Want to know about Miami startups? A user's guide to this blog

Dear reader, Starting Gate has been providing and archiving South Florida startup and tech community news, views and resources since 2012. New to the Miami area? Thinking about relocating here? Just want to keep up with news, events and opportunities? We're there for you.

How to use Starting Gate: Besides scrolling the blog for the latest entries, you can access news and views by category. The "Funding" category will capture venture capital and angel funding news of individual startups as well as stories about funders. The startup categories chronicle news and my regular "Spotlights," and in Q&As you'll find interviews with CEOs and leaders in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. There are also categories for guest posts, views, accelerators/incubators, resources, events and more.

Thank you for your support through the years and please come back often. Follow me on Twitter @ndahlberg. - Sincerely, Nancy Dahlberg

October 08, 2017

StartUP FIU: Your chance to change the world

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By Kate Sackman

What do fair trade yoga pants, paying off student loans, and promoting minority businesses have in common? Yep, all of these opportunities, and more, are being addressed by the StartUP FIU Empower Accelerator companies.

An exciting array of startups are in the third cohort of companies now going through the fall 2017 Empower Accelerator on the main campus of Florida International University.  This 14-week intensive program guides early stage companies rapidly through the key analyses and decisions for building a strong company foundation and scaling. Of the eleven companies in Cohort 3, six are FIU-affiliated (students, alumni, and faculty) and five are from the Miami community.  All of the companies at least have a prototype in development and four of them are generating revenue. The industries represented include apparel, food service, finance, ecommerce, supply chain monitoring and digital marketing

Companies in Cohort 3 are working to provide fair incomes and humane treatment of garment workers in Sri Lanka, help people get out from under crushing debt, and reduce fraud at construction sites.  Cool technologies such as artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and predictive analytics are being applied by companies to improve consumer intelligence, make online marketing more fair and efficient, and yes, help you get fit.

Here are the companies in Cohort 3:

Alana Athletica: Alana designs and sells yoga pants made to employ and empower women in Sri Lanka who are abuse survivors.

Aromas del Peru: A successful Peruvian restaurant chain in Miami that plans to franchise nationally.

CoinStash: An automatic savings plan that helps users pay off student and credit card debt by automatically rounding up their purchases to the nearest dollar and applying the difference to their debt.

Ekkobar: A sophisticated application of machine learning, Ekkobar enables companies to analyze their digital media in real time and interact directly with their audience.

Lunchology: A healthy meal delivery service for schools using only fresh, local ingredients.

Major Marketplace: An online marketplace for minority businesses and those who want to support them.

Merkari: A digital marketing company that enables companies to run multi-channel campaigns across any device.

Mettosof: Mettosof makes InstanRate, a SaaS system that expedites customers’ review process and helps business operators analyze customer feedback   to improve their operations.

Origo: A blockchain-based web platform that allows businesses to validate the true identity and fair trade practices of traders in the Americas.

Smart Barrel: Provides rugged, solar-powered IoT products for construction jobsites that enable construction workers to punch in and out without an RFID tag or other device and enables project managers to oversee and plan construction sites more efficiently.

Sodima Solutions: A chatbot company that provides customer management and a lead generation fitness assistant for the Facebook business page of fitness professionals and gyms.

APPLICATIONS OPEN FOR NEXT COHORT

Applications are now open for Cohort 4! Aspiring entrepreneurs from throughout South Florida are invited to apply.  Companies that have a prototype in development and a good understanding of their customers and market are eligible. Preference is for companies with some revenue, but companies at any stage are welcome to apply. You can apply on the StartUP FIU website: http://startup.fiu.edu. Cohort 4 begins in January 2018.

On the website you can also find StartUP FIU workshops, speakers, and other programs for the public. Upcoming workshops by leading experts include A Beginner’s Guide to Crowdfunding (October 5), and Sea Level Rise Mitigation (October 12). 

Kate Sackman is the director of the StartUP FIU Empower Accelerator and a seasoned entrepreneur.  She has a background in finance, marketing, high-tech, and media. She is also a consultant and a professor of Global Social Entrepreneurship at FIU.

 

September 27, 2017

11 South Florida leaders selected for cohort 4 of Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp

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Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, center, is founder and CEO of Radical Partners, a social impact accelerator.

