March 03, 2015

BritWeek featuring two tech-related events

BritWeek Miami, the annual celebration of British innovation and creativity in South Florida, returns for a third year  from March 5th to March 14th  highlighting transatlantic commerce and culture within the art, sport, technology, fashion, music, entertainment, trade and financial sectors. To celebrate this creative synergy between the UK and Florida, BritWeek Miami, an alliance with UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), HM British Consulate-General Miami and a series of strategic media and industry partners, will hold a series of events throughout downtown Miami, Wynwood, Coral Gables and Miami Beach.

Two events of interest to the tech and entrepreneurship communities:

On Saturday, March 7th is BritWeek’s pioneering community outreach initiative Britcode.  Hosted by The LAB Miami, a center for excellence and innovation in the heart of Wynwood’s vibrant tech scene, Britcode looks to ignite kids futures with hands on interactive Coding and STEM zones. In collaboration with key partners Microsoft, the Patricia and Phillips Frost Museum of Science, Mia MADE, Miami Dade College, The Club Med Foundation, Girl Develop It, City Year and Teach for America, the children will have expert guidance to learn whilst having fun. BritWeek Miami aims to make a difference and follow in the footsteps of Great Britain as world leaders in Coding education, to combine Stem and Code in an interactive outreach platform. The Day will start with Britcode “Ignite” - a launch breakfast, hosted by Dave Prodger, the British Consul-General with the leaders of Miami’s tech and educational communities to help us take Britcode and our kids to the next level.

BritWeek and eMerge Americas returns on Wednesday, March 11th, for a look at British and Miami Media and Technology with the second annual signature event: BritWeek eMerge Americas Bridging the Gap - Media and Film A Marriage Made in Miami. The forum will come together for a fascinating panel discussion with top innovators, including Jennifer Brooks of Microsoft, Gillian Thomas of the Miami Science Museum, Patricia Arias of Miami Film and Media Market, andSonia Hendler of Arts & Business Council to name a few.  Panelists will be introduced by Manny Medina, and mediated byJose Luis Martinez, of Miami Media Film Market and the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba. There will also a message from London Mayor, Boris Johnson, following his trip to the United States.

- information submitted by BritWeek.

Miami delegation to go to Israel to learn about its tech hub

Through a $75,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a dozen Miami entrepreneurs and leaders in the tech startup community will travel to Israel in March with Project Interchange, an educational institute of AJC (American Jewish Committee), to learn from the country's thriving tech and innovation sector, including policies that foster and encourage innovation and practices that can be replicated in Miami, while making connections.

The weeklong program will be centered in Tel Aviv, the hub of Israel's tech corridor, but participants will also visit innovation centers in Haifa, Jerusalem and Beersheba.Project Interchange would not release names of the delegates but said it includes entrepreneurs, investors and experts in the nonprofit and academic sectors. Brian Siegal, AJC Miami director, will accompany participants on the trip.

March 02, 2015

YouVisit expands from virtual college tours into hospitality, real estate


YouVisit CEO Abi Mandelbaum poses in the lobby of the Dream Hotel in Miami Beach with his virtual reality headset and cellphone that can to used to view YouVisit tours. YouVisit, which was started as an online college tour company, is expanding into many industries including hospitality and travel. PETER ANDREW BOSCH MIAMI HERALD STAFF

YouVisit began as a college startup that offered virtual college campus tours. But now the Aventura company has expanded into several industries, adapted its technology for VR headsets and offers a build-your-own tour option.

By Nancy Dahlberg /

Six years ago, Abi Mandelbaum, Taher Baderkhan and Endri Tolka, while international students at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, were frustrated by the lack of affordable options for international and out-of-state students to get a better sense for what it is like to live and study at different college campuses.

“We had friends that ended up at colleges that weren’t the right fit for them,” said Mandelbaum, a native of Colombia. He and Baderkhan of Jordan and Tolka of Albania thought they ought to be able to take walking tours and explore the campuses as if they were there. That inspired them to launch YouVisit in 2009.

YouVisit started out enabling prospective students and families to tour colleges and universities around the globe for free from the comfort of their own homes. In 2012, YouVisit’s proprietary Virtual Guided Walking Tour technology had proven so effective that institutions in other industries started asking YouVisit to build tours for them, said Mandelbaum, the company’s CEO.

