Miami Tech & Startup News

Innovation center at FMU opening today is a cornerstone of Ted Lucas's big vision for the community

Innovation center at FMU opening today is a cornerstone of Ted Lucas’s big vision for the community

By Nancy Dahlberg

For Ted Lucas, this is a milestone day. The music executive, philanthropist and Miami native will see a dream come to fruition when the doors open to the Technolij Innovation Center at Florida Memorial University, South Florida’s only HBCU.

The new innovation center is  part of Lucas’s larger mission to ensure that the infinite potential of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship is accessible to all Black and Brown communities in South Florida.

For Lucas, like for many, the pandemic was a time to reevaluate priorities and ask what makes him get up every day? What’s his drive?

“We see sports and we see entertainment every day. I’m one of those kids that put all my faith in making it to the NFL, and I came to  realize that didn’t work and then I got into the music business. That changed my life and music made that kind of impact. I want to give the kids the opportunity to do the same in the tech space,” said Lucas, CEO of Slip-N-Slide Records.

Technolij is Lucas’s nonprofit focused on closing the racial wealth gap through technology, education and entrepreneurship. In the last few years, he has seen all the tech excitement and momentum in Miami, but his community largely wasn’t part of it.

“I wanted to make sure that Black and Brown people in our community see what was happening in this space. It’s moving at a rapid pace and if you keep moving in analog and the whole world is moving to digital, you’re going to be in serious trouble real fast,” said Lucas, in an interview with Refresh MIami. Lucas also recently co-founded NFT Week that is coming back for a second edition March 31-April 2.

Marlon Avery, Technolij’s executive director, said the new center will be “the heartbeat” of what they are trying to build here in South Florida – and beyond. Indeed, Lucas hinted what the “beyond” might be at a Black Founders Demo Day during Art Week. “My goal is to give back,” Lucas said on stage at the event. “We are going to put tech hubs all over inner cities.”

Marlon Avery, Executive Director of Technolij

While today’s opening of the innovation center at FMU will be a celebration, there’s hard work ahead. One of the signature programs will be the Technolij Apprenticeship Program, a  cohort-style program to gain skills for entry-level positions in the tech industry. “We’re looking to help individuals, students, people from the community skill in place,” said Avery, who formerly was engineering director at Lightship Capital and engineering program manager at Udacity. He also developed the bootcamp curriculum at Treehouse and oversaw a multi-city tech apprenticeship program.

The apprenticeship program will largely be focused on what Technolij’s employer partners need in  software engineering, product management, product design, and cybersecurity. Then the Technolj team will design a very specific curriculum based on those needs, Avery said. “Success for us is going to be an 80% placement rate.”

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s Venture Miami was one of the first organizations to support the vision with a $50.000 check “and now they are back again supporting us,” Lucas said. ”I’d like to thank Venture Miami for doing what that program was set out to do … and they are doing an incredible job.”

With partners such as Bootup, JPMorgan,  BLK Men in Tech and others, the idea is to help close the wealth gap and provide communities of color with career pathways in the fast-growing technology sector of the economy. 

Those pathways can also include entrepreneurship, equipping students with technical skills to get them through their MVP or beyond, Avery said. The support could also include access to investors and funding. Nationally, just 1% of venture capital last year went to Black founders, according to Crunchbase.

“The pathways allow them to either say hey, yes, we I want to go work for company A, B or C or, hey, I want to go build out this app, this website, the SAS company that I’ve been thinking about for last couple of months,” Avery said. “Our job is to give them the tools and the resources to be successful on whatever path they want to shine in at the end of the program.”

They found an excited and supportive partner in FMU. As for the center itself, it looks like a WeWork location, Lucas said. “I want people to come in and want to work and don’t want to go home. I want to have a learning environment where they are excited to be here.”

FMU President Dr. Jaffus Hardrick said: “This invaluable campus resource helps our university deliver on its mission of producing graduates with the knowledge and skills to be career-ready for the fastest growing industries.”

Plans are to kick off activities at the center with a speaker series of software engineers and product managers from prominent tech companies. They are collecting information from students interested in the upcoming apprentice program and reach out to community, students, parents and organizations about how to get involved, Avery said.

Lucas’s dream is to have both a mother and her daughter or son involved in the apprenticeship program together and they both get employed in the tech industry. “I can’t wait for that day.”

“To have a kid that’s 20 years old, and he or she is bringing in income into the household, those are my goals — to help impact as many families locally as much as possible to raise the generational wealth in their household, to make sure we are making difference.”


Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg and email her at


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