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

What are some of the most pressing issues facing our region, and how can we solve them?

Ask the alumni and new cohort of Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, an accelerator program for social-impact ventures based in South Florida.

The program, led by Radical Partners, announced its fourth cohort on Wednesday, selecting 11 leaders at the helm of some of the most innovative organizations seeking to improve our region. From expanding opportunities for diverse food entrepreneurs to providing a support network for transgender locals, the cohort of both for-profit and non-profit companies is committed to strengthening communities, increasing equity, and improving the quality of life for those in our city.

Each participant is offered a full scholarship to enable participation in the 12-week accelerator program focused on scaling the impact of their ventures. Upon completion of the program, participants are welcomed into an active alumni network, where they will continue to focus on strengthening Miami alongside some of the most celebrated social innovators in the region.

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In an effort to diversify the investor base in the social innovation sector, Radical Partners sought to fund the entire program through support from female investors and philanthropists. All scholarships for this fourth cohort were made possible by female investors who are committed to the future of Miami, including Tere Blanca of Blanca Commercial Real Estate, Leslie Miller Saiontz of Achieve Miami and Teach For America, CL Conroy of The Conroy Martinez Group, Ruth Admire of The William J. and Isobel G. Clarke Foundation, Dr. Elizabeth Leight, Stephanie Ansin, and Michelle Huttenhoff, among others.

The cohort will also benefit from expert advice from financial advisors, branding experts, and lawyers through partnerships with Desnoyers CPA, Fiscal Management Associates, and Milkcase Creative. Participants will also receive legal health checks from Akerman and have access to the AkermanX/Radical Partners innovation space housed at the Cambridge Innovation Center for all 12 weeks of the program.

Here are the 2017 Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp cohort members (list provided by Radical Partners):

Communities In Schools of Miami

Elyssa Linares, President and CEO

Nonprofit providing wraparound resources to help students succeed, whether that’s clean clothes, help with school work, or emotional support to cope with or recover from a traumatic event.

Melanites

Jennifer Pierre, Founder and CEO

Toy company that creates diverse toys, storybooks, and games that celebrate brown boyhood and inspire children of color to dream big.

Mind&Melody

Cristina Rodriguez, President and Co-Founder

Nonprofit that creates novel music programs at healthcare facilities to improve the quality of life for individuals with neurological impairments like dementia.

Moonlighter

Tom Pupo, Co-Founder

S.T.E.A.M. Learning Center, Fabrication Lab, and Co-Working Space that encourages creative collaboration among artists, designers, engineers, students, educators, and innovators in order to catalyze meaningful solutions through education, technology, and community.

O, Miami

Scott Cunningham, Founder and Director

Annual festival with the goal of every single person in Miami-Dade County encountering a poem.

Open Referral Initiative

Greg Bloom, Founder and Leader

Open-access platform that enables people in need (and related organizations) to get accurate information about the health, human, and social services available in our region.

The New Tropic

Ariel Zirulnick, Director

Local media startup that connects people to their cities through storytelling and events.

TransSOCIAL

Ashley Mayfaire, Co-Founder and Director of Operations

Trans-led nonprofit working to build LGBTQ+ unity and expand community resources and support.

Unconventional

Jordan Magid, Founder and CEO

Art production agency beautifying neighborhoods, strengthening relationships and inspiring citizenship.

The Wynwood Yard

Della Heiman, Founder and CEO

Culinary incubator and community hub designed to foster the development of innovative Miami-based food, culture, design and fitness entrepreneurs.

Young Musicians Unite

Sammy Gonzalez, Co-Founder, President and CEO

Nonprofit giving students a voice through music by providing underserved communities with free, comprehensive music programming.

 

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A scene from Radical Partners Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp Cohort 2 workshop

 

September 19, 2017

Meet the next class of women selected for WIN Lab Miami

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

A straw that helps detect date rape, advances in breast pump technology, a dinner party in a box. These are products and services in development by just a few of the 17 companies selected by Babson College to participate in the 2017-2018 Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab Miami.

