April 19, 2015

Last day to vote in the Business Plan Challenge!

Indexes to measure the stability of fine art and the impact of climate change, an antiques marketplace, an online mall, solutions for your thousands of photos and storage-impaired condos. A “shared economy” company for long-term care, a learning platform for Hispanic kids, a tool to find an affordable lawyer, a business software platform, a campus coffee house/incubator – we’ve even got a food product line made with bugs.

Who is building the best new business? You tell us!

Take a look at the top six finishers in the Community and FIU Tracks of the 17th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, and we are asking you to vote for your favorite plans in The People’s Pick competition.

To vote for your favorite contestants, here’s what to do:

Click on the top story on MiamiHerald.com/Challenge to bring up the voting page. View the short videos of the finalists’ elevator pitches. The six selections in the FIU Track follow the Community Track.

Then scroll down to the bottom of the page to cast your ballot, voting for one video in each track.

Lastly, get out the vote! Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, April 19.

The top voted team from each track track will be awarded the People’s Pick and honored in the April 27 Business Monday section along with the judges’ selections.

Vote here – hrld.us/BizPlan2015 – or go to MiamiHerald.com/challenge to find the voting page.

The contenders are:

Community Track

Accidental Archivist, pitched by Stephanie Norman. Got photos? This is a free platform full of training and tips from industry leaders, a wide array of products and services, and a community of all ages who share tips, rate products and connect with one another.

Art Preservation Index, pitched by Emily MacDonald-Korth. The Art Preservation Index, or APIx, is a stability rating system for fine art, based on its patent-pending rating algorithm, comprehensive database of art material information, and proprietary mobile art evaluation software.

Coastal Risk Consulting, pitched by Albert Slap. A comprehensive online service called the “Coastal Risk Rapid Assessment” provides a property’s future flood risk, changing the conversation around climate change.

Juana la Iguana, pitched by Tania Gilinski. This learning and entertainment platform will help parents transmit to their kids their values, culture, music and Spanish vocabulary. It looks to launch 20 applications in the next four years.

Stow Simple, pitched by Silvia Camps and Jorge Camps. With the click of a button, Stow Simple will pick up, safely store and return your belongings, with prices comparable to traditional self-storage. The initial target market will be city high-rise dwellers.

The HighBoy, pitched by Douglas Scott and Olga Granda-Scott. Leveraging deep industry experience of its founders, The HighBoy delivers a streamlined method for sourcing and purchasing exceptional antiques, fine art and other historic design items online.

FIU Track

Court Buddy, pitched by by James Jones Jr. and Kristina Jones. Founded by an attorney, this online legal matchmaking system connects people and businesses with affordable attorneys based on their budgets; it gives people, regardless of background or financial situation, access to a legal system.

FlowKPI, pitched by Luis Caro, Ernesto Ruiz and Giancarlo Zarrillo. This provider of business software wants to redefine the tools businesses rely on to accomplish their goals and achieve their real potential. It plans to develop software-as-a-service solutions for different industries.

Relentless Roasters, pitched by Daniel Choiseul Paguaga. A collaborative workspace and specialty coffee café on the FIU campus would serve as a retail location, roasting facility and educational center focused on entrepreneurship and School of Hospitality-connected activities.

Room2Care.com, pitched by Todd Florin and Richard Ashenoff. Leveraging the power of the sharing economy, this end-to-end platform is designed to connect those who need long-term care with those who can provide care in the local community.

Senzu Foods, pitched by Ricardo Delgado and Nicolexander Garza. This company’s goal is to provide a sustainable solution to food security, public health and environmental concerns by becoming a leading producer and distributor of insect-based food products.

Wuelto, pitched by Alejandro Gomez. This global social e-commerce platform provides users with a going-to-a-mall experience by allowing people to share items with friends while also being able to ask questions and interact with the stores.


To cast your votes for the People’s Pick, go to hrld.us/BizPlan2015.

The winners including the People’s Picks, finalists and semifinalists will be unveiled in a special report in Business Monday on April 27.

