June 06, 2016

Multi-campus StartUP FIU gets ready for takeoff

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Emily Gresham and Robert Hacker, shown at Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, are spearheading the StartUP FIU program. It will include three hubs, with programs for food businesses, tech and social entrepreneurship, and will be open to the community as well as to students. Alexia Fodere For The Miami Herald

Below: One of the events held for students as part of StartUP FIU. Photo by Daniela Ferrato.

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Cheng photoIn the culinary kitchens of Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Michael Cheng smelled opportunity. The commercial facilities were only being used about half time; as the director of the food-and-beverage program, Cheng thought FIU should offer the excess capacity to companies for a fee.

But after a discussion with Emily Gresham, who is spearheading a university-wide StartUP FIU program, and its student leader Valeria Siegrist, Cheng’s mindset changed. “They opened my eyes... They told me ‘there is an entire community of food entrepreneurs out there who would die to have this space but they can’t afford it.’ and I said ‘Well, let’s open that up to them.’ That’s how Food FIU got started.”

Beginning this fall, the Food FIU program will help entrepreneurs from low- and moderate-income communities in three stages of development – those at the idea stage, entrepreneurs selling in farmers’ markets but are ready to move to the next level, and later stage companies that want to scale. Cheng (pictured at right), who is also an associate processor, said StartUP FIU will start working with firms from North Miami, where the Biscayne Bay Campus is located, with a potential Homestead outpost at a later time. The program is free, and the entrepreneurs do not have to be affiliated with FIU in any way.

The Food innovation hub, supported in part by a $500,000 grant from Citi Foundation, will be one leg of a larger effort called StartUP FIU launching this fall. The interdisciplinary multi-campus resource for students, faculty, staff, alumni and entrepreneurs in the community will include physical spaces, programs and events for entrepreneurs and entrepreneur-wannabes to meet, collaborate, be mentored and take training. An accelerator will work with teams on commercializing concepts.

“Our economy increasingly offers opportunities to people who are able to make good jobs rather than take good jobs. We see this transformation as emblematic of what we have to do at FIU,” said FIU President Mark Rosenberg. “FIU is a huge cluster of talent ... What we are trying to do is provide platforms for that talent to come together around the capabilities that we have. ... We want to provide a safe haven for that talent to come together, with some supervision, to develop products, ideas and opportunities.”

Initially, StartUP FIU, will take root in three locations: the Modesto Maidique campus in Sweetwater, the Hospitality School at the Biscayne Bay campus, and a facility near Tamiami airport serving the growing cadre of technology and medical businesses there. The program has been appropriated $1.25 million from the state in addition to the Citi Foundation funding. It is run by Gresham, FIU’s assistant vice president for Research – Innovation and Economic Development, and Robert Hacker, StartUP FIU’s director.

The program joins existing FIU entrepreneurship resources including the Small Business Development Center, a new Tech Station, the Miami Fintech Forum and the Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center, most located on the Maidique campus on Tamiami Trail. FIU is also a designated “changemaker campus” for Ashoka, the global network for social entrepreneurship.

Despite those existing resources, students had no one-stop-shop for connecting with resources, concluded StartUP FIU’s team after conducting more than 100 interviews with students, faculty and community leaders. Often, students didn’t know where to go, nor were they connecting with the larger community.

“Our students are our energy, our talent, and the diversity of our students, faculty, alumni and the community improves collaboration,” said Gresham. “We’ve decided to have a more inclusive StartUP FIU, which means everyone’s welcome.”

Regionwide, students have more resources than just a few years ago. The Idea Center at MDC opened 18 months ago with an accelerator for MDC students, startup contests, events and a coding school. The University of Miami has been expanding its commercialization efforts, particularly in the healthcare area, working closely with dozens of startups. Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton opened Tech Runway, an accelerator that also offers funding and mentorship for student and community teams. Broward College opened its incubator last month.

These join a region-wide effort, fueled by the Knight Foundation, to accelerate entrepreneurship by expanding resources for mentorship, talent-building and funding. Entrepreneurial co-working spaces, incubators and accelerators have been proliferating, but most are in Miami’s urban core.

