By Nancy Dahlberg
eMerge Americas has showcased more than 800 South Florida startups on its stages over the years and connected a number of them with their first investors. Now the company has secured an investment of its own to help amplify and expand its programming statewide.
eMerge Americas, the Miami tech organization founded by Manny Medina and most known for its signature annual conference, announced today it has closed an investment round led by Florida Funders, the Tampa-based hybrid VC fund and angel network that recently expanded to South Florida. The amount of the investment was not disclosed. The funding will be used to expand eMerge's year-round platform across Florida with more content, gatherings, pitch contests and founder-investor matchmaking. Now planned: an upcoming two-day event during Basel week.
“Our missions are strongly aligned, in our pursuit to help transform South Florida into a global tech hub, and their work to help transform Florida from the Sunshine State to the Startup State, as they say,” said eMerge Americas CEO Felice Gorordo. “We are just really excited to work together on this common mission and to scale and take eMerge to the next level.”
Florida Funders Managing Partner Tom Wallace agrees, and also thinks Florida as a whole is better positioned than any other state coming out of COVID to benefit from the current tech momentum. “The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Florida and we think we are well positioned to take advantage of that," Wallace said. "We think eMerge can be the next South by Southwest.”
As part of the transaction, Florida Funders General Partner Marc Blumenthal will join the eMerge Americas board. Blumenthal is also a co-founder and board member of Synapse, which runs an annual tech conference in Tampa, and will add a great deal of value to the board, Wallace said.
Separately, eMerge Americas also announced today that Miami Mayor Francis Suarez will also be joining the board.
“We have always had the support of Mayor Suarez, both as a friend and as an ambassador of our work from day one,” said eMerge President Melissa Medina. “He was very excited about the opportunity, as are we, and he will support us in our vision and our mission. It just all came together nicely.”
Together, eMerge and Florida Funders plan to host an in-person event called La Casa in Miami on Nov. 30-Dec. 1, just before the start of Art Basel.
More details to come, said Gorordo, “but we’re planning a convening specifically focused on engaging and connecting founders with investors on the margins of Basel… and we plan to do more of those type of events throughout the year.”
As for the big event, the next eMerge Americas conference will be April 18 and 19, 2022, at the Miami Beach Convention Center. First launched in 2014, next year's conference will kick off Miami Tech Week, and eMerge will also have activations and experiences throughout the entire week to celebrate and showcase Miami Tech, Medina said.
The conference itself will focus on South Florida’s most relevant verticals, such as blockchain/crypto, fintech and healthtech, and of course diversity and inclusion will run across all stages well, she said.
Florida Funders, which has been recognized as the most active investor in the Southeast by Pitchbook, is expanding its presence in Florida. It recently opened an office in Miami and hired a team, including Maria Derchi as Director of Community. Over the years, it has invested in nine South Florida startups, most recently in Lula's $18 million round, but also HealthSnap, Secberus, ClassWallet, Bambino, Simplenight, Cast.ai, TempMee and Aerosens. Florida Funders and eMerge Americas have partnered on projects over the years, including the Rise of the Rest Tour in 2019.
Photo from the eMerge Americas conference in 2019. Image at top of post shows, from top left, Tom Wallace, Managing Partner of Florida Funders; Manny Medina, Founder & Executive Chairman of eMerge Americas; Francis Suarez, Mayor of the City of Miami, Melissa Medina, Co-founder & President of eMerge Americas; Felice Gorordo, CEO of eMerge Americas; Diane Vidoni, COO of eMerge Americas; Steve MacDonald, Partner, Board Member, & Investment Committee member at Florida Funders; Rachael Sapoznick, Board Member at Florida Funders; Marc Blumenthal, General Partner at Florida Funders.
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