Today, YouVisit, now based in Aventura with offices in New York and Los Angeles, is a technology company that develops Virtual Guided Walking Tours complete with rich media, video content and 360-degree panoramic views for companies and institutions in varied industries such as education, travel and leisure, hospitality and real estate.


Left to right: YouVisit co-founders Endri Tolka, COO/CFO, Taher Baderkhan, CTO, Abi Mandelbaum, CEO. | Photo provided by YouVisit.›‹

“We have also built a number of tours for Fortune 500 companies that want to showcase their factories and facilities to prospective clients. YouVisit has built thousands of virtual tours across five continents,” Mandelbaum said. Clients include Hewlett-Packard, Rio Tinto, a mining conglomerate, New York Central Park and Nizuc, a luxury resort in Cancun, Mexico.

The company, now with 50 employees, has helped more than 10 million high school students visit college campuses via Virtual Guided Walking Tours on A new website was launched late last year, which in addition to the education section, includes virtual tour sections for restaurants, travel, hotels, real estate and venues. While Mandelbaum works out of the Aventura headquarters, his two co-founders, Baderkhan, the chief technology officer, and Tolka, chief operating office and chief financial officer, work from YouVisit’s New York office.

Last year brought two more big milestones: YouVisit dove into virtual reality technology in a big way and also enabled its customers to build their own tour if they preferred.

The virtual reality move was propelled by market trends. According to a 2014 market research report published by MarketsandMarkets, the global market for virtual and augmented reality is predicted to rise at a 15 percent compound annual growth rate from 2013 to 2018 and reach $1.06 billion in 2018.

Facebook’s $2 billion purchase of Oculus Rift, the virtual reality headset maker, in early 2014 resulted in a new energy around virtual reality headsets and enthusiasm about market potential. “Mobile is the platform of today, and now we're also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said of the Oculus at the time of the purchase. Facebook is reportedly developing apps for VR.

Yet, Baderkhan and Mandelbaum saw this trend beginning to emerge before that. In late 2013, the YouVisit team began developing 3D content for those platforms.

“Virtual reality devices are a perfect fit for our technology because our media is very immersive,” said Mandelbaum. “If you are in a virtual reality headset, it really transports you. You are bringing that hotel or that university to you.”

Last year the company’s virtual tours launched on many of the new virtual reality platforms, including Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard and Oculus, allowing users to get an even more immersive experience on YouVisit also developed its own headset called YouVisit TourBox, and clients often use it to offer virtual tours at their trade show booths.

In addition to Facebook, Google, Samsung, Sony and most recently Microsoft have made big moves into VR technology. “They are all creating the hardware, we are creating the content users will want to use those devices for,” Mandelbaum said.

YouVisit TourBuilder allows anyone to go on and build a virtual tour themselves that will work on computers and tablets as well as VR devices.

Brokers use TourBuilder, particularly in places like New York where the market moves very quickly. “What brokers have been doing is creating a virtual tour they can send immediately to their clients to allow them to walk through the homes in 3D,” Mandelbaum said.

YouVisit has made a free version of its technology available, allowing users and companies to easily create virtual experiences and share them with prospects, clients, friends and family. Premium versions offer options such as professional on-site shoots, analytics and lead generation services.

The premium virtual tours are designed to the client’s specific needs, and YouVisit’s prices start at $4,980. Since the company launched in 2009, it has experienced revenue growth averaging 115 percent per year, Mandelbaum said, but the company would not release revenue figures. As a result of placing a YouVisit virtual tour on their websites, clients have experienced up to a 30 percent increase in physical visits, the company said.

TomorrowWorld, a three-day electronic music festival on 8,000 acres in the Chattahoochee Hills outside Atlanta, is one of YouVisit’s clients. In its first two weeks live, TomorrowWorld’s virtual tour powered by YouVisit received more than 50,000 total visits. Visits have come from more than 150 different countries, and the average browsing session is five minutes longer than most any page visit time (according to HubSpot the majority of browsers spend less than 15 seconds on a page). “About 20 percent of the users are on the tour engaging with it for more than 10 minutes, which is just crazy time considering average time spent on a web page,” said Joe Silberzweig, marketing manager for TomorrowWorld.