That’s the void in the ecosystem StartUP FIU hopes to help fill by focusing on Miami-Dade’s lower income communities and far west suburbs. “There’s a lot of activity, but we are still looking for depth, right?,” said Gresham. “We think we have something to offer in terms of depth building.”

Social entrepreneurship will be a key facet of the program, said Hacker. He expects ongoing themes to include sustainable cities, sea level rise, food supply, medical technology and education technology. An international businessman, Hacker has been teaching entrepreneurship and socially concsious business for more than a decade at FIU’s Honors College and Engineering School and MIT’s Sloan School.

“Miami enjoys the distinction of being the only city in the world that has two Ashoka Changemaker campuses – FIU and MDC. I think that both universities are fomenting all kinds of social entrepreneurs looking for support. We are interested and committed to putting incubators in communities that have not been served by incubators, and I think that will also naturally produce social entrepreneurs,” said Hacker.

As a startup itself, StartUP FIU has been developing over the past year, gaining grassroots support. StartUP FIU student directors Siegrist and Alessia Tacchella took Hacker’s course on Entrepreneurship and Design Thinking. That got the entrepreneurial juices flowing. But instead of working on their own startups, they jumped on the opportunity to help develop StartUP FIU. Tacchella, a finance/economics major who recently graduated, took the lead.

They gathered a diverse group of students with marketing, finance and technical expertise and began meeting weekly to plan the launch and test concepts, she said. About 80 to 100 students have been turning out for events. “When you tell them you want to help them to make their idea become a company, they are thrilled about it. They can’t believe all the resources we are bringing in on campus,” said Siegrist, a communications student.

Wifredo Fernandez, who co-founded The LAB Miami and was one of the founders of MDC’s’ Idea Center, offered insights on best practices and valuable connections, said Gresham. He now works with Gresham in the Innovation and Economic Development department and is StartUP FIU’s associate director.

Applications are being accepted at startup.fiu.edu for the accelerator’s first class. The free 13-week program will begin Sept. 6, will include weekly programs, mentorship and regular milestones for teams to meet, and end with a traditional demo day in which teams pitch to investors. The new StartUP FIU hub at the Maidique campus, a-10,000-square-foot space in the Marc building, should be ready by January; the program will operate in temporary space until then. Programs at the Biscayne Bay campus and near the Tamiami Airport will also get underway in the fall. The services are free.

“It’s an idea whose time has come,” said Rosenberg. “We’re pumped, we’re ready to go.”

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

 

 

 

 

June 05, 2016

Q&A with EcoTech Visions’ Pandwe Gibson: Going green from ground up

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EcoTech Visions team, from left: Tamara Wendt, director of sales and manufacturing, Pandwe Gibson, CEO, executive director and Justin Knight, director of marketing, at their new facility, 670 NW 113th St. in Miami, for green manufacturing companies that is still under construction. PEDRO PORTAL 

 

When Pandwe Gibson set out to build EcoTech Visions, an incubator for green manufacturing businesses, she had no team, no funding and no space. Three years ago it was only a big vision that lived on her iPad, which she shared with anyone she could get to listen.

What was the vision? EcoTech would help “ecopreneurs” in its incubator launch and grow, including connecting them with grants and other resources. EcoTech would also hold programming such as coding courses, green internship programs and fellowships to help prepare the workforce in underserved communities to transition from blue collar to “green collar” jobs.

Gibson wasted no time bringing her big idea to life.

By the end of 2014, and after knocking on many doors and winning initial Miami-Dade County and Community Redevelopment Agency funding, Gibson moved EcoTech into its first location, a small space west of Interstate 95 with communal office space and a community garden, and with a handful of incubator companies she had already begun working with. Although the building had no space for manufacturing, a key goal of Gibson’s, it served as a minimal viable product. A few months later, EcoTech secured some additional office and classroom space in another Liberty City building, which allowed the company to expand its programming. The EcoTech team began forming, and EcoTech began attracting more green companies.

Last month, EcoTech Visions began partially moving into its new Miami headquarters space it leased to own at 670 NW 113th St., in the newly designated “green corridor.” Upon buildout, plans call for the building to provide 24,000 to 25,000 square feet of multilevel co-working space, offices, event space, maker space and manufacturing facilities. EcoTech will also use its Liberty City space during buildout.