WIN Lab Miami, an eight-month accelerator program entering its second year in the region, aims to catalyze the long-term success of female entrepreneurs by fostering creativity and collaboration, increasing visibility, providing mentorships, identifying branding and marketing tactics, and leveraging funding opportunities and competitions.

Around the world, female entrepreneurship is on the rise. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor's 2017 survey of 63 economies, Total Entrepreneurial Activity among women increased by 10 percent in the past two years, and the gender gap (ratio of women to men participating in entrepreneurship) narrowed by 5 percent. WIN Lab seeks to accelerate the trend by offering a supportive rather than a competitive environment of traditional accelerators. It's program is part-time over a longer period to better work with entrepreneurs at their own stages of growth. 

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 “We have selected a group of incredibly impressive women entrepreneurs to join WIN Lab Miami’s next cohort,” said Babson’s WIN Lab Miami Director Carolina Pina (pictured above). “One team won the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, some have already made strides as participants of the Idea Center’s CREATE program at Miami Dade College; one has just recently won an American Entrepreneurship Award; and two have been selected to pitch their businesses at the upcoming Demand Solutions competition. We look forward to helping further develop and advance their businesses, and being witness to all of their accomplishments to come.”

WIN Lab's Advisory Board will be chaired by Carol Faber, Partner at Akerman LLP. Faber was recently named one of Real Estate Forum’s 50 Women of Influence in Real Estate, and is also the Chair of Akerman’s Women’s Initiative Network and Co-chair of its Distressed Property Practice Group.

WIN LAB has also named its Entrepreneurs-In-Residence and Investors-In-Residence for the second cohort.

Entrepreneurs-In-Residence are Johanna Mikkola, Co-Founder, Wyncode Academy; RJ Joshi, Co-Founder and COO, Bodhi Tree Asset Management; Silvina Moschini, Co-Founder and CEO, SheWorks!; and Ze’ev Feig MBA’03, CEO, Zensah.

 Its Investors-In-Residence are Adam Smith, investor; Blaire Martin, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Florida Angel Nexus; and Raul Moas, Managing Director, AGP.

WIN Lab Miami was founded with support from John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, FedEx, and Akerman LLP, and sponsor HSBC. The Miami program’s inaugural cohort of ‘WINners’ raised nearly $2 million in funding in the first year, WIN Lab said, and celebrated with a grand finale pitch competition in April 2017.

Here are the 2017-2018 Miami WINners (list provided by WIN Lab), which were to be announced Tuesday night at its  kickoff event at CIC Miami, where WIN Lab is based.

Caribu
Maxeme Tuchman, Co-Founder and CEO

Communication and collaboration platform that helps parents, extended family, and mentors read and draw with children when they are not in the same location. Caribu is one of two WINners selected by the Inter-American Development Bank to compete at Demand Solutions. It also won third place in the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge.

ETC

Karley Chynces, Founder and CEO

Mobile app that will allow students to buy and sell books and dorm supplies locally.

Ginger Straps
Leana Loh, Founder and CEO

Add-on ankle strap for high heels and flats to transform shoes from strapless to strappy.

Imalac, LLC
Noreen Gordon Sablotsky, Co-Founder and CEO; Rachael Sablotsky Kish, Co-Founder and COO

Healthcare technology company focused on increasing the efficiency and practicality of breast pumping.

Impetus Social
Sonia Hinestrosa, Founder

Education technology company providing critical skills in areas like digital literacy, STEM, leadership, and financial literacy.

Lean Orb
Anastasia Mikhalochkina, Founder

Plant-based, biodegradable catering supplies. Lean Orb has also been selected to compete at Demand Solutions this fall.

Luxe Fête Social
Nathalie Anne Cadet-James, Founder

Service company that provides a dinner party in a box.

MADSTUDIOS, Inc.
Jennifer Nicole Hardcastle, Co-Founder

Platform that provides resources and access to all creatives with the tools needed to be successful.

Major Marketplace
Leyanis Diaz, Co-Founder and CEO

Online marketplace for minority businesses and those who want to support them. Diaz also participated in Miami Dade College Idea Center’s 10-week go-to-market program called CREATE. She recently won an American Entrepreneurship Award.

PEX+
Jessica Coane, Founder and President

Travel search engine for using miles and points.

