December 02, 2016

Argentina to Miami, a bridge worth building (Part 5)



JuancoceoIMG_6347By Natalia Martinez-Kalinina

Miami has a ways to go before we can truly claim the title of regional epicenter, but Argentina has long been recognized as one of the primary entrepreneurial - albeit not particularly stable - ecosystems in Latin America. Figuring out how to support Argentina’s wave of growth and appetite for engagement represents a unique opportunity to add value to the region and truly deliver on our vision as a gateway.

As a first step to test these waters, a group of us came together to co-author a full day of programming within StartupWeekBuenosAires - the largest event of its kind in Latin America-  specifically focused on how to engage with the U.S. ecosystem and market by way of Miami. Ahead of the full agenda being announced shortly, if you are interested in participating or learning more, please fill out this form.

Leading up to the event in December, we will be featuring interviews with a varied range of Argentine entrepreneurs and companies making their way to Miami. The first installments of this series have featured interviews with Balloon Group, Wolox, La Comunidad, and Oasis Collections. For the fifth feature, we spoke with Juan Lanusse (CEO), pictured at left, and Maral Arslanian (US Representative & Distributor), pictured below, of clothing brand Juana de Arco, which recently began its expansion into the US market through Miami two years ago.

Tell us about Juana de Arco. What’s the genesis story? What has been the trajectory?

Juana de Arco was born in 1998 in the iconic Palermo Viejo neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina by the hands of designer and artist Mariana Cortes. Mariana was born in the small town of Arribeños, humble and interesting, she gives the brand this essence. Inspired by nature, art and the recuperation of Latin-American techniques, Mariana draws out the textiles and prints that are then hand silk screen printed in an infinite variety of color that make each piece one-of-a-kind and unique.

JuancoThe brand started off as a bikini line that Mariana sold out of a backpack on the beaches of Argentina. Today, Juana de Arco has two flagship stores in Buenos Aires and two in Japan; our products are now being distributed to specialty boutiques throughout the US and Europe.

What’s next - how do you see the company’s future growth and development?

We have always enjoyed a step by step process. Never moving too fast and we think that is what keeps us going, the steady upward slope. We take strategic first steps and then let the market decide what we need to do next.

Working with Japan came about by letting life take its course. In 2004 a Japanese businessman walked in to our very first boutique in Buenos Aires and decided to purchase all of our inventory on the spot. Our relationship with Japan began in that moment and we came to find that Japanese women appreciate and value Juana.

In regards to the US, we are steadily wholesaling our product - getting a sense of what the market likes and needs and adjusting the line to this entirely new crowd.

When did Juana de Arco come to Miami? Why?

We have been exporting to Japan for 12 years. In 2014 after analyzing a variety of markets to continue our international growth, we decided the American market was our best match. It values many core aspects of our products: design, uniqueness, and the environmental scope in our production process.

To dive into the US market, our options - logistically speaking, were going through Miami, New York or Los Angeles. As an Argentinian based brand Miami had several benefits: language, time differences, geographic location, and a city focusing in developing two industries where Juana de Arco clearly fits, fashion and art.

What kinds of opportunities were you looking for here? What aspects or risks worried you? How have those played out over your years here? How have you found your industry reflected here?

The US market is known to be one for opportunities, where if you work hard you will be successful. In our case, we are looking to grow the brand on a healthy path. That is, getting the right partners to deliver our brand to the clients that value what Juana de Arco stands for, a joyful and colorful lifestyle.

As we found in Japan, we are looking for those distribution channels and end clients that see something special in Juana.

As in any new market, risks come with the lack of knowledge. The learning process we have had in Argentina since 1998 had to be adjusted from scratch for the US fashion industry, which is immense and comes with its complexities. Making decisions on what, when, and how, saying no to certain options to focus on others has been one of the biggest difficulties we've faced.

From the perspective of a Latin American entrepreneur/founder but a long-time Miami transplant, how do see Miami today? What works, what surprises you, what frustrates you?

Miami is at an incredible moment. I can truly say that not much has frustrated me, I see great things happening and more on their way. From the public and private sectors, the support in the fashion industry is there. From an entrepreneurs perspective, I think Miami will have a very interesting and prolific next year.

In light of this perspective, what can Miami do better to become a truly value-adding “hub” for the region? (in your industry and in general)

Although, I do see this happening in many industries, especially technology, Miami could create more partnership. Places like The Lab, MADE, and CIC Miami are already on their way in focusing on specific fields and facilitating intermingling. Miami has to continue developing and reinforcing this co-working approach. It is the way to create a positive community in which we will inevitably learn from each other, pick each up, and watch each other succeed.

How has it worked to have your company straddling Miami and Buenos Aires? Any lessons or advice for companies exploring similar moves?

Both cities are in relatively close proximity, and like I stated before, we share aspects and values. It is a move that takes time. Starting a company in another country simply takes time. As entrepreneurs sometimes we wish things moved in a faster manner. So my best advice would be - patience.

Organizations like Endeavor have talked at length about the “Argentine Model,” but Argentina is also a country that has lived through rocky political and economic cycles. Is there something Miami can learn from the Argentine case study?

Our rocky political and economic cycles have had negative consequences on Argentina. On a brighter note, a positive consequence, the proliferation of entrepreneurs. When when we had the crisis of 2000, many people started to think, hey I studied, worked hard and still lost my job! The lack of opportunities led them to have to lose that fear of insecurity and become an entrepreneur. This crisis gave birth to the fashion designers that are standing strong in Argentina today.