April 18, 2015

UM announces Business Plan Competition winners

Innovations in the areas of everyday life improvement, access to higher education, and an invention to prevent urinary tract infections in patients have taken top honors in the University of Miami’s 2015 Business Plan Competition, hosted by the University’s School of Business Administration, and sponsored by The Launch Pad. The competition winners, honored in an awards ceremony April 17, took home a combined total of $52,500 in first, second, third and other prizes.

Dibi - undergradHunter Bihn won the Grand Prize and $10,000 in the undergraduate student category for DiBi, a patented, portable container for diabetics that both carries and disposes insulin pens and needles.

In the graduate student category, Erica Barrios, Phi Ho, and Iman Rabizadeh took home the Grand Prize and $10,000 for their venture, MediTick which prevents urinary tract infections in patients with Meditick - gradurinary catheters.

And in the University of Miami alumni category, Eric Stepansky and David Primach won the Grand Prize and $10,000 for Campus Breeze which tackles higher education access issues.

Second Place in the undergraduate category and $5,000 went to Jake Esposito, Mitchell Pasqualoni Campus breeze - alumniand Courtney Wemyss for Grain, a software that runs iOS and Android devices. Second Place in the graduate category and $5,000 went to Adam Rosen, Alexander Barsan, Sarah Sonny, Danielle Neuman and Sebastian Rivera of HouseCall MD, which offers health care via mobile phone. Second Place in the alumni category and $5,000 went to Kristina Astone and Jennifer Tang of Lavender & Lace, a lavender-based apothecary company.

Third Place in the undergraduate category with $2,500 went to Spencer George and David Silverman for Ubitt LLC which simplifies the purchase of goods. Third Place and $2,500 in the graduate category went to Veronica Fortino, Jordan Greenberg and Carlos Carballosa for Stemcellect, an innovation in dental stem cells; while Third Place and $2,500 in the alumni category went to Christopher Poore for Cornverter, ethanol kits for performance vehicles.

In addition to the undergraduate, graduate and alumni category prizes, the Paul K. Sugrue Entrepreneurial Spirit Award and $1,000 was presented to Charles Tyler Szuchan of PocketDoc, an innovative mobile telehealth company.

“The quality of the business plans presented this year was extremely impressive,” said Susy Alvarez-Diaz, director of entrepreneurship programs at the University of Miami School of Business. “The teams brought forward plans ready to go beyond the ideas phase and right into execution. It makes sense that the entrepreneurial culture of both the School of Business and South Florida region would produce such big thinkers.”

The Business Plan Competition started last fall when 64 concept papers were submitted to the judging committee. Ultimately 42 semifinalists were asked to submit their business plans and after another round of judging 15 final teams were selected to present to the judges on April 15-16, with the winners named the following day. The judges included 15 successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists from South Florida and the Northeast.

Now in its 13th year, the Business Plan Competition is open to all University of Miami students and alumni. Past winners in the competition have gone on to build their ventures into businesses that have garnered national attention. They include such companies as College Hunks Hauling Junk and My Therapy Journal.com, both of which have been featured on ABC Television's “Shark Tank,” a reality program in which entrepreneurs share their business ideas with a group of five self-made millionaires in hopes of getting venture capital to help them attain similar levels of success.

- submitted by the University of Miami

Captions: Top photo: Undergrad category, Dibi -- from left to right:  Susy Alvarez-Diaz, director of the University of Miami School of Business Administration entrepreneurship programs; Nicholas Sando and Jake Elliot, founders of SnagTag (2014 Business Plan Competition); Hunter Bihn, grand prize winner, undergraduate track; and Adrian Alvarez, program director, Univeristy of Miami Launchpad


Middle photo: Graduate category, MediTick -- from left to right:  Susy Alvarez-Diaz, director of the University of Miami School of Business Administration entrepreneurship programs; Phi Ho and Iman Rabizadeh, grand prize winners, graduate track; and Adrian Alvarez, program director, Univeristy of Miami Launchpad
Third: Alumni category, Campus Breeze -- from left to right: Susy Alvarez-Diaz, director of the University of Miami School of Business Administration entrepreneurship programs; David Primach, grand prize winner, alumni track; and Adrian Alvarez, program director, Univeristy of Miami Launchpad






