September 24, 2015

EcoTech Visions, Code Fever offer free coding training to low-income, high-potential residents

  Small LogoEcoTech Visions, an incubator promoting green manufacturing, and Code Fever, a nonprofit that runs tech entrepreneurship programs in  low-income communities, are partnering to train low opportunity, high potential Miami-Dade residents at its first Coding Bootcamp.

The first round of training classes will be held Mon-Wed evenings from Sept. 28 through Nov. 15.  This schedule will allow those currently employed to attend while still working full time.

This Coding Bootcamp will train participants with the skills taught in Harvard’s CS50 course, plus Javascript development.  This opportunity is being offered at no cost to the trainees in order to bring life-changing coding employment opportunities to those that need them most. 

EcoTech Visions and Code Fever have partnered with Wyncode and LaunchCode to give graduates the skills and opportunity to attend those programs and gain employment. 

To find out more information about this training class, call 305-224-9461.  To apply, visit

Submitted by EcoTech Visions

September 17, 2015

Knight Foundation funds Venture Hive accelerator expansion

Venture Hive

To provide Miami’s entrepreneurship community with more mentorship, funding and networking opportunities, the Miami-Dade Entrepreneurial Development Organization, a not-for-profit group that promotes entrepreneurship initiatives in Miami, will help expand the Venture Hive accelerator program through a $210,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Venture Hive is an entrepreneurial hub in downtown Miami that is home to 31 companies from 18 countries, and its accelerator program helps entrepreneurs grow their technology businesses in Miami. The program offers selected participants a $25,000 grant, a 13-week intensive mentor-driven accelerator program, and six months of free office space at Venture Hive. In addition, participants are given access to a wide network of leading business professionals, as well as mentorship and funding opportunities.. The next Venture Hive Accelerator Program will begin in January 2016; applications will open in October.

Since its launch in 2013, Venture Hive’s accelerator program has helped establish 10 businesses and more than 50 local jobs. It has supported more than 2,600 hours of coaching and generated an investment leverage of more than 20:1 private-to-public dollar investment, said its founder, Susan Amat, a serial entrepreneur whose goal was to attract and retain top international startups to build on South Florida’s existing strengths, including finance, travel and hospitality, trade and logistics, creative industries and healthcare. Amat was also co-founder of The Launch Pad at the University of Miami.

Venture Hive also houses an incubator and high school entrepreneurship program as well as the Microsoft Innovation Center and pre-accelerator programs for institutions around the world. To learn more about an upcoming Angel Investor Summit in February at Venture Hive and its accelerator program visit:

 “Venture Hive has taken a leading role in shaping Miami’s global brand as a startup hub,” said Roberto Interiano, MEDO’s executive director and a board member. “While our programs and platform support entrepreneurs all over the world, Miami is our home where we test and validate our content and offerings,” added Amat.

This year, Venture Hive also opened an accelerator for veteran-run tech startups; it’s in Fort Walton Beach.   

August 31, 2015

The Wynwood Yard to open a culinary incubator in Miami


By Evan S. Benn /

The Wynwood Yard, a new community gathering space opening soon at 70 NW 29th St. in Miami, will be home to a culinary incubator that’s a little like Shark Tank meets The Great Food Truck Race with some Art Basel mixed in.

The Yard will host four pop-up food kiosks, along with a bar, in a green space with garden beds, shaded seating areas and communal tables. A focal point with be a prototypical container home from design start-up Wyn-Box, and local art and design elements will be present throughout.

The first two food tenants to sign on: Myumi, an omakase-style sushi truck (pictured above) that was previously parked a few blocks away in another Wynwood lot, and Della Test Kitchen, which will offer plant-based bowls, juices and sweets.

Della%20HeimanDella Heiman (pictured here), CEO and founder of The Wynwood Yard and Della Test Kitchen, said the space is aiming for a November grand opening.

Heiman has brought on chef Jeffrey Brana as her director of culinary operations. The former chef of Norman’s and Restaurant Brana in Coral Gables, Brana will oversee research and design and day-to-day operations of the Della food truck.

The Yard is accepting proposals from other potential food operators: apply at Entrepreneurs with fitness, art, design or other creative ideas also are encouraged to apply.