Miami should appreciate the lack of crisis and be fearless regardless.

Do you see potential for collaboration and bridge-building between the entrepreneurial ecosystem and the creative economies in Buenos Aires and Miami? Why or why not?

Yes, I see a lot of potential. I see many aspects in which we are similar, things that bring us together. I also notice many complementary aspects. These are the spaces where working together creates value for both sides, bettering each part.  

Natalia Martinez-Kalinina is the General Manager of CIC Miami and the Founder of Awesome Foundation MIAMI. If you are an Argentine company looking to expand to Miami or a Miami-based entrepreneur/investor looking to connect with the Argentine ecosystem, please reach out to Natalia at

[This is part 3 of a series. Read part 1 here - Honey vs. Vinegar: How are we luring and keeping the companies we want in Miami?, part 2 here, part 3 here and part 4 here]


StartUP FIU helps Miami software startup Addigy scale


Jason Dettbarn with part of his Addigy team.

By Jason Dettbarn

Addigy,  a local Miami software company that helps corporations manage their Apple Mac fleet, is preparing to expand its global reach with the help of Florida International University’s StartUP FIU.  Addigy is a quintessential Miami startup with deep roots within FIU.  As founder and CEO, I hold a Masters in Computer Science from Florida International University and cut my teeth in the industry managing worldwide sales operations at Kaseya, a major Miami tech company.  Three years ago, I left Kaseya in order to devote my full energy on creating and building the first full-stack IT management platform for managing Apple Mac computers.

Addigy is a self-funded company based on the sweat labor of extremely talented local Miami talent.  The engineering team consists fully of FIU computer science graduates who have immigrated from Cuba over the past 10 years.  Addigy was recently honored as one of the Top Ten late-stage Miami startups selected for eMerge Americas two years running and is one of the fastest growing companies in StartUP FIU's program.  Building upon Addigy’s 100-plus customers globally that use Addigy to manage their company's world-wide Mac networks, the company’s growth is expected to increase significantly in 2017. Addigy continues to expand at a record pace helping customers not only secure and manage the ever vulnerable Macs in their enterprise, but also helping them attract the top millennial talent, some of whom have never used a PC.

StartUP FIU is an intensive 14-week accelerator program that rapidly guides entrepreneurs through the paces needed to develop their new business ideas into successful growth companies. The accelerator program is open to FIU students, faculty and early-stage startup entrepreneurs in South Florida. All types of companies are welcome including traditional companies, high-tech ventures and social enterprises.

StartUP FIU has been integral to helping Addigy prepare for the next stage in funding and scaling our growth. StartUP FIU has provided us with an abundance of resources at FIU and very deep networks of talent throughout Miami.  Our mentor Mario Cruz (director of Watsco Ventures), for example, has been integral in guiding us through critical areas of the Addigy business.  There is nothing else like StartUP FIU in South Florida, period.

Keep an eye on Addigy as it breaks new ground in Miami and globally in the coming years, as well as the many other great companies being groomed for success in the StartUP FIU Accelerator program in Miami.

Jason Dettbarn is founder and CEO of Addigy, a Miami-based tech startup.

You’re invited to FIU Pitch Day on Dec. 6

Pitch Day is an important milestone for the inaugural Empower Accelerator Program cohort. By this day, StartUP FIU teams will have successfully completed the 14-week Empower Accelerator program. They would have participated in nearly 30 presentations and workshops, taken part in critical mentoring and business advice, and presented their required weekly deliverables in preparation for this one day. It will be 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 6 at the Graham Center Ballrooms on the Modesto Maidique campus.

To RSVP, click here.

Read more about the StartUP FIU teams here. 


December 01, 2016

Startupbootcamp's Demo Day shines spotlight on startups and healthcare ecosystem


 Mediconecta, a telehealth company serving Latin America, makes a Demo Day pitch at Startupbootcamp Miami.

By Startupbootcamp Miami

Miami is home to a robust health industry and is considered one of the largest health districts in all of the United States. From Miami, Startupbootcamp and Mana Wynwood are partnering to create a unique space that capitalizes on Miami’s competitive advantage - from demographic diversity, geographic endowment bridging populations between the Americas together, and Miami’s art scene - to create a distinct and defendable ecosystem for innovation.

“Startupbootcamp has brought new talent and energy to Miami’s expanding innovation ecosystem. Building on this momentum, Demo Day is a chance for this first class of entrepreneurs to put their potential on display and show how they can contribute to the growth and success of our city,” said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami.

“Miami is a perfect market for entrepreneurs working at the intersection of healthcare and technology with its highly successful clinical facilities, booming tech scene, and emerging startup ecosystem,” said Jaret L. Davis, co-managing shareholder of Greenberg Traurig Miami, who is leading the team of attorneys working with Startupbootcamp and serves as Vice Chairman of Miami Children’s Hospital. “Our firm is thrilled to play a key role in Startupbootcamp and serve as the connector with many of the key players in the market. In light of the work we were already doing with Miami Children’s Health Systems in this field, it made sense to introduce the two, and we are beyond pleased to see how this relationship has blossomed. We look forward to being a catalyst for future growth and remain confident that the success of Startupbootcamp Miami will encourage more accelerators to make their home here.”

