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Step into the #MiamiTech future with South Florida’s HBCU

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

By: Krysten Brenlla | April 12, 2022

Miami. ‘Crypto and tech is all about uplift’

The inaugural Black Innovation Technology & Entertainment Conference (BITE-CON), hosted at Florida Memorial University, South Florida’s only Historically Black College/University (HBCU), was met with global entrepreneurs, leaders, artists, and investors all advocating for the same thing: the future of tech is not really in the future. It’s now.

“Web 3.0 and tech is bringing the physical and digital together, breaking barriers and allowing everyone – young and old from different colors and backgrounds – to sell and be in the game,” said BITE-CON’s opening speaker Jacky Wright, Chief Digital Officer & Corporate Vice President at Microsoft. “It’s changing the world as we know it.”

Tech and innovation panelists from across the globe

Founded by Craig Skilling, Director of Innovation, Technology and Entertainment (eSports) and associate professor at FMU, and Temante Leary, Instructional Designer/Content Program Manager at Microsoft, BITE-CON saw more than 30 panelists this week speaking on topics that ranged from blockchain, NFTs, e-sports, web 3.0, crypto, entertainment, and the digital divide.

Students, alumni, and community members heard from tech leaders such as Tiffany Norwood, founder of Tribetan & Co-Founder of SimWin Sports and 2022 Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year; John Bowdre, Chairman of the Miami-Dade County Crypto Taskforce; Ted Lucas, CEO/President of SLIP-N-SLIDE RECORDS, Saif Ishoof, Founder/Managing Partner of startup Lab22c; Caron Butler, assistant coach at the Miami Heat; Erick Gavin, Executive Director to Mayor Francis Suarez’s Venture Miami team, and many other global tech figures.

The panelists all came together to speak on the significance of onboarding underserved communities and talent to web 3.0 and how Miami can work together to disrupt the digital divide ­– a feat that Florida Memorial University has been working on for quite some time.

How FMU is embracing #MiamiTech

In December of 2021, George Torsley III and the Jungle Freaks team donated $100,000 to FMU to create the ITE Fintech Center to provide a collaborative space that actively engages faculty and students in cryptocurrency, blockchain and NFTs. At BITE-CON, speakers and guests experienced first-hand what the FMU team has been working on with the unveiling of the Lions eSports and Gaming Center, an on-campus innovation hub for students and alumni to come together and experience virtual reality, gaming, and community like no other.

“The vision for BITE-CON aligned with my vision to launch the Innovation Technology, Entertainment and Esports program right here at FMU,” said Skilling, who only joined the FMU team seven months ago. “With the help of entrepreneurs like Temante, it only made sense that we build something for black and brown minorities and launch during Miami Tech Month.” Skilling continued by saying that through partnerships and conferences like BITE-CON, we can keep educating and onboarding our students toward tech and web 3.0, allowing them the opportunity to showcase their talents and potential in tech while changing the narrative.

“We have the community in Miami and South Florida to make a talent push that is better than New York or California,” said Venture Miami’s Erick Gavin in the “Funding the Black Pipeline” panel. “But we have to continue these conversations that expose our communities to what is available in this tech ecosystem – which is higher-paying jobs and more potential for growth.”

NFTs, Exhibits, and Artificial Reality… oh my!

Apart from panel conversations at BITE-CON, guests also explored the NFT gallery; they scanned QR codes, joined discords, and purchased their new profile pics from local NFTs, such as FMU communications professor Jefferson Noel’s “Yes, I Believe” and global NFTs such as Sleepy Joe, The High Monks, Diamond Maker Club, The Brobots, Meta Bunny, and My Cup of Coffee.

The world’s first robotic, interactive bartender powered by artificial intelligence from the FIU Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management,, also made an appearance, serving up mocktails and showcasing what the future of hospitality can look like.

FMU communications professor Jefferson Noel and Cecilia

And finally, guests also experienced Emmy-award winning AR/VR multimedia exhibit “STILL HERE,” which explores incarceration and gentrification in New York City through the eyes of fictional character Jasmine Smith, presented by Aljazeera Contrast’s all-women team and BITE-CON panelists Zahra Rasool, Viktorija Mickute, and Maria Fernanda Lauret.

When asked what the #MiamiTech community can do to integrate those who may not be immersed in our tech ecosystem yet, BITE-CON panelists all shared the same thoughts: we must invest in our community.

“Invest in companies and founders that are from our communities but aren’t involved in tech – graphic designers, marketers, caterers – and pour the crypto wealth that you’re accumulating into those communities,” said Saif Ishoof, founder and managing partner at Lab22c.

“Give our people the opportunity and show them that crypto and tech is all about uplift.”

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