February 09, 2017

WIN Lab Miami gets new director: Meet Carolina Pina

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

CarolinaPinaWIN Lab Miami, an accelerator program for women entrepreneurs created and run by Babson College, has named a director.

Carolina Pina, an entrepreneur, advisor and philanthropist, will take over as director of the Miami program that is already in progress. Most recently she was the director of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “I look forward to working with Babson College and the entire WIN Lab team to make an impact on Miami’s entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Pina said in the announcement.

WIN (Women Innovating Now) Lab was originally launched by Massachusetts-based Babson College in 2013, and expanded to Miami in 2016, with $800,000 in support from the Knight Foundation. The first cohort in the eight-month program started in the fall of 2016 and finishes this spring; another cohort will follow next fall. Entrepreneurs in the program can come from any industry. The first cohort includes startups focused on tech, food, fashion, e-commerce, shipping and other areas.

[READ MORE: Meet WIN Lab’s first accelerator class]

In addition to her Kellog School position, Pina founded Ignitus, a consulting practice that helps organizations implement social impact initiatives. Her most recent accomplishment was leading the RiseUp AS ONE concert in San Diego for Fusion Media Group. She has also held leadership roles with the New World Symphony, the Miami Film Festival, and the Lung Transplant Foundation.

Originally from Venezuela, Pina holds a bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Florida International University, an MBA from Rice University’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management, and Executive Scholars in Leadership and Management from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

“Carolina brings both great managerial talent and passion for women’s entrepreneurship to this role,” said Babson WIN Lab Global Director Heatherjean MacNeil. “She has a strong vision for WIN Lab Miami and is dedicated to building an ecosystem where women founders thrive.”

February 02, 2017

Meet the entrepreneurs in Cohort 2 of StartUP FIU accelerator

StartUP C2

StartUP FIU is launching  its second cohort of its 14-week accelerator, Empower, this month. The cohort includes entrepreneurs from 17 businesses or concepts in a variety of industries, including music, fashion, shipping, health and education. It also includes a number of social entrepreneurs. The free program accepted entrepreneurs from the idea stage to revenue-producing companies; it includes community members as well as FIU students and alumni. Read more about the program here: Multi-campus StartUP FIU gets ready for takeoff

Who's in Cohort 2 of StartUP FIU?  Find the list below: 

Audio EP

Founder: Stephen Sullivan

Audio EP provides music students interactive exercises to develop various music related skills essential to music production and songwriting in today's digital age. It also connects students with music instructors through the online platform for coaching services.


Founder: Jorge Arias

BECOS produces handbags, book bags, wallets and others, with recycled materials in order to create conscience within our customers. The recycled materials are from cement bags and food sacks for animals, and these bags are put together by employees with disabilities. In addition to that, 15% of  annual profit will support children that have been displaced by violence.


Founder: Carolina Hoyos

BENBO is a new interactive, simple and easy to use business networking app, where we try to simplify the user’s interaction when sharing business cards.  BENBO lets you: Create and customize your very own business card, uniquely designed, in just a few seconds.


Founder: David Villegas

Boatrax facilitates the logging experience for boat owners with a mobile app that allows them to organize their logs and share them with local service providers to purchase right-on-time services using our marketplace platform.


Founder: Francine Gervazio

Cargo42 is a marketplace for trucking committed to reducing idle time and capacity. We seek to provide shippers (local businesses) a more competitive rate and simplify the shipping process, while carriers (local trucking companies) enjoy an additional revenue stream and maximize the trucks productivity.

Clutch Couture Bags

Co-founders: Jordan Johnson and Tia Plagata

Clutch Couture Bags provides a luxury handbag rental service that serves US customers via an online store. We provide a service that allows fellow fashion-lovers to experience the luxury of carrying some of the world’s most sought-after handbags, while paying a fraction of the price on a monthly basis.

Container Retail

Founder: Charles Sims

Retail Incubator space developed with reused shipping containers located in (Liberty City) Miami, FL. The hope is that a sustainable model can be created and deployed in similar communities throughout the U.S.

Extreme Weather Experience

Founder: Erik Salna

Extreme Weather Experience is a one-of-a-kind concept to develop an immersive, experiential, interactive, hands-on weather education theme park attraction with entertainment, retail, restaurants, a weather forecast center and a media broadcast center.