April 17, 2015

Open English, already all over LatAm, launches online school in U.S. market


Andres Moreno, founder and executive chairman of Open English, an online English-language school that has taught 300,000 students across Latin America, discusses the upcoming U.S. launch, which will start in Miami. He was at a launch event at Open English's Coconut Grove headquarters Thursday night. Photo courtesy of Pinta.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

About 300,000 students across the Americas have taken classes from Open English, an online English-language school based in Miami. In the last eight years, the venture-backed company has conquered Latin America, and now it is officially entering a market very close to home: The U.S. Hispanic market.

This week, Open English announced  its official expansion to the United States, bringing its affordable teacher-led instructional model to the nation's fastest-growing population. The launch, which will start in Miami immediately and then roll out to other cities, will be fueled by a national advertising and marketing campaign.

MorenoThanks to word of mouth from family and friends, “we have had this organic growth already happening here so it was very easy for us to say this is the next big market for Open English. We also realized that the core need to learn English and be successful as a result – and English is a tool for success – is very similar if you live in Colombia, Brazil, Argentina or if you live in a city like Miami or LA,” said Andres Moreno, founder and executive chairman of Open English. “This is a moment we have been waiting for for a long time.”

He said the numbers were also convincing: According to Brookings Institution, nearly one in 10 working-age  U.S. adults — 19.2 million persons aged 16 to 64 — is considered to have limited English proficiency, and most of this group speaks Spanish. And according to the Pew Hispanic Center, 68 percent of Hispanic immigrant adults say they do not speak English at all or don’t speak English very well.

Open English’s approach to learning English includes unlimited live classes with native English speakers and over 2,000 hours of multi-media content. It is now offered in 20 countries, and the company has raised $120 million in venture capital financing to fuel its growth.

Open English commercials in Latin America have been known for their wit and go viral over social media. The commercials will be taking a new approach in the U.S., however. The commercials will be more focused on explaining the product and how it can propel the student's career success, Moreno said. Expect to see billboard and bus bench advertising too, as well as online and radio advertising. New U.S. students will get a free month on Open English as part of the promotion.

“We are starting in Miami, where the brand is already well received. As we learn more about the U.S. Hispanic as a whole, then we will launch into a national expansion,” said Moreno.

Moreno said launching in the U.S. market is also personally satisfying because the country has been so welcoming.

Originally from Venezuela, Moreno started Open English there in 2006 with his co-founders but it soon became clear that he needed to raise money in the U.S. He moved to Silicon Valley with $700 in his pocket, slept on a friend’s couch for months and went door to door seeking meetings with venture capitalists and angels.

After raising initial funding, he moved the company to Miami and has been able to raise about $100 million of the $120 million  while the company has been based in Miami, a fund-raising success story in a region that has historically been venture-challenged. The global company now employs about 1,500 people, including contractors, and about 60 work out of its Coconut Grove headquarters and Fort Lauderdale satellite office.

Moreno, active in the local entrepreneurship community,  is also on the founding board of Endeavor Miami, the first U.S. office of the global nonprofit that mentors and supports high-impact entrepreneurs.

 Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg

MoneyTree Report: Healthcare attracts most of South Florida's VC funding

MoneyIn the first quarter, South Florida companies attracted 79 percent of Florida’s $89.7 million share of venture capital investment. Investments in YellowPepper, OrthoSensor and Pure Life Renal led the pack. But Florida companies still draw only a tiny sliver of the national venture capital pie.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

South Florida companies reeled in the lion’s share of the state’s venture capital financing in the first quarter, and most of the investments were in healthcare-related companies.

Venture capitalists invested $89.7 million in Florida-based companies, and $70.9 million of that fueled companies based in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, according to the MoneyTree Report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association released Friday.

The biggest financing rounds went to YellowPepper of Miami, a fast-growing mobile banking and payment network for Latin America that raised $19 million, OrthoSensor of Dania Beach, a maker of smart orthopedic devices, also with $19 million, and Pure Life Renal of Hollywood, a dialysis company that raised $10.5 million, according to the report.