“This is the kind of space where you can engage in activities all day,” Heiman said in a statement. “You can arrive in the morning for a sunrise yoga class ... maybe take an urban gardening class. In the evening, gather your friends and savor food and wine on a picnic blanket under the stars while enjoying live music or a speaker series.”

Every few months, the participating food start-ups will have a chance to pitch their concepts to investors, real estate developers and business owners, Heiman said.

“We’re building a collaborative ecosystem where entrepreneurs can rapidly test, iterate and incubate ideas on a daily basis,” she said. “Start-ups will continuously hone their product based on real-time customer feedback, resulting in surprising new experiences for guests each time they visit The Wynwood Yard.”

Jake Smith, a Brooklyn transplant who helped bring Myumi to Miami, said the Yard is “exactly the kind of cool, collaborative environment food start-ups like us are looking for in Miami.”

Read more here:

August 25, 2015

Green product businesses get help at EcoTech Visions

Ecotech- barbara jacques 2


Everything was humming along for Barbara Jacques (pictured above), who followed her passion and started Jacq’s Organics at her kitchen table. She was selling her all-natural skin, bath and body care products online, at farmers’ markets and charity events, and received favorable reviews and press. Then:

“Six months after I quit my day job and was all in, I got calls from huge companies and we couldn’t fulfill the orders.”

Pandwe Gibson, founder of the incubator EcoTech Visions, doesn’t want cash flow to be an insurmountable hurdle for Jacques or other entrepreneurs. That’s why a big focus of her new program is helping early-stage companies with raising capital and managing manfacturing processes.

Seeing local manufacturing as a job generator and believing local product entrepreneurs were underserved, Gibson opened EcoTech in west MiamiShores to serve green businesses. The current 20 member businesses include Aeolus, an electric motorcycle company; Earthware, a sustainable cutlery maker; Culito de Rana, creator of all-natural topical applications to soothe sunburns and prevent mosquito bites; Precision Barber Club, which makes skin-care products; and Fruit of Life Organics, builder of aquaponic systems.

EcoTech offers coworking space, workshops and mentorship and helps raise capital. Gibson is raising funds herself to add a manufacturing area so that incubator companies can make products onsite. She’s already been granted $450,000 from Miami-DadeCounty; much of that money she makes available to the member companies in the form of $25,000 loans. EcoTech also helped seven of its companies win $10,000 CRA grants to help fund their prototypes.

Gibson is helping three South Florida companies — Earthware, D Squared Engineering and Konie Cups — to pursue a joint school board contract. Developers do that all the time, so why not other companies? she thought. Earthware offers sustainable cutlery, Coney offers cups, and D Squared offers containers.

“Who wouldn’t want a sustainable fork if it costs the same as a plastic fork?” asked Gibson. But a big challenge for these companies is securing large enough contracts to get the manufacturing costs down.

EcoTech also helps entrepreneurs with their investor presentations and encourages them to join pitch competitions. Seven of them will be pitching at the upcoming Thrive Seminar with Daymond John on Thursday.

The incubator also is helping Jacq’s Organics with a business plan, pitch deck, human resources needs, and connections, Jacques said.

Jacq’s Organics curently works out of a 600-square-foot studio in DaniaBeach certified for light manufacturing. Raising capital investment and applying for grants has been a big challenge; investors and granting organizations don’t work on a startup schedule and “you jump through a lot of hoops just to be told no,” she said.

Jacques is now working with a couple of large companies to break up the big orders into more manageable shipments. In one case, she’s filling an order for 200,000 pieces in 60,000 increments, while continuing to service smaller orders from boutique businesses, a never-ending challenge for a small business, she said. “I’m looking at 600 bars of soap right now that I need to get out tonight.” But there are worse problems to have.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.


Michael Caballero, CEO of Earthware, left, and Pandwe A. Gibson, CEO/executive director at EcoTech Visions are photographed at the incubator helping 25 green product companies in the Miami-Dade area. Earthware makes sustainable cutlery. Carl Juste MIAMI HERALD STAFF


A sampling of resources for South Florida's product entrepreneurs

  Moonlighter 2


Get out of the garage — and into a maker space, incubator or entrepreneurship program. For consumer product startups, there’s no reason the journey needs to be solitary.

