November 16, 2015

CappSci Inventors program awards inaugural innovation prizes

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005 CappSci Local DS

Rivah Winter, top photo by World Red Eye, presents to Miami-Dade high school students and later that evening, all the CappSci finalists, including Prasoon Diwakar, above in photo by David Santiago of El Nuevo Herald, talk with community members at their booths at Gramp's in Wynwood.


By Nancy Dahlberg /

To win the CappSci Inventors Prize, it wasn’t enough for the scientists and engineers to be able to present their work to fellow academics and scientific leaders — they also had to win the hearts of a group of students representing three high schools and startup community members attending “Nerd Nite” in Wynwood. That’s just one of the ways that the new prize program is unique.

CappSci, a science nonprofit that runs innovation prize programs, and the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science announced that Andrew Baker and Rivah Winter of the University of Miami and Prasoon Diwakar of Purdue University were selected as the winners of two inaugural CappSci Inventors challenges; one called for solutions for protecting coral reefs and the other was for protecting humans from carcinogens. And when the new museum opens next summer, patrons will be able to watch the innovations come to life over the course of a year.

The CappSci Inventors program will distribute $1 million over five years to 10 inventors, offering fresh approaches to solving major global problems. Winners received a $100,000 grant to support a 12-month residency at Miami’s new Frost Science to build out and test their early stage technology.

Baker and Winter, both Miami residents, won for their project on stress-hardening corals, which involves priming corals with heat-tolerant processes to increase stress resistance and make reef restoration more effective as ocean temperatures rise. At their booth at Nerd Nite at Gramp’s bar in Wynwood last week, Winter, a PhD student, said she was excited about the possibility of getting out of the lab and being able to interact with museum goers and the science community in such an interactive and public way, combining her passions for scientific research and education.

Diwakar, a resident of Indiana and a research scientist, won for his proposed Laser-induced Breakdown Spectroscopy Detector, a portable instrument for real-time detection of carcinogens in airborne material as well as solid or liquid samples. His solution, a sampling kit that can be used by anyone, is quick, effective and less expensive than existing solutions, making it accessible to schools, airports, museums, government and private office buildings and other venues, Diwakar said on Thursday while showing off his booth. He, too, likes the idea of “bringing science to the people.”

Gillian Thomas, president and CEO of Frost Science, said that the residency with the Frost Science Innovation Labs will offer mentorship, important contacts and critical feedback. “The visitor interface is a critical component of the program and showcases the capacity of the Innovation Labs to engage the entire community in addressing 21st century challenges,” she said.

Inventors will work in an open laboratory housed in the museum’s Innovation Labs, Thomas said. Museum visitors will be able to observe the inventors in action, see a real-time log of their progress and share ideas with them. Accompanying exhibits will explain the underlying science and technologies in coral restoration and carcinogen detection.

The inaugural winners were chosen from dozens of global entries and were among six finalists who participated in a rigorous final evaluation process, which included input from Miami-Dade County Public Schools students, the local startup community and an expert judging committee. Winners were selected based on their invention’s technical potential and suitability for public participation in a museum setting.

“Part of the prize is about technology, but part of it is engaging the community, and we wanted winners who could do both,” Ted Caplow, CEO of CappSci, said Monday. “There’s tremendous excitement in Miami around trying to make Miami a tech city, and CappSci Inventors is my effort to play an important role in that. We have a new and unique model to harness the power of the crowd to incubate startups and foster good ideas that have the potential for global impact.”

The other two finalists presenting coral reef research were Remy Okazaki and Benjamin Mason of the University of Washington and Steve Whalan of Southern Cross University in Australia. The other two finalists with carcinogen-detecting solutions were Vinay Bhardwaj of Florida International University and Jose Almirall and Anamary Tarifa, also of FIU.

For the carcinogen category, the judges were Norma Kenyon, University of Miami’s vice provost for innovation; Svetlana Shtrom, director of technology commercialization at the University of Central Florida; and Jon Yoo, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Buffalo. For the coral reefs prize, judges were Reia Guppy, assistant professor at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (Marine Sciences and Environmental Studies Department); Carrie Manfrino, founder of the Coral Reef Conservancy; and Ken Nedimyer, founder of the Coral Restoration Foundation.

