Tech isn’t the first thing that comes to mind in mojito-crazed Miami. But just ask Amazon, which listed the dark horse candidate as a contender for its second headquarters, about the city’s emerging tech scene. And Jeff Bezos isn’t the only big fish to take notice. Miami-based Perry Ellis International Inc. is looking in its backyard for tech support on a grand scale. Pitch to PERY, an open call for tech innovations to boost brand awareness, e-commerce, bricks-and-mortar experiences and products featuring the Internet of Things, launches Wednesday at the LAB Miami, a creative coworking space in hipster-friendly Wynwood.
“Miami has a lot of talent. It’s bilingual, and the Hispanic population will only continue to grow,” said Oscar Feldenkreis, chief executive officer and president of PEI, who tapped Isaac Korn, formerly in sourcing and merchandising, as director of innovation and automation. “Miami also has a huge tech show, eMerge Americas, when companies from Silicon Valley and all over come here.”
The contest isn’t limited to locals. Anyone, anywhere can compete (the kick-off event with speakers like Armarium cofounder Trisha Gregory will be streamed on Facebook Live tonight from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. EST), but PEI is partnering with AGP Miami, a network of angel investors, and the LAB Miami’s start-up incubator, LAB Ventures, to coach contestants on the art of the pitch.
“We’re involved in an initiative that the New York Fashion Tech Lab is launching next month, but those women-led companies have already been selected. This is the first time we’re starting at zero,” said Korn, who will manage entries submitted through the February 21 deadline. “The 10 best will pitch their ideas at our offices in March, and we’ll choose a winner [to implement his product or service, with the potential for a long-term contract with PEI].”
The company is no newbie to tech, having collaborated with Optitex to increase speed to market and compete with fast fashion; Alexa to style men through wardrobe picks linked to Perry Ellis’ web site, and Chipolo, a tracking app for keys and such, regarding a Bluetooth-activated wallet to debut at Macy’s and other retailers in February. Feldenkreis spoke enthusiastically about his trip to the recent CES in Las Vegas, a family tradition begun during his father George’s days in electronics sales.
“I started going again five years ago, and it’s part of our schedule now. The crossroads of fashion and electronics have to come together.”