A growing number entrepreneurial resources are available to help consumer product companies in South Florida. Here are just a few:

Inspiration and collaboration: Maker spaces are popping up all over South Florida. For a membership fee, maker spaces provide the space, tools for designing, prototyping and fabricating your next innovation in a community of like-minded people who can help get the creative juices flowing. They often also provide workshops and events.

For example, Moonlighter Makerspace (pictured above) opened this month at 2041 NW 2nd Place in Miami. Members get access to tools that include a Makerbot 3D-printing lab, laser cutter, CNC Mill, a LittleBits Circuit Lab, handheld 3D-printing pens and industrial sewing machines. It’s one of a handful scattered around the tri-county area.

Co-working spaces also bring the like-minded creators together, and some, such as The LAB Miami, provide maker gatherings and workshops. Some like MADE at the Citidel also include maker spaces. A new co-warehousing space in Miami’s Little River area for product entrepreneurs and artists is in the works by Pipeline Workspaces that will include co-working spaces and conference areas, storage space for products, shared shipping and logistics support and a coffee shop.

Developing the business: Locally, incubators and accelerators provide mentoring services and important connections for product entrepreneurs, and engineering shops will provide services to develop your prototype. In addition, agencies such as SCORE ( and and the Florida Small Business Development Centers, including a relatively new center at Florida International University (SBDC.FIU.EDU), as well as university programs provide mentoring and workshops on various aspects of building a business. A fashion startup incubator, a project spearheaded by the Beacon Council and Macy’s, is expected to open in the next year.

Tech Runway , the Boca Raton entrepreneurship center and accelerator open to the community, as well as FAU students, is getting ready to welcome its third class of startups. The accelerator offers a 12-week program, where the companies are matched with teams of mentors and given workspace and $25,000 in grant funding. Tech Runway is industry-agnostic, so product companies mix with tech companies. When its space is complete, it also will include a maker space, said its director, Kimberly Gramm. In Miami, EcoTech Visions is a specialized incubator for green product manufacturers (see sidebar).

Businesses at least two years old with at least four employees and $150,000 or more in annual revenue can apply to Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses at Miami Dade College. The free program provides 12 weeks of intense classroom instruction through a curriculum developed by Babson College, mentorship, networking and ongoing support even after program is over, said executive director John Hall. Applications are now open for the program’s seventh cohort; more than 120 entrepreneurs have graduated so far from the program that launched locally about 18 months ago. The Small Business Administration offers a free seven-month program for qualifying businesses called Emerging Leaders.

In addition, a number of businesses provide engineering services catering to startups and investors. Blue Ring Technologies is one example of a one-stop-shop for all kinds of services under one roof. Founder Jay Prendes developed the Davie company when he had trouble finding services to manufacture his own product several years ago. Today, its clients include independent inventors to large companies, and it can help with design, prototyping and small-batch manufacturing.

Protecting the business: The Institute for Commercialization of Public Research recently launched the Florida Patent Pro Bono Program in partnership with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The program links qualified inventors and small businesses with volunteer patent agents and attorneys who provide pro bono legal assistance on specific aspects of the patent process.

The Institute will match low-income inventors with patent lawyers. “It’s an issue of fairness and economic development. When you unlock that innovation, that is how you make a difference,” said Jennifer McDowell, USPTO pro bono coordinator in an interview earlier this year. “And once these matches get made and the patent applications get filed, we want the inventions to turn into money-making machines.”

If accepted into the Florida Patent Pro Bono, applicants may expect exposure to intellectual property experts, support in certain aspects of the patent application process and partnership opportunities to enhance business development. The legal services would be free; the inventors would still need to pay the patent filing fees but could qualify for steep discounts.

Show me the money: Venture capital and angel-funding dollars typically go to high-growth technology startups, and consumer product startups often have to think outside that box. Consumer products often play well on Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms.

Companies making coffee makers, boating accessories, toys, educational products, food and fashions have all appeared in recent crowdfunding campaigns. Several South Florida consumer product makers have excelled recently on Kickstarter and Indigogo, including BeatBuddy, a musician’s foot pedal machine for drum sounds, and Kabaccha Shoes, a men’s line with colorful soles.