Interestingly, the high school honors students from Miami Beach Senior High, Sunset Senior High and WilliamH.TurnerTechnicalSchool chose the same winners as the judges, Caplow said. 

Caplow said next year’s CappSci contest will do a better job of conveying the full spectrum of what the prize offers from a career standpoint; it’s not just money to build a technology, but the opportunity to gain professional exposure to mentors and other experts as well as investors and potential partners. He said CappSci will continue the interactive judging process. “All of our finalists said they really appreciated the opportunity to speak to school kids in the morning, adults in the evening in an informal setting, and have a more formal pitch to experts the next day. ... My hope is that anyone who is involved with any of our contests learns something and gains something.”

For more information on CappSci Inventors, visit

In addition to the CappSci Inventors program, CappSci is also leading the Miami Science Barge project, a public floating marine sustainability lab that won the inaugural 2015 Knight Foundation Cities Challenge and will be stationed near Frost Science.

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg.

Vigilant BioSciences gets approval to market OncAlert product in 28 European countries


Vigilant BioSciences, an innovator and developer of solutions that aid in the early detection and intervention of cancer, announced Monday that it has CE Marked its OncAlert LAB Assay for oral cancer risk. What that means: CE Marking allows Vigilant Biosciences to market the product in the 28 countries of the European Union as well as Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. 

The OncAlert LAB Assay is a noninvasive, accurate and cost-effective tool for clinicians involved in the diagnosis and treatment of oral cancer. The test, an oral rinse, measures specific protein markers known to indicate risk of early stage cancers, aiding in the diagnosis of oral cancer, along with other clinical factors.

Vigilant Biosciences licensed technology from the University of Miami, and its creator,  Dr. Elizabeth Franzmann (pictured above with CEO Matthew H.J. Kim), is a co-founder of the company. The venture-backed company has multiple distribution agreements secured across the EU and expects to begin shipping the product during the first quarter of 2016.

Kim, who was recently named Entrepreneur of the Year by BioFlorida, called the approval a "major milestone" for the company. "With numerous distribution agreements in place and an aggressive marketing strategy, we are looking forward to making an impact on the high rate of late-stage oral cancers diagnosed globally," he said.

See in-depth story about Vigilant here.

November 02, 2015

Prescription for economy: Healthcare startup energy

 By Nancy Dahlberg /

South Florida’s history of healthcare entrepreneurship has received a shot of new startup energy, and some business leaders see it as the prescription for a healthier local economy.

Consider these developments:

Startupbootcamp, Europe’s largest accelerator that is expanding globally, will announce Monday that it is bringing an accelerator focused on digital health to Miami, its first in the United States. Funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and other local and industry partners, its mentor-driven program will help 30 high-potential health-tech startups grow in South Florida.

Three weeks ago, the Cambridge Innovation Center, a technology-focused co-working company, announced it will open a center next year that could eventually house 500 startups in the University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park. That will provide a critical link between the startup community and Miami’s large health district.

Not only are support services for healthcare-related startups growing, but South Florida biotech, medical device firms and health-tech companies have taken the lion’s share of this year’s venture capital in South Florida and almost half of the state’s take. The area’s three leading funding rounds, in fact, are early-stage companies in this industry: Fort Lauderdale telemedicine company MDLIVE’s $50 million financing in the second quarter, Boca Raton-based electronic medical record software provider Modernizing Medicine’s $38 million financing in the third quarter, and Dania Beach orthopedic robotics company OrthoSensor’s $19 million in the first.

“In the last six months, more than 100 business plans have come across my desk, compared to three years ago, maybe 10 or 20,” said Dr. Maurice R. Ferré, who co-founded robotics company MAKO Surgical, which was acquired by Stryker for $1.65 billion in 2013. He’s now involved in four healthcare-related startups. “People are really excited about this area — it is starting to get some buzz.”

To be sure, the life science and health-tech ecosystem is widely dispersed throughout the three-county area. There isn’t a strong, focused cluster like in Boston or Silicon Valley, but there is rich history here dating back more than half a century. Many of the area’s medical device companies trace back in some way to Cordis Corp. in South Florida, where one of the first pacemakers was invented. In the pharmaceutical industry, serial entrepreneurial billionaire Phillip Frost has the golden touch, including founding and selling generics maker IVAX to Teva Pharmaceuticals for about $7.9 billion in 2006. Now he’s innovating again with Miami biotech company Opko Health.