Give Wink

Founder: Francine Delarosa

Give Wink is a full-service boutique that provides added value services such as full space planning and design, nursery set up and reveals, customization and personalization of many products, gift registries and educational classes/events


GlanceHouse Cloud

Founder: Andrew Ritch

GlanceHouse allows businesses and organizations to automate the backup and archiving of video surveillance data to the Cloud. Users can store that data from 30 days to an indefinite amount of time.


Founder: Cristina Rodriguez

Mind&Melody has designed a proprietary music curriculum with three goals: to deliver live musical performances; teach music theory concepts in a simple, fun and artistic way; play sheet music and create original composition through our color-coding system. Our program is highly individualized to reach and engage different levels of dementia and musical ability.

SkillCourt LLC

Founder: Gudmundur Traustason

SkillCourt is an athletic training system consisting of pads built with LED lights for cue targets. The goal of the illuminated targets is to be hit with an object like a soccer ball through a timed sequence. Inside each pad are sensors that provide feedback for detailed performance which reports performance information to the SkillCourt app.

Stealth Simulation

Founder: Christian Gutierrez

Stealth Simulation by Boorpus™ LLC was born out of the need to increase the fidelity of standardized patient physical examination. We focus on technology-driven innovative solutions aimed to improve medical simulation while maintaining the highest degree of realism of virtual patient encounters.

Viera Academy

Founder: Carlos Raul Garcia

Viera Academy provides a playground e-learning platform that specializes in Standardized Tests, as well as world level Mental Math and Memory courses, developed by Guinness World Record holders.


Founder: Dorothy Peck

WeWomen is aiming to solve the lack of feminine hygienic pads in refugee camps. Their solution is using banana leaves from banana trees to produce hypoallergenic and environmentally friendly menstrual pads. Providing women with a product that will allow them to work, go to school and be productive members in society


Founder: Sergio Klarreich


Worcket is a millennials-ready phone app and a cloud service that enterprises use to recruit University and College students or professionals for employment opportunities, in the US first and then worldwide. It leverages disruptive technologies like Video Profiles, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence. We are a truly innovative Seattle based start-up, that is part of the Microsoft BizSpark incubation initiative. Our first production release will be ready in mid-December.

No Name Company

Founder: Megan Twomey

The idea presented here is for a novel class of Nitric Oxide (NO) probes that are based on unique metal photoluminescent complexes that directly react with NO to provide highly sensitive and cost-effective detection. This novel class of probes would benefit the scientific and medical communities by advancing the understanding of NO's biological roles and subsequent pathological conditions that arise from NO dysfunction.

January 04, 2017

Combining two chapters, the South Florida Founder Institute launches; first two info sessions planned

The Founder Institute, a global idea-stage accelerator and startup launch program, announced that South Miami Founder Institute and Fort Lauderdale- Boca Raton Founder Institute chapters will merge to form the new South Florida Founder Institute.

The first South Florida Founder Institute program will begin in April of 2017, and applications are open now to anyone interested in launching a technology company at http://fi.co/apply/south_florida.

“We have seen great results from running South Miami and Fort Lauderdale independently, because the greater Miami region is one of the fastest growing startup hubs in the U.S.,” says Adeo Ressi, founder & CEO of the Founder Institute. “However, combining the amazing talent and mentor pools from across these two chapters gives us an opportunity to really push things forward and help build a wide range of new companies under one program umbrella.”

The South Florida Founder Institute will host a series of free startup events for the general public starting in January 2017 with:

*Tuesday, Jan, 12 “How to Start a Startup in South Florida” @ Venture Cafe Miami

*Thursday,  Jan. 24 “Founder Institute Graduate Showcase” @ BUILDING Miami

In the new South Florida chapter, program participants will be able to leverage the experience and mentorship of over 70 of the region’s top entrepreneurs, including;

*Randy Wood, co-founder of Citrix, one of the largest technology companies that has originated in South Florida. Randy is also an active angel investor through New World Angels.

*Sergey Petrossov, founder and CEO at JetSmarter, an organization that is reshaping history by changing the way people fly by making the private air travel industry accessible to the entire World.

*Felipe Sommer, co-founder and CEO at NearPod, a mobile platform that empowers educators to create learning experiences that engage and inspire millions of students around the world.

*Juan Pablo Cappello, co-founder at Private Advising Group and Board member at AGP Miami, one of the most significant Angel Investing organizations in the region.

*Michael O’Donnell, CEO at StartupBiz.com. Michael is a highly experienced venture-backed entrepreneur, angel/VC investor, business buyer and business seller, who advises entrepreneurs and investors on starting, buying or selling a business.