Today, 26 companies are members of EcoTech (ecotechvisions.com), and the EcoTech team now numbers seven.

EcoTech Visions recently announced the launch of Digital Citizen, a technology boot camp that aims to provide real-world technology programs and entrepreneurship training to local underserved communities, funded by $200,000 from the Knight Foundation. The first cohort will begin June 20 and will run for eight weeks in the evenings at D.A. Dorsey Technical College in Liberty City. Applications for the boot camp are being accepted at etvfoundation.org/digitalcitizen.

“This program is desperately needed not only to fill the tech staffing gap but also to combat the economic hardships and growing income gap in inner-city Miami,” Gibson, CEO "of EcoTech, said in announcing the launch and funding. “We all succeed when the best and most diverse solutions are brought to the table.”

Since its founding, EcoTech has created 15 new jobs and more than 300 students graduated from EcoTech Visions workshops and certification programs, Gibson said. It has secured $10,000 start"up prototyping grants for nine incubator companies and assisted in securing seed loans for three of its ecopreneurs, Gibson said. It was named 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year by the Beacon Council, among other honors.

By the end of the year, Gibson hopes to see buildout of its headquarters get under way and be completed in one year. Plans include an urban vertical garden across the entire front of the warehouse-style building, space for creating prototypes and light manufacturing as well as co-working and a rooftop cafe.

Appropriately, the building is planned to be entirely powered by solar energy.

“Our goal is to have a net-zero-energy building,” said Tamara Wendt, EcoTech’s director of sales and manufacturing, explaining that there is currently only one other much smaller net-zero building in Miami. “Presently, we have on-site office space and will be holding events here. We expect to have our injection-molding equipment installed by early July and will move into production, warehousing and fulfillment.”

The Miami Herald toured the new EcoTech location last month and sat down with Pandwe Gibson to discuss EcoTech Visions and what’s ahead for the company.

Q: What’s your mission for EcoTech?

A: Our mission is to create opportunities for businesses to grow and to bring green manufacturing jobs to Miami.

Q: What does success look like to you?

A: In the next two years, to have at least five breakout companies. That sounds very ambitious, doesn’t it? But we already have some companies pursuing multimillion-dollar contracts, and when we start seeing the production actually occurring from here, that is very exciting.

The first year [in this building], we will be in massive construction, but we are starting with injection molding and I think we can make a lot of progress in the beginning with that one vertical. We provide the equipment, and there are a lot of businesses that have different molds and prototypes we can help. We plan to have two different machines.

Q: How are you funding all this?

A: We have private funding and public funding. We just completed a seed round of half a million dollars. We have public funding from Miami-Dade County and the CRA totaling about half a million and are pursuing more grants from the county. We recently found out we received a grant from the Knight Foundation. It’s a combination.

Q: Is EcoTech a for-profit or a nonprofit?

A: We have two arms. The for-profit is the maker space, the physical space that you are in, and the services associated with the production equipment. … The nonprofit really focuses on helping to facilitate training, the programs we administer.

Some of those programs are coding education boot camps and a green manufacturing internship program. These programs help prepare the community and workforce for careers in green manufacturing.

Q: Tell me about a few of your incubator companies.

A: Geeks Global is an internet services provider and sustainability-focused technology consultant. Darrell Russell and his team help greenify businesses by using technology like LED lighting, windmill-powered Wi-Fi towers and other innovations. Make The Homeless Smile Miami is an organization started and led by powerhouse community activist Valencia Gunder. They transition homeless Miami residents off the streets and into self-sustained lives. HBCNS LLC, run by Dawn Davis, is a distributor of water-based, biodegradable, protective coatings including the nation’s only non-slip coating. It’s main product is called Strong Seal. (All three entrepreneurs are pictured below with Gibson)

Earthware, led by Michael Caballero, is a producer of compostable cutlery, cups and containers for a better world. The company is committed to the restoration and preservation of our planet by replacing landfill-destined products with 100 percent compostable, tree-free products.

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Q: What do you do for member companies?

A: You can do prototyping here, you can have office space here, you can hold events here, you can run your company here, prototyping and distribution — it’s a one-stop shop and it is sorely needed in Miami.

Q: Explain what the “green corridor” designation is and what it can do for the neighborhood where EcoTech is?