Prizm Art Fair, LLC
Mikhaile Solomon, Founder and Director

Cutting-edge art fair that expands the spectrum of exhibiting international artists from Africa, the global African Diaspora, and emerging markets.

Sayblee
Ashley Sebok, Founder and CEO

100 percent natural, organic, handmade hair care system formulated to repair damaged hair, and maintain healthy hair.

Smart Straws
Susana Cappello, Victoria Roca, Carolina Baigorri, Co-Founders

Straw that detects the most common date rape drugs, GHB and Ketamine, found in alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Cappello, Roca, and Baigorri won this year’s Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge High School Track.

SpeechMED Inc.
Susan Alanna Perry, Founder and CEO

Patient engagement platform that makes healthcare information accessible to all patients regardless of age, language, or literacy levels.

TeaRado Tech
Nicole Tirado, Founder

Tech-infused tea cup that allows users to consume tea hands-free.

Voyz.es, Inc.

Ana Maria Carrano, Co-Founder and CEO

Agile and collaborative transcription platform that allows users to transcribe audio and video content fast, with high accuracy and affordable rates, using machine learning and crowdsourcing.

Wedding QuickQuote
Madeline Daryadel, Founder and President

Extranet software program featured on venue sites that expedites the search and sales process providing users with an instant reply to an online inquiry.

Massachusetts-based Babson College has also recently announced an expansion of its graduate programs to Miami. The new effort builds on the ongoing success of WIN Lab Miami, as well as its Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program hosted at Miami Dade College, which empowers local small business owners to help their companies grow. The application period for the graduate programs is open and classes are set to begin in Fall 2018.

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A scene from an event, shown above, for WIN Lab Miami's first cohort, shown below.

Group Photo - Lobby 2

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter

 

August 17, 2017

Shoring up the boat-sharing industry, Boatsetter buys Boatbound, raises more funding

Boater

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

South Florida is already one of the world’s great boating capitals. Now the region can also claim to be a boat-sharing industry leader, as more people seek out accessible ways to get out on the water and more boat owners oblige by turning their pleasure crafts into money makers.

Boatsetter, a peer-to-peer marketplace for boat rentals, has acquired its Seattle-based rival Boatbound, powering up the South Florida startup’s presence throughout the United States. The Aventura-based company also announced that it has raised an additional $4.75 million in funding, on top of the $13 million announced in December, to fund its international expansion.

Like others in the boat-sharing economy, Boatsetter attempts to make the boat rental experience as seamless as booking a room on Airbnb by connecting people seeking rentals with boat owners looking to monetize the time their boats aren’t used. But Boatsetter differentiates itself by giving its users access to a large network of licensed captains as well as a growing roster of high-end boat rentals for yachting, cruising, fishing or sailing, 24/7 customer support and insurance coverage for renters, boat owners and captains.

Jackie headshot“This acquisition now makes us the No. 1 peer-to-peer boat rental community in the United States hands down,” said Jaclyn Baumgarten, CEO and co-founder of Boatsetter, who wouldn’t disclose terms of the deal. “It means about 5,000 quality vessels ready to be rented, it brings us 1,500 U.S. coastguard licensed captains, it will mean about 10,000 transactions between the companies in 2017 and it brings us 300 locations.”

Baumgarten said the acquisition particularly expands Boatsetter’s inventory in Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington, DC.

“Additionally, we will be getting some great new talent from the Boatbound team, and we will be relocating them and the entire Seattle office to South Florida with us – a true Miami startup expansion,” said Baumgarten, in an interview with the Miami Herald on Wednesday. Boatsetter’s team will grow to 27 employees.

While accelerating operations in the U.S. five-fold is the goal for 2017, Baumgarten said, the acquisition and additional funding will also help fuel Boatsetter’s international expansion in 2018. Boatsetter plans to focus first on the Caribbean and Mediterranean, driving demand through global partnerships. It already has “phenomenal boats” in Bali, Ibiza, Mexico and South Africa, she said.

“This market is ripe for consolidation and I believe we are strongly positioned to lead that consolidation,” Baumgarten said. “We worked with a third-party investment bank and they value the peer-to-peer and charter business at $50 billion that we expect in the years to come to grow to $100 billion. That’s a huge opportunity and we are primed to lead a rollup strategy over the years to come globally.”

