April 27, 2015

Meet the winners of the Business Plan Challenge

We are pleased to introduce you to the winners of the 17th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge.

The winners’ circle contains concepts in healthcare, antiques, food, tech and social entrepreneurship. To rise to the top, winners had to make a strong case for how they planned to execute their business plan.

South Florida is often recognized as one of the nation’s most entrepreneurial communities, and the 2015 winners and contestants represent the passion and diversity of the region’s emerging businesses. This year, the contest attracted a record 248 entries in our three tracks of the Miami Herald Challenge, sponsored by Florida International University’s Eugenio Pino and Family Global Entrepreneurship Center, and many attended our Business Plan Bootcamp in February. The three-page plans were judged by experts from our community — successful entrepreneurs, investors, executives and academics — as well as by the public via our popular People’s Pick video competition.

For the FIU track, the judging included a live pitch session for the six finalists, which helped determine the final winners. Each team received up to five minutes to present their companies, followed by time for Q&A and feedback.

The HighBoy, an online marketplace for high-end antiques and fine art, took first place in the Community Track. Room2care, a home health service powered by the sharing economy, took first place in the FIU Track, and was also named Challenge Champion, based on judge scores and People’s Pick voting. And the winner in the High School Track — a popular contest this year with 109 entries — was Teenography, a photography service that employs teen shutterbugs.

Stow Simple, an on-demand storage service, and Juana la Iguana, a learning platform in Spanish for toddlers, took second and third, respectively, in the Community Track.

Wuelto, an online mall for Latin America, and Senzu Foods, a food product line for foods made with insects, took second and third in the FIU Track.

USAVT, a transportation system powered by veterans, and MyScholarship, a scholarship-finding service, won second and third in the High School Track, which is co-sponsored by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship South Florida.

In the People’s Pick, which attracted a total 13,002 votes, Juana la Iguana kept the lead most of the week and won in the Community Track, with 1,804 votes, with Coastal Risk Consulting, an online analysis for flood risk, and Stow Simple taking second and third place. On the FIU Track, Court Buddy, a platform for affordable legal help, came from behind the final weekend to win, with 2,168 votes, with Room2Care in second place and Wuelto in third.

What separated today’s featured winners