Beyond the history, the infrastructure is here, too. Miami houses the second-biggest health district in the United States after Houston. Three universities, eight hospital facilities with more than 30,000 beds, nearly a dozen research institutes such as the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and the Diabetes Research Institute, the UM life science park and dozens of early-stage companies operate in a 25-square block area just north of downtown Miami.

In Broward and Palm Beach, medical device firms and life science research are flourishing, helped by the openings of permanent facilities of Scripps Research Institute in 2009 and Max Planck Florida Institute for NeuroScience in 2012. Adding to the momentum was the fast growth of Davie-based MAKO, which is spawning more robotics device companies, including OrthoSensor and Neocis.

In Miami-Dade, there are 1,078 life science companies employing about 10,597 people at an average wage of $79,453, according to the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade’s economic development agency. There are more than 500 companies in Broward also providing wages nearly double the county’s average, including most recently India-based Lupin, which opened a Center of Excellence for Inhalation Research in Coral Springs, creating 45 jobs and plans for more, according to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, Broward’s economic development counterpart.

These numbers don’t typically include health-tech companies classified under different categories, such as MDLIVE and Miami’s CareCloud, an electronic health-records provider, which together employ more than 500 people.

But these feisty health-tech companies are roaring onto the scene as the critical third leg in the life science-medical device-digital health ecosystem, a trend to which economic development leaders and universities pay close attention. These companies provide tools for virtual doctor visits, big data, electronic health records, pharmacy price comparisons and personal wellness assessments, for example. Unlike their life science brethren with long development cycles, health-tech companies can ramp up and generate jobs quickly.

They are an outgrowth of the merging of South Florida’s traditional healthcare industry with an emerging tech ecosystem building in the tri-county area. And as clusters of specialized companies begin to form in the technology ecosystem, healthcare is a natural attraction as it is one of the region’s strongest industries. Already, the area is seeing sub-clusters forming in medical devices, stem cell therapies, robotics and mobile health technologies, to name a few.

Norma Kenyon certainly does. The chief innovation officer at UM’s Miller School of Medicine runs U Innovation, which consists of the Wallace H. Coulter Center for Translational Research focused on funding promising biomedical research, and the university-wide Office of Technology Transfer, responsible for the commercialization of UM intellectual property.

Currently her office works with 44 UM-related startups in the life sciences, medical devices and healthcare-technology industries, including Heart Genomics, InflamaCORE and MobileCare. Nearly three-quarters of them were formed in the past three years, she said.

VigilantTwenty-eight of the startups have licensed UM technologies, and a growing number of them have received funding. For example, Vigilant Biosciences (pictured here) is getting ready to launch its first product, OncAlert, in Europe aimed at discovering the risk of oral cancer. It has received nearly $8 million in funding, including from the Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research. Dr. Eckhard Podack, a cancer researcher who recently passed away, was the originator of three UM startups, including the first IPO of the crop, Heat Biologics.

“This innovation piece is a very important part of the future health of research and development of new treatments in the healthcare space,” she said. “The technologies available in other schools and colleges become very important as we move forward. Engineering really is becoming very integrated with healthcare. It’s a very exciting time.”

U Innovation started an Idea Portal in the past year to faster connect with and help faculty and students with their life science or health-tech ideas. The ideas are pouring in, and many are coming from engineering, Kenyon said. In the next year, she hopes to start an early-stage fund and offer subsidized space for startups to work.

Ferré sees a similar trend at Florida International University: “I see a lot of excitement from these engineers wanting to start companies and be part of this ecosystem.”

At the intersection of tech and healthcare in South Florida, Ferré sees opportunities in the computational analysis of genomics data, as well as personal activities, areas where Startupbootcamp can help find, accelerate and fund startups, he said. “In this new world of personalized medicine, what technology is doing is democratizing, making it a lot less expensive. ... As an economy we are spending 18 percent of our GDP on healthcare — there’s a huge opportunity to create efficiencies.”

Ferré is also seeing interest from new funds, and to be sure, there has been progress on the investment front. So far this year, healthcare-related companies in South Florida, including health-tech, biotech and medical device companies, have nabbed nearly $176.8 million in venture capital — more than three-quarters of South Florida’s total of $232 million and more than double what South Florida healthcare companies in the sector received in all of 2014.

