For years, Daniel Seal could see the disconnect between entrepreneurs, corporations and governments.
A serial entrepreneur and former politician in London, England, Seal knew if he could bring the three entities together they would all benefit. Improved communication could create better ideas and better products, which would likely get on the market faster, too.
So Seal launched a series of Unbound innovation festivals. They are now in London, Singapore and Bahrain. Later this month, Unbound Miami kicks off its second year.
Seal expects 5,000 participants in Miami, about 100 speakers, 100 startups and 150 investors from more than 15 countries. Speakers include leaders from Twitter, Google, Red Bull, Subway and Burning Man. Mastercard, Verizon, PepsiCo and the U.S. Army are also sending reps.
Before launching Unbound, Seal led one of Europe’s largest networking organizations and was a co-founder and chief operating officer of Bedside Manner, a software platform that provided feedback to medical professionals.
Seal, 36, recently answered some questions from the Tampa Bay Times about Unbound Miami and where his festivals go from here.
What prompted you to start Unbound and then bring it to Miami two years ago?
We wanted to create a festival that connects different corporations, brands, governments and startups within the global innovation community, so they can come together to share knowledge, create new business partnerships and discover the best grassroots technology. Many business events are either industry specific, small-scale or don’t prioritize cross-industry collaboration. Growth and innovation come from outside what you know and is discovered when connecting to the community. We wanted to create a space that enabled that.
Miami was the perfect place to connect to the innovation community because of the diversity of the tech ecosystem here. South Florida is also known for its thriving entrepreneurial community, which has seen a rise in interest from venture capitalist firms, funds, and angel investors from across the globe. As the gateway to Latin America, it makes it a premier destination in which to connect with the Americas’ most exciting and disruptive technologies.
What most excites you about this year’s Unbound Miami? For someone returning this year, what significant changes will they see?
We’ve got the Mastercard Female Founders Challenge, which will see 10 female founders battle it out for an exclusive chance to win a place on Mastercard’s flagship accelerator programme, Start Path.
We also have the startup showcase from Claro (part of Mexican telecom group América Móvil), which offers a live, inspiring and interactive session from some of the hottest startups in the Americas. Building on last year, the diversity at the event will be greater than ever before, with more delegates from across the Americas including Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, Haiti, as well as the U.S. We also have a fantastic and fresh speaker lineup from some of the most innovative organizations of our time.
What will someone who has never attended an Unbound conference experience?
You can expect unrivaled networking opportunity with corporate level executives from the region’s biggest brands, both on-site and at our relaxed and informal off-site networking events. You will see hundreds of inspiring grassroots technologies on the exhibition floor and you can expect to hear from some of the biggest brands and innovators such as the U.S. Army, Cisneros, BuzzFeed, Google, Red Bull, as well as key figures in local and international government.
You’ve talked with a lot of people who have launched successful startups. What advice would you give to someone who has an idea they are trying to get off the ground?
You’ve got to make sure that you’re surrounding yourself with the right people who can push your vision forward, not just friends or those within your close-knit circle, but find the people that share the same values as you. To do this, you need to ensure that you’re communicating the idea well so that it captures the interest of investors, potential users, and co-workers that will be crucial to developing the product. Otherwise, you won’t be able to get the buy-in that is required to get the ball rolling.
I’m betting you’ve learned some things from entrepreneurs who didn’t get it right, at least at first. Are there some things would-be entrepreneurs should avoid? What are the traps that you see neophytes falling into?
The most important thing is don’t be scared to admit failure. Sometimes you’ll do something wrong, you shouldn’t be embarrassed to just fail fast and try again. I find that often what people are scared of is admitting that they have made a mistake. For every entrepreneur, there are moments when you do things that are successful and you do things that are right, but sometimes you could be doing the right thing at the wrong time, so don’t be ashamed to say I’m retreating and recalibrating and come back to it.
Are you seeing any trends in the types of startups being launched?
We’ve seen a big rise in the number of fintechs (financial technologies) getting launched and attending our events. These startups have seen significant growth as banks and financial corporations are playing an active role in supporting the fintech community and seeking opportunities to collaborate with them to develop their technologies. This motivated us to have a fintech focus at this year’s Unbound Miami with Mastercard, YellowPepper, Waleteros, Intermex, as just a few of the names who will be on the stage revealing their latest innovations.
Of course, the number of startups launching into the artificial intelligence spectrum is growing. Software companies are pushing the boundaries of automation, search and social media. The power of this is spreading across numerous sectors, so naturally, there’s many startups developing this technology.
Contact Graham Brink at [email protected] Follow @GrahamBrink.