“The 360 tour is a great parallel to our popular after-movie. Our venue is one of our greatest assets and one of biggest differentiating factors. It showcases the grounds, the rolling hills, the stages, the festival,” said Silberzweig. “What I love about it the most it captures the emotions of fans at the festival — as you walk the tour, you see happy people, people dancing, people setting up their camp sites.”

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.


Above, an image from a YouVisit tour on the Nizuc resort in Mexico, and below an image from a tour of TomorrowWorld. Photos provided by YouVisit.





Business: Develops Virtual Guided Walking Tours complete with rich media, video content and 360-degree panoramic views, for companies and institutions in education, travel and leisure, hospitality, real estate and manufacturing.

Launched: 2009

Management team: Abi Mandelbaum, co-founder and chief executive officer; Taher Baderkhan, co-founder and chief technology officer; Endri Tolka, co-founder and chief operating office and chief financial officer.

Employees: 50

Offices: Headquarters Aventura, with offices in Los Angeles and New York. Smaller teams scattered throughout the country.




March 01, 2015

Entrepreneurship Datebook: what's ahead and a look back at a busy week

TecheggBITCOIN: Learn more about the digital currency at the “There are No Stupid Questions” event, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at The LAB Miami, 400 NW 26th St., Wynwood. More info:

OPENHACKNIGHT @ NSU: Interested in civic hacking? Join others at OpenHackNight 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Nova Southeastern Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences. More info:

STARTUP GRIND: This monthly speaker series presents Jose Vargas, investor and co-founder of, among other companies, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. March 10 at Venture Hive, 1010 NE 2nd Ave., Miami. More info:


Find startup news and community views on Starting Gate, including a conversation with Rony Abovitz of Magic Leap, the lowdown and funding news for Vigilant BioSciences, a life science company working on early detection of oral cancer, posts about the upcoming MIA Music Summit and HackDay and a new entrepreneurship video series by Rokk3r Labs, and a wrapup of events with the inaugural Black Tech Week, which brought dozens of speakers from around the globe to Miami. The blog is on Have news? Email

Black Tech Week spotlights pioneers, rising stars


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Silicon Valley pioneer Roy Clay Sr. received a lifetime achievement award at Black Tech Week. Photo by Nancy Dahlberg/Miami Herald

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The inaugural Black Tech Week at Miami Dade College’s North Campus and other venues featured 10 events, dozens of speakers and plenty of conversation and connections.

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inaugural Black Tech Week at Miami Dade College’s North Campus and other venues featured 10 events, dozens of speakers and plenty of conversation and connections.
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and plenty of conversation and connections.
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The inaugural Black Tech Week at Miami Dade College’s North Campus and other venues featured 10 events, dozens of speakers and plenty of conversation and connections.

By Nancy Dahlberg /

Roy Clay Sr.’s mother told him “you will face racism the rest of your life, but don’t ever let that be a reason why you don’t succeed.” With a degree in mathematics, he landed his first tech industry job at IBM in 1956 — after five years of being told “we have no jobs for professional Negroes.”

Among many game-changing career highlights, Clay developed Hewlett-Packard’s first computer in the 1960s. In the ’70s he was instrumental in nurturing Tandem Computers, Compaq and Intel. Clay, who grew up in Ferguson, Missouri, then turned to mentorship, founding scholarship and education programs, and even serving on the city council of Palo Alto, California, a city that was 1 percent black at the time.

At Miami’s inaugural Black Tech Week at Miami Dade College’s North Campus on Friday, Clay was honored with a lifetime achievement award. In accepting the award, he told the audience of students and young technology entrepreneurs his mission continues and he will help however he can. Backstage, he said he wanted to stay involved in Miami’s efforts to promote a diverse ecosystem.

To close out Black History Month, Clay and some of today’s tech innovators kept Black Tech Week firmly focused on the future. Founded by Felecia Hatcher and Derick Pearson of Code Fever, a nonprofit that teaches coding and entrepreneurship to kids in low-income communities, the inaugural event — planned and executed in under a month — aimed to help create a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem for people of color and was open to the public.

Throughout the week, African American entrepreneurs and technologists hosted “Hours of Code” in South Florida schools, sharing with K-12 students ways to be creators of technology, not just consumers. College students participated in mentor meetups and young entrepreneurs took to the stage to pitch their businesses before panels of judges, all investors or serial entrepreneurs, and two winners took home $1,000 cash prizes.

