Growing innovative ventures across the hemisphere

Pitch night winners at the University of Miami competition pose with judges. 
By Kelly Montoya

Pitch night winners at the University of Miami competition pose with judges. 

Growing innovative ventures across the hemisphere

By Kelly Montoya
University of Miami, eMerge Americas, and partner universities are teaming up to feature entrepreneurial talent at eMerge’s Global Startup Showcase.

After a series of competitive back-to-back pitches and nail-biting feedback from judges, several student entrepreneurs across Latin America and Miami and their companies are on the fast-track to the Global Startup Showcase at the 2019 eMerge Americas tech conference. 

These entrepreneurs will be among 110 startups that have been granted unique access to a highly-coveted stage, where they’ll pitch their business to a global audience with hopes of capturing the attention of investors—potentially elevating their companies to new heights. 

After a recent competition at UM, Gabrielle Rae Shapiro, a School of Communication student and founder of Oh Snap!, a magnetic earring backing company, shared her excitement and what this opportunity means to her. 

“This is the first time I'll actually present my company to investors,” Shapiro said.

“Presenting Oh Snap! in person allows people to figure out how the product works,” she said. “I’m always looking for feedback from potential customers and their validation motivates me to keep on pushing Oh Snap! until it replaces all other earring backings in the industry.” 

In an effort to help these entrepreneurs turn their dreams into reality, UM and eMerge developed a partnership that goes beyond university boundaries and the ordinary scope of the annual tech conference. 

The partnership follows UM’s announcement at eMerge last year that established the Hemispheric University Consortium—a platform for select universities to collaborate in research and education across the Americas—which is spearheaded by the Office of Hemispheric and Global Affairs.

Recognizing Miami’s unique location as the hub to the Americas, the hope of the consortium is to build bridges and break down disciplinary silos in universities across the hemisphere. 

“We’re changing the paradigm of universities,” explained Lourdes Dieck Assad, vice president for Hemispheric and Global Affairs at the University of Miami. “Through the consortium, we are continuously looking for ways to harness our hemispheric attributes in a multilateral manner. UM’s partnership with eMerge has served as a critical multiplying effect to our efforts at creating areas for collaboration across the hemisphere.” 

To support the goals of the consortium, UM and eMerge launched a multi-city roadshow to host pitch night competitions for startups and entrepreneurs at partner universities. To date, they’ve visited Universidad de Los Andes in Colombia, Tecnológico de Monterrey and Universidad de las Américas Puebla in Mexico, and the Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil. 

A total of 12 teams from these institutions will travel to Miami in April to participate in the eMerge Startup Showcase at the conference. There are plans to expand this program to other members of the consortium in the coming years.

“The global startup showcase is the heart and soul of eMerge. We’re delighted to have partnered with UM to engage with their partners in Latin America with a more boots-on-the-ground approach,” added Melissa Medina, president of eMerge Americas. 

The multi-university roadshow culminated at UM’s campus, where UM students Valeria Angelini, Gabrielle Rae Shapiro, and Daniel Gonzalez were selected to participate in the startup showcase. 

“Being an entrepreneur is about resiliency and not giving up. The goal is for everyone to take the feedback given by the judges and incorporate it into their business models,” said Michael Wilson, director of Entrepreneurship Programs at the Miami Business School. 

Because of the overwhelmingly positive response from university partners, the roadshow is expected to continue into the Caribbean and other parts of South America this fall. 

“We are committed to enhancing the start-up culture in Miami, and that’s made possible by also supporting entrepreneurial activity around the hemisphere,” Wilson explained. “Co-mingling entrepreneurs from different places of the world in Miami is truly remarkable.”

The 2019 eMerge Americas tech conference takes place on April 29-30 on Miami Beach. Registration is free for UM students, faculty, and staff. If you’re interested in attending, register here and use code TEGLUM.