To that end, Boatsetter extended its Series A round, adding $4.75 million in funding to the $13 million the company raised in December. Key investors of the most recent round include Nordic Eye Venture Capital and the Miami-based TheVentureCity.

Laura Gonzalez-Estefani, co-founder of the TheVentureCity, which acts as an incubator for international-focused high-growth startups, said it’s the “super-driven” CEO and Boatsetter team, their data-driven approach to growth, international strategy and local expertise that attracted TheVentureCity as an investor. “The numbers are astounding in terms of engagement rates, their expansion plans are very interesting in the U.S. but also in Europe and we hope we can help them,” she said.

The young boat-sharing industry began making waves in South Florida in 2013.

That year, Boatbound entered the market in Miami, setting up a small office in Key Biscayne and developing a local network of boats. Boat-sharing was just getting started then, and rival Cruzin, led by Baumgarten, had also put down stakes in South Florida, too. As other rivals such as Sailo began expanding into the market, several locally based startups were developing, including Boatsetter, led by South Florida marine industry veteran and serial entrepreneur Andrew Sturner. Boatsetter and San Francisco based Cruzin merged in 2015, and Baumgarten became the CEO of the combined company. Sturner is executive chairman.

As the industry has matured and consolidated, locally based technology companies serving niches of the boat rental and sales industry have emerged here too, such as YachtLife serving the highest end of the market and Boatyard to handle boat-sharing related management and maintenance tasks for the owners. Meanwhile, a large online boat-sales marketplace, Boats Group, relocated its headquarters to Miami this year.

This summer, Boatsetter began offering uniquely curated experiences through the Airbnb platform in Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Barcelona, Baumgarten said. In Miami, the experiences range from watersports trips, experiences for fishing fanatics and luxury excursions with full course meals.

“We’ve taken boating from being a rare pastime for a fortunate few boat owners to being a universally accessible lifestyle activity for anyone with a smartphone and a credit card,” Baumgarten said in an earlier interview.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

August 03, 2017

Apply now for second cohort of Startupbootcamp Digital Health

Applications for Startupbootcamp's Digital Health innovation program in Miami are now open. Submit your application and you could be one of the companies selected to gain access to a national network of healthcare providers, insurers and investors. The application deadline is Oct. 6
 

Selected companies will receive:

  • Implementation opportunities with leading hospital systems including the Miami Children's Hospital, University of Miami, Jackson Health, Mayo Clinic (Jacksonville), Carolinas, local and national insurers, pharma and many others
  • Extensive mentorship from industry leading experts, entrepreneurs and investors 
  • $20K with up to a $100K convertible note and access to follow-on capital 
  • Office space in the heart of Miami
  • $500K in partner services from Google, Amazon, Salesforce, Intel and Paypal

- Submitted by Startupbootcamp Digital Health

June 15, 2017

Wanted: 'Fearless, ambitious and extraordinary entrepreneurs' for startupbootcamp Miami

 

By Christian Seale

Today, we are excited to announce the launch of applications for the second cohort of our digital health innovation program, startupbootcamp Miami.

If you share our passion and vision to transform healthcare, we want to meet you. Apply here!

We are a year older and have assembled an even deeper bench of local and national healthcare providers, insurers, pharma companies, industry leaders and top-tier healthcare investors committed to helping you refine and scale your companies.

Boot1Last year our program resulted in multiple implementations, customer contracts and financings for our portfolio companies from the likes of Miami Children’s Health System, University of Miami, Florida Blue, Jackson Health System, Univision and many others (read more here). Local entrepreneur Wolf Shlagman, CEO of CareAngel and founder of Consult-a-Doc (sold to Teladoc and Kleiner Perkins) highlighted: "the program surpassed our expectations and resulted in multiple customer contracts and venture financing. I highly recommend this program to any serious entrepreneur looking to take their healthcare business to the next level."  (pictured here: Rene Lerer, President Florida Blue, discusses healthcare reform with Startupbootcamp entrepreneurs.)