Startupbootcamp Demo Day on Thursday  combined  innovations in healthcare technology with Miami’s Art Basel. On Demo Day, Startupbootcamp’s portfolio of digital health companies shared the insights they’ve garnered working in Miami over the past several months to a room of investors, healthcare customers and providers, press, and other esteemed guests.

“Startupbootcamp has really brought to life the technology startup scene in Miami,” said Dr. Narendra Kini CEO at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, an early supporter in Startupbootcamp. “By focusing on health it is really building out the ecosystem for innovation. We hope to see the next major healthcare players originate in Miami.”

In addition, the Startupbootcamp Demo Day was also paired with Miami’s Art Week, harnessing the influx of general cultural activity into an instrument for broader good. Recognizing that the worlds of Art, Health and Technology traditionally exist independently of one another, Startupbootcamp, in partnership with Mana Common, are forging an unprecedented platform for innovation.

Art is continuously playing a significant role in this development by using creativity to address healthcare and patient livelihood, and to broaden access to wellness resources. Artful thinking is increasingly becoming a meaningful and serious strategy towards better healing, as demonstrated through the partnership of Startupbootcamp and Mana Common.

The goal is to look at Miami’s competitive advantages in terms of industry – Health, Technology, and Art – to create a defensible value chain.

Here are  highlights of some of the major accomplishments that our companies have achieved over the last three months.

Aces Health:

Aces Health’s a 5 global finalists for the Mayo "Think Big" entrepreneurship challenge, has signed a LOI and is looking to close it’s pre-seed funding round led by Miami Children's Health System.


Partnered with Aurora Healthcare to build the first technology enabled Medicaid care plan that makes necessary pregnancy care available to any patient from the comfort of their own home. The product went live last week.

Additionally, Dr. Narendra Kini and the Miami Children's Health System have served as a pivotal strategic mentor and partner in the South Florida market. They are currently working together on a comprehensive Go-To-Market as well as new exciting product developments.


CareAngel as awarded 1st Place in the AARP Foundation’s $50K Innovation Challenge for its partnership with the Philadelphia Local Association of Areas on Aging to support enhanced remote care for low income and underserved populations. As part of the SBC program, CareAngel is now piloting with the University of Miami Health System around med adherence for it’s mammogram patients.

Keep Livin:

KL has closed several revenue generating deals in the past 90 days with substantial partners such as Univision and Florida Blue. Keep Livin will be Florida Blue’s community engagement partner, entail enrolling those in Broward County during the current enrollment period.

Mediconecta (pictured above):

Mediconecta has signed an agreement with Miami Children's Health System to support their outreach for children and their families in Miami, throughout the nation and in Latin America.

Additionally, Mediconecta is contracting with University of Miami Health System to deliver a one of a kind model that will extend their providers' reach into new care settings throughout their markets.

QoC Health:

QoC Health as signed 6 new project contracts (including Canada's largest hospital network, Canada's largest home health organization, 2 internationally recognized universities, and 1 global health organization). The projects cover a variety of content areas, including mental health, population health data collection, and chronic disease management.

With the help SBC, has pivoted their resources and technologies to a single product around patient intake.  Since then, the company has experienced more meetings and follow throughs with the investors, new strategic partnerships,  and more customer opportunities.


TruClinic has added 5 new customers since the beginning of our journey with Startup Bootcamp. The Company also won an RFP with a Florida Children's Hospital. TruClinic has been recognized by the Journal of Health as one of the most innovative digital health companies in the world as an honoree of the 2016 Global Digital Health 100 List.


In South Florida, VoiceITT will collaborate with specialty clinicians, disabilities advocates, and therapists, including testing and research toward clinical validation of its signature product, which will be commercially available in 2017. It is in discussions with the University of Miami UHealth System, which will be the site of its first hospital pilot implementation as well as its first enterprise sale.


A panel of community experts in healthcare discuss the ecosystem at Startupbootcamp's Demo Day.

November 30, 2016

EDC launches “Inside the Investors Head” series with Miami DDA

EDCRob Strandberg intro Steve O'Hara


By Deborah Johnson

Enterprise Development Corporation launched a new series of investor/startup events meant to provide entrepreneurs valuable funding insights.  The series combines one-on-one investor/startup introductions with a reception for a broader audience of entrepreneurs.    The objective of these “capital Introductions” is to both help startups acquaint themselves with active Florida and non-Florida early stage investors and help investors identify South Florida’s best emerging investor-ready companies. 

The series launch event featured New World Angels (NWA) and their new president, Steve O’Hara.  Mr. O’Hara met in the afternoon with five NWA selected companies from a growing event database of over 30 companies.   Each company received feedback on their presentation, an initial interest level and specific advice in applying for formal consideration by NWA. 

The five companies selected were:  Recordgram – a mobile music and video recording studio that allow for instant song collaboration; BBConnect – a cloud based reservation and marketing solution for the $3B B&B industry; Cargo42 – an on-demand marketplace for local trucking scheduling; YouCloud – a digital coach for team effectiveness; and Magneceutical Health – Magnetic Resonance Therapy addressing chronic stress and related conditions. 

These 1 on 1s were followed by an evening reception where Mr. O’Hara shared with the audience general funding guidance for entrepreneurs as well as specific insights into NWA’s selection and funding process. 

Future events in this series will be ongoing throughout 2017, with the January investor announced soon so please check for updates.