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Presenters at a Black Tech Week Pitch Competition at The LAB Miami on Tuesday wait for results. The winner was music startup GoldPlay (, pitched by Zeferiah Gonzalez and Adams Fontin, and they won a check for $1,000 and other prizes.  During a Monday night pitch contest at EcoTech Visions, Michael Caballero of  Earthware ( won $1,000 from the Awesome Foundation for his pitch for his sustainable cups cutlery and containers company. Photo by Nancy Dahlberg / Miami Herald. 

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Andre Kay of Sociallybuzz shows students his app at Black Tech Week’s Hour of Tech at Bethune Elementary School of the Arts in Hollywood. | Photo provided by Sociallybuzz

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Felecia Hatcher, co-founder of Code Feber, talks to students about careers in  technology and entrepreneurship during a Black Tech Week event. | Photo by Dante’ Fillyau Shades of Mahogany

But the highlight of the week was the summit on Thursday and Friday, where dozens of luminaries from around the world shared stories and advice on topics as diverse as the skills gap, opportunities in Africa, Cuba and Jamaica, design thinking, fund-raising, manufacturing, healthcare and education. It included innovators and top technologists at companies such as Google, SnapChat and Coca-Cola as well as a number of venture capitalists.

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Justin Washington, who grew up in Detroit, graduated from the University of Michigan in 2010, and has been an engineer at Apple and Twitter and is now at SnapChat, said he was often the only African American in his EE classes of 70 or 80. / Photo by Nancy Dahlberg

The summit was heavy on advice, which continued in the hallways and lunch tables.

“Entrepreneurship is a contact sport. You are going to have to engage the world. … It’s the soft skills that will inform your success — it’s the ability to connect with people almost at an emotional level. Think of your work in terms of how it improves people’s lives,” said John Lewis, global chief diversity officer of the Coca-Cola Co. “The world needs you. The world needs bright, multicultural, dynamic leaders to chart this new way.”

Also contributing to the two-day conversation: Chinedu Echeruo, who sold his company HopStop to Apple for $1 billion; Delane Parnell, at 22 one of the nation’s youngest venture capitalists; and Jon Gosier of Appfrica and MetaLayer. South Florida entrepreneurs and investors who spoke at the conference included Brian Brackeen of Kairos, Pandwe Gibson of EcoTech Visions, Stonly Baptiste of and Faquiry Diaz Cala of Tres Mares Group, among others.

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 Entrepreneur and investor Chinedu Echeruo talked about founding and selling HopStop at Black Tech Week at Miami Dade College’s North Campus. After selling, he went to Africa for awhile and now he is back running a lab for creating companies. | Nancy Dahlberg Miami Herald

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Brian Brackeen, CEO of Miami-based Kairos, a facial recognition company, talks with Delane Parnell, of IncWell Venture Partners who at age 22 is said to the youngest African American VC in the country. Parnell, formerly an entrepreneur in the automotive industry, said he is a founder-friendly VC. | Nancy Dahlberg Miami Herald

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Pandwe Gibson of EcoTech Visions, a Miami incubator for companies with sustainable products, shows off a dress designed and made by young teens at DesignLab in North Miami. The dress lights up – technology is everywhere, she said, be creative. | Nancy Dahlberg Miami Herald

Read more here:

Although the event focused on celebrating tech innovators of color, it was prompted by the current state of diversity. Most of the marquee Silicon Valley companies — Facebook, Twitter, Google — have workforces with under 5 percent black technologists.

“Google’s mission is to be universally accessible and useful, but here’s the reality internally: what we have all heard, 2 percent black, 3 percent Hispanic. But here is another reality: $111 billion in economic activity changes hands on Google in 2013. Are you getting a piece of that pie?” asked Jewel Burks of Accelerate with Google.

Google has a couple of programs to help you do that, Burks said. Accelerate with Google Academy is a free 12-week bootcamp for helping business owners get people to your website. A new program for businesses that make something that Google could use, the Google Small Business Supplier Diversity Program, promises payment within 15 days among other benefits, she said.

As to the numbers in the workforce, she said, “There are great people working on that problem and it will be solved.”