Venture capitalist Karl Elderkin said he’s excited about the number and quality of deals flowing from South Florida as well as the growth in infrastructure and support services, such as incubators and university programs. He also likes the area’s attractiveness to smart millennial entrepreneurs: “I think that is going to change the economy of South Florida.”

He is founder and managing partner of Athenian Venture Partners, an early-stage venture capital firm with offices in Fort Lauderdale and Ohio. The firm, with $105 million under management, specializes in healthcare and tech, generally making $2 million to $8 million investments over multiple rounds. It plans to raise its fifth fund shortly and hopes to start making investments next year.

Companies like Magic Leap and Scripps attract very talented people from outside Florida “and it is people like that that create more opportunities for more talented people,” said Elderkin, who is also on the board of the Florida Institute. “If our thesis is right, we think we will be early into a market that is very poised for growth. We think South Florida is a good bet.”

Still, funding continues to be a challenge and South Florida and the state receive less than 1 percent of the national venture capital total. BioFlorida, the state’s industry organization, said in its 2015 report that it’s not surprising since Florida’s companies are still mostly at the very early stages, too early for firms like Athenian, and development cycles are long.

EntopsisStartups have had to look far and wide for funding. Hialeah’s Entopsis (pictured here), which is developing a universal platform that would allow diagnosis for multiple diseases easily, cheaply and quickly, found its first support in California, through PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel’s Breakout Labs. Then the company raised a seed round from Miami’s Krillion Ventures and G3 Capital, as well as investors in Hong Kong.

As healthcare entrepreneur-investor Samuel Reich sees it, there are three pieces to a strong ecosystem, and South Florida already has one: the research with universities and institutions such as Scripps, UM, FIU and FAU. “We need capital, and we are working on that, but I think it will follow the science, and we need human capital,” said Reich, executive chairman of early-stage Biscayne Pharmaceuticals. “We need more entrepreneurs, which will bring the money, which will keep the scientists here.”

Todd Holt agrees. He has studied the life science industry for the past nine years, first as part of Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development organization, and currently as director of business development for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance.

He’s particularly excited about Nova Southeastern University’s Center for Collaborative Research, opening next year. The $80 million center, which will feature one of the state’s largest web labs, an IBM supercomputer and a tech incubator, is aimed at expanding NSU’s basic research in areas like heart disease, cancer and autism and will be putting into place systems to spin out technologies, including helping founders find funding and navigate the regulatory maze.

“That is where we see the returns,” Holt said. “Once commercialized, we can work to have it manufactured here.” That has attracted support services, such as companies providing contract manufacturing or regulatory support.

Not only is South Florida’s diverse population and hospital-rich ecosystem attractive to the startup and scientific communities for beta-testing, clinical trials, customer bases and partnerships, but Jaap Donath, senior vice president of research and strategic planning at the Beacon Council, said Miami-Dade has also seen increased interest from healthcare-related companies locating Latin American offices here. “These are good paying jobs and put us on the map as a center for life sciences.”

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

See story about Startup bootcamp here.

See story about four startups in the spotlight here.



$79,453: Average wage in the life sciences industry in Miami-DadeCounty

$44,140: Overall average wage, Miami-DadeCounty

2: Rank of Florida among states for the number of medical device companies

92 percent: Growth of Florida biotech industry since 2008, by number of companies

44 percent: Growth of U.S. biotech industry since 2008, by number of companies

$176.8 million: Amount of venture capital flowing into South Florida life science, medical device and health-tech companies so far in 2015

Sources: Beacon Council, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BioFlorida, Miami Herald research


A small sampling of resources available to healthcare entrepreneurs:

Enterprise Development Corporation of South Florida: Provides mentoring and other support,

Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research: Provides funding and support for early-stage healthcare companies spinning out of Florida’s universities,

New World Angels: Not exclusively for healthcare-related investments, but 40 percent of the angel fund’s deals have been in the space,

Startupbootcamp Miami: A new accelerator solely focused on digital health opening in Miami in 2016,

Venture Hive: An accelerator founded in 2013 in downtown Miami that includes healthcare as one of its verticals,


Robotics startup in the spotlight: Neocis


Alon Mozes, left, and Juan Salcedo are CEOs of Neocis. 