Healthcare companies, including biotech, medical devices and medical technology services, grabbed $45.2 million in South Florida. In addition to OrthoSensor and Pure Life Renal, other investments included $7.3 million in Brickell Biotech, an early-stage biotech company focusing on skin diseases; $5 million in Vigilant BioSciences of Miami, a company developing a test for oral cancer risk, and $3 million in USARAD of Fort Lauderdale, an early-stage medical device maker.

Interest in the life sciences is on the uptick and a national trend, said Bruce Booth, partner in Atlas Venture, which specializes in early-stage biotech and last year seeded a company out of Scripps Research Institute called Padlock Therapeutics. Booth has been seeing a big increase in platform companies and virtual biotech companies that don’t have their own labs but instead partner with research organizations around the world.

“The environment has never been as strong as it is now for putting together new companies and being able to attract financing to scale them over time,” said Booth. “We’ve had eight or nine quarters now where we have had the best IPO environment in the 40-year history of biotechnology. We also have a really strong M&A environment.”

Investors in Florida are taking notice, too. Part of OrthoSensor’s funding came from Tullis Growth Fund, part of the Tullis family of private equity funds that invest in emerging healthcare companies. Tullis, based in Connecticut, established an office in Palm Beach Gardens about five years ago.

“We are looking at more investments in Florida right now — we’re finding the opportunities here,” said Jim Tullis, the fund company’s founder, who lives in Palm Beach County. “This is a terrific area with a very promising future. The local research base coming off the universities is exceptional and probably under-recognized by venture capital at this point. … The tax situation doesn’t go unnoticed by CEOs looking for their next effort, there is an increasing talent pool available and there is good local capital in Florida in terms of angels and, increasingly, funds. It’s a nice combination of technology, people and money.”

OrthoSensor, founded in 2008, has already raised about $53 million in financing, bringing its total funding to about $72 million.

Vigilant BioSciences’ financing included investments by venVelo, based in Central Florida, and the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research, which provides seed funding and support to early-stage companies commercializing university technology, as well as a group of private and angel investors committed to the life sciences.

Of the 19 investments of the New World Angels, one of South Florida’s well-established angel groups, more than a third are in healthcare-related industries. And in a recent interview, John Sculley, the former Apple CEO who is now an angel investor and startup mentor in Palm Beach County, said he sees healthcare and specifically health-tech startups as a huge opportunity for the tri-county area and the state: “Healthcare is a $3 trillion annual spend, it’s incredibly inefficient, its rules are fought by special interest groups and there is a legacy of incumbent large customers and government institutions that don’t change quickly.”

To be sure, Florida grabbed only a teeny slice of the national venture capital pie — two-thirds of 1 percent — in all industries. Even though Florida is the third largest state by population, it was No. 28 in the first quarter for venture investments, according to MoneyTree’s data. Florida’s total of $89.7 million in 14 deals is down from $129.6 million in 19 deals in the first quarter of last year and way down from last quarter’s $581.2 million, which included the $542 million Google-led investment in Magic Leap.

Nationally and in all industries, venture capitalists invested $13.4 billion in 1,020 deals in the first quarter of 2015, according to the MoneyTree Report, based on data provided by Thomson Reuters. Quarterly VC investment declined 10 percent in terms of dollars and 8 percent in the number of deals, compared to the fourth quarter when $14.9 billion was invested in 1,103 deals. However, the first quarter is the fifth consecutive quarter of more than $10 billion of venture capital invested in a single quarter.

Ride-sharing company Uber and highflying SpaceX drew the highest investments — $1 billion each — while Lyft was No. 3, receiving with $530 million.

Nationally, the software industry continued to receive the highest level of funding — $5.6 billion — of all industries, despite being down for the quarter. The biotechnology industry captured the second largest total during the quarter with $1.7 billion. Overall, first-quarter investments in the life sciences sector (biotechnology and medical devices combined) received $2.2 billion going into 193 deals nationwide, including nine in Florida.

MoneyTree Report results are available at www.pwcmoneytree.com and www.nvca.org.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

Top deals

In South Florida, these were the top deals in the first quarter, according to the MoneyTree Report.