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From left, John Lewis Jr. of Coco-Cola, Aurelia Crews of Rokk3r Labs, Jewel Burks of Accelerate with Google and PartPic, Mary Spio of Next Galaxy and Michael Hall of Digital Grass talk about tech diversity at Black Tech Week at Miami Dade College’s North Campus./ Photo by Nancy Dahlberg, Miami Herald

Read more here:

As part of a spirited panel discussion on diversity and inclusion lead by Miami’s Michael Hall of Digital Grass, Burks, who is also CEO of a startup, PartPic, said she’s been told if she were a white male she would have raised $10 million by now. Mary Spio, founder of Next Galaxy in Miami Beach who started her career as a rocket scientist at Boeing, said she was voted out of one of her earlier companies because an investor thought it needed to be led by a white male instead of her.

Still, all the panelists said the black community can also do more to support their own community, and it wasn’t lost on this panel that the event Thursday was sparsely attended (Friday’s summit drew a fuller house). “We have to support each other, we have to invest in our communities,” Spio said.

And mentorship is really key — we didn’t get here by ourselves and now we need to lift others, said Aurelia Crews, a director of Rokk3r Labs, which helps cobuild young companies.

Black Tech Week, with about 10 events, was organized by a steering committee of a half-dozen people representing organizations promoting entrepreneurship, STEM education and diversity. The inaugural event received $100,000 in Knight Foundation funding as well as other sponsorships.

Btw endingThe conference concluded Saturday with a youth hackathon, women’s brunch and series of workshops at the MDC Meek Entrepreneurial Education Center in Liberty City (Photo of the Black Tech Week finale at left by Theodore Karantsalis). Videos from the conference as well as behind-the-scenes conversations will be available on within a few weeks, Hatcher said.

“We are absolutely doing this again next year,” Hatcher said on Friday. “We’ve been asked to bring this to other cities already, but we are committed to always keeping this in Miami. Our overall goal with Black Tech Week will become similar to Global Entrepreneurship Week, where partners, organizations, educational institutions and individuals will host Black Tech Week events all over the globe under our four pillars — creativity, culture, technology and innovation — during the last week of Black History Month.”

Hatcher said she heard from many people about how accessible the speakers and venture capitalists have been to answer questions. “They also told me ‘I was comfortable and confident in my own skin all week.’ ”

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

February 26, 2015

I Hacked Miami was the spark, but civic open-data projects need your input

By Maggie Diaz-Vera / @codeformiami

Code for Miami is setting the tone for civic hacking and community engagement in South Florida. With help from The Knight Foundation, Code for Miami and Miami Ad School hosted I <Hacked> Miami last Saturday, a Code Across 2015 hackathon coinciding with events from around the world hosted by Code for America brigades. Miami brigade members used human-centered design to create applications that would allow residents to gain easy access to public data.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez launched Miami-Dade County’s open data portal to kick-off the event. The Mayor commented on the future of technology in Miami-Dade, “we cannot attract innovators without being innovative ourselves.” The portal provides free, up-to-date access to public data on civic services, geographic information, building permits, and employee salaries. The portal will continue to be updated with additional data over time.


The goal of the hackathon, and Code for Miami, is to engage residents in creating applications for the community. "What is cool is that citizens feel like they have a stake in building the government they want," shared brigade co-captain Rebekah Monson. Hackathon participants joined to create tools that will help residents make informed decisions about the community they live in and apply it to their own personal and business goals.

The hackathon focused on 3 major projects:

Miami Answers is a platform to answer frequently asked community questions in regards to public services. The questions and answers were written by volunteers in a casual and friendly voice so that it could easily be followed and understood by everyone.

                     Awesomest Mentor: Elizabeth

                     Awesomest Team: Miami Answers

Public services were also the focus for Open 211, a technical project to format sample data provided by Switchboard Miami so that it can be easily pulled by developers for future applications.

                     The “Dale” Award: Bryce

                     Awesomest N00b: Walter

                     Awesomest Project: Open 211

Open311 utilizes the newly open Miami-Dade data portal to display county information so that it can be easily interpreted and analyzed. Through visualization and data mapping, citizens and government officials will be able to efficiently identify trends and gain insights on how and where resources are being allocated.

