and bringing them off the sidelines, said Jamie Merisotis, CEO of Lumina Foundation. He spoke at our first Opportunity Miami Live event with the Academic Leaders Council, crediting the educational institutions with size and reach across our community. But he also touched on the need to solve a critical problem for our economic future: addressing the rapid decline in college enrollment. In this podcast, we bring Jamie’s discussion and briefly introduce you to the ALC, which includes all six presidents of Miami area colleges and universities and the Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
Episode 12: How tech-fueled services can drive small businesses
Tech is about creating big companies, solving problems at scale and building the next billion-dollar company. But what about using technology to propel small companies like micro businesses and freelancers? Launched in 2018, Miami-based Novo has raced to a valuation of $700 million and named to Forbes’ Fintech 50 this year. Novo may well be Miami’s next unicorn by serving businesses that range from one employee to about ten. And there is no telling how far this can go. Indeed, forty percent of the private sector are small businesses, but they’ve traditionally been underserved by banks. Co-founder and CEO Michael Rangel joined us to explain.
Episode 11: Decarbonizing American cities, one building at a time
Turning buildings into Telsas: that’s the goal of one climate tech, Brooklyn-based company that is rapidly making American cities green. BlocPower makes it faster and cheaper to decarbonize buildings, all while increasing jobs and improving social mobility. How? BlocPower’s Ian Harris joins us on the podcast to explain how they are a “one-stop shop,” analyzing the buildings and neighborhoods and assisting building owners in improving the efficiency of their buildings overall. BlocPower was ranked by Fast Company as one of the most innovative companies in the world this year, and TIME magazine added it to its 100 most influential companies. How to decarbonize buildings is a question critical to Miami’s future as our built environment ranks second for climate-warming emissions after transportation. With recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes legislation aimed at accelerating electrification and energy-efficient retrofitting of buildings, BlocPower’s work is poised to increase. We spoke with Ian before the legislation was proposed.
Episode 10: A boat that flies: Reinventing transportation for coastal cities
In Miami-Dade County the biggest emitter of climate-warming emissions is transportation. In thinking about Miami’s future, a critical piece will be how we get around in a way that is emissions-free. Since Miami is surrounded by water, why not turn our focus to another mode of transportation? Boston-based REGENT has created all-electric seagliders – a cross between a plane and a boat – that are high-speed and zero-emission solely for coastal transportation. Tom Harari is the Vice President of Strategy and Corporate Development for the venture-backed aerospace and maritime company. He joins us to explain how the seaglider can change how we get around in South Florida.
Episode 9: How do we harness the power of everyone?
As Chief Digital Officer at Microsoft U.S., Jacky Wright is leading teams to help businesses innovate and succeed in this rapidly-changing tech industry. She’s also one of the few females – and black females -- at the top of the industry. Jacky joins us for our first studio podcast to discuss how to drive real inclusion and diversity in tech, including here in Miami where there are wide disparities in terms of race and gender despite the growing tech scene.
Episode 8: How do we design and build carbon-neutral housing?
Energy-efficient development is going mainstream with the help of PHIUS, or Passive House Institute U.S. The nonprofit trains and certifies professionals on the Passive House standard, focusing on building “net-zero and net-positive buildings by minimizing the load that renewables are required to provide.” This includes super insulation, airtight envelopes, high-performance window installation, site management, and component sourcing.
PHIUS has become the leading passive building research and information provider in North America.
But how do we achieve environmentally sustainable buildings, from single-family homes and schools to offices and skyscrapers? We explore on the Opportunity Miami podcast with Katrin Klingenberg, Co-Founder and Executive Director of PHIUS, who explains the concept of passive building. Klingenberg is the lead instructor for the PHIUS Certified Passive House Consultant (CPHC) training, and also directs the technical and research programs at PHIUS which has trained over 2,000 architects, engineers, energy consultants, and energy raters and builders in passive building standards.
Episode 7: What does the 15-minute city of the future look like?
In thinking about the 15-minute city, neighborhood hubs can help to build a future that is more livable, offer more of a sense of community, and be more sustainable. Listen as Opportunity Miami explores this future with the Miami-based startup REEF. Co-founder and Senior Vice President of Product, Philippe Saint-Just, explains how the company is reimagining neighborhoods.
Episode 6: How to build cities for the future
There’s a revolution taking place around the world. The car industry is going electric. Mercedez-Benz by 2030 will be fully electric. Volvo is doing the same. General Motors is moving to all electric by 2035. And, of course, Tesla - which pioneered the wave to electric - has become the most valuable car maker in the world.
It’s an important change in the broader effort to shift the global economy to one that’s carbon neutral. It’s one of five areas that must change to achieve net zero: how we get around, where we get our power from, how we produce our food and how we manufacture things and how we heat and cool our buildings.