A: The Green Corridor was created by proclamation by the Miami-Dade County Commission and stretches along Northwest Seventh Avenue from 79th Street to 119th Street. It is the first green corridor of its kind in the United States created with the purpose of establishing a citywide, countywide, statewide and regional hub of sustainable and environmentally friendly businesses. The Green Corridor and EcoTech Visions promote economic opportunity for the community where they sit and far beyond.

Q: Where do you see EcoTech in five years?

A: In five years, we want to start multiplying. We want to be in other communities, such as Los Angeles. When you look at the two markets, Miami and L.A., there are a lot of similarities. We are already forging relationships there. California is probably the largest green-tech community in the country. Connecting the two will help infuse vitality and innovation into Miami and help move us as a country into a really great space in green technology.

Q: What is your vision for the vertical garden covering the front of the building?

A: Ted Caplow, of CappSci and Miami Science Barge, is designing a game-changing vertical farm based on work by his company, BrightFarms Inc., which creates hydroponic farms for Whole Foods amongst other clients. The vertical farm will be a hydroponic system to grow organic produce inside a glass and screened-in enclosure on the façade of EcoTech Visions’ new building located at 670 NW 113th St. Installation and ongoing maintenance and production will be managed by Urban Green Works working with marginalized resources including women recently exiting incarceration. In addition, an aquaponics system will be incorporated by Fruit of Life Organics, one of our incubator companies, to grow organic fish and produce in one system that recreates the natural water cycle.

Q: There are even plans for a rooftop café?

A: Yes, and we will serve food from our vertical garden.

Q: What’s next for EcoTech?

A: We’re taking applications to fill out our pipeline of companies, educating people on the opportunities in green technology, and educating entrepreneurs on what is available in terms of funding so they can succeed by being clean and green.

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

Read more entrepreneurship Q&As on this blog by going to the Q&A category.

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from left, EcoTech Visions'  staff Carlos Vazquez, Kenyona Pierre, Marisabel Lavastida, CEO Pandwe Gibson, Tamara Wendt and Justin Knight, at their new facility, 670 NW 113th St. in Miami, under construction. PEDRO PORTAL pportal@miamiherald.com



 

May 24, 2016

Broward College launches accelerator in downtown Fort Lauderdale

Broward College announced the launch of its business accelerator, to be located at the downtown Fort Lauderdale campus on Las Olas Boulevard.

“This marks an exciting time for startup companies in Broward County,” said J. David Armstrong, Jr., president of Broward College. “Our business community partners have shared with us the need for support beyond the initial planning and business plan phase. We listened, and our accelerator will provide wraparound services to budding entrepreneurs as they refine their businesses to seek funding.”

The announcement comes on the heels of the success of the Innovation Hub at Broward College. In less than a year, Innovation Hub, directed by Enrique Triay with support from Professor Steven Gross, has generated significant activity. At the present time, there are 20 companies that reside -- or have weekly contact with -- the Innovation Hub, and many are capitalizing on the expertise provided by Triay and Professor Gross; business people who serve as consultants; and numerous students who actively are involved as interns in these companies. Two companies currently at Innovation Hub will be a part of Broward College’s new accelerator program.

Broward College launches accelerator in downtown Fort Lauderdale

Broward College announced the launch of its business accelerator, to be located at the downtown Fort Lauderdale campus on Las Olas Boulevard.

“This marks an exciting time for startup companies in Broward County,” said J. David Armstrong, Jr., president of Broward College. “Our business community partners have shared with us the need for support beyond the initial planning and business plan phase. We listened, and our accelerator will provide wraparound services to budding entrepreneurs as they refine their businesses to seek funding.”

The announcement comes on the heels of the success of the Innovation Hub at Broward College. In less than a year, Innovation Hub, directed by Enrique Triay with support from Professor Steven Gross, has generated significant activity. At the present time, there are 20 companies that reside -- or have weekly contact with -- the Innovation Hub, and many are capitalizing on the expertise provided by Triay and Professor Gross; business people who serve as consultants; and numerous students who actively are involved as interns in these companies. Two companies currently at Innovation Hub will be a part of Broward College’s new accelerator program.