Neocis targets dental implant market

By Nancy Dahlberg /

Alon Mozes worked at a number of young companies, including MAKO Surgical from the early days through its IPO. Then the Miami biomedical engineer took the plunge with his own robotics startup, Neocis.

Neocis is creating a robotic guidance system for the fast-growing dental implant market. The system provides the dental surgeon guidance both physically and visually before and during surgery, aiming to reduce surgery time and improve accuracy and outcomes through a minimally invasive approach. The surgeon’s procedure is planned in the software beforehand and the robot guides the drill while the doctor can also see everything on a large screen. “It’s perfect execution of your plan every time,” said Mozes. And if the surgeon needs to change her plan, that can be done on the spot within the software.

Mozes grew up in South Florida, and after getting his bachelor’s and master’s in engineering at MIT, he got his start in Silicon Valley. He worked for SportVision, an innovator in special effects for sports broadcasts like that yellow first-down line, gaining knowledge that would later come into play in robotics. But he wanted to come back to Miami, and returned in 2004 to study biomedical engineering at the University of Miami, earning his Ph.D. a few years later.

In 2005, he became one of the first 20 employees at MAKO Surgical. Mozes helped the robotics company develop software for its ground-breaking Rio system for orthopedic robotics surgery, create its first cadaver lab, and get its first FDA clearance.

He met his future co-founder in Neocis there as well: Juan Salcedo. Salcedo, who received his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and master’s in biomedical engineering at Florida International University, was a key player in the design of Mako’s first and second generations.

Both men believed there was an unmet need and a lot of potential in the fast-growing dental implant market for robotic surgery. The $4.5 billion dental implant market, driven by an aging population and rising awareness about oral health, is estimated to reach nearly $8 billion by 2020, according to a 2014 research report.

They began working on their idea about 2009, Mozes said. Their prototype, made with scrap metal, looks nothing like what they have now, but it is proudly displayed in their office. “Nights, weekends, in the garage, that’s our beginning,” Salcedo said.

Neocis raised seed funding — its first investor was Fred Moll, who founded Intuitive Surgical and is well-known in the industry — at the end of 2012 and hired its first employee in January 2013. The company’s next multimillion-dollar injection came from a mix of local investors from Mozes’ Mako network as well as some from California.

Now with 11 employees, Neocis has completed its first-generation system and is going through the FDA process. Neocis is raising more money now.

Still, funding has been a challenge, Mozes said, because South Florida is still not seen from the outside as a typical environment for robotics and medical device innovation. But he’s happy to be seeing a growing healthcare innovation ecosystem here, with companies like MAKO, OrthoSensor, Modernizing Medicine and CareCloud among the leaders of the current generation: “It’s great to see them growing here and finding success.”

See all four healthcare startups in the spotlight here.

With Knight funding, Startupbootcamp to open digital health accelerator in Miami next year


By Nancy Dahlberg /

Startupbootcamp, Europe’s largest business accelerator operating in eight countries, will launch its first U.S. program in Miami, with $2 million in support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The organizations will announce Monday that the Miami program will focus on supporting and scaling startups in digital health, building on both the city’s reputation as a center for healthcare and life sciences and its position as a launchpad into Latin America.

Startupbootcamp operates 10 accelerators across Europe and one in Singapore — each focused on an industry suited to the location — and has been actively looking to expand into the United States, said Alex Farcet, who founded Startupbootcamp in Copenhagen in 2010. Since then, Startupbootcamp has supported 290 startups, of which over 70 percent have received an average of $660,000 in funding and together have created 1,160 jobs.

After three trips to Miami in the past three or four months, Farcet was sold on South Florida. “It just feels like the right time. We think we are in the sweet spot of being early but not completely pioneers. Miami itself and the health focus, access and visibility with Latin America, the support of the Knight Foundation — a lot of things came together that felt right,” Farcet said. “Miami is ready, and we are ready for Miami.”