Currently, 136 Miami-area products and projects are vying for funders on Kickstarter. Still, crowdfunding campaigns require time and strategic planning and aren’t for everyone. Kickstarter’s success rate is just 37 percent.

Other avenues open to consumer-product entrepreneurs: friends and family investments, loans, government grants and loan programs including Miami Bayside Foundation, and pitch contests, such as the upcoming Thrive Seminar with Daymond John on Thursday.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.


August 21, 2015

Idea Center @MDC, Tel Aviv University's entrepreneurship center form partnership

Innovation Nation_Oren Simanian

By Nancy Dahlberg /

“Entrepreneurship is an experiment — if you know the results, it’s not entrepreneurship,” said Oren Simanian, who heads TelAvivUniversity’s esteemed entrepreneurship center StarTau.

Entrepreneurship is ingrained in Israeli culture because people had to create — to establish the country and to defend it. But today, residents have other options, such as working for Apple or Google or another multinationals with facilities in Israel, Simanian (pictured above) said recently at MiamiDadeCollege’s IdeaCenter. The occasion was an event announcing a knowledge-sharing partnership between the two entrepreneurship centers.

But the thriving Israeli ecosystem continues to accelerate and is driven by niche needs such as cybersecurity. “Today, we are a brand. Ten years ago we weren’t there. It takes time.”

What’s special in Israel is that academia, the private sector and government have been working together to build the ecosystem, said Simanian.

Israel, about the size of New Jersey, produced six Nobel Prize winners and 800 exits in the last 10 years. That included deals valued at $15 billion in 2014 alone. Israel also is the globe’s No. 1 nation in research-and-development per capita spending, thanks in large part to its top-ranked science and technology universities. It’s consistently ranked as one of the top five entrepreneurship hubs in the world.

So what can Miami learn? We’re about to find out.

The knowledge-sharing agreement between StarTau and The Idea Center @ MDC links Israel’s high-tech and startup communities to resources and people in Miami.

As part of the arrangement, members of Israel’s high-tech community will travel to Miami for an Innovation Nation conference designed to connect innovators and leaders from the two high-tech communities. Israeli startups also will meet Miami investors, designers and digital marketing firms through a series of programs arranged by The Idea Center, and TelAvivUniversity faculty will serve as visiting professors at MDC.

These initiatives grew out of a recent Knight Foundation-supported knowledge exchange trip to Israel as part of Project Interchange, an educational institute of the American Jewish Committee. A delegation of 12 Miami entrepreneurs and leaders in the tech community, including MDC’s IdeaCenter executive director, Leandro Finol, traveled to Israel in March to learn from the country’s thriving tech and innovation sector and make connections.

Finol and the Miami delegation met Simanian at a gathering he hosted during that trip. “After 45 minutes, we knew we wanted to do something together. We’re honored to have a partnership with one of the top entrepreneurship centers in the world,” Finol said.

The partnership fits squarely with the John S. and James L Knight Foundation’s Miami objectives, said Matt Haggman, the foundation’s Miami program director. “This collaboration is testament to the type of synergy we want to see in Miami. By making more of these connections, we can create new opportunities and foster the type of knowledge sharing that is essential to building a strong innovation ecosystem in our city.”

Simanian shared what he saw as South Florida’s value proposition. Top of the list, in his view, is Miami’s position as the gateway to Latin America. He also listed tourism, international banking/fintech, health and media. Many of the joint initiatives will be around these areas.

Simanian said StarTau will create a special course from its BEE (Business Entrepreneurial Experience) program for the Idea Center and South Florida startups will travel to Israel. The partnership also hopes to create a fund designed to incentivize Israeli startups to launch their U.S. and Latin America operations from Miami.

“There is possibility and I see it here, because mentors exist, money exists, balance between work-hard and play-hard exists. So you need to give the deal flow here the ability to invest,” said Simanian.

At the event, a panel of participants from the Project Interchange trip discussed their experience. It included Greenberg Traurig shareholder Jaret Davis, Ben Wirz of the Knight Foundation Enterprise Fund, Felecia Hatcher of Code Fever, Finol and Haggman.

“We need to do a better job of encouraging our kids to go into these research areas. We need more STEM charter schools and academies at the K-12 level to encourage this,” said Davis. Hatcher added that extracurricular particular programs, like Code Fever and others, are also needed “to help develop a true pipeline into our universities, startups and corporations.”