We encourage you to apply and accelerate your business. We are looking for fearless, ambitious and extraordinary entrepreneurs working at the intersection of healthcare and technology with proven and tested models and committed to making our system more equitable, efficient and accessible for all. If chosen to participate, you will receive funding, implementation and contract opportunities, mentorship from our dedicated expert network, office space and a comprehensive suite of portfolio and in-kind services.

We are proud to be part of Miami’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem recently named the top city in startup activity by the Kauffman Foundation and grateful to be recognized by Inc. for our work to build the city into a globally recognized hub for healthcare innovation.

We invite you to join us and our partners at the Knight Foundation, Miami Children’s Hospital and many others as we build Miami into a globally recognized hub for innovation and together transform the future of healthcare. If you are a healthcare entrepreneur, please reach out and set up a time for virtual office hours.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Christian Seale is founder and managing director of startupbootcamp Miami. Follow on Twitter @sbchealth. For more information, email digitalhealth@startupbootcamp.com.

 

Boot3

Shane Battier, NBA and NCAA Champion, shared leadership lessons with Startupbootcamp entrepreneurs.

Boot2

Dr. Maurice Ferre Jr., Co-Founder of Mako Surgical and CEO of Insightec, shares lessons on building and selling a company with Startupbootcamp entrepreneurs.

Boot4

A panel discusses the future of digital health in South Florida at Startupbootcamp’s Demo Day. From left: Christian Seale of Startupbootcamp, Jaret Davis of Greenberg Traurig, Elizabeth Lopez of Miami Children’s Health System and Juan Ortiz of Sonas Home Health Care.

Photos provided by startupbootcamp Miami

 

June 12, 2017

Facebook alum pulls back curtain on TheVentureCity, to be based in Miami

Newcity

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Former executives of Facebook, Google, eBay and other hyper-growth companies have come together to form a global “city” with everything a startup needs to scale internationally.

Laura headshotCo-founding the unique venture, called TheVentureCity, is Laura González-Estéfani (pictured here), former director of international business development and mobile partnerships for Facebook, and Clara Bullrich, a 20-year private banking and asset management veteran. They call it an accelerator for the global tech ecosystem.

With an “international-first” approach, the accelerator will create cross-functional bridges between key regions to scale startups on a global level, González-Estéfani said. The headquarters of TheVentureCity will be in Miami Beach, currently in the 1111 building off Lincoln Road, with a second campus in Madrid and a presence in San Francisco, with plans to expand into a number of cities worldwide by 2020, González-Estéfani she said.

“All my team has worked all over the world, they have all spent years working outside their countries of origin,” González-Estéfani said, in an interview last week. “When we see a startup that has all the right bones, we will advise where to scale first and how the product needs to be tailored for those companies.”

In addition to the international focus, the all-in-one approach for startup needs and consistent support is what will set TheVentureCity apart, said González-Estéfani, who is a native of Spain. “While others provide entrepreneurs with the initial tools to get them started, TheVentureCity is our response to the need for a solution that offers startups everything from engineering and product optimization to data analysis, guiding them throughout the entire process.”

To be considered for either theVentureCity’s 36-month incubator or 18-month accelerator program, startups that can be in any place in the world must demonstrate at least a six-month track record and solid numbers on growth and engagement metrics, not necessarily revenue. Using a data-driven approach, TheVentureCity builds on that foundation of solid data to help them make the best business decisions to achieve long-term growth. “We aren’t afraid of working with international-first companies all over the world, we just have to fall in love with the founders,” she said.

About 25 startups a year from all over the world will be selected to enter the “factory” each year. Other parts of the “city” include the “data library,” the heart of the city, the airport for internationalization, the laboratory for the product engineering and the bank for venture capital. TheVentureCity will help startups with their funding strategy and tapping into funding resources, she said.

TheVentureCity will be paid in startup equity as the partnership progresses, González-Estéfani said.

Directing the Miami campus will be Elisa Rodriguez-Vila, who formerly worked at Fusión and was part of the co-founding team at The LAB Miami. TheVentureCity is already working with 15 startups, including Boatsetter, Playground, The Fastmind and RecargaPay from South Florida.