*Leonel Azuela, founder and managing partner at Quaxar, a premier provider of Community & Loyalty solutions.

*Marshall Swatt, founder and advisor at ATS Inc, a proprietary algorithmic trading system focused on trading strategies in exotic financial instruments (including digital currencies) currently licensed exclusively to a private fund.

And many more (http://fi.co/mentors/south_florida)

Leading the Founder Institute’s efforts in South Florida are Mark Volchek, a successful entrepreneur that built a project from three founders on a college campus into a public company listed on NYSE; Rodolfo Novarini, a seasoned entrepreneur and intrapreneur with over 15 years of experience creating and growing billion-dollar businesses; and Michel Triana, a tech entrepreneur, investor and founder of Ninut, Cine en Casa and Intelerit.

The Founder Institute is a part-time startup launch program that provides aspiring and early-stage founders with the challenging step-by-step curriculum, mentor support, and global network of entrepreneurs needed to start an enduring company. Over 2000 companies have graduated from the program (http://fi.co/companies), and promising startups that have already graduated from the Miami and Fort Lauderdale programs include:

*Carlos Romero and Juan Romero, founders of Livi (http://liviapp.co). Livi is a fast-growing “Live Stream by Request” mobile app.

*Susan Perry, founder of SpeechMED (http://www.speechmed.com/). SpeechMED is growing really fast and delivering on its focus on creating technology that battles a lack of health literacy by allowing patients to hear their information in the language that they understand.

*Matt Hall, founder of Dronelancer (http://dronelancer.io). Dronelancer is a marketplace to connect licensed drone owners with businesses looking for aerial photos and videos.

*Scott Greenhouse, founder of GameFace ( http://www.getnasty.com/). GameFace has just launched its product line of Natural ingredient based, multi-functional body care designed for athletes, which is delivered to your door every two months.

*Melanie Berguero, founder of Oneness (http://www.onenesscleanup.co/). Oneness is a solution for cities and marinas to meet their sustainability goals for water clean-up, has recently demonstrated its proprietary green boats at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show with tremendous success.

*Michelle Bazargan and Stefanie Gross, founders of VIA HALO (http://viahalo.com). VIA HALO  brings  today's  health  and  wellness  consumers  together  with  a  trusted,  accredited  network  of  proactive  providers. 

*David Karim, founder of ResolveBid (http://resolvebid.com). ResolveBid is a marketplace that allows companies and community associations to find service professionals and submit bids.

*Timothy Hamilton, founder of Rentlit (http://rentlit.com). Rentlit is a retail property management software that helps investors self-manage their residential rental properties.

*Carlos Ferra, founder of ThankStation (http://thankstation.com). ThankStation offers customer appreciation solutions to let small businesses better engage with their customers and increase happiness and retention in a cost-effective way.

*Camilo Silva and Jose Aliaga, founders of Voice Your Voice (http://voiceyourvoice.co). Voice Your Voice aims to encourage the public to actively engage in politics and democracy by addressing issues that impact them through a mobile platform.

Learn more about the Founder Institute at http://fi.co.


Graduating class of Fort Lauderdale chapter in November, 2016.

-Submitted by Founder Institute



December 02, 2016

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, Overl.ai 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 18, 2016

FAU Tech Runway graduates third class of startups

Florida Atlantic University’s Tech Runway recently celebrated the graduation of Venture Class III, the third class of companies to complete the yearlong FAU Tech Runway program.

The founders of the four companies in “Venture Class III” were honored at the ceremony: Thomas Gregory of Sofla Sunwear, a lifestyle brand of clothing established to represent the unique culture of South Florida; Ray Briant of TiloTag, a patented smartphone app that allows you to discover the memories that surround you; June Adams and James Khalil of PowerCalc, the first SaaS-based software that completely automates the electrical engineering calculations for the building, construction, and facility management industries that is compliant with the National Electrical Code (NEC); and Carly Asher Yoost of The Child Rescue Coalition, a nonprofit organization that builds sophisticated technology to track child predators across the globe.

“We are incredibly proud of what this third FAU Tech Runway® Venture Class has accomplished,” said Rhys L. Williams, associate vice president for research and the managing director for FAU Tech Runway. “Several of these companies were little more than concepts when they began our program. Now they have products, customers, sales, patents, employees, and have become real businesses. For these four companies that have launched from FAU Tech Runway, the sky’s the limit.”