Farcet said Startupbootcamp will put its proven accelerator and mentorship model to work helping to find, support, fund and grow 30 digital health startups over three years. Startupbootcamp Miami will invite entrepreneurs from across the globe to apply; 10 companies per year will be selected to participate in the three-month program. Applications will be due Feb. 1 and the first program will begin next spring; entrepreneurs can find more information and apply at

Each chosen startup will receive a three-month accelerator program, six months of free co-working office space, a seed investment of $20,000 with possible additional investments up to $100,000, and in-kind services from partners such as Google, PayPal and Amazon Web Services. More than 100 participating mentors will come from companies, venture firms and universities across the U.S., including Microsoft, CVS Health, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Healthways, Lyra Health, Bessemer Venture Partners, Google Ventures, MIT and Harvard.

The Miami area has a few accelerators, including the Knight-supported Venture Hive downtown, but it’s not enough to support the ecosystem, said Matt Haggman, the Miami program director of the Knight Foundation who is spearheading efforts to develop a tech and startup ecosystem. “We think Startupbootcamp is complementary to what is here because it is focused on a vertical,” Haggman said. “We have this huge healthcare system in Miami, and you are seeing some connection but not enough. This is a way to connect the dots.”

The Startupbootcamp funding is one of the top three Knight grants supporting Miami entrepreneurship. Knight has committed about $18 million to 165 organizations and projects in the past three years, including Endeavor, the Idea Center at Miami Dade College, LaunchCode and eMerge Americas.

Christian%20SealeChristian Seale will run the Miami program as managing director. Previously, he helped build Startupbootcamp’s Smart Transport & Energy accelerator in Berlin. He is also a founding member of Equitable Origin, a certification program for responsible energy production. Seale, who has an MBA from Harvard Business School, has also worked for venture capital firm Maveron, Goldman Sachs, Teach for America and has spent a year in Barranquilla, Colombia, as a Fulbright Scholar.

Seale and Farcet said the decision to focus on digital health emerged after a number of discussions with leaders in the entrepreneurship community. Startupbootcamp will look for companies at the intersection of technology, in areas such as remote-patient monitoring, population health management, personalized medicine, telemedicine, payer administration and analytics, big-data and fraud detection.

Seale hopes some of the Miami program’s startups will serve up solutions for the growing yet underserved U.S. Latino population: “Latinos soon will comprise 30 percent of the U.S. population yet fewer than 4 percent of healthcare providers speak Spanish and many do not know how to approach the cultural and economic diversity within the Latino population. More broadly, we seek to support the eradication of healthcare disparities in the U.S.”

The accelerator location hasn’t yet been selected, but it will likely be a 4,000- to 6,000-square-foot space in Wynwood or downtown Miami with room to grow, said Seale, who has been visiting the area for tech events for a couple years and is relocating to South Florida now. Miami-based Carevoyance, which provides a platform for healthcare companies to access and analyze data, and its co-founder Abhinav Gautam will be part of Startupbootcamp’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence program.

Startupbootcamp Miami will host an internship program, and it will produce educational events and pitch days open to the public as well as make training available online. One event is already planned: Startupbootcamp and the Idea Center at Miami Dade College will co-host an MIT Hacking Medicine hackathon Feb. 20-21, Seale said.

The accelerator will partner with the Frost Museum of Science to test products and services from Startupbootcamp ventures, and is working with the Idea Center at Miami Dade College and U Innovation at the University of Miami to support more local innovation. “We want to help transform Miami into a place where if you want to start a healthcare company Miami is flat out on the top of your list,” Seale said.

In addition to the Knight Foundation, Startupbootcamp is backed by Univision, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and Microsoft’s BizSpark Program as well as Dr. Maurice R. Ferré, chairman of Insightec and co-founder of MAKO Surgical, Michael Simkins, president and CEO of Innovate Development Group, which is leading the Miami Innovation District project, Miro Ventures and Rokk3r Labs.

Farcet said that historically, the mix of teams in other Startupbootcamp accelerators has been about 80 percent international and 20 percent local, and one of the measures of success for the new program will be how many of the entrepreneurs stay and grow their companies in Miami after the program is over.

“This is a test of both Startupbootcamp and Miami’s broader startup ecosystem,” said Farcet. “There are good programs in Miami already and a lot of initiatives. We expect to inject new talent and new blood by importing people and showing that Miami is a really strong alternative to Boston and California.”