For entrepreneurs wishing to participate in future events, please submit an executive summary and investor slide deck to

Magic City, an innovation district, coming to Little Haiti

Innovation center

Artist's renderings show what the innovation center in Magic City could look like (above) and the renovation of the Dupuis building (below)

Dupuis buildling (10)


By Nancy Dahlberg /

The Magic City will get a namesake innovation district with art, entertainment, technology and sustainability at its core, if the vision of a group of real estate developers, investors and entrepreneurs comes to fruition. In Brickell? Downtown? Wynwood? Nope. Little Haiti.

Bob Zangrillo, a Silicon Valley investor and CEO of Dragon Global, and Tony Cho, a Miami real estate developer and CEO of Metro 1, will announce plans Wednesday for Magic City, a 15-acre mixed-use development focused on creating an innovation district in the historic Miami neighborhood once known as Lemon City.

“Four years ago, Tony and I teamed up because we had a shared vision for an innovation district in Miami,” Zangrillo said. “We want to embrace the history. We want to create jobs in the community and foster companies that want to give back to [community] education programs and support the kids. That’s our goal, and we’re out there, and we think this is going to be transformative for Miami.”

The first phase of Magic City will bring art and entertainment to the emerging district and will include a sculpture garden, the 30,000-square foot-Magic City Studios and the 15,000-square-foot Factory, both of which will initially be used for events, an innovation center and an amphitheater, with the aim of creating a walkable campus-like neighborhood.

Initial tenants include Salty Donut, Aqua Elements, Photopia, Baby Cotton, ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art), Wynwood Shipping and etnia Barcelona. The project so far has been self-financed. Cho and Zangrillo, co-founders of Cho Dragon Management, say that are seeking strategic capital from private investors and will likely seek public financing.  

Their team plans to renovate a 15,000-square-foot building as an innovation center for incubating startups, co-working and entrepreneur collaborations, aiming to open it by early 2018. But the building will also be an incubator for a much larger built-from-ground-up innovation center they plan further along in the project. More office and retail space, affordable workforce housing, including micro-units, and possibly a boutique hotel are in the longer-range plans, they said.

At an event at 5 p.m. Wednesday at 401 NE 62nd St., Cho and Zangrillo plan to accompany the announcement of their Magic City vision with the unveiling of five large art pieces including artist Laura Kimpton’s “Magic.” Zangrillo commissioned the piece for Magic City (also Miami’s nickname) and it was first shown at the Burning Man festival this summer. They will also kick off a partnership with the III Points Art Basel Concert Series. [More information at the end of this article.]

III Points will be producing a series of nightly concerts at Magic City Studios and the Factory through Sunday. “Tony provides the right energy we need to work with,” said III Points CEO David Sinopoli. “When he revealed to us the whole scope of [the district], we felt very confident that our visions are aligned with what were trying to do in a city that is evolving and growing in areas that are not very discovered.”

Drive around the properties today, roughly between Northeast 60th and 64th Streets and Northeast Second Avenue and the railroad tracks, and you’ll see a gritty area with a number of industrial buildings slated for adaptive repurposing under Cho and Zangrillo’s plan. The property Cho Dragon owns also includes the century-old Magic City Trailer Park, which today is a demolition zone but soon will be a “beautiful green space and a sculpture garden,” Zangrillo said. They hope to renovate the adjacent historic but dilapidated Dupuis building, he said..

You may need to put on your visionary glasses to see what they see, but the area today is not unlike Wynwood a decade ago, said Cho, who has been heavily involved in the development of Wynwood into the artsy hipster neighborhood it is now.

“We are investing money, cleaning things up, bringing more street lights and security in the neighborhood; we’re bringing in art, creating jobs,” Cho said. “I see Miami melding as an urban node. These are all becoming very interesting neighborhoods.”

Zangrillo, who lives in Miami, is a veteran investor and executive in the social networking, entertainment media, e-commerce, mobility and software industries and has diversified in Miami commercial real estate development. As the founder of Metro 1, Cho has been a pioneering force in the redevelopment of Miami’s urban core neighborhoods.

“One of the things I am super-passionate about is creating unique, interesting neighborhoods that have a positive impact on the environment. Bob brings a unique perspective to the real estate game ... and that is supporting innovative companies and bringing in the technology component,” Cho said. “We are combining our talents in an area that is up and coming and really trying to offer something that is new and exciting.”

Zangrillo and Cho began looking for property that met certain requirements. Mass transit access and an exit off I-95 were key. Cho wanted high ground and vegetation. It needed to be walking distance to great neighborhoods, but at the same time, have its own identity. It had to be affordable for young entrepreneurs to set up shop.

Rising real estate prices and rents in nearby neighborhoods — such as Wynwood and the Design District to the south and MiMo to the east — opened the door for this emerging neighborhood. In 2014, artists began leaving Wynwood and moving to the Little Haiti/Little River areas, some of them buying their gallery spaces so they wouldn’t be priced out. Developer interest began to intensify, too. In recent months, that has been followed by restaurants, mixed-use retail buildings and startup offices.

Innovation districts are thriving or developing in Boston/Cambridge, New York, Seattle, Philadelphia and Los Angeles as well as London, Barcelona, Berlin, Stockholm, Medellin and many other cities, according to a Brookings Institution report. Typically, an innovation district is a clustering of tech companies, incubators, co-working and public spaces, services and cafés as a way to accelerate the growth of a tech ecosystem, an effort supported locally by the Knight Foundation and eMerge Americas, among others. Often but not always, these are anchored by a large tech company or a university. Many are in walkable-bikeable urban downtown-midtown areas close to public transportation and contain housing. “These assets, taken together, create an innovation ecosystem — the synergistic relationship between people, firms, and place that facilitates idea generation and advances commercialization,” the report’s authors said. Still, the innovation district moniker is prone to misuse, they warned: “Labeling something innovative does not make it so.”