April 04, 2016

Rhys Williams to lead FAU Tech Runway

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

RhyswilliamsRhys L. Williams, the co-founder and former president of New World Angels, has joined Florida Atlantic University as its new associate vice president and managing director of FAU Tech Runway. Williams succeeds Kimberly Gramm, who has taken the position of managing director of the Innovation Hub at Texas Tech University.

“Rhys has been the leader of the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem throughout South Florida and the state for years,” said Dan Flynn, FAU vice president for research. “His deep understanding about what it takes to take a kernel of an idea and turn that into viable company will benefit not just Tech Runway, but the wider university community as well. We’re confident that he’ll take the reigns at Tech Runway and launch it into its next phase of growth.”

Williams has been active in efforts to commercialize biotechnologies from Florida’s research universities and institutes, having co-founded several biotechnology spinout ventures. Previously he was a venture capitalist with SI Ventures and held executive positions with Ixion Biotechnology, Smith Barney, American Express, and the U.S. Army Special Forces. “As a part of extending Tech Runway’s impressive track record, additional emphasis will focus upon supporting entrepreneurial efforts aligned with FAU’s strategic plan in the four areas of sensing and smart systems; neuroscience; healthy aging; and ocean science and engineering/environmental sciences,” said Williams.

Williams presently serves on the boards of Aplicor; the Florida Venture Forum; the University of Miami’s Coulter Center Technology Review Committee; the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium; The LeMieux Center at Palm Beach Atlantic University; University of Florida’s Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation; and the Harvard Club of the Palm Beaches.

Tech Runway is a public-private partnership formed to foster technology startup companies. Since its inception, FAU Tech Runway has supported 15 companies who have produced more than $3 million in total revenue. Florida Gov. Rick Scott recently approved the legislative budget request of $750,000 in funding for FAU Tech Runway in the 2016-17 state budget.

Read more: New World Angels names new president

March 29, 2016

Meet Nelly Farra, new leader of WIN Lab set to launch in Miami

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Wanted: South Florida women “with the fire to make it happen.”

Nelly farraThat’s Nelly Farra’s message. She’s the new director of the WIN Lab, a Miami accelerator for women entrepreneurs launching on Thursday. With the launch, the program plans to begin taking applications for its first cohort of 20 selected female founders that will start this fall.

The eight-month entrepreneurship program was the brainchild of Babson College, consistently ranked tops in the nation for entrepreneurship education, and its Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership. Its Miami expansion, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, will be modeled after Babson’s successful program in Boston.

The WIN (Women Innovating Now) Lab is looking for outstanding early-stage founders — so-called WINners — from South Florida.

 “We are industry-agnostic and age-agnostic. We are looking for women who might have come out of wonderful corporate jobs and now are starting their own businesses as well as individuals earlier on in their careers who have that idea and are going for it,” Farra said.

Farra, born and raised in South Florida, most recently led business development for the Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra (MBAF) accounting firm, where she expanded the firm’s reach into the entrepreneurial ecosystem through its work with Endeavor. Before joining MBAF, Farra partnered on the launch of a green-gym concept in the Los Angeles area and also pioneered wellness professional talent management in South Florida. Farra is a graduate of the University of Miami and received her MBA from Babson College in 2010, where she was also co-chair of the Babson Entrepreneurship Forum.

“Our secret sauce is a developing community of women eager to build the next big idea,” said Farra, noting that just 15 percent of venture accelerator participants are women. That low level of diversity also pervades venture capital, the tech industry, CEO ranks and boards. To help build a stronger pipeline, Farra said: “We use near-peer role modeling so we have women who have been there and done that. We’ll have 20 female mentors matched up with the founders. We will also have entrepreneurs, executives and investors in residence.” Johanna Mikkola, co-founder of Wyncode Academy, will be an entrepreneur-in-residence, and others will be announced soon. The program will be free, and WINners will also get co-working space.

The program will meet one evening a week. It will begin with a two-day retreat for self exploration, idea investigation, inspiration and community building, Farra said. Then the WINners will get help in every step of launching and growing a business, including building a team, customer acquisition, capital raising and scaling.

The program is more spread out than a traditional three-month accelerator, so women may find it easier to work into their lives while their build their startups. They could also be students.