Tech Runway is a public-private partnership formed to foster technology startups and early-stage companies; selected companies receive a $25,000 non-equity grant, participate in a 16-week intensive boot camp, engage in a yearlong mentoring program with a team of five business mentors, and are provided workspace for one year.

Since its launch in fall 2014, FAU Tech Runway has provided financial support, strategic development, entrepreneurial education, free workspace, investor introductions, and expert mentoring for 29 startup companies. As a result of the program, 239 jobs have been created, 57 FAU students have been employed, more than $6 million in revenue has been earned, and more than $18 million investment capital has been raised.

For more information on FAU Tech Runway, visit techrunway.fau.edu.

November 09, 2016

The art of bringing Miami together

By Cristian F. Robiou
Dear Miami Startup Community,

RobiouI write this with dual intentions but one audience in mind.

The first purpose is to formally invite you all to the Startupbootcamp Demo Day to be held on December 1st at the Mana Convention Center in Wynwood. You can RSVP HERE. The second reason is to provide broader context on the motivations that power the bulk of our work: what are we doing in Miami and why should you care?   

Our motivations found voice after confronting a wake of questions commonly posed but less frequently acted upon: "how do we do well for ourselves, while also doing good for others?"

At Startupbootcamp, we have made measurable strides in service of this vision of comprehensive growth, rather than the unbalanced approach put forth by our counterparts in San Francisco, Boston, New York and elsewhere. While successful in the traditional sense, the chief failure of our sister-cities has been neglecting the real, human interests technological progress is intended to serve. When combined with the long term tax created via unstated but widely recognized policies of exclusion, the glow of our own city, of our own Miami, takes an even more important hue. We’ve arrived at an answer after long months spent evaluating: to pair our Demo Day with Miami’s Art Week, and in so doing harness general cultural activity into an instrument for broader good. Specifically this means showing and sharing widely the lessons learned from building for our expanding community so that we protect and accelerate Miami’s startup trajectory. We will be hosting panels on industry specific topics that bear directly on Miami’s growth prospects. This will be paired with a broader art and health tech symposium and, of course, our own Demo Day where our portfolio companies will share the insights they’ve garnered over months working with us here.

Because we work in the health sector, this is easier said than done. But despite the challenge we’ve managed to make considerable strides. We can reach new heights with your help.

In a few week’s time, the world will turn its eye to Miami. Art Basel is one of those distinguishable events where our city brims with the spirit and promise of culture, a complexity of values expressing one of the the best shorthand indications of what we can stand for as a people: growth of all forms, diversity of distinct shades, and appreciation of the transformative power of color, origin, and perspectives.

Our work entails crafting a protected space that encourages a commitment to living, not just alongside one another as strangers in polite company, but instead as stakeholders sincerely invested in each other’s well-being. And though admittedly not the perfect forum - we acknowledge Basel itself suffers from serious inclusiveness deficiencies - our goal now is to offer a pointed method to address them, and continue to strengthen our ecosystem. In marrying the industries of technology with the world of art in Miami, we can begin forging commonality of value while celebrating diversity of experience. We can strive to make this part of Miami’s emblem. A time and place dedicated to recognizing the breadth of distinct histories while holding steadfast to the view that together we are truly are a collection of the world’s finest range of humanity.

This is an unsung philosophy we practice daily: that in this way more of us can find richer and continuous opportunities for improvement, and that we have a duty to share that as widely as possible. If the promise of Miami means anything, it is this commitment to inclusion and accommodation that separates us from those that came before.

At Startupbootcamp, we have devoted significant resources to create a non-trivial response to this issue, meeting passion with reason in equal measure. We have started this project, of fusing art and health tech under a common banner, with substantive as well as symbolic goals in mind. Though our focus industries do not form the full picture of what Miami offers, we nonetheless hope to see you on December 1st.

Cristian F. Robiou is the acting chief operating officer at Startupbootcamp Miami, a digital health seed fund and accelerator. 

November 06, 2016

At the Idea Center, innovation is everywhere, even on skateboards

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

FelixFelix Puello wanted to build a better skateboard.

When Miami Dade College’s Idea Center opened, the student signed up for the Startup Challenge, a competition designed to help student entrepreneurs at the earliest stages. A passionate skateboarder who custom-painted longboards in high school to make some extra money, Puello wanted to bring on technology to improve the experience and safety for the skateboarder. His first idea was mounting GoPro-like cameras on the boards, front and back. He won the challenge, and $5,000 to continue his project.