YellowPepper: $19 million

OrthoSensor: $19 million

Pure Life Renal: $10.5 million

Brickell Biotech: $7.3 million

VirtualWorks: $6.7 million

Vigilant BioSciences: $5 million

USARAD: $3 million

AviseNA: $517,000


April 16, 2015

AdMobilize launches its AdBeacon to collect data from physical spaces

Admobilize-logoBy Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

AdMobilize, a big data company for outdoor and indoor advertising,  launched its AdBeacon, which the company says is the world's first "plug and measure" analytics platform for outside digital signage advertising and retail, enabling  operators and agencies to understand ad campaign performance in real time.

The fast-growing Miami Beach company, now with 26 employees, has also moved into new offices, unveiled a new logo and has three four more "Internet of Things" products in the pipeline.

AdMobilize describes the AdBeacon this way: The AdBeacon device is about the size of an iPhone 5 and uses a camera sensor to collect data from physical spaces. Metrics such as impressions, confirmed views, dwell time, peak times, and audience demographics are captured and displayed on an intuitively designed dashboard all in real time.  For digital signage with built-in camera sensors, AdMobilize offers a seamless and comprehensive API solution. 

Roldolfo"AdMobilize's technology provides operators and agencies the only turnkey solution to solve the very complex physical world analytics problem.  Our goal is to work on the really hard things, so you can focus on growing your business while benefiting from this cutting edge disruptive solution," said AdMobilize's founder and CEO, Rodolfo Saccoman.

He explained that the  AdBeacon analytics platform is accompanied by an intuitive and intelligent dashboard.  "The big advantage of the system is just how easy it is to install, including the AdRemote App available for IOS and Android.  I'm a big fan of Apple, and we emulate UI/UX concepts of beautiful design that marries intuitive usability and function," Saccoman said.
He said the platform is now being piloted by several of the biggest Out of Home and Digital Out of Home companies in  the USA and the UK, and several global advertising agencies and brands are  experimenting with AdBeacon.
AdMobilize has been a partner of Rokk3r Labs for a couple of years and had been based at the Rokk3r offices, but it has just moved into its own offices in Miami Beach, which features an AdBeacon Technology Showroom and Big Data Control Center as well as several creative experience areas. There will be an open house at the new  offices at 1680 Michigan Ave., Suite 900 (upstairs from Rokk3r), Friday night at 5:30 p.m. and the community is invited, Saccoman said. With a little room to grow in (for now), Saccoman plans to have a community contest next month, and offer the winners free workspace.

In addition, AdMobilize has offices in Bogota and London,  where 11 of its 26 employees are currently based, and has a presence in Washington, Tel Aviv and Boston.

"We are in a strong hiring mode and will be hiring six to eight full-time employees and are also offering challenging internships starting now. We are hiring engineers, data scientists, computer vision, business development and marketing superstars," said Saccoman.

Saccoman has raised a total $4.5 million from a combination of VC firms, local and foreign angels and a Rokk3r fund. Launched in 2012, AdMobilize was a Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge winner in 2013.

Up next:  AdMobilize is working on three new products, all in stealth mode.  "During the the next four to six months we will be unveiling these products which have the potential to connect the physical environment to consumers in ways never thought of before," said Saccoman.  "Our team and products all work toward imagining what Internet of Things and Big Data can become."

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.


UM team wins Knight funding to create entrepreneurial hubs in underserved neighborhoods

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

The University of Miami School of Architecture will  bring entrepreneurial spaces -- including incubators for startups, marketplaces and training centers -- into two underserved Miami area neighborhoods. Its project was funded with $650,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The so-called Third Place Project will create hubs that provide resources to entrepreneurs, artists and other creatives, nonprofits and civic leaders, while helping transform the neighborhoods. “Third places,” as defined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg, are  informal public gathering places where people from all walks of life come together. 

The UM project is designed to fuel economic integration, said Charles Bohl, associate professor and director of the graduate program in Real Estate Development + Urbanism at the University of Miami School of Architecture and one of the project leaders.