In Boston the WIN Lab has attracted founders such as Emily Levy and Maria Del Mar Gomes of PICCPerfect, maker of functional and fashionable medical dressings for chronic illness patients treated with PICC lines. Francine Gervazio of Cargo 42 created a platform where customers can post their shipping needs and shippers can make an offer to carry their cargo. Bernette Dawson launched Made Organics, a line of handcrafted personal-care products.

“We will expect a lot from our founders — an eight-month commitment — but we provide a lot in return,” Farra said.

The program embodies entrepreneurial thought and action — part of Babson’s methodology — to balance action, experimentation and creativity to create economic and social value. “That is what we are all about,” Farra said. “The concept is to take iterative steps to prove your model. That’s how I embody it: Everything I do is to go out and get it done.”

The deadline for applications will be May 2. For more information about the WIN Lab, go to www.babson.edu/WINLab and learn more about the program at the launch event on Thursday. (See accompanying box).

WIN Lab Miami Launch

When: 6-8 p.m. Thursday

Where: The Light Box, 404 NW 26th St., Miami

Speakers: Mary Biggins of ClassPass and MealPass; Julia Ford-Carther of Bammies; Jessica Do of PalmPress; Isabella Acker of Culture; Johanna Mikkola of Wyncode Academy

Cost: Free, but registration is required on Eventbrite.

For more information about WIN Lab: www.babson.edu/WINLab

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

Read more: Babson's Women Innovating Now Lab to launch in Miami

Read more: Numbers don't lie: Silicon Valley still has a diversity problem

 

March 15, 2016

Meet the 5 graduating startups of Founder Institute Miami

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By Melanie Haselmayr

Over the course of 3½ months, 30 ambitious startup founders followed a strict curriculum. Only a handful of them made it to graduation day.

The Founder Institute is renowned worldwide as one of the toughest yet rewarding incubator programs. The goal of the foundation is to support early stage startups in the most crucial phases of their companies’ phases: from conceptualization to launch. The program consists of weekly meetups, mentor presentations and detailed assignments based on a lineup of topics - all in all, an orchestrated ensemble of elements that guides young entrepreneurs in achieving their milestones toward their startup launch.

Program directors Juan Meza, Gustavo Fernandez and Enrique Sierra invited some of Miami’s most outstanding business leaders to share their knowledge and insights with the aspiring newcomers, and included Cody Littlewood of Codelitt, Kevin Levy of GrayRobinson PA, Leonel Azuela of Quaxar and Nestor Villalobos of Tudor Ice Company.

Just five companies survived the rapid pace of the program and concluded the Miami semester in a ceremony  Tuesday night:

LiVi - Live Stream by Request, led by Carlos Romero, is the only live stream mobile App that gives the control to its users.  LiVi is redesigning this technology by applying peer-to-peer and on-demand models while the competition is focused on mass broadcasting, making it difficult to monetize.  

VOICE YOUR VOICE, led by Camilo Silva and Jose Aliaga, aims to encourage the public to actively engage in politics and democracy by addressing issues that impact them through a mobile platform that aims to connect the community with its respective political leaders on the city, district, county, state and national level.

IMPACT COACH, led by Coach Guillermo Juliao, is an educational coaching platform to help the Hispanic community find their passions, purpose and strengths so they can start their own companies or find their dream jobs.

DRONELANCER, led by Matt Hall, is a marketplace to connect licensed drone owners with businesses looking for aerial photos and videos. the marketplace allows clients to interview, hire and work with drone owners through its easy, transparent platform. 

TRANSPARENT, led by Melanie Haselmayr, helps renters, realtors and landlords engage in simplified rental transactions. The company helps landlords and realtors filter potential applicants, and offers an escrow service to renters to safeguard their money until move-in.

The Founder Institute is a startup incubator out of Silicon Valley that hosts programs in 110+ around the world to help startup founders build sustainable companies. For more information about the Miami program, please visit http://www.fi.co.

The graduation ceremony took place Tuesday at TamboWorks, a co-working space in South Miami, located at 5790 Sunset Drive. "TamboWorks is proud to have hosted this first group of entrepreneurs who have met in our space on a weekly basis," said TamboWorks co-founder Adolfo Taylhardat.

