Community Coffee☕ | Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

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Join us for our weekly tech community gathering (with coffee) for updates, best practices, and a way to connect with other local business leaders on what they are doing during this unprecedented time.

SPONSORED BY South Florida Business & Wealth

ASL interpretation provided by Beth Wagmeister


Join us as we speak with four leaders who have played key roles in the outcome of our South Florida startup community and how we will continue to make a postive effect on our growing Tech Hub. #BuildingSoFlo

What will be covered:

  • The key factors driving our Ecosystem. What's missing?
  • The impact of being part of South Florida's Startup Community
  • Next steps. . . Building an abundant region for startups, investors, and tech talent.



Maria Derchi Russo is the Executive Director of Refresh Miami, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting and growing South Florida's tech and startup community. She is also the Global Ecosystem Director at TheVentureCity and the founder of Women in Miami Tech (WIMT), a group dedicated to supporting and advancing women in technology in South Florida. Before joining Refresh, Maria spent the first ten years of her career running marketing programs for startups including Travelzoo and ParkJockey (now REEF Technology).

Dr. John Wensveen is Chief Innovation Officer at Nova Southeastern University and Executive Director of the Alan B. Levan NSU Broward Center of Innovation responsible for overseeing a multimillion-dollar public-private partnership to support the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in Broward County and South Florida. John’s higher education experience includes faculty and senior leadership positions at Miami Dade College, Purdue University, Dowling College, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. John’s entrepreneurship and industry experience includes senior leadership positions at Mango Aviation Partners, Radixx International, Airline Visions, InterVISTAS, Marriott Vacation Club International, MAXjet Aiways, and Canada 3000 Airlines. John earned Masters and Ph.D. degrees in International Air Transport and Business from Cardiff University (United Kingdom) and a B.A. in Geography and Transportation Land Use Planning from the University of Victoria (Canada).

James Irvine is a startup coach who specializes in getting founders ready to pitch investors. He founded Pitch Night, a multi city pitch competition and works closely with several accelerator programs. Previously he worked at JP Morgan and Merrill Lynch.

Jim Ryan is a serial entrepreneur with expertise in international logistics and business process outsourcing. 25+ years experience developing world class marketing and channel strategies for many of the Global 500 in the fields of customer experience, research and technology solutions. Active CEO for OutPLEX, Inc and Chairman for TechNearshore. Co-Founder of The Venture Mentoring Team Accredited Investor and Board Member to several companies and not-for-profits. Passion for helping entrepreneurs, startups and the South Florida market grow.


Refresh Miami is a 501c3 non-profit with a mission to educate, inspire, connect and grow South Florida’s tech and startup ecosystem.

As the oldest and largest tech & entrepreneurial community in the state, Refresh Miami serves as the hub of Miami Tech. Refresh Miami members get a front-row seat to learn from top-notch founders, innovators and technology professionals from across the country. They expand their skills through Refresh’s in-depth workshops, hear what other local entrepreneurs are working on through Refresh’s News articles, and learn the resources available to them to help through Refresh’s Resource Directory. Pulling it all together is Refresh’s weekly email newsletter which keeps the ecosystem “in-the- know” on all things tech and startups in South Florida.

The Alan B. Levan NSU Broward Center of Innovation is a public-private partnership between NSU and Broward County. The Center is focused on three themes (innovation, technology, entrepreneurship) and four pillars (ideate, incubate, accelerate, post-accelerate). The Center is being designed to serve the community resulting in breakthrough ideas, new technology, job creation, talent skills pipeline, company formation, and scaling of early-stage and young startup companies. Each of the four pillars are supported by customized programs, events, and wraparound services. In short, the Center is an economic development engine for Broward County and South Florida with potential for national and international impact.

Founder Institute is the world's largest pre-seed startup accelerator, having helped launch over 4,500 companies across 200+ cities and six continents.

The company was founded in 2009 by serial entrepreneur Adeo Ressi and his colleague, Jonathan Greechan. The idea for the program spawned from operating, where it became apparent that most entrepreneurs at the idea and launch stages lacked the structure, feedback, and support network needed to be successful.

News of the launch was announced on TechCrunch, the first Founder Institute program methodology was crowdsourced by over 10,000 CEO members of, and the inaugural program started in May 2009 in a small classroom at Stanford University. There were originally no plans to expand beyond Silicon Valley, but upon receiving immense inbound interest to launch the program in other cities, the Founder Institute began to expand. Today the program operates across 200 + cities and is localized into 9 languages.

The Venture Mentoring Team (The VMT) is a nonprofit educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to fostering the startup community by training and credentialing Mentors and then connecting them with the best and brightest entrepreneurs to help startups reach their full potential.

We are experienced executives and entrepreneurs in corporate, legal, academic, profit and not for profit organizations that donate our time and talent. Our goal is to help the startups gain sustainability and traction.


We would like to hear from you and how our members are responding and staying ahead of their business challenges during this time. We will be offering weekly updates with speakers who can help answer your most pressing questions.

We look forward to your participation!

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