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

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Four healthcare startups in the spotlight

Prescription for economy: Healthcare startup energy 

October 14, 2015

BioFlorida honors Vigilant Biosciences' CEO


Matthew H.J. Kim, CEO of Vigilant Biosciences,  is shown with co-founder Dr. Elizabeth Franzmann, who is looking at a OncAlert point-of-care test prototype. Vigilant is working on an early detection system for risk of oral cancer.  PATRICK FARRELL MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Read more here:

BioFlorida has awarded Vigilant Biosciences' founder and CEO Matthew H.J. Kim the Weaver H. Gaines Entrepreneur of the Year Award, which recognizes an entrepreneur who has made extraordinary contributions to the growth of Florida's life sciences industry in the leadership of a company or institution.

Vigilant Biosciences is a Miami-based startup that is developing solutions that aid in the early detection and intervention of cancer. Its point-of-care and lab-based products are simple, accurate and cost-effective, empowering healthcare practitioners to easily assess the risk of oral cancer early, and improve outcomes through earlier intervention. Vigilant has been progressing towards securing the CE mark for the OncAlert Oral Cancer System, which it expects to announce before the end of the year.  It has also signed several distribution agreements for the EU and Asia.

BioFlorida represents nearly 5,500 establishments and research organizations in the biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and bioagriculture sectors that collectively employ nearly 80,000 Floridians. The Weaver H. Gaines Entrepreneur of the Year Award, presented Tuesday at the BioFlorida Conference 2015 in Orlando, is named in honor of Weaver Gaines, one of the founding directors of BioFlorida.

Read past Miami Herald coverage of Vigilant here.


October 05, 2015

Miami startups Biscayne Pharmaceuticals, Insero Health merge

Two young Miami-based biopharmaceutical companies, Biscayne Pharmaceuticals and Insero Health, already shared a lead investor and executive chairman, as well as office space on Biscayne Boulevard. On Monday they announced that they merged, giving the combined company two areas of focus.

Biscayne Pharmaceuticals is a clinical-stage company developing therapies for drug-resistant cancers, and its technology is licensed from the University of Miami. Insero Health is focused on treatments for epilepsy, pain and other central nervous system disorders. Dr. Stephen Collins, formerly CEO of Insero Health, has become CEO of Biscayne Pharmaceuticals. Samuel Reich, a Miami Beach healthcare investor who co-founded both Biscayne and Insero Health and most recently was CEO of Biscayne, will retain the position of executive chairman of the combined companies. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed. The combined company, which will be called Biscayne Pharmaceuticals, has about five employees plus contractors.

Insero was co-founded by Harvard neurology professor and epilepsy expert Dr. Steven Schachter, and Biscayne’s cancer program is based on the work of Nobel laureate Dr. Andrew Schally, an endocrine researcher and prolific drug developer, said Reich. “Biscayne now is in the enviable position of having two novel platforms with excellent proprietary protection championed by world class scientists and targeting refractory conditions with major unmet needs,” he added.

July 17, 2015

MDLIVE leads state in venture funding in 2nd quarter

South Florida companies attracted most of the state's venture capital funding, according to the MoneyTree Report. Nationally, AirBnB was the top deal -- $1.5 billion.

By Nancy Dahlberg /

MoneybagMDLIVE, with more than 200 employees, provides access to virtual doctor visits utilizing partnerships with established industry leaders, including Walgreens, Microsoft and major health systems across the country. The company raised $50 million from Bedford Funding Capital Management, a private equity firm based in White Plains, N.Y. “We view this as an important first investment in a growing partnership with MDLIVE to fundamentally change healthcare in the United States,” said Charles Jones, managing partner of Bedford.

In total, South Florida companies raised more than $86 million in the second quarter, and all of that money flowed into health-tech or biotech companies. That’s up from $70.9 million last quarter, according to the report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, based on data provided by Thomson Reuters.

More than half the state’s funding flowed to South Florida. The other funded companies were: CareCloud of Miami ($15.3 million), TissueTech of Doral ($15 million), Altor BioScience of Miramar ($10.7 million) and Watermark Medical of West Palm Beach ($5 million). In addition, Carson Life and Meetoou, both of Miami, raised undisclosed seed rounds.

Florida companies in total raised $153.7 million in 17 deals, up sharply from $85.6 million in the first quarter and $117.4 million in 13 deals a year ago.

Still, for the country’s third-largest state, that is less than 1 percent of the national venture capital pie.