That led Puello (pictured at right; More photos here.), who is studying business at MDC, to enroll in CREATE, a three-month accelerator-like program at the Idea Center that teaches student entrepreneurs about finances, marketing, business strategy and how to use the resources they have to develop businesses. One speaker talked about crowdfunding, which led Puello to apply for Idea.me’s recent South Florida crowdfunding initiative with the Knight Foundation. Puello was accepted, and through his campaign on Idea.me and Knight’s matching grant, he raised $10,000.

At the end of the CREATE program, there was a competition, and Puello again won. In addition to a consultation with a branding agency, “I received a scholarship for the class I am in right now called Make1, which is where I am prototyping the longboards I am making.”

In the Idea Center’s Make1, Puello is learning about engineering and design tools, and has access to Moonlighter, a makerspace in Wynwood with 3D printers, laser cutters and other equipment. He’s beginning to put his winnings and crowdfunding gains to work developing his product and his company, Ontown Boards, and along his journey, he has learned that cameras aren’t the way to go because of stability issues. He now plans to tech-out the boards with sensors to track the rider’s speed, altitude, tilt and direction. Powerful LED lights in the front and rear improve safety, something no other non-motorized longboard has built in, he said.

“That’s something I thought about from experience, skateboarding home at night from school. Seventy percent of all skateboard-related deaths occur at night,” he said.

From the first pitch in the Startup Challenge, “we’ve come a long way with Onetown Boards,” Puello said. He no longer hand-paints boards, focusing instead on the quality of the decks, because so many lives depend on that. He said he dropped a pickup truck on one of his boards, and the board bent all the way down but then popped back up. The money he raised will help fund an app to allow the rider to see their metrics on a smartphone and get small-scale manufacturing started.

Puello’s entrepreneurial path, from developing his initial idea to learning about what goes into starting and running a business to now building a prototype, is what Executive Director Leandro Finol envisioned for the Idea Center, located on the Wolfson campus and serving the 165,000 Miami Dade College students with programs, often free, for all levels and stages of entrepreneurship, including design thinking, idea validation, building an idea, coding and prototyping, fundraising and marketing.

The 2-year-old Idea Center (ideacenter.co), Miami Dade College’s hub for entrepreneurship, launched most of its programs this year and some of them this fall, including Make1, Design for Miami (design thinking), MarketHack (digital marketing - pictured below), WebDev (website development), Google Analytics Academy, Insight (big data) and Puente, an entrepreneurship program for bridging Miami and Cuba. Most are open to the community.

[Read more: Miami Dade College’s Idea Center brings on funding, partnerships]

“A key pillar of where we started was around ‘How do we help student entrepreneurs with their ventures?’ What we realized is that not only the students but the the whole ecosystem needs these programs to build these ventures,” Finol said. “We decided to build the innovation value chain — skill programs any startup needs to build a startup of substance.”

Market Hack_008

The Idea Center typically brings in experts from leading universities and companies, and “everything we do takes on the experiential learning approach,” Finol said. For instance, Stanford University’s D-School helped design the Design for Miami program, because design thinking should kick off any entrepreneurial journey. Customer discovery, value proposition and lean startup methodology are the next steps and there are programs for that, such as CREATE and Puente, and MIT experts have been involved in all of that, said Finol, who recently returned from Cuba where he taught Lean Startup techniques and plans to host Cuban entrepreneurs at the Idea Center.

Where’s the talent going to come from? The Idea Center, in conjunction with LaunchCode, a nonprofit that matches tech talent with employers, runs a CS50x coding course, based on Harvard University’s popular but demanding online course, but with in-person mentoring. For the upcoming class of 100, the Idea Center received 800 applications, Finol said.For people who don’t need that level of tech skill but want to understand the fundamentals, the Idea Center created WebDev, with funding from the Beacon Council.

Travis Kalanick of Uber and “Shark Tank” star Daymond John were among the celebrity entrepreneurs who gave talks as part of a free speaker series, and the Idea Center launched two conferences this year — Startup Nation, bringing Israel and Miami in partnership with Tel Aviv University, and Innovation M, a program with NBCUniversal about millennial impact. Both will be brought back in 2017, Finol said. Expanding Idea Center programs to other MDC campuses is in the plans.