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

  Innovation Nation_Matt & Panel 1

From left, Matt Haggman of the Knight Foundation, Jaret Davis of Greenberg Traurig, Ben Wirz of Knight Foundation, Felecia Hatcher of Code Fever and Leandro Finol of Miami Dade College’s Idea Center discuss ecosystem building with the audience and Oren Simanian (seated), head of Tel Aviv University’s entrepreneurship center. Simanian gave a talk about Israel’s tech ecosystem, and the two entrepreneurship formed a knowledge-sharing partnership. Photos here and atop are by Cristian Lazzari, MDC Wolfson.

August 20, 2015

500 Startups launching growth-marketing accelerator program in Miami

500 Startups, a Silicon Valley venture capital seed fund and startup accelerator, is doubling down on its interest in Miami.

In March, 500 Startups and its founder Dave McClure brought its PreMoney conference to Miami, its first foray outside Silicon Valley with that event. Thursday, the organization announced that it will launch a 10-week growth marketing program in South Florida beginning Sept. 28.

Because the past couple of years have seen the Miami and Latin American startup ecosystems continue to mature, with more companies emerging in the region and more money to fund them, 500 Startups believes it is a good time to launch its new Miami Distro Program – distro is 500 slang for distribution or customer acquisition. The organization’s staff and mentors will be flying in from Silicon Valley, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil to administer the program, guiding and funding its first batch of invited startups focused on scaling customer acquisition, retention and revenue.

The program is supported by partners John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Simkins Family Fund, Softlayer and, a new collaborative space for tech companies in downtown Miami, where the Miami Distro Program will take place.

YangStartups accepted into the program with “growth as a mindset” will be in the post-seed stage and have previously raised at least $150,000 in funding from other investors. They will likely be five to eight teams from South Florida, Latin America or elsewhere that want to target the Latin America market and/or the U.S. Spanish-speaking market i from Miami, said Bedy Yang, the 500 Startups partner that is leading the program. The companies have not been selected yet, Yang said, but will be identified through recommendations and introductions from its global network of 3,000 founders and mentors.

Participating companies will receive between $150,000 to $250,000 in funding from 500 Startups, with $50,000 of that allocated to the Distro program fee and another $50,000 earmarked for growth marketing spending. The Distro Program will be staffed with four to six mentors on site, and additional topic-specific mentors will be flown in or available remotely throughout the program.

Yang said the 500 partners and mentors will also hold meetups for the greater community. Many of 500 Startups’ growth marketing programs also will be available to the public on its YouTubechannel.

Yang said this is the first 10-week Distro Program for 500 Startups, which has a portfolio of 1,200 investments in over 50 countries, including more than 100 in the Latin America region. It is also running shorter distro-themed programs in London and Kuala Lumpur. With all three, it was seeking hub locations to serve regions where startup activity is emerging. Yang said the fund’s interest in Miami is strong, and hinted there will be more to come.

“It is so easy to convince everyone to go to Miami,” said Yang. While 500 leaders have been in and out for events, “it will be great to be able to spend a lot more time there. We’re quite happy. You’ll be seeing a lot more of us.”

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter. 


500 Startups founder Dave McClure chats with Fabrice Grinda during its PreMoney conference in Miami in March.

August 08, 2015

Endeavor taps South Florida entrepreneur Marcell Haywood for global network

By Nancy Dahlberg /

MarcellHaywoodWith $300, Marcell Haywood started a maintenance company as a side business while in college. Today, Encompass Onsite, formerly called Dirt Pros, is a multifaceted service business with hundreds of employees that has been lauded for its fast growth and socially responsible actions. And this week, Endeavor Miami announced that Haywood was selected as an Endeavor Entrepreneur.

Haywood joins Endeavor Miami's growing portfolio of high-impact entrepreneurs -- now 16 entrepreneurs from 10 companies in industries such as technology, restaurants and food, and education. Endeavor is a nonprofit organization that supports and accelerates entrepreneurs around the globe, and Miami was Endeavor's first U.S. city to join the network. Endeavor Entrepreneurs receive targeted services including mentorship and access to capital, markets and talent, as they become part of the global network of the organization.