To be sure, Magic City is not the only local team trying to develop an innovation district or a live-work-play-innovate area conducive to entrepreneurs and millennials. Michael Simkins is developing a 10-acre innovation district in downtown Miami with plans for offices, co-working, micro-units, expo spaces and park-like corridors, but the timeline has been held up over plans for the development’s controversial Innovation Tower. Meanwhile, the Cambridge Innovation Center leased nearly the entire UM Life Science and Technology Park on the edge of Overtown for CIC Miami, a co-working center and community events space. Founder Time Rowe has said that CIC could anchor an innovation district, citing its location near the urban core and within Miami’s health district. The life science park was recently renamed Converge Miami.

Moving north, while not calling it an innovation district, Moishe Mana is developing Mana Wynwood, a 25-acre mixed-use development with office space for tech companies as well as co-working, gathering spaces and housing for entrepreneurs and young professionals. And in Little River north of the future Magic City, there are mixed-use projects as well as the artsy co-working space MADE at The Citadel. Slated to open late next year is The Citadel, a food hall that will house multiple culinary concepts, retail outlets, creative workspaces and a rooftop bar.

Saying he doesn’t want a “copy and paste” of another neighborhood, Cho said Magic City should provide solutions for an urban area that needs workforce housing and more infrastructure for entrepreneurs. He said they would like to help homegrown businesses, specifically in food and beverage, health and wellness, sustainability and technological innovation.

“We hope to be involved in incubating and accelerating entrepreneurs and technologies that help to solve the problems for Miami and the U.S and world,” Cho said. “We do have issues that are pressing — that’s why we chose an area 18 feet above sea level.”

Look at what street art and businesses such as Panther Coffee did for Wynwood. “We will find our own vibe,” Cho said. “Magic City is going to be its own destination.”

Nancy Dahlberg: 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

November 29, 2016

Argentina to Miami, a bridge worth building (Part 4)

  Rio - Villa

Oasis Collections' hotel 2.0 concept features properties like this one in Rio.


By Natalia Martinez-Kalinina

Miami has a ways to go before we can truly claim the title of regional epicenter, but Argentina has long been recognized as one of the primary entrepreneurial - albeit not particularly stable - ecosystems in Latin America. Figuring out how to support Argentina’s wave of growth and appetite for engagement represents a unique opportunity to add value to the region and truly deliver on our vision as a gateway.

As a first step to test these waters, a group of us came together to co-author a full day of programming within StartupWeekBuenosAires - the largest event of its kind in Latin America-  specifically focused on how to engage with the U.S. ecosystem and market by way of Miami. Ahead of the full agenda being announced shortly, if you are interested in participating or learning more, please fill out this form.

ParkerLeading up to the event in December, we will be featuring interviews with a varied range of Argentine entrepreneurs and companies making their way to Miami. The first installments of this series have featured interviews with Balloon Group, Wolox, and La Comunidad. For the fourth feature, we spoke with Parker Stanberry (pictured here), Co-Founder and CEO of Oasis Collections, a disruptive hospitality group that relocated its headquarters to Miami two years ago.

Tell us about Oasis Collections. How was the company started? What has been the trajectory? How do you see its future growth and development?

I hatched the idea in 2007 based on my own experiences as an international traveller and then expat in Buenos Aires. I just felt there was a need for a better and more immersive traveller experience than hotels could provide.

In 2008 I partnered with two other Americans who knew Buenos Aires well, put together about $20K of start-up capital, and launched in early 2009. So it was a true startup in the early days. We had some success in BA and raised $100K, then opened Sao Paulo and Punta del Este, which proved the concept enough to raise $600K. Then in 2013 that we raised a Series A and were able to really hit the gas in terms of expansion.

Now we’re in 22 cities in 12 countries, and earlier this year did a Series B with AccorHotels. With additional capital and the institutional support of a partner like Accor, the goal is to really ramp up and reach 100 markets. Our goal is to build the first global brand around this “hotel 2.0” concept.

When did you/Oasis come to Miami and why?

We decided to move the HQ here in 2014, as a natural base from which to pursue a global strategy. It’s geographically ideal, lower cost than a NYC (which would have been our other option), and obviously very international. I myself moved up here last year.

What kinds of opportunities are you looking for here? What aspects or risks worry you?

I think more than a specific opportunity, it’s the factors that I mentioned above. It just checks some key boxes for us at this stage of the company’s trajectory.

The 2 worrying aspects to me are, first, access to later-stage capital. It seems that the seed and angel stage ecosystem is developing quite well, but there aren’t any funds doing B/C/D stage rounds. That’s less a worry for us now with Accor on board and good relationships with some NY-based funds.

The other is scarcity of talent. There are certainly some great people around, but nowhere near the density of young professional talent as you’d find in a major US or European city. Now the flipside of that is that there are also fewer opportunities, so when you do find the right person, there is less competition for them and more loyalty. But I think the depth of the talent pool is something that the folks involved in trying to build this ecosystem have to put some serious thought into.

From the perspective of a Latin American entrepreneur/founder, what advantages does Miami have?