 

 

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Meet the 8 South Florida companies incubated at Founder Institute

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Submitted by Founder Institute

Ten entrepreneurs from eight companies pitched their new startup at General Provision last Friday in front of their families, friends, mentors, business leaders and colleagues.

These entrepreneurs are the first graduating cohort from the Fort Lauderdale-Boca Raton chapter of the Founder Institute, a global entrepreneur training and startup program that has helped launch over 1,600 companies through chapters across 85 cities and 40 countries

For the ten graduating entrepreneurs, Graduation Day was the culmination of a 3.5 month program where they “learn by doing” and launched their company with structured training, expert feedback, and support from experienced startup CEOs. Thirty-four candidates initially joined the program in November 2015 after going through the application and ‘entrepreneur DNA aptitude’ testing process.

Rodolfo Novarini, Michel Triana and Mark Volchek, three serial entrepreneurs and business leaders, led the Founder Institute’s efforts in Fort Lauderdale and were supported by a strong network of 34 CEOs and founders in the South Florida business community.

The eight emerging startups from the Fort Lauderdale-Boca Raton chapter are:

  • GameFace (com): an ecommerce subscription-based men’s personal care called ‘Nasty’ for athlete consumers.
  • ONENESS: a solution for cities and marinas to meet their sustainability goals for water clean-up with proprietary line of green boats.
  • SpeechMED (com): a voice and video information platform that gives people the ability to see and hear their medical information in their native language (see Startup Spotlight).
  • Teak Health: the “mint.com” of medical health records striving for patient empowerment and provider solutions.
  • Velatino (com): an internet video network exclusively curated for Hispanic audiences.
  • Vendor Hive (com): centralized platform that manages information and transactions between festival event producers and retail vendors.
  • VidTec (co): automated tool for digital marketers that converts products and other website content into videos.
  • Winspire: a software solution to help people improve their people and leadership skills by partnering with Leadership Coaches.

Robert Valli, one of the graduates and the CEO of VidTec Corporation, emphasized the access to the mentor network as a key benefit of his participation. “Thanks to the new Founder Institute chapter here in Fort Lauderdale, anyone in Southeast Florida with a good idea has a very real opportunity to build a tech company—backed by their own local network—by the time they graduate, even if they had neither to start. I know, because I did it," says Valli.

The Fort Lauderdale-Boca Raton Chapter will accept applications for the next session this summer. Interested applicants can visit fi.co for more information and to join the mailing list.

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February 29, 2016

The South Florida Accelerator launches in Fort Lauderdale

By Marcia Heroux Pounds / Sun Sentinel

A new type of business accelerator in South Florida will aim to develop innovative products with less risk for entrepreneurs and investors. The accelerator on Monday announced its new headquarters at General Provision, a co-working space in the FAT Village district in Fort Lauderdale. Eventually the accelerator will have multiple locations in South Florida, the co-founders said.

The South Florida Accelerator will be a so-called "off-ramp" model in which startups will produce software or other intellectual property to the specifications of venture partners, who will be first in line to acquire it. The method "is a faster time to market," said Thomas Buchar, co-founder and managing partner of the new venture, along with Christopher Malter. Buchar said The South Florida Accelerator will both "incubate" new technology or business ideas and accelerate them by forming a company and building a management team. The  accelerator will focus on investments in life science, big data and technologies that help companies manage their workforce and make financial services more efficient.

Read the full story here.

February 16, 2016

PowerMoves launches in Miami at start of Blacktech Week

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Close your eyes and picture a typical "tech entrepreneur." If you always see a young white man -- perhaps a hoodie is involved -- you are not alone, and PowerMoves, Blacktech Week, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Case Foundation and many other organizations want to change that.

The statistics are alarming. As the second annual Blacktech Week got underway in Miami, and PowerMoves Miami launched its operations with a bootcamp and pitch contests, a new study recently surfaced that showed that  of the 10,000-plus venture deals sealed  from 2012 to 2014, just 24 of them were led by a black women founder. Of those few that have raised money, the average amount of funding was just  $36,000, even though black women comprise the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S., according to the report, Project Diane by Digital Undivided, which calls black women founders “the real unicorns of tech.”