TheVentureCity has forged partnerships with a number of entitities including Beacon Council, Startupbootcamp, Venture Café and Facebook on the local level. She said TheVentureCity has been working with Miami Dade College on a two-year degree in entrepreneurship and innovation, for instance. “We make things happen, we are not afraid of taking risks,” González-Estéfani said. “That is the mindset we want to bring here and we are learning everyday from the pioneers and we want to partner with them.”

González-Estéfani came to Miami 2 1/2 years ago with Facebook; she also worked in Facebook’s operations in Silicon Valley and Europe from 2008 to 2014. Before that she worked at eBay, Siemans and Ogilvy.

Upon arrival from Silicon Valley she noticed something quickly: a welcoming community.

“The Medinas [Manny Medina, founder of eMerger Americas] opened the door to their home to us. That is something I have never seen before in Business. "They introduced me to to everything that was happening here. That soul, that spirit, is something that I have never seen anywhere else. Everyone they introduced me to, the Knight Foundation, the Endeavor family, everyone was the same way,” González-Estéfani said.

“There must be something in the water in Miami that makes everyone so welcoming and so enthusiastic about the unknown. I found that willingness to take a risk. Hopefully I can contribute with my team to help make this one of the most exciting and vibrant ecosystems in tech around the world.”
González-Estéfani will be giving a talk about TheVentureCity at eMerge Americas at Miami Beach Convention Center on Tuesday.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg.

May 28, 2017

How to be selected for cohort 3 at StartUP FIU

Startupfiu

Pitch Day for StartUP FIU's Cohort 2

By Robert Hacker

StartUP FIU has just opened applications for the third cohort of its Empower Accelerator. The first two cohorts each received over 150 applications and we expect the same number by the June 11 deadline. The new cohort will begin the formal 14-week accelerator program in September and there is no cost or equity position given to participate. The program is open to both social and traditional entrepreneurs and their early stage companies.

The question we are most frequently asked is how can I improve the chances of being selected for the StartUP FIU accelerator.

 Coachability

We have interviewed over 90 applicants, worked with another 60 entrepreneurs that did not necessarily apply and advised the 39 teams comprising Cohorts I and II. The first thing all our staff are trained to look for is coachability--can the entrepreneur listen to critical feedback, thoughtfully consider it and make a reasoned adjustment. Every team in the program is assigned at least one mentor and these seasoned entrepreneurs are a critical success factor in incubators and accelerators worldwide. If the entrepreneur is not able to demonstrate they can take critical feedback from mentors and staff, their likelihood of commercial success and acceptance to the program is much lower.

 Problem Validation

Everyone who applies to Empower has a concept for a new business. Many applicants have a prototype or a beta, particularly the engineers. Surprisingly few have talked to potential customers about their problem, pain or need. After coachability, the next characteristic we look for is a demonstration of customer knowledge gained in the market. Of course, the best demonstration of customer knowledge may be revenue.

 Uniqueness

Competitive advantage, barriers to entry, what Warren Buffet calls moats--these are all descriptions of the same factors that can create value for customers and particularly shareholders. Perhaps the simplest way to demonstrate uniqueness is to describe the founder’s insight about the customer or problem that the company is addressing. Another effective technique is to describe the technology and simply describe how it is proprietary.

 Team

Entrepreneurship is the epitome of a team endeavor, hopefully beginning with co-founders and then building out the minimally necessary technical and management team. In our experience, companies with a team already established get more benefit out of the program and make more progress.

As we progress with the Empower Accelerator, we encounter an insatiable demand for all aspects of the entrepreneurship experience.  We are excited to be a part of Miami’s entrepreneurial support network and will continue to iterate to be able to offer different services for the multiple needs of the community and FIU.

Robert Hacker is the Director of StartUP FIU and teaches social entrepreneurship at FIU, MIT and UM. He is the former CFO of One Laptop per Child and prior to that built a publicly traded billion-dollar company in seven years in Indonesia. His books on entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship are available on Amazon.

 

May 23, 2017

FAU Tech Runway selects 5th accelerator class

Fau

Florida Atlantic University’s Tech Runway has selected its fifth and largest Venture class of startup and early-stage companies to participate in its business accelerator program.