Well, I’m kind of a pseudo-Latin American entrepreneur, since I’m from the US, but sure, for the purposes of this question, I can play up the LatAm angle. Advantages are a) proximity to the region, b) tremendous amount of back and forth of people between Miami and the region, c) ability to ease in culturally, d) fact that many LatAm HQs are here, so it’s actually easier to reach regional decision makers in Miami than in BA or Mexico City or Sao Paulo.

In light of this perspective, what can Miami do better to become a true value-adding “hub” for the region?  

The city needs to find a way to get some larger funds active here. And I think that organizations doing some more explicitly cross-border focused programs, talks, workshops would be great, such as the LAB did a few weeks back with an Argentina focus.

Organizations like Endeavor have talked at length about the “Argentine Model,” but Argentina is also a country that has lived through rocky political and economic cycles. What do you think Miami can learn from the Argentine case?

I’m not an expert on this so don’t have too strong of an opinion. But when looking at the Argentine model, I do feel that the original impetus for the movement has a good bit to do with luck - a few incredible entrepreneurs happened to build great companies in the late 90s, and that lead to the network effect that Endeavor points to. The great thing was that Endeavor was there in Argentina at that time, and really able to seize the moment and amplify the effect and influence of those 3 big success stories. So while maybe you can’t will those first success stories to happen, you, as a city or group of organizations in a city, can certainly be proactive in recognizing them and capitalizing on them.

That being said, you’re right - at a macro level it’s not like Argentina has been a model, and there haven’t been any majorly impactful start-ups, on a global scale I mean, since Globant. Meanwhile Sweden, a country 1/5th the size of Argentina, has created 4-5 [need to check that] unicorns in the past 8 or so years. So obviously the macro context is important, and is certainly an advantage that Miami has over Buenos Aires.   

Do you see potential for collaboration and bridge-building between the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Buenos Aires and the one in Miami? Why or why not?

Sure, there is no reason not to. There is a lot of commonality of language, a natural affinity between the two, and certain industries that are quite important in both cities (tech, real estate, hospitality come to mind). But again, that being said, the macro context in Argentina is so challenging, which begs the question of whether there are other US cities that have thrived in the recent years (Austin for example) that would make sense to study and forge connections to.

Natalia Martinez-Kalinina is the General Manager of CIC Miami and the Founder of Awesome Foundation MIAMI. If you are an Argentine company looking to expand to Miami or a Miami-based entrepreneur/investor looking to connect with the Argentine ecosystem, please reach out to Natalia at

[This is part 3 of a series. Read part 1 here - Honey vs. Vinegar: How are we luring and keeping the companies we want in Miami?, part 2 here and part 3 here]


November 28, 2016

Industrial design experts bringing vision to life: Miami College of Design in Wynwood


By Nancy Dahlberg /

Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, already a hub for artists, technologists and other creatives, will soon be the home of the new Miami College of Design.

It's the vision of Walter Bender and Franco Lodato, experts in industrial design. The co-founders broke ground last month on the-state-of-the-art educational facility, which will be Florida’s first accredited college focused solely on industrial design, they said. The state-licensed associate and bachelor of science curricula will focus on a mentorship model and nature-inspired design methodologies. Selected students will be able to attend on generous scholarships provided by Bender and Lodato’s IAM (Industrial Arts and Method) Foundation via donors and corporations. Lodato and Bender are aiming to open the college next fall.

“Ideas are cheap but knowing how to take an idea and make it into a product is rare,” said Bender, a longtime senior research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who also co-founded the nonprofit One Laptop Per Child. “Miami has become a hotbed of ideas. It’s young, it’s vibrant, what we want to do is add to that.”

The new college (rendering above) will be officially announced Wednesday by Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, along with Bender and Lodato, to kick off the Masters of Tomorrow Summit, a conference bringing together design thinkers from around the world. The conference line-up, curated in partnership with the IAM Foundation, includes talks on virtual reality in film, using big data in climate change research, wearable fashion, smart luggage, incorporating “mindfulness” in design and other topics and ends with a free concert behind The LAB Miami.

The Miami College of Design will seek to advance the integration of design, science and engineering by taking students through a design process, exploring new approaches and solutions. The aim is human-centered and nature-inspired design that enhances the human experience, and “our approach will be unconventional,” said Lodato, who previously headed design at Motorola and was a director at VSN Mobil Technologies in South Florida, among other roles, and has been collaborating with Bender on various projects for two decades..

FrancoLodatoLodato pioneered “bionics,” the theory and practice of nature-inspired design. He has served as Master Innovator of wearable technologies for Google-Motorola and he led design for Herman Miller and Pininfarina. He holds 71 patents including one for the precursor of Gillette’s Mach3, and he has also consulted for Dupont, Coca-Cola, Ferrari-Maserati, Boeing and others.

Walter benderBender, president of the IAM Foundation, is also founder of the nonprofit Sugar Labs, a collaborative learning platform, and co-founder of One Laptop Per Child, which innovated distribution of laptops in third-world countries. He headed the MIT Media Lab and founded the MIT News in the Future Consortium, which helped launch the era of digital news.

About 18 months ago Lodato and Bender embarked on this college, acquiring the property and securing a license. The  building, designed by Pompano Beach architect Fred Nagler, is under construction at 26 NE 25th St. They took off the front and rear of the two-story warehouse and expanded it, and are adding a third floor and rooftop garden as a social space, Lodato said. While the school is being constructed, the IAM Foundation will be doing workshops and seminars at The LAB Miami and other venues.