The data was used to create visualizations such as: Map of Reported Dog Bites by Volume; Flood Zones Map; Evacuation Centers by distance and animal acceptance

Residents like you are needed to user-test these apps and give feedback to complete the projects. Join Code for Miami at 7PM on Monday nights at LAB Miami in Wynwood to share ideas and develop these applications further.


Women's specialty shoewear startup receives seed funding

Sensational Soles,  a Boca Raton startup online retailer of specialty women’s footwear,  closed on an early-stage financing round of  debt and equity totaling $635,000. The funding will be used to increase inventory and designs and enter new markets.

Sensational Soles was founded last June to meet the needs and growing demand for affordable, quality, women’s footwear in sizes 11 – 14, incorporating styles and construction methods designed to minimize the appearance of a larger foot while providing extraordinary support and comfort, said Sensational Soles CEO Lisa Taylor in a news release. The company has developed and created a proprietary line of custom footwear after spending the past year developing its designs and supply chain.  The company recently began offering its collection via its retail website at

Michael Stango, Regional Marketing Director with Lincoln Financial Group, will join the company’s Board of Managers, and Brian Wornow, formerly a Managing Director at Morgan Stanley, will become an advisor to the company in conjunction with this financing. “With this new round of funding, Sensational Soles will be able to accelerate its rapid growth and have the capital needed to meet the company’s projected demand,” said Stango.


MIA Music Summit, HackDay out to help make Miami a hotbed for digital music startups


Shown above, last year's MIA Music HackDay in progress at The LAB Miami,  and below, when the winners, Erik Mendelson and Brandon West, were announced at the MIA Music Summit for their app to  make your own remix.


By Demian Bellumio

DemianOn March 26th, 2015, with the support of the Knight Foundation, the MIA Music Summit will once again bring together some of the world’s leading digital music experts to discuss the future of this fast-growing industry.  More importantly, we will continue to explore how Miami can become an ideal location for creating and growing digital music startups.  

As a city, we have a rich music history that includes musical legends like The Beatles, Bee Gees and Bob Marley, and which today is home to top record labels, music executives, artists, festivals, media companies and even some globally recognized digital music startups, such as Choose Digital, Batanga Media, F# and Senzari, the startup I lead from this city.

The event will gather approximately 400 attendees at the classic Colony Theater on the same day that Miami Beach turns 100 years old, which is no coincidence.  Music will be front-and-center at the Miami Beach Centennial celebration, where maestro Rudy Perez will be coordinating performances from over two dozen musical artists, including global stars  Andrea Bocelli, Gloria Estefan and Flo Rida, as well as hot local acts, such as Raquel Sofia and Afrobeta.  In addition, that same week, Miami is host to the Winter Music Conference and the Ultra Music Festival, so there will be no better time to celebrate Miami’s music scene.

As in 2014, we have an amazing line up of musical guests and industry experts that are coming to Miami from all corners of the world to share their insights and experiences.  On the artistic side, we are very excited that we will have as panelist and musical guest Ryan Leslie, who recently spoke and performed DLD in Munich, as well as Sony Music’s rising local artist Raquel Sofia, and Guti Talavera, as the resident DJ for the event.

From a corporate standpoint, we will have global industry leaders 8tracks, Havas Sports & Entertainment, Atom Factory and Qualcomm, among many others, who will be joined by disruptive startups like Jukely, Splice and  We will cover topics such as branding and music, investing in music startups, artist and music marketing in the digital age, Big Data techniques for music, and many other relevant themes of great importance to anyone dealing with musical content, including artists, songwriters, record executives, entrepreneurs, advertisers, ad agencies, artist managers, broadcasters and investors.  For example, to provide attendees with in-depth analysis of the major market trends, we will feature two amazing keynotes by Liv Buli (Next Big Sound) and Robby Towns (EDMTCC), who will present 2014: State of the Industry and The EDM Guide: Technology, Culture, Curation, respectively.

But going back to the our key objective of making Miami a hotbed for digital music startup creation, I’m thrilled to announce today the second edition of the MIA Music HackDay, which will take place the weekend before the MIA Music Summit, on Saturday March 21st and 22nd.  Over the course of the weekend, we will be hosting 50 hackers who will be competing for a chance two win a cash prize and two VIP tickets to attend the 16th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards and Official After Party in Las Vegas on November 19th!