Nationally, venture capitalists invested $17.5 billion in 1,189 deals in the second quarter, the MoneyTree Report showed. Quarterly venture capital investment increased 30 percent in terms of dollars and 13 percent in the number of deals, compared with the first quarter when $13.5 billion was invested in 1,048 deals.

The second quarter is the sixth consecutive quarter of more than $10 billion of venture capital invested in a single quarter.

“There is no reason for this to slow down. We are seeing faster growth rates in software companies than we have ever seen … and there is still a lot of room to innovate,” said Tomasz  Tunguz, partner at Redpoint Ventures in Menlo Park.

Indeed, the software industry continued to receive the highest level of funding of all industries, increasing 30 percent from the prior quarter to $7.3 billion, the largest quarterly investment total going into software companies since the inception of the MoneyTree Report in 1995.

Tunguz sees continued opportunity in enterprise software. It’s one of the fastest-growing categories in tech, yet funding is still only at half the level of 2000, he said. “There is $1.2 trillion in market cap committed to enterprise and only 2 percent of that has moved to the cloud. There is a lot of money still to change hands.”

Other categories doing well nationally were media/entertainment, with $2.7 billion going into 118 deals, and biotechnology, with $2.3 billion going into 126 deals.

The top five deals, according to MoneyTree, were AirBnB ($1.5 billion); Snapchat ($538 million), Zenefits ($500 million), WeWork ($400 million) and Docusign ($278 million).

“We saw 26 megadeals [of $100 million or greater] in Q2, including yet another billion-dollar investment. After seeing the very first billion-dollar VC investment in Q1 of last year, we now count four of the last five quarters with companies receiving billion-dollar investments, adding to the ever-growing herd of unicorns, which is approaching triple digits,” said Tom Ciccolella, U.S. Venture Capital Leader at PwC. He believes 2015 VC is on track to exceed the $50 billion invested in 2014.

Investment in Florida companies in 2015 will have a tough climb to exceed 2014, as much of last year’s $865 million total was raised by one company — Dania Beach-based Magic Leap, which raised $592 million in two rounds. But so far, South Florida healthcare-related companies are leading the charge this year. OrthoSensor, Pure Life Renal, Brickell Biotech, Vigilant BioSciences and USARAD all attracted funding in the first quarter.

MoneyTree Report results are available at

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.


June 22, 2015

Funding news: TissueTech raises $15 million

Miami-based TissueTech, a biotech company that focuses on regenerative medicine, raised $15 million in additional venture funding.

Ballast Point Ventures of St. Petersburg and River Cities Capital Funds in Raleigh led a Series B equity raise for TissueTech, a regenerative medicine company in Miami.

TissueTech develops regenerative amniotic tissue-based products for the ophthalmology, optometry, musculoskeletal and wound care markets. The biotech company will use the new funding to expand R&D and sales and marketing.

It’s the second time Ballast Point and River Cities have invested in TissueTech, which now has more than 100 employees, according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal. The firms invested $10 million in 2013 and have been very pleased with the company’s performance since then, Matt Rive, partner at Ballast Point, told the publication.


June 03, 2015

Startup Weekend: And the winners were ...


Startup Weekend is a non-profit, community-building event that brings together entrepreneurs of different backgrounds, including software developers, marketers, designers and startup enthusiasts. They gather to to pitch ideas, form teams and start companies in just 54 hours. The weekend culminates with demonstrations in front of an audience of judges and potential investors.

The sold-out Startup Weekend Diversity Miami, organized by Paula Celestino and her team, took place last weekend at Venture Hive. Seven teams made it to the end and presented five minute pitches in front of judges with a couple of minutes of Q&A. And the winners were ...


People's Choice winner (pictured below): PaySlay, an app aiming to slash medical bill costs through incentivizing policy holders to use gym memberships, weight-loss programs and various alternative medicine treatments. 



3rd Place (pictured below) went to Team Model Book, an app to connect models  with modeling opportunities with trade shows and events.


2nd Place went to HandyCab (pictured below), a way to ease the task of finding cabs and other transportation equipped for the disabled.


And the winner was Breakin' Bread, an app to bring people together at shared tables for communal dining experiences. Never eat alone again!


Congratulations! Please see the next post -- a guest post from the winning team.