The curricula will be based on Bender and Lodato’s apprenticeship-driven education model that has close ties to industry. It will be project-based, and each student will work on a few projects hand in hand with professionals from the field who become their mentors.

“One of our goals in our model is that the students will be on 90 percent scholarships funded by industry. We already have raised funding for the first cohort of students. We really want students to focus on learning 100 percent, not on how they will pay for it. The work they do will be valuable for the industry,” Lodato said.

Miami is a natural location for the new school, they said.

“There is clearly an energy here but there is not a lot of history in the space in Miami. That means there is not a lot of rigid thinking – there is a lot more openness to ideas and new approaches,” said Bender. “It is a great opportunity for a vibrant, young community and at the same time the world has really opened up to this idea of entrepreneurship, of making, of doing. It’s the time. It’s the right time to be doing this.”

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

Read more: Speakers, free concert, tour and art event for MOT Summit announced

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Speakers, free concert, tour and art event announced for Masters of Tomorrow Summit


Bring together the maker of the brain activity measuring product Muse, the head of virtual reality for Radiant Images, the designer of the Ford GT, an expert putting big data to work in climate change solutions, and other entrepreneurs and academics in  technology and design, and what do you get? A glimpse into the future of technology and design.

MIA Collective, a Miami-based producer of events for professionals in the technology and creative industries, announced  the final set of speakers and musical acts for the inaugural Masters of Tomorrow Summit  on Nov. 29 and 30, during Miami's Art Week. Another announcement: The concert on Wednesday evening will be free and will include the unveiling of a new mural.

Masters of Design is a one-day conference Nov. 30 that will bring to Miami some of the best “design thinkers” from around the world. The conference line-up was curated in partnership with the Industrial Arts and Method (IAM) Foundation and the final agenda is available on the official website. Confirmed speakers for Masters of Design, which will be held at The LAB Miami and the LightBox Theater in Wynwood, include:

Andrew Schwartz, Head of Mixed Reality of Radiant Images, Los Angeles

Ariel Garten, Co-founder of InteraXon (makers of Muse), Toronto

Bedy Yang, Managing Partner at 500 Startups, San Francisco

Camilo Pardo, Ford GT Designer, Detroit

Diego Saez-Gil, CEO of Bluesmart, San Francisco

Dror Benshetrit, Founder of Studio Dror, New York

Eduardo Constantini, Founder of Kabinett, New York City

Evan Kodra, CEO of risQ, Boston

Felecia Hatcher, Co-Founder of Code Fever and Black Tech Week

Franco Lodato, Co-Founder of IAM Foundation, Miami

Joanna Berzowska, Associate Professor of Design and Computation Arts Department at Concordia University, Montreal

Lilia Luciano, Journalist and Documentary Producer, Sacramento

Matt Haggman, Miami Program Director, Knight Foundation

Michael Burtov, Founder of GeoOrbital, Boston

Natalia Martinez-Kalinina, General Manager of CIC Miami, Miami

Natasha Tsakos, Conceptual Director and President of NTiD, Miami

Ola Alhvarsson, Founder of Result and Sime, Stockholm

Rebekah Monson, Co-founder of WhereBy.Us, Miami

Stonly Baptiste, Co-Founder of Urban.US, San Francisco

Tomás Regalado, City of Miami Mayor, Miami

Walter Bender, Co-Founder of IAM Foundation, Miami

Masters of Sound will be a concert behind The LAB Miami that will begin about 6 p.m. and run throughout the evening after the all-day conference.  Masters of Sound will be free and open the public (get free ticket here), thanks to the support of Aunken Labs and Nativo, with music curated by III Points, Miami’s leading Music, Art, and Technology Festival.  Artists performing include critically acclaimed Helado Negro and DJ Jacques Renault.

At the concert, Goldman Global Arts and #fordistas will unveil the latest mural by ELLE, a female graffiti and street artist based in Brooklyn and LA, celebrating the role of women in science and technology.

Two new VIP events have been added. The Master Tour of Downtown Miami, hosted by the Downtown Development Authority, will take VIP guests through a tour of the district’s most important institutions; followed by Master Class @, which will feature live digital painting by artist Hugh MacLeod.  The art works created by MacLeod during Master Class, together with art donated by artists Camilo Pardo, Claudio Roncoli, Greg Gayle, Jaime Dussan and Juan Muñoz, will be sold to raise funds for the MOT Scholarship. Masters of Tomorrow has partnered with Wyncode to award one or more of its students with a scholarship to its coding program.

“The MOT Scholarship brings full circle the pay-it-forward vision of Masters of Tomorrow. We not only have the opportunity to inspire tomorrow’s leaders through our amazing speakers, but we can actually make a difference in someone’s life today via the scholarship,” said Demian Bellumio, co-founder of MIA Collective. “And what could be more magical than turning a piece of art produced by a visual arts master into an opportunity for an aspiring entrepreneur to learn the art of coding and become a future master of technology?”

This is the first MOT Summit but MIA Collective also produced Sime MIA and MIA Music Festival in years' past. Expect the same intimate conference experience, where speakers don't just fly in for their talk and leave but are available to continue conversations over lunch, in the halls or over drinks. 

Masters of Tomorrow is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as well as IAM Foundation, #fordistas, and Miami DDA.  To learn more, visit or follow the summit at, and www.twitter/motsummit.