This year, four companies will receive a $25,000 non-equity grant, participate in a 16-week intensive boot camp, engage in a rigorous year-long mentoring program with a team of five accomplished business mentors, and will be provided a workspace for one year. The four companies are:

·    Videopura LLC is a video services company with patent-pending technologies to reduce the bandwidth necessary for video services.

·      Tap2Open LLC is a secure, convenient, and easy way for residents and guests to gain access to gated communities via smart devices. Tap2Open allows residents and invited guests enter a gated community or secured door at the push of a button on their smart phone or device.

·  Ridgeback Network Defense Inc. delivers enterprise network security by turning the tables on hackers, dynamically counter-engaging the adversary, causing them to absorb the expense of attack and eliminating them as a threat.

·      Hubspring Health is an innovative software company founded by physicians focused on solving several of the chronic problems plaguing our industry. Hubspring provides a cure for these chronic conditions and enables healthcare organizations to embrace the future with its innovative and powerfully flexible platform, The Hub.

In addition, 16 more companies were awarded based on various tracks including, community, student and faculty. This will give them many of the same benefits as the prior four companies, minus the $25,000 grant. Six companies are still in the process of being selected and confirmed, however, the 11 companies already identified are: Two Degrees Inc.; ScaleWize; Land of Zorth; WAHspace; Bacon Boxes; SlideMap; PAPER; STAX; Gaming Frog; MMP Biopharma Inc.; and PQSecure Technologies LLC.

“A record number of companies entered the 2017 FAU Tech Runway Launch Competition. They significantly raised the bar, in terms of their quality and breadth represented,” said Rhys L. Williams, associate vice president for research and the managing director for FAU Tech Runway. “Consequently, this year’s winning Venture Class will be expanded by 50 percent to 21 companies.  After they complete our year-long program, many of these companies will no doubt make a profound impact upon the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Under the purview of the FAU Division of Research, Tech Runway is a public-private partnership formed to foster technology start-ups and early-stage companies. Since its inception in late 2014, 205 jobs and 76 internships have been created; 39 FAU students have been employed; 136 corporate partnerships have been created; more than $8 million in revenue has been earned; and more than $19 million investment capital has been raised.

“FAU Tech Runway serves as a core entrepreneurship hub for Florida Atlantic University and as a key resource for the regional technology eco-system,” said Daniel C. Flynn, FAU’s vice president for research. “As the program matures, it will continue to launch thriving, innovative companies that are ready for their next stage of growth, contributing to the university and the state’s economic vitality.”

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

- Submitted by FAU Tech Runway

 

May 06, 2017

Zuke Music was $10K winner at Babson WIN Lab finale event

Zuke

Babson College’s Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab celebrated its inaugural cohort’s completion of the eight-month Miami program on April 25, with over 250 guests at The Jewel Box at the National YoungArts Foundation headquarters. The WIN Lab® expanded into Miami in 2016 with the support of The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and corporate sponsors including Akerman LLP.

WIN Lab Miami’s Director Carolina Pina led the evening’s progression stating, “We are determined to impact the existing growth gap in the city; Miami ranks No. 2 in entrepreneurial activity but No. 38 in growth. By having more scalable businesses run and led by women, we’re hoping investors will be more willing to invest in them so we can also contribute to narrowing the funding gap.”

Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation Miami Program Director, added, “We’re trying to build a community that’s unlike any other. Innovation is built on a diversity of ideas and people.”

Haggman was one of three representatives judging WIN Lab Miami’s grand prize pitch session, with $17,500 in prizes sponsored by FedEx. For the pitch, three cohort companies who exceptionally leveraged the venture accelerator’s resources were given five minutes each to share their business vision in hopes of winning the grand prize.

Arielle Cohen’s Zuke Music—a digital networking platform for music industry professionals—took home the evening’s top honor of $10,000. (pictured above)

Kelly Pierce’s PIERCE Plan—a NCAA standards tracking software program—landed second place and $5,000.

Jessica Do’s Palmpress Coffee—a personal craft coffee maker for hot coffee and cold brew—earned third place and $2,500.

The accelerator is currently accepting applications for its second cohort, which has been extended until May 19. WIN LAB Miami applications can be found at www.thewinlab.org/apply.

- submitted by WIN LAB MIaimi