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Pizza and pitches to a Super (Bowl) splash

(My Business Monday column)

By Nancy Dahlberg ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

TecheggThe six local startups that presented Thursday night during Refresh Miami’s free Demo Night event – DemoHire, Pack, HulaDrive, SpendLo, Geopon and Admobilize – got an opportunity to tell their stories to hundreds of their peers and more than a few investors. Attendance for Refresh Miami’s regular monthly event broke another attendance record; more than 315 packed LAB Miami’s spacious new co-working space in Wynwood for pizza, beer and pitches. Read more about the event here.

While the Refresh Miami crowd looked overly male – and it was – other news of the week gives hope for more diversity in South Florida’s tech community of the future. Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit that provides intense summer programs in all things tech for girls 13-17, will be bringing its programming to Miami starting next year as part of a national expansion funded by the Knight Foundation. Its mission is to take aim at the gender gap in tech.

Here are more recent developments:

Marking new beginnings: Launch Pad Tech’s first accelerator class started last week in the Venture Hive, a huge new space not far from its Terremark base. With a living room large enough for big groups and intimate enough for small discussions, private offices, meeting rooms, quiet rooms and a kitchen, it’s a creative and inspiriing new home for the teams from the 10 accelerator companies -- half of them international -- and 25 local startups (one of them, Tabber, actually hails from Brazil!) in the community program as well as local events and programs.

Continuing the tradition: This week brings the launch of The Miami Herald’s Business Plan Challenge, our 15th year bringing you an entrepreneurship contest. This year in the Community Track we have more judges in the tech space – including Manny Medina, Susan Amat, Adriana Cisneros and Juan Pablo Cappello – and the FIU Track’s judge panel is packed with tech expertise. The deadline for
entries is March 11. Find the contest rules and more on MiamiHerald.com/challenge.

Making a Super (Bowl) splash: Whether or not you watch the big game, you’ve got to watch the commercials, right? This year be sure to watch the .CO brand star in a Super Bowl commercial with Go Daddy. It’s the third year of Super placement for Miami’s own .CO Internet. Get a sneak preview of the Super Bowl ad here.

Read more about all these stories, along with guests posts on the elusive work-life balance and on the state of venture capital in Florida, on The Starting Gate blog. Send your startup news to me at ndahlberg@miamiherald.com and follow me on Twitter @ndahlberg