Nancy Dahlberg: 305-376-3595, @ndahlberg

Read more:

University of Miami: UM steps up innovation strategy and renames life science park

Florida International University: Blastoff for StartUP FIU, with food, art and tech incubators on way

Blastoff for StartUP FIU, with food, art and tech incubators on way


Photo of StartUP FIU's Cohort 1. MORE PHOTOS HERE

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Bid_Aeuo_RefreshMiamisAnnualDemoDay0256 (4)Bid.Aero, a marketplace for airplane and engine parts, is ready to fly but just needs a little help.

The Miami startup is part of Florida International University’s first cohort of StartUP FIU, a new multidisciplinary, multi-campus innovation program.

“We needed mentorship and guidance. Running a startup is not the easiest thing. You never know what is going to come up with fundraising, developing the website and having to deal with business logistics, but it was the best thing possible to get into this program,” said Anthony Leon, Bid.Aero’s CEO (pictured here with his team pitching at Refresh Miami Demo Day at right. Photo by Jorge Castillo / For Refresh Miami. More photos here).

StartUP FIU (startup.fiu.edu) launched this fall on the Modesto Maidique campus, but much more is on the runway. Coming in early 2017: another cohort of StartUP FIU at the main campus, free and open to students and the community, with startups in any industry as well as social entrepreneurs. The StartUP FIU team will also be opening a tech-focused incubator in Kendall’s West End and a food incubator at the Biscayne Bay campus. Planned for next fall: StartUP FIU will power the College of Communication, Architecture + the Arts’ Ratcliffe Art + Design Incubator, started with an $831,000 gift from the Ratcliffe Foundation, at the Biscayne Bay campus.

StartUP FIU is a startup itself, and its organizers were surprised that more than 300 businesses applied for the first two cohorts of its general incubator. “It’s further evidence that the market is underserved,” said Bob Hacker, director of StartUP FIU. With most entrepreneurial activity in Miami’s downtown and Wynwood areas, there has been pent-up demand for programs out west, and location is one of StartUP FIU’s key differentiators.

[Read more: Multi-campus startup FIU gets ready for takeoff.]

The tech-focused program in the West End will be held in Topp Solutions’ building that houses Alienware. StartUP FIU will have space on the bottom floor. “We’re trying to get people to cluster there. There is a lot of tech talent in West Kendall, and they commute east to go to work,” said Emily Gresham, assistant vice president for Research, Innovation and Economic Development. “The opportunity for economic development is ripe … and we want to try to spawn new companies. … It’s an interesting experiment to see if the community comes together to think differently and help each other grow their businesses.”

Food FIU will take on a different model. Food startups will go through phases: A beginning phase includes working through basic business planning with StartUP FIU and the Small Business Development Center at FIU, and then an eight-week technical program about food production and machinery. Companies past that stage will be eligible for the StartUP FIU incubator if their products are scalable and they want to grow nationally or globally; if they aren’t scalable or they would prefer to stay small, they will have access to FIU’s state-of-the-art commercial kitchen.

“We’ve met with community groups such as the Opa-locka CDC and Partners for Self Employment. They see a lot of food entrepreneurs come through that actually have zero support right now. We are working with community development people to drum up some customers,” said Gresham, who wants to serve businesses in the low- to moderate-income groups. It shouldn’t be too hard to find them — there are 8,000 food companies in Miami-Dade with four or fewer employees.

[Read more: How millennial tastes shape a new generation of food startups]

Another new initiative: A pilot group of FIU students, under StartUP FIU’s direction, will work with faculty members to hack ideas on how to commercialize their nascent technologies. Patent applications are up, too. StartUP FIU will show some of these technologies at an upcoming Beacon Council event on Nov. 15.

Hacker said the incubators may get even more specialized because there are very specific types of expertise in Miami that have never had entrepreneurial support, like arts and entertainment, for instance. But he said there will likely always be a general incubator at the main campus open to all industries.

Back at the Modesto Maidique campus in the 19-company cohort 1, Bid.Aero is getting ready for StartUP FIU’s Dec. 6 pitch day.

The three co-founders — Anthony Leon, CEO; Gabriel Martinez, COO; and Nicholas Rodriguez, CFO, all first-time entrepreneurs — were raised in Miami and have known each other since second grade. Leon graduated from FIU and majored in marketing, then worked at an airline leasing agency. Rodriguez majored in finance at FSU and then was a pricing analyst for FedEx, and Martinez is currently studying software engineering online at Arizona State.

These co-founders take experiential learning seriously. Earlier this year, they all went through Wyncode’s 10-week coding boot camp and developed an early prototype for their idea. Then Wyncode recommended that they apply to StartUP FIU to further develop it.