Encompass Onsite was selected late Friday by panelists with global expertise at the conclusion of Endeavor Global’s three-day International Selection Panel, which was held in San Francisco. Haywood joins a total of 35 high-impact entrepreneurs representing 24 companies from 16 countries selected at this panel.

"Marcell is an inspiring entrepreneur who has the potential to innovate in a traditional industry with a huge impact on job creation," said Annette Franqui, partner at Forrestal Capital and an Endeavor Miami mentor who reviewed Haywood during the local selection process.

Encompass Onsite, based in Fort Lauderdale and with additional offices in Miami and West Palm Beach, provides facilities maintenance and management services throughout Florida to businesses in the healthcare, education and hospitality sectors. Through environmentally friendly practices, the company offers service and products in five divisions: integrated facilities maintenance, housekeeping, engineering and maintenance/repair operations, specialty maintenance and corporate services. The company as Dirt Pros landed on the Inc. 500/5000 list of fastest-growing companies two years in a row. Haywood said the company has a couple hundred clients but would not disclose the number of employees or its revenues.

"We provide institutional real estate owners with scalable solutions to better manage their facilities," said Haywood, CEO. “Our BHAG, our Big Hairy Audacious Goal, is to create 1,000 better jobs for maintenance professionals throughout the state, ... jobs with upward mobility. We'll be there in the next 18 months, without a doubt."

Conceived while Haywood was a computer science student at Florida State University and launched in 2004, Dirt Pros outgrew its name. The company recently rebranded as Encompass Onsite, and the new website,, went live Friday. "The name was suggestive, and the business had evolved so much since I initially named it on a whim during college," said Haywood, who is 35. "Over the years we became more and more aware it just didn's fit. It is really all about aligning our brand with the world-class brand that we support across the state."

Innovating a traditional industry has been challenging, and Haywood said bringing energy management and green solutions to its customers as well as leveraging technology to bring transparency to the business have been innovations, as well the company's focus on developing career development programs with local universities.

He wants Endeavor's help to prepare the company to scale beyond Florida and eventually the U.S. "And I'd love at some juncture to switch hats and be able to mentor younger entrepreneurs and share my experience with scaling a company in a very challenging industry," said Haywood, who is on the boards of Entrepreneurs' Organization South Florida, with more than 160 members, and FAU Tech Runway, an entrepreneurship center and accelerator for FAU students and the community.

"I''m thrilled that Marcell was selected because he truly represents an Endeavor high-impact entrepreneur who is committed to building a scalable businesses while having an impact in the community through job creation," said Laura Maydon, managing director of Endeavor Miami.

Endeavor's International Selection Panel is the culmination of a rigorous selection process, where panels composed of six top global business leaders interview candidates about their businesses, high-impact leadership potential and timing. In order for an entrepreneur to be selected, he or she had to receive a unanimous vote. Endeavor looks for entrepreneurs who will in turn give back to the entrepreneurial community as mentors and investors.

Endeavor Miami launched its operations in September 2013 with the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and an active local board of business leaders. Knight's $2 million grant to bring Endeavor to Miami, a drive spearheaded by Knight's Miami Program Director Matt Haggman, was one of the foundation's largest investments to date in the area of accelerating entrepreneurship.

Since 1997, Endeavor Global has selected, mentored and accelerated more than 1,000 high-impact entrepreneurs from over 700 companies across 23 countries; Endeavor Entrepreneurs have generated nearly 500,000 jobs and over $7.5 billion in revenues in 2014. For more information on Endeavor Miami or to nominate entrepreneurs, visit

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

Hear a podcast with Marcell Haywood on


August 07, 2015

Ironhack’s new Miami headquarters location announced. And it is ...

 Photo by Bonomotion

Ironhack’s Miami HQ and classroom will be based at Building, one of Miami’s newest co-working centers. The partnership was announced at Friday night’s Ironhack Hackshow, where the top five projects from its third cohort were demo-ed on stage.

Ironhack is a web development school that teaches  coding -- Ruby, Javascript and HTML/CSS specifically -- to students of all backgrounds, creating a new talent pool of junior web developers here in Miami. “We are very excited that they’ll be a core member company at Building, and that together we will be helping to build the MiamiTech ecosystem,” said Jose Rasco, one of Building's co-founders.