But, as this shift takes place in the auto industry, what about another industry that is near and dear to South Florida. Real estate development. How can a similar revolution be launched in the built environment - in the dwelling we live in, stores we shop in and office where we work. And how can Miami lead the way?
Tony Cho worked as a nightclub promoter during the heady days of South Beach in the 1990s, then in 2005 he founded Metro 1 Properties, launching a commercial real estate career as a broker, investor and developer helping propel emerging neighborhoods such as Wynwood and Little Haiti.
But last year Tony decided to make a change. He launched an effort called Future of Cities, a new organization focused on redefining real estate and community development in the post-pandemic world.
Episode 5: How can public policy empower Miami’s entrepreneurs?
When we think about building Miami’s economic future, we know it’s critical to be a place that creates lots of new jobs. Studies show that virtually all new job growth comes from companies five years or younger. If Miami’s job sectors are to grow, then this means being a place that launches lots of high-growth tech companies — which Miami’s doing better than ever.
But it also means that Miami needs to be a place that launches lots of micro- and medium-sized business — which may never be considered high-growth, but which employ lots of people across the community.
How do we empower entrepreneurs across the board? Can public policy shape our local entrepreneurial ecosystem? We explore on the Opportunity Miami podcast with Victor Hwang, founder of Right to Start, and Pilar Guzman Zavela, CEO of Half Moon Empanadas.
Interview with Victor Hwang at (2:09)
Interview with Pilar Guzman Zavela at (32:43)
Episode 4: Can we end the digital divide in the next five years?
The pandemic brought our need for broadband access into sharp focus. In many ways, we need internet connectivity like we need electricity or running water — the internet’s how we look for jobs, learn, shop, and receive healthcare.
But across the country, many people still don’t have internet; in Miami-Dade County alone, nearly 1/4 of homes don’t have access to the internet. Now, the Federal government is making the largest investment ever to close the digital divide, including $65 million to improve broadband access across the country.
What does this mean for Miami? Can we finally achieve universal broadband access? We explore on Episode 4 of the Opportunity Miami podcast.
Interview with Blair Levin at (2:49)
Episode 3: How can we propel Black innovation and entrepreneurship in Miami?
In the first half of 2021, only 1.2% of venture capital went to Black founders — and that was amid a record year for investment in Black-owned startups. How can we build a future where being a Black entrepreneur is normal, not novelty? On the Opportunity Miami podcast, we hear from Shu Nyatta, managing partner of SoftBank Group International, about SoftBank’s $100M Opportunity Fund, which was founded within eight days of George Floyd’s 2020 killing to focus on funding Black and Brown entrepreneurs. We also speak with three Black tech and innovation leaders: Sherrell Dorsey, publisher and CEO of The Plug; Felecia Hatcher, CEO of Black Ambition; and Brian Brackeen, founder of Lightship Capital. They share their thoughts on ways to elevate Black founders in Miami.
Interview with Shu Nyatta at (2:21)
Interview with Sherrell Dorsey, Felecia Hatcher, and Brian Brackeen at (22:42)
Episode 2: How can climate tech power the future of Miami?
Entrepreneurs, community leaders and venture capitalists are flipping the script on climate change, turning it into an opportunity for growth and innovation. Could new efforts in climate tech help make Miami a global leader in sustainability and resilience? On the Opportunity Miami podcast, we hear from Clay Dumas, founding partner of Lowercarbon Capital, an $800 million international venture-capital fund focused on climate tech, and Luisa Santos and Jane Gilbert, two Miami civic leaders who are helping drive the nation’s fourth-largest school district to commit to 100% clean energy use by 2030.
Interview with Clay Dumas at (2:36)
Interview with Luisa Santos and Jane Gilbert at (22:33)
Episode 1: How do we turn climate change into a generational business opportunity for Miami?
Climate change isn’t a favorite topic of conversation in Miami, one of the cities most vulnerable to sea-level rise. But some venture capitalists see climate change as a generational business opportunity, because the drive to lower carbon emissions will create new industries, businesses and jobs — and the places that embrace them will win. Is this a huge opportunity for Miami? Watch or listen as Opportunity Miami explores with Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and investors Christian Hernandez of 2150, Patricia Wexler of Starlight Ventures, and Kiel Berry of Mission One Capital.
Interview with Christian Hernandez at (2:27)
Interview with Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, Patricia Wexler, and Kiel Berry at (18:07)
What is Opportunity Miami?
This is a pivotal moment for Miami, which has never been positioned so strongly for success — or faced such daunting challenges, from sea-level rise to income inequality. On Opportunity Miami, host Matt Haggman talks to the innovators, entrepreneurs, and community champions who are turning the community’s biggest challenges into its greatest opportunities.
Opportunity Miami is an initiative of the Miami-Dade Beacon Council.