"We have lots of very well to do and lots of poor people and they are clustered far from each other. Other cities have created these neighborhoods where the communities can cross paths; people are more connected and involved,"  said  Bohl, explaining he recently returned from Barcelona, which has 40 public markets that have become vibrant centers of activity.

Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami, said the project will also help ensure a constant diversity of ideas. “The Third Place Project will grow and foster the unique character and qualities of these neighborhoods, bringing the ideas of entrepreneurs, artists and others into the forefront.”

 The metropolitan Miami neighborhoods have not yet been selected, but it could be in areas such as, for example, Allapattah, Little Haiti/Little River or Opa-locka, said Bohl, adding that the School of Architecture has already been working in these long-struggling urban areas for years. The new spaces will build on the art, culture and entrepreneurial energy already present, and a key component is that they will provide training programs to entrepreneurs and nonprofits through the incubators, he added. The two projects will be created over the next two years.

Along with the School of Architecture, the project will also involve UM programs in business and social entrepreneurship, including the Center for Urban and Community Design, the Office of Civic and Community Engagement, and business startup and support programs at the School of Business Administration.

The next step is to identify and secure sites that have the best potential to serve as gathering places. It could be land  or a structure that could be adapted, with indoor and outdoor space. Architecture faculty and students will help adapt existing buildings, or create  “pop-up” structures to house entrepreneurs and vendors. Kiosks could be arranged to create year-round marketplaces  that showcase the mix of art, commerce, food and entertainment and attract new visitors -- while also offering full Internet connectivity and other resources for the businesses.

The Third Place Project is evaluating project sites and is slated to begin work during the 2015-2016 academic year. Over the past 2 1/2 years, Knight has made more than 100 investments in entrepreneurship in South Florida. 

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

Read Knight blog post by Charles Bohl here.


April 15, 2015

Coastal Risk Consulting announces seed investment

Coastal Risk Consulting, a South Florida startup helping property owners, businesses and communities become climate ready and storm safe, announced that management and consulting firm Trexin Consulting has agreed to make a $515,000 seed investment in CRC.  

 CRC has developed the Coastal Risk Rapid Assessment, an online tool that provides residential and commercial customers with an analysis of flooding risk at individual properties over a standard 30-year mortgage cycle, said Albert J. Slap, CRC's president. "Over 50 million residential property owners in coastal areas, as well businesses and municipalities, now can assess the impacts on their property values and make informed decisions regarding inevitable future rising water levels," he said.


Hungry? Caviar restaurant delivery service launches in Miami

Caviar Miami Web Screen


What's for dinner? Caviar, the restaurant delivery service now owned by Square, is hoping to find a hearty appetite in Miami.

Launching Wednesday, Caviar will allow Miamians to  easily place orders from local, independent restaurants via Caviar’s website or free mobile app for Android and iOS. Once customers place their orders they can track the status of their orders and follow along with their couriers via GPS. For consumers, the cost is $4.99, regardless of order size; the 18 percent tip is already included.

Participating restaurants include: Blue Collar, Doraku Sushi, Ms. Cheezious, Proof Pizza & Pasta, Momi Gyoza, Fireman Derek’s Bake Shop & Cafe , LOBA, Made in Italy Gourmet, Miami Smokers, Miam Café & Boutique, Hannya, Bryan in the Kitchen, Viva Mexico y Algo Mas, NOA Catering, Kone Sushi  and PM Steak and Seafood. More will be added soon, the company said.

Caviar Miami iOS-ScreenshotDaniel Serfer, owner and chef at Blue Collar in Miami's MiMo District, said he has always wanted to offer delivery but didn’t think there was a service that would deliver the restaurant's food with the proper attention. “With Caviar’s streamlined app and friendly couriers, we can just focus on doing what we do best and continue to cook guest favorites, from our spicy oxtail, to our shrimp and grits.”

Founded in 2012, Caviar now brings delivery to diners in 18 markets across the country, including San Francisco, New York, Boston, Chicago. Philadelphia and Portland. In the last six months alone, Caviar has tripled order volume and reduced delivery times by more than 20 percent — despite the rapid increase in orders, the company said. Caviar, purchased by Square last summer for a reported $90 million in stock, is part of Square’s  suite of tools and services for small businesses.

