Innovators and go-getters from West Palm to Boca are convening this week for Global Entrepreneurship Week, a week-long web of networking events, workshops, startup competitions and other activities.
Young entrepreneurs say now is the time to build on Palm Beach County’s growing momentum as a tech hub player.
Business-savvy professionals from West Palm Beach to Boca Raton are in town for Global Entrepreneurship Week, a weeklong web of networking events, workshops, startup competitions and other activities. The worldwide event is held in over 160 countries.
This is the sixth year for the event in Palm Beach County, which is part of the emerging tri-county tech scene that is impacting commercial real estate, law and retail. Hiring in the South Florida tech sector is at a 16-year high, according to an annual survey from ProTech, a Fort Lauderdale recruiting firm.
Although Miami receives most of the praise as Florida’s innovation hub, Palm Beach County’s tech cluster grew 24 percent from 2012-2017, according to West Palm Beach’s 2018 economic development study. And research by Palm Beach County’s Workforce Analysis cites high demand in the field amid a shortage of tech workers.
Sunny beaches and tourism aren’t always enough to attract workers, so nonprofit organizations and incubators are trying to manage the young workforce by diversifying the talent pool and accelerating development.
As innovators and go-getters convene throughout the county, four local entrepreneurs, from various industries, explain why their work adds reciprocal value to the community and its economy:
Joseph R. Russo is president and CEO of the Palm Beach Tech Association. The nonprofit cultivates innovation by supporting founders, connecting businesses, accelerating startups and fostering a more sustainable tech ecosystem.
“Small businesses succeed and fail every single day, depending on the support of their community. The more that we can reach out and support the founders that are trying to get their businesses going here, either it be a small bakery or a world-class tech startup, the more chance they will have to succeed and the more our community will thrive.”
“When you’re an entrepreneur in the 21st century, you need tech. Either it be selling widgets online with an e-commerce website or building an app to better communicate with your customers.”
Ryan Gay stresses the importance of data science and artificial intelligence as the CEO of Levatas, an artificial intelligence solutions company on the second floor of Downtown at the Gardens. He provided insight on the future of AI and its impact on day-to-day life.
“AI is here. We’re going to continue to see a lot of impact to our day-to-day lives around virtual assistance, that’s going to be things like Siri and Google Assistant, and Alexa, helping out with mundane things tasks in life … paying bills, ordering groceries, ordering food.”
“Another longer term impact to our day-to-day lives will be autonomous driving that’s coming hot and heavy. I think in the next few years, we’re going to see the impact of that in the shipping and transportation sector. And then probably a few years after that, replace our own driving.”
Jaime Legagneur, founder of Florida Podcast Network and Flint Stone Media, is the first-ever podcast instructor for Connecticut School of Broadcasting. She usually works out of the Venture X co-working space in Palm Beach Gardens and says podcasts create industry within various business sectors.
“We’re also seeing small businesses start to podcast and we’re also seeing businesses like Venture X starting to see that they can offer something to people doing all of that.”
“Podcasting can allow not only people to flex their muscles in this whole new genre, but it also allows a platform for people to come together in their own little think tank.”
Shana Ostrovitz is the executive director of 1909, a Knight Foundation funded creative co-working space and business accelerator in West Palm Beach. It’s also an initiative of Palm Beach Tech Association. She’s spearheading the 1909 Fest, an interactive festival of innovation that makes pitching business ideas more inclusive and accessible to the public.
“Instead of doing the traditional business pitch, where you’re sitting in a theater and it’s fairly quiet and boring, we really wanted to have more of a party and celebrate innovation, celebrate talent.”
“So we’re creating a more SXSW-style concept, where it is about learning and discovery,” she said, referring to the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. “We’re going to have music, we’re going to have beer, we’re gonna have food, and you’re going to hear pitches from these up-and-coming entrepreneurs in the area.”