Bid.Aero’s b2b marketplace is up and running privately with a few clients. Bid.Aero already has suppliers and repair shops in Miami ready to put their products on its reverse-auction site, and StartUP FIU introduced them to others. In Startup FIU, Bid.Aero has learned to test assumptions and the importance of gathering feedback to make its product as customer-centric as possible. The team now works in space that StartUP FIU provided on campus. The co-founders haven’t started serious fund-raising yet, but they recently seized the opportunity to pitch to a full house at Refresh Miami’s Demo Day.

The team aims to launch Bid-Aero publicly by the end of the year.

“There’s the highs and the lows but every week that goes by we are building our own skills sets as business men,” Leon said. “There are a lot of things we think we know that we don’t.”

Nancy Dahlberg: 305-376-3595, @ndahlberg


Read more:

UM steps up innovation strategy and renames life science park

At the Idea Center, innovation is everwhere, even on skateboards


University of Miami steps up innovation strategy, renames life science park

Cropped UM new name and logo.pptx (1)


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

The University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park will be renamed Converge Miami to more inclusively brand the building for what the University of Miami hopes it will become: a hub of entrepreneurship and technology reaching across industries as well as geographies.

Inside Converge Miami is the Cambridge Innovation Center, or CIC Miami, which is running a 70,000-square-foot co-working center with open work areas, offices and labs for entrepreneurs and scientists. Converge Miami also houses Venture Cafe, a nonprofit that puts on programming and events for the community, including its signature #ThursdayGathering, with talks, pitch nights, mentor and investor office hours, exhibitions and networking.

JuliofrenkWhen the Converge Miami sign goes up on the six-story UMLSTP building facing Interstate 95, it might be one of the most visual symbols yet that University of Miami leadership is serious about innovation.

“CIC has one of the most impressive records of attracting the startup community, so they are a great tenant to have there,” UM President Dr. Julio Frenk said (pictured here). “The idea is to signal that we are striving to have a space where innovators and entrepreneurs, healthcare experts, investors and established companies can all come together.”

[Read more: Cambridge Innovation Center makes big bet on Miami tech]

To be sure, the rebranding is just one piece of Frenk’s larger innovation mission for the University of Miami .

“For Miami, being the hemispheric innovation hub is a natural for economic development — Miami is the crossroads of the Americas and I do think it has huge potential,” Frenk said in an interview last week. “But if you look at any successful innovation ecosystem, there is always a comprehensive research university at its core. My aspiration for the University of Miami is that it is the comprehensive research university at the center of the Miami innovation hub … that will truly have hemispheric reach.”

He said the major Latin American cities already have critical masses of engineers and scientists but they don’t have the other elements of a successful innovation ecosystem, such as suitable regulations and access to capital: “I think Miami can play the role of housing innovators from the hemisphere. I see UM as a magnet for some of that talent. … We are partnering with the business community, government, the county and cities and other academic institutions.”

To be sure, UM has been a pioneer in innovation programs. Its Launch Pad, founded in 2008, was very innovative in its time, bringing in teams of mentors to help UM students and alumni develop concepts and connect with potential customers and funders. And The Launch Pad’s metrics are impressive.

According to William Silverman, director of The Launch Pad, since inception, The Launch Pad (thelaunchpad.org) has met with entrepreneurs with ideas for nearly 2,600 incipient companies. From those meetings, 385 startup companies emerged and have been assisted by The Launch Pad. At peak employment levels, those companies created nearly 1,200 jobs. In the past five years, companies started by clients of The Launch Pad have raised more than $25 million in investment, Silverman said.

Milain David, a recent UM alumnus in economics and finance and founder of skin-care startup Eben Naturals, received strategic advice about business planning and researching the market from The Launch Pad for his. “It was like getting a very good business consulting firm, but for free.”

[Read more: How a trip to the Congo kickstarted a skincare startup.]

“The Launch Pad has become so successful that it is being replicated in other universities. It contributes to our educational mission with our students but it is also contributing to the economic development of the city and the county,” Frenk said.

The Launch Pad has been building bridges between departments and colleges to widen access to its services, and it is also starting a partnership with an incubator in Peru. “We will have opportunities to use their experts in Peru, and we’ll provide expertise to their entrepreneurs that want to break into the U.S. market,” Silverman said. “We’re going to bring people to our summer programs on campus and we will be able to send people there as well.”