Caviar is part of a wave of fast-growing food-related urban tech delivery apps that took root in San Francisco or New York and are now spreading around the nation and attracting VC dollars, In Miami, other options are available, including Grubhub and as of last year, Postmates. In northern Broward and southern Palm Beach, locally based startup Foodoozle has started a service.

April 14, 2015

Dallas company buys Miramar tech firm JPay

JPay, a Miramar-based technology company that provides prisons with electronic payment services, email and a host of educational and entertainment apps, is being acquired by Securus Technologies of Dallas. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

JPay, with 255 employees, operates in 33 state prisons serving more than 1.6 million inmates. JPay was founded in 2002 as a payments company and later evolved to include a digital platform that combines tablets, kiosks and an inmate cloud, giving inmates access to email, music, books, games, shopping and education.

Ryan“We are always eager to expand our footprint,” said Ryan Shapiro, JPay's CEO (pictured here). “With Securus behind us, we can now make that happen in a fraction of the time. … I credit our team for their relentless pursuit of the company's vision, which is to develop products that make prisons safer, more efficient, and most importantly that enable inmates to transition into viable citizens once released.”

Shapiro said the entire team is staying put in South Florida, and Shapiro will continue to run JPay, but as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Securus. “We are interested in being more active with the tech community here in South Florida,” said Shapiro. “Most of our team is software and firmware developers.”

The transaction is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close in the second or third quarter of 2015, the companies said.

Securus Technologies serves more than 2,600 public safety, law enforcement and corrections agencies, and more than 1 million inmates across North America, with a host of services. “This transaction thrusts Securus into the fastest-growing segments in corrections: payments, email, and most recently, inmate tablets," said Rick Smith, CEO of Securus Technologies, in a news release.


A fashion double-header: The Freestyle Conference, FashInvest

Two New York fashion-tech organizations are bringing conferences to Miami next week.

Open Source Fashion’s The Freestyle Conference will makes its inaugural debut in Miami. Founded on the premise of education and collaboration, Open Source Fashion (OSF), the New York City-based networking group, is offering attendees this series of workshops to deliver high level education in a relaxed environment, while sparking collaborative opportunities amongst participants,  said Pavan Bahl, founder of Open Source Fashion.

“What has been a traditionally guarded industry is now embracing innovation at an unfathomable pace. We are excited to be able to support its next generation of innovators,” said Bahl. “This conference catalyzes growth from every aspect, including retail, related technologies and services and general artistic creativity. Freestyle Conference provides a forum to bounce ideas off of your peers, some of whom you may have never met.”

Speakers include: Pabla Ayala, founder of pFunk Media; Jaqueline Burgoa, founder of iPivot; Rene Alvarez, founder of Sumo Media; Rima Gerhard, Lead Web Design instructor, Miami International University of Art & Design; Ashley Paintsil, director of Editorial Content and Outreach at FashInvest; Dawn W. Dickson, founder of Flat Out of Heels, LLC; Bobby Harris, president of Concept Media Digital;  and Tamara Austin, founder of OpenStile.

The full-day program is Wednesday, April 29, at Venture Hive. Tickets are $89 and use code StartingGate for $20 off. Registration Link: https://ffcmiami.eventbrite.com

FashInvest is ready to take on Miami again with its second FashInvest Miami Capital Conference, this year held at the Venture Hive and focused on how emerging fashion tech companies can make their brands attractive to investors. The main day is April 30, with two days of coaching sessions for presenting companies on April 28-29.

The Fashion Tech Investment Conference will feature up to 15 vetted and coached emerging and growth startup companies presenting their opportunities (only one is from South Florida - Boxy Charm), in a pitch format with the goal of fostering strategic partnering and growth opportunities. The conference will also feature industry keynotes, panel presentations and networking opportunities.

Tickets are  $199 prior to the event and $299 at the door. Attendees who would like to go to both FashInvest and the Freestyle Conference can do so for $229.

More info. http://www.fashinvest.com/event