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South Florida lags on tech talent, Square co-founder McKelvey tells ITPalooza

South Florida lags on tech talent, Square co-founder McKelvey tells ITPalooza

South Florida’s tech sector is not growing talent as quickly as it should, according to billionaire entrepreneur Jim McKelvey.

The co-founder of mobile payment company Square was addressing more than 2,000 technology professionals gathered Thursday at ITPalooza at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward Convention Center.

McKelvey also said South Florida’s educational institutions can’t compete with places like New York. And that free education from his nonprofit LaunchCode is more valuable than a technology degree from a university that profits from those students enrolled.

LaunchCode trains people of all ages to be coders and guarantees them jobs if they graduate.

Lower-ranking education and less talent are two reasons why South Florida didn’t get the nod for Amazon’s second headquarters last month, even though it was among the 20 finalists, McKelvey said in an interview before his presentation at the annual event.

“Was [South Florida] really a finalist?” McKelvey said, pointing to Amazon’s selections of New York City and Northern Virginia for its two new campuses. “Let’s look at what they chose: high tax, low lifestyle, high talent. The educational attainment of those regions blows South Florida away.”

“I think some Amazon execs wanted to expense a trip to South Beach,” said McKelvey, who splits his time between South Florida and St. Louis, where Launch is based. “Were we really in contention? They went to where the talent was.”

South Florida can better compete for high-tech projects by improving education, he said.

The answer is “talent, talent, talent,” McKelvey said. “You have a phenomenal lifestyle down here. The business climate is fantastic, the infrastructure, tax advantages. … What are we missing? We’re missing, basically, the talent. The educational institutions of Miami are not world-class. We just don’t have it.”

“Sometimes you only need one thing not to work for everything not to work. Every programmer knows this. You can have a thousand lines of code and you can have only one little one that doesn’t work, and that stops the whole thousand from working,” he said.

LaunchCode operates in Miami but has plans to expand into Broward County. The program uses a Harvard University curriculum.

“We need a talent pipe, and that’s what we are at LaunchCode,” he said.

McKelvey said the free education provided by LaunchCode is more valuable to students and employers because LaunchCode programmers are being trained for what employers need.

Some audience members disagreed with McKelvey’s comments about academic education.

“I was furious,” said Yair Levy, professor of cybersecurity for Nova Southeastern University in Davie. He said NSU teaches students not only how to code, but also how to communicate and collaborate. And he said NSU updates its technology curriculum every year.

He said 20 years ago, programmers sat in a backroom coding. Today, they need more well-rounded skills because “they have to sit in front of venture capitalists.”

Alex Funkhouser, chairman of ITPalooza and CEO of Miami Beach-based recruiter SherlockTalent, said he agrees with McKelvey that South Florida needs to build a better educational infrastructure to lay the foundation for tech talent.

He said South Florida is making some progress in internships and apprenticeships for students through GetMyInterns.org, a program for high school students that works with Miami-Dade public schools. The program placed 3,000 students with local companies last summer and will be expanding to Broward, he said.

Register Today – Content-Rich ITPalooza THIS THURSDAY!

Register Today – Content-Rich ITPalooza THIS THURSDAY!

Join over 100 of the regions top industry experts as they discuss pivotal topics of interest to the tech community.

This is the most content-rich ITPalooza in history. We have over 100 speakers, presenters, and panelists representing 35 panels, presentations, and training sessions!

Click to view complete agenda: https://itpalooza.org/agenda/

It’s hard to pick out favorites, however, the morning keynote with Mike Maier, CTO of the City of Fort Lauderdale and the CIO-VIP Luncheon Keynote with Jim McKelvey, founder of Square and LaunchCode, would have to be high on my list.

I know I’ve mentioned this before but I encourage you to bring a new unwrapped toy of any value to add to our toy wall.

Other highlights have to be the magnificent Toy Wall which we build every year in support of the Marine Toys for Tots. This year, our partner Neiman Marcus held an ITPalooza VIP toy drive at their exclusive Fort Lauderdale store.




CIO-VIP Luncheon Keynote with Jim McKelvey, Founder Square and LaunchCode

CIO-VIP Luncheon Keynote with Jim McKelvey, Founder Square and LaunchCode

Jim McKelvey might be best known for co-founding Square, the mobile payment system, but his entrepreneurial spirit goes beyond inventing new technology. A 1987 graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, McKelvey is also a master glass artist and author, having written the world’s most widely read text on the subject, The Art of Fire.

About Jim McKelvey

McKelvey co-founded Square in 2009 with Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter, to enable small businesses to run their storefronts on a mobile device. Square has since grown to more than 2500 employees and a $25 billion valuation. In 2014, the company expanded its scope into the food-delivery market by acquiring Caviar; those moves landed McKelvey on Inc. Magazine’s “15 Entrepreneurs to Watch.”

CIO-Only Track: 5 Top Industry Leaders Share Their Perspective

CIO-Only Track: 5 Top Industry Leaders Share Their Perspective

Join the CIO Council for an afternoon of networking and education, kicking off with the Joint CIO-VIP Lunch, keynote with Jim McKelvey, founder Square, and LaunchCode.

Speakers: Jim McKelvey, Jason White, Gary Berman, Pete Nicoletti, and more…

The CIO Council presents a series of activities and sessions focused on the CIO with speakers and presentations designed to address current CIO concerns and interests. The breakout sessions are designed for CIOs and their designated I.T. team members. Funds raised, support the CIO Council Scholarship Fund.

Learn more: https://itpalooza.org/session_track/cio-only/

Panel “Building Diversity in the Tech Industry” lead by Angela Polania

Panel “Building Diversity in the Tech Industry” lead by Angela Polania

Leaders from the SoFlo tech community share their ideas for making 2019 the year that tech finally becomes more inclusive.

About Angela Polania: – CPA, CISA, CISM, CRISC.
Angela has over 16 years of experience in business and technology consulting. Angela started her career at Andersen followed by Deloitte working in the IT consulting and auditing practices. Today Angela is the CEO of Elevate a Cyber Security and Process Improvement Consulting Firm with a presence in Miami, San Francisco, and Dallas. Angela enjoys client service and business development and being part of the South Florida technology community.

Co-Presenter(s): Connie ValenciaJennifer TorloneMaria HernandezMarilyn Rousseau

Learn more: https://itpalooza.org/session/building-diversity-in-the-tech-industry/