The event will take place in Miami's newest co-working space,, and run for 12 consecutive hours each day.   Five teams will be chosen on Sunday evening by a panel of expert judges (based primarily on the technical merits of the hack), to then go on to pitch on the main stage of the MIA Music Summit on Thursday 26th for the grand prize.

This could be the best chance for local developers and entrepreneurs to build the music startup that they have been dreaming about.  And to make it even more exciting, this year’s MIA Music HackDay will be powered by Rokk3r Labs! Therefore, the five finalists won’t have to prepare for the main show by themselves, as they will have expert guidance on how to turn their hacks into disruptive, exponential startups.

During the course of the week, the Rokk3r Labs team will meet with the five teams and introduce them to their proprietary "cobuilding" process, which has been utilized over and over to successfully launch their portfolio companies.  So, fame and fortune will surely follow for the lucky hackers!

“Like other industries, music is seeing a significant disruption via exponential technologies. Rokk3r Labs is excited to provide local entrepreneurs with a unique opportunity to go through our strategic process to inspire, empower and cobuild their ideas to disrupt every aspect of the music industry in a very high-profile way.” explains Nabyl Charania, CEO of Rokk3r Labs.  “It is also a great showcase for Rokk3r Labs’ proven methodology that can be leveraged by the stakeholders of the local music industry, from labels to artists, to launch their disruptive projects in partnership with us.”

Lastly, all team members that finish and pitch their hacks will get a free pass to the MIA Music Summit ($199 value).  And since it’s a "music" HackDay after all, there will be plenty of music throughout the weekend, including cool entertainment both evenings of the event.

It is free to register and capacity is limited, so make sure you register to secure your participation today at

For those interested in attending the MIA Music Summit, the first 50 users to use the code HERALDVIP, will get $50 off the current early-bird price of $149, so act fast! 

 Demian Bellumio is COO of Senzari and a founder and organizer of the MIA Music Summit. 

Read reports on last year's MIA Music Summit here and here.



February 25, 2015

Miami life science startup attracts $5.5 million in funding for oral cancer system


Matthew H.J. Kim, who founded Vigilant Biosciences, and serves as the company’s chairman and CEO, is shown with Dr. Elizabeth Franzmann, who is looking at a OncAlert point-of-care test prototype. Vigilant is working on an early detection system for risk of oral cancer. PATRICK FARRELL MIAMI HERALD STAFF

By Nancy Dahlberg /

Matthew H.J. Kim, a patent attorney by training, was heart-broken seeing the the suffering and aggressive treatment his mother went through with oral cancer. He also saw first-hand the results of what he calls an inadequate standard of care resulting in most cancers of the mouth not being detected until stage three or four. A mortality rate as high as 50 percent could be cut way back with early detection, he believed.

“I felt helpless and wanted to do more. ... You are fighting great odds by the time you get to that stage,” said Kim, explaining his mother had to lose a portion of her jawbone as part of her treatment.

More than four years ago, Kim began researching technologies in development and found one at the University of Miami. After more research and talking to the scientists there, he began negotiating the license. “In homage to my mother, I executed the license on Mother’s Day of 2011,” he said, and Miami-based Vigilant Biosciences was born.

Since then Vigilant’s products — a point-of-care oral rinse test and a more quantitative lab test that can aid in early detection of risk for oral cancer — have been in development and have passed one of the key regulatory hurdles toward commercialization in Europe. On Tuesday, the company announced it has completed its Series B round of funding, which will pay for commercialization in Europe and the start of the regulatory process in the U.S. this year.

The company’s $5.5 million investment round brings the total amount raised to date to $7.8 million. The financing includes investments by White Owl Capital Partners, venVelo, the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research and several existing investors, as well as a group of private and angel investors committed to the life sciences.

Specifically, Vigilant will use the funds to drive toward CE Mark approval in Europe and U.S. regulatory approval for its OncAlert Oral Cancer Risk Assessment System. The funds raised will support the international product launch and commercialization of the OncAlert System as well as other products in Vigilant’s pipeline.

“As hundreds of thousands continue to be diagnosed with oral cancer every year, we are committed to providing an accurate, effective and affordable way to aid in the early detection of risk for the disease. This funding will enable us to address this critical market need that has gone unmet for far too long,” said Kim, who founded two other companies and developed a number of medical screening and monitoring systems.