The statistics are only a little better for all minority entrepreneurs. PowerMoves, an entrepreneurship organization for entrepreneurs of color that just launched in Miami through Knight Foundation support, offers these numbers: While African-American and Hispanic students earn nearly 20 percent of computer science degrees, they make up only 9 percent of the technology industry and less than 1 percent of technology company founders. To help close this gap, PowerMoves is connecting entrepreneurs of color to mentors, capital, support and investment opportunities. The national initiative launched in New Orleans in 2014 has helped roughly 100 companies from across the country secure more than $27 million in capital commitments, the organization said.


This week, in partnership with Blacktech Week, PowerMoves held three-day  bootcamp (which followed six weeks of virtual programming) for about 15 entrepreneurs -- among them from South Florida were Daddy Knows Too, FlyScan, Jurnid, Kurator, Radifit and Renal Trkrr. It will culminate in a demo day open to the public Wednesday morning at the Fontainebleau. After holding a Disrupters Showcase on Monday night with Kairos and VOO Media representing the 305, on Tuesday PowerMoves  held two pitch competitions with $50K in prize money for eight selected entrepreneurs around the country, including two teams from South Florida: Court Buddy, a Miami-based matching service for a la carte legal services,  and Kweak, a video messaging platform company based in Miami and Berlin. Taking home $25K each  were Better Weekdays, a mobile job-matching platform, and Virgil, a mobile-first career navigation platform. Other teams pitching from around the country were Kudzoo, Unshrinkit,  CyberReef Solutions and Zoobean. 

"I was blown away by the ideas and the execution of the ideas so far. The ideas presented not only solved big social problems but would have great multiplier effects," said Carla Harris, a judge in the pitch contest and vice chairman of wealth management for Morgan Stanley, presenting sponsor of the event. "It is my thought that this will become the place for sophisticated investors who are looking for next generation technology and are specifically looking for entrepreneurs of color -- they will have to come to PowerMoves to find them."

She said that Earl Robinson, founder of PowerMoves, first asked her to be a judge for PowerMoves New Orleans in the first panel it ever had in 2014. "I was so impressed by the caliber of the entrepreneurs that I knew he was onto something that I wanted to get my firm involved in, because after all we are in the business of connecting capital with people and bringing leaders to the public and private capital markets. ... We helped support [PowerMoves] to go national."

The Case Foundation has also been a partner of PowerMoves for about a year and a half. Started by AOL founder Steve Case and his wife Jean, the foundation has been leading entrepreneurship initiatives  for decades. "But we really got to this point where the American Dream seemed to be fading, there was a full series of entrepreneurs that were being left on the sideline," said Sheila Herrling, senior vice present of social innovation for the foundation. "How could we exploit this potential to drive the economy, to drive jobs, to drive ideas, and source them from all places and all people?"

 In addition to PowerMoves, the Case Foundation is involved in JumpStart's Diversity Fund and Forward Cities and is looking for other partners.   To VCs who say 'I'd love to invest I am just not finding the deals,' PowerMoves is  creating this pipeline of entrepreneurs for them, Herrling said. The big goal: When you think of an entrepreneur, "that face that comes to you has just as much of a chance of being a women or an entrepreneur of color as the white guy in the hoodie," she said. 

That Project Diane report found that just 11 black female founders raised more than $1 million. "Four of them are PowerMoves alumni," said Herrling. "There is a secret sauce in that. Something is working. I'm optimistic we're going to level the playing field."

The second annual Blacktech Week, open to all,  also kicked off with a DiscoTech on Monday and youth event and opening reception on Tuesday. It moves into high gear Wednesday evening with the start of its 2 1/2 day summit at FIU's Biscayne Bay campus, featuring entrepreneurs and investors from around the world. On Saturday, Project Diane's author, Kathryn Finney, will keynote at the Blacktech Week Women's Innovation Brunch. Read more here from Blacktech Week co-founder Felecia Hatcher about why it's in Miami. 

MORE INFORMATION

See a complete schedule of events at BlackTechWeek.com

See more information about PowerMoves at powermovesnola.org.

See past coverage of Black Tech Week 2015 here.

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 Judges watch pitches at PowerMoves Series A pitch Tuesday. At top, Disrupters Showcase at the Fountainebleau on Monday.