November 27, 2016

Startup Spotlight: The Wynwood Coloring Book


The Wynwood Coloring Book is a coloring book for adults inspired by the world famous street art of Wynwood. A second edition is planned, as well as a broader book featuring street artists from throughout the U.S.

Company name: The Wynwood Coloring Book, by AimfulMedia

Headquarters: MADE at the Citadel, 8325 NE Second Ave., Miami

Concept: The Wynwood Coloring Book is a coloring book for adults inspired by the world famous street art of Wynwood.

Story: As an entrepreneur, Diego Orlandini (pictured above) has always been passionate about ideas that are socially responsible and community-oriented and that deepen the human experience. He admires TOMS Shoes and similar companies that bring tangible positive social impact to their business models.

“Last year, when I was stressed trying to build AimfulMedia and writing a novel, my girlfriend at the time introduced me to a coloring book for adults. We imagined how cool it could be to color the murals of the city, and I saw that as the opportunity to put all my passions into one single project,” Orlandini said. Orlandini, a yoga enthusiast who traveled to India this summer, also discovered firsthand what research has shown to be true: Coloring can be a “mindful” way of relaxing and focusing.

Orlandini partnered with a number of Wynwood artists, and with the help of that community, the first edition of the $25 coloring book published in April. The 64-page book, made with high-quality environmentally friendly wood-free paper, features the work of 43 street artists, including Alex Senna, Mijares and Patch Whisky and includes a directory with information about each artist and work of art.

“The Wynwood Coloring Book is a lot of things. It’s a tool for mindfulness, to help people take a break from the hustle and remember a simpler time. It’s a souvenir for visitors who want to bring home a part of this place. And it’s a time capsule, capturing Wynwood at a pivotal moment in its young life, preserving today’s art long after it is painted over to make way for a new mural,” The New Tropic wrote earlier this year about the book.

The first printing of the Wynwood Coloring Book sold out in June and a second printing is nearly sold out. There will be one more printing before the next edition of Wynwood Coloring Book comes out featuring a new set of street artists. About 5,000 copies have been sold so far.

Orlandini also has plans to expand beyond Wynwood: “We are now embarking on the next bigger, larger project: A coloring book featuring over 100 artists around the country and a buy-one, give-one initiative that will come with it. For every book sold, we will place a textbook in the hands of schoolchildren in the developing world.”

Orlandini said he is working on a prototype for the national book now and will put out a call to artists in January.

Founded: 2015 (first book in 2016)

Management team: Diego Orlandini


Financing: $5,000 via a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign. Hoping to raise $50,000 for a national project.

Recent milestones reached: The Wynwood Coloring Book is now available at Miami International Airport, Books & Books, several museum gift shops including PAMM, and top retailers in Wynwood, including The Wynwood Walls Shop, Glotman, Frangipani and Wynwood Letterpress. Faber-Castell approached the company and together they launched a Wynwood Coloring Book colored pencil set to accompany the book. The startup organized a coloring party at the Miami Book Fair that entertained hundreds of attendees, adults and children alike.

Biggest startup challenge: “Not having a mentor to guide me through the process was the biggest challenge,” Orlandini said. “I’m still looking for one!”

Next step: A coloring book with 100-plus artists and their street art from around the country and a buy one, give one program (for every book sold, the company will give a textbook to schoolchildren in the developing world). “Doing something like this has been a dream of mine since my college years,” he said.

Strategy for next step: With the rapid experience, important connections and growing audience as a result of The Wynwood Coloring Book, the company will implement the same lean process used to create this book, but at a much larger scale.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

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November 26, 2016

Cubans wake to global Castro news via free internet from Miami-based nonprofit Apretaste

ApretastelocoWithin hours of the death of Fidel Castro, Miami-based nonprofit Apretaste distributed within Cuba links to international news media about the world’s reaction.

Cubans awoke to learn the news through their phones, via Pizarra, a social network built specifically for the Cuban people that overcomes the connectivity issues on the island, said Apretaste founder Salvi Pascual.

Apretaste runs a platform out of Miami where any Cuban with a cell phone and email service can have access to any information on the internet. Shortcuts to international news sites such as cnnespanol and EFE were made available through Pizarra and Cubans immediately reacted by posting their feelings from within the island.

Posts came  with mixed feelings.  Some Cubans on the island posted hopeful messages such as "Esto es trascendental,se abre una nueva etapa quizas podremos empezar al fin a ver la luz" [translation: This is transcendental, a new era opens, maybe finally we will see the light] posted Apretaste user @yulie14. While others were honoring Castro's memory with words such as "Hoy Cuba esta de luto, el mundo tendra que inclinar su cabeza para ver el paso a la inmortalidad de Fidel." [translation: Today Cuba is in mourning, and the world will have to bow its head to view as Fidel steps into immortality] posted by Apretaste user @ynapn.

Salvi-pascual-HD“Giving a voice to the Cuban people and sharing it with the world is important to us at Apretaste, especially at a time like today when the world’s eyes are on Cuba,” said Pascual, a software developer and professor in Miami.  To learn more about what the Cuban people have to say about Fidel Castro and life in Cuba, and for a live feed of posts by Cubans via Pizarra, follow the @HeyCuba twitter page at

Apretaste connects more than 40,000 people in Cuba to the web, via email, through technology designed and implemented in Miami by a community of open source software developers. Features include access to international news sites, Wikipedia, weather forecasts, Google maps and 30 more sites, all by email.