Over at Converge Miami and the nearby UM Miller School of Medicine, tech transfer has ramped up under the direction of Norma Kenyon, UM’s vice provost of innovation. Kenyon leads Frenk’s HIT (Hemispheric Innovation and Technology) Initiative to identify opportunities to translate discoveries into solutions, lending help with incubation, intellectual property development and capital raising.

So far, reviving tech transfer activities is working: In the past few years, there has been a dramatic spike in the number of companies started as well as patents and licenses issued. Some of these startups are working on treatments for cancer, spinal cord injuries, kidney disease and asthma as well as early detection of head and neck cancer and heart disease.

The number of licensing agreements has increased, from 19 in 2013 to 32 this year. Kenyon’s team is currently working with 35 UM startups, up from 20 just two years ago, and they range from very early stage to one that is publicly traded.

Six UM startups have received funding from the Florida Institute for Commercialization of Public Research, including Vigilant Biosciences, which has developed a test for assessing a person’s risk of oral cancer. Vigilant recently received approval in Europe to market its product, and commercialization efforts are underway.

UM’s Wallace H. Coulter Center for Translational Research funds and supports promising biomedical research toward commercialization. These UM startups have received $2.66 million in Coulter Center funding and more than $96 million in follow-on funding, mostly from venture capitalists and angel investors, Kenyon said.

 [Read more: Q&A with Norma Kenyon, powering UM innovation]

A recent $100 million gift from Phillip and Patricia Frost is earmarked for basic science and engineering research that can translate into innovation, said Frenk, who led Harvard’s school of public health before coming to Miami.

Although 88 percent of the startups Kenyon’s team currently works with are biomedical, innovation can come from anywhere. One of them stems from the College of Education.


Healthsnap Solutions has created a powerful assessment tool for healthcare providers. After filling out a 10-minute online questionnaire, a patient can leave her doctor’s office with a report full of personalized dietetic and exercise information and advice, pulled by an algorithm from more than 500 research sources, said Yenvy Truong, CEO of the health-tech company and a UM biomedical alumna.

The inventor of the technology, Dr. Wesley Smith, is chair of the exercise physiology program at the School of Education, and two of Healthsnap’s other cofounders, Samson Magid and Chase Preston, were his students. “It started as a service-based research project at UM. We assessed almost 2,000 University of Miami employees, professional athletes and UM athletes. We collected all this data and we still have ongoing studies now,” Magid said.

Healthsnap co-founders came together with the help of Kenyon’s team, and exclusively licensed the technology at the end of last year. Since then Kenyon’s team has advised them and made introductions for the company as needed.

The initial assessment product launched in April to a group of doctors in South Florida, as the team continues to gather feedback. Now the company is working on the next version of Healthsnap’s assessment, which will likely include a shorter questionnaire and more optional categories for targeted advice in particular areas, said Truong, who has worked in the anti-aging industry and has started other diagnostic companies. When Healthsnap rolls out the software product nationally, it will sign up doctors who will pay a subscription fee to use the tool.

Healthsnap, now with 10 employees, was one of the first companies to move into CIC’s 6th floor in Converge Miami. Truong said the team likes being in the healthcare district and in a vibrant space with entrepreneurs from many industries. She also likes that UM is a strong partner in the team’s success. “We want to be an example university company.”

With Converge Miami’s Building 1 now fully leased with CIC Miami (miami.cic.us) at 1951 NW 7th Ave., Building 2 is in the planning stages.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship need to be part of the education of every student,” Frenk said. “We owe it to our community for the economic development of Miami to play a major role in innovation.”

Nancy Dahlberg: 305-376-3595, @ndahlberg

Read more:

Florida International University: Blastoff for StartUP FIU, with food, art and tech incubators on way

Miami Dade College: At the Idea Center, innovation is everwhere, even on skateboards

PICTURED ABOVE: Healthsnap Solutions, a Miami health-tech startup that spawned from University of Miami research technology, is based at the Cambridge Innovation Center inside Converge Miami, formerly the UM Life Science & Technology Park. Back Row (left to right): Samson Magid (co-founder), Kelly Thornton, Misha Kerr (co-founder), Dr. Wesley Smith (co-founder); Front Row (left to right): Graham Salmun, Yenvy Truong (Co-founder and CEO), Celie Weaver, Chase Preston (co-founder). Healthsnap has created an assessment tool for healthcare providers. After filling out a 10-minute online questionaire, a patient can leave the doctor’s office with a report full of personalized dietetic and exercise information and advice. Photo by Jose R. Medina / for CIC Miami. MORE PHOTOS HERE.