Through this partnership, Ironhack will run its web development bootcamps from the 3rd floor of Building. Ironhack students will have access toall the benefits of Building – including all 3 floors of meeting space, the rooftop patio and free drinks and snacks. In addition, all members of Building will get discounted access to Ironhack’s courses and free “Learn to Code” events. “Not to be overlooked is the  unique ability for Building members to get a first-hand look at the growing talent that Ironhack develops during each cohort, with the potential to scout new hires from each class,” Building said in its blog post announcing the event.

Building, started by the entrepreneurs behind Straat Investments and .CO Internet, is 16,000 square feet and recently opened in the west Brickell area. It already has a dozen member companies, including Neustar,, Instacart and Boatrax.

IronHack co-founder Ariel Quiñones moved to Miami from Barcelona last year to set up the Spanish company’s new U.S. base, which was located in Pipeline Brickell before moving and expanding in Building. Ironhack expects its fourth cohort, which starts in October, to include up to 20 students. More information here.



July 20, 2015

Q&A with Kim Gramm: FAU Tech Runway's journey has only just begun


By Nancy Dahlberg /

Like the entrepreneurs it supports, Florida Atlantic University’s entrepreneurship hub for students and the community is very much a startup, too.

Tech Runway launched just a year ago. Its second accelerator class is underway and a third will be joining in the fall. But for Kimberly Gramm (pictured above), Tech Runway’s co-founder and associate vice president, it has been a six-year journey, and she has big dreams for the entrepreneurship center.

Tech Runway’s physical space next to the Boca Raton campus and executive airport is impressive — and unfinished, but ready for possibility. The 27,500-square-foot warehouse, where hurricane glass windows were once made, is now an open canvas. Most of the large garage doors have been replaced with glass to let the natural light in and watch the planes taking off. There is plenty of open space for events, and 15 work areas have been glassed in to create areas where resident startups can brainstorm with their teams on whiteboards, practice pitching, meet clients or hold meetings with their board of mentors. A 5,000-square-foot section off to one side is the “Tech Garage,” which hosts high school and college students weekly for robotics. Gramm envisions a full-blown maker space to come there. Once a year, engineering students build an electric race car from scratch in the space (a garage door was left so it can get in and out). Open rafters present possibilities of a mezzanine for more creative meeting areas — the sky’s the limit.

“We are putting together renderings and talking to architects to build out the space so that it becomes the hub we envisioned it to be,” said Gramm, while giving a tour of the facility. “The idea is to be a home for Tech Runway companies as well as a place for FAU to prepare innovative minds to become an entrepreneurial pipeline to Tech Runway.

“Exposing the high school and university students to this space is really important to us. You get students applying their STEM learnings in robotics programs, creating prototypes, even building electric race cars that compete. Spaces like this allow the mentors, the investors, the entrepreneurs and the students to have these creative collisions.”

Gramm was hired about six years ago to develop an entrepreneurship program. She started as the director of the Adams Center for Entrepreneurship with a handful of programs including the FAU Business Plan Competition.

“That was really a proof of concept,” she said. “What we found is what the marketplace wanted to see was more support and resources to entrepreneurship being driven by the university. The idea was to create an internal ecosystem, a gateway to launch.”

At Tech Runway, companies get a real-life curriculum in customer acquisition, developing a minimal viable product and attracting first round capital. Tech Runway gives each company a $25,000 grant, a 16-week bootcamp and collaborative workspace for a year, she said.

Tech Runway also provides structure and connections. Companies develop a series of milestones with their mentors whom they meet with weekly, and they don’t pitch to investors until they are ready. Tech Runway helps them get their first sales. After about a year, Tech Runway companies will typically graduate, once their lead mentors agree they have met their milestones. But the space is continually being restocked because there will be two classes — Tech Runway calls them Venture Vintages — accepted each year going forward. It is also growing its programming for students and supporting faculty startups.

“The university is committed to making this a longstanding resource for our community,” she said.

We spoke with Gramm recently at the Tech Runway offices. Here are excerpts of that conversation:

Continue reading "Q&A with Kim Gramm: FAU Tech Runway's journey has only just begun" »