Vigilant’s OncAlert Oral Cancer Risk Assessment System is based on patented technology that detects specific protein markers known to indicate an elevated risk for oral cancer, even prior to the observation of visual or physical symptoms. The simple, oral rinse procedure is easy to administer during a dental checkup and non-invasive for the patient, the company said. Both the rapid point-of-care test and the more extensive lab assay that comprise the OncAlert Oral Cancer Risk Assessment System could be on the market in Europe by mid-year. 

“Together, it will be a very effective early detection system for the risk of oral cancer. Our test is a very simple and elegant solution that can be easily integrated into the standard of care,” said Kim. While his mother is now five years cancer free, others aren’t so lucky. “We are now focused on oral cancer but we believe the technology has promise for other cancers,” said Kim.

According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 600,000 new cases of head and neck cancer and 300,000 deaths each year worldwide. Currently, the vast majority of patients are detected through a visual exam and/or are symptomatic, at which point they are likely late stage. As a result, oral cancer often goes undetected to the point of metastasizing. Early diagnosis of oral cancer results in a cure rate of up to 90 percent, the company said.

Dr. Elizabeth Franzmann, an associate professor of otolaryngology at the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, is scientific founder and chief scientific officer of Vigilant. Her clinical research on selective salivary biomarkers for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma serves as the foundation for the company’s initial product. The company last week added a vice president of global sales and marketing to the team.

Vigilant, now a team of 10, received support and mentorship from the U Innovation team, led by Norma Kenyon, chief innovation officer at the UM Miller School of Medicine. U Innovation also connected Vigilant with the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research, which provided the company’s initial seed funding of $300,000 that served as a catalyst to attract more seed capital.

The Institute invested another $200,000 in the Series B round, and like U Innovation, it helped with introductions and access to resources, Kim said.

“Matthew started the company to address the lack of good diagnostics for oral cancer, a disease that both of his parents suffered from,” said Jane Teague, chief operating officer of the Institute. “Vigilant exemplifies what programs like ours are all about, providing seed funding to early-stage companies to bridge the gap until they qualify for and can attract later-stage financing.”

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

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February 24, 2015

Rokk3r Labs, journalist Lilia Luciano launch Coinspire, a video series with groundbreaking entrepreneurs


Rokk3r Labs and journalist Lilia Luciano officially announce the launch of Coinspire, a thought-leadership video series uncovering insights of groundbreaking entrepreneurs. Coinspire challenges the concepts of failure, self, risk, business, reality, success, and achievement through intimate interviews with some of today’s more innovative minds.

For the premiere of Coinspire, Lilia Luciano has conducted in-depth interviews with leaders from the entrepreneurial community:

 * Alexandra W. Wilson @AWilkisWilson - Founder, Gilt

* Benzion Aboud @benzionaboud - Founder, Saveology

* Chris Dannen @chrisdannen - Editor, Fast Company

* Gary Mahieu - Serial Tech Entrepreneur

* Jeremy Office - Principal, Maclendon

* John Stuart @jstuartFIUMBUS - Director, CARTA FIU

* Juan Carlos Ortiz @juancarlosortiz - CEO, DDB Latina 

* Juan Pablo Cappello @cappelloJp - Founder of private advising group

* Laura Maydon @limaydon - CEO, Endeavor Miami

* Rodolfo Saccoman @RodolfoSaccoman - Founder, AdMobilize

The interviews are presented both in full, demonstrating the continuity of thought and questioning involved, and segmented by topics, empowering viewers to explore their interests. Rokk3r Labs Chief Strategy and Creative Officer German Montoya says, “We are in an era where it is common to see the upstart entrepreneur disrupting the unsuspecting traditional business. We hope that with Coinspire, we can collectively catalyze this global movement to accelerate even faster.”

Visit for free access to the entire video series.

Lilia Luciano, an accomplished journalist, documentary film director, will serve as host and creative director of Coinspire in partnership with Rokk3r Labs. She is currently directing a feature documentary for HBO and has worked as a national correspondent for NBC News. Rokk3r Labs launches companies through its comprehensive cobuilding approach, with its specialized team of engineers, creatives and strategists.

Posted Feb. 24, 2015