Facial Recognition Startup Highlights Miami’s Growing Tech Industry

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WYNWOOD (CBSMiami) — On the edge of Wynwood sits an office building. It’s painted with murals and buzzing with traffic.

People are going in and out, many of them distracted by their smart phone. Most are so busy they do not even notice the stark contrast of Overtown across the street. Overtown is Miami’s original colored neighborhood. A neighborhood that has been witnesses to its share of triumphs and tragedies over the past 120 years. And today it sits on the edge of yet another renaissance, well under way.

Inside the mural office building, 20 and 30-somethings, dreamers, and habitual risk-takers are working on the next big thing.

There is Uber buzzing around the first floor. Upstairs, you’ll find fish tank-like board rooms. Groups of people are huddled around dry erase boards, feverishly writing something that could be great… or not. Some of the walls are covered in post-it notes. Bikes are suspended from a rack on the wall. It’s everything you’d imagine you would see in San Francisco, Seattle, or Silicon Valley. Yet here it is on the edge of Overtown… almost as if somehow it was mistake. But make no mistake about it, this is all happening as designed.

Brian Brackeen is one of those habitual risk-takers aforementioned. In his short lifetime, he’s taken the high-paying jobs at IBM and Apple most will only dream about. And then he quit. He left the money, the stability, the life… to start a company of his own in Miami.

“It’s been tough. People see the end result and kinda assume it was always that easy but it’s really high ups and downs,” he admits.

Brackeen has put it all on the line for his dream. And he’s gone bankrupt in the process. Perhaps it was all worth it. Today his startup Kairos has crossed a threshold most startups never do. The money is pouring in.

“In November of last year, we were processing 46,000 facial imprints a month. And we thought, ‘oh my God, 46,000 people are using our service. That’s amazing!’ Last month we processed 3 million,” he says with a boyish smile.

Brackeen’s company got its start in timecards. You know, when you punch in or out at work. He explains, “We started using facial recognition just to verify that it was you that was the person who was using it. And then realized that was a much better idea.”

His facial recognition system has evolved. It can not only identify you against a database, it can identify how you feel. He powers a prototype up in his office to show us.

It’s a simple computer and webcam connected to a big screen. “We are actually looking at 85 points on your face,” he says.

At the bottom of the screen is a readout. In real time, it says whether I’m happy, sad, or angry… all based on my facial expressions. It’s mind blowing because the applications are endless.

“You walk up to an ad in the mall and Nike will have two to three ads built. If you see it, you will see a Nike men’s shoe ad. But a woman would see a Nike female ad. It would automatically change depending on who’s in front of the advertisement,” Brackeen explains. “It could be cruise ships, cars, it could be malls.”

Could and is. You know all those photos you take on cruise ships?

Kairos is in talks with the cruise industry to help you find every shot you took… just by scanning your face on board.

You could put up a camera in a park to scan for sexual offenders. When one is recognized, police are alerted. The applications really are endless.

Kairos is now set to double its staff and its office space. Brackeen’s not looking back but that doesn’t mean he isn’t giving back. “I got a lot of help. And the only way to pay that back is not to the person, but to the next person,” he says.

Brackeen has teamed up with Endeavor Miami, a non-profit that supports high-impact entrepreneurs. First, Endeavor paired him with a mentor to help him get to the next level. Now he’s turning around as an Endeavor mentor to help the next entrepreneur. And Miami has a lot of them.

Matt Haggman with the Knight Foundation has been helping stimulate the tech boom for Miami for the past few years.

“For a long time, the feeling has been that if you really want to build and scale an idea, you have to do it someplace else. Brian illustrates the point that you don’t,” Haggman says.

Quietly, South Florida’s tech startup scene has been growing in recent years. Today Miami is actually the number two startup city in the nation.

Haggman says that it isn’t by mistake. “Diversity is our great differentiator. And centers of innovation are built on diversity.”

Bracken certainly owes some of his success to that diversity. Money is quickly catching on that great ideas can come… from anywhere… anyone. “California has one angel investor for every three startups. Florida has three angel investors for every one startup. It’s the opposite,” Brackeen says.

Haggman looks at this explosion of tech startup and refers to it as “the early days.”

And on the edge of it all is Overtown.

But maybe not for long. A former Miami Herald writer named Peter Bailey is looking to bring Overtown into the fold. The journalist/author/media entrepreneur is kicking off a series of performances at the historic Lyric Theater in Overtown this weekend. The Saturday show headlines none other than Brian Brackeen. Bailey is hoping that hearing Brian’s story will inspire others to take the startup leap.

For more on NiteCap Next (this Saturday) go here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/peter-bailey-presents-nitecap-next-tickets-28673157185

For more on Brian Brackeen’s company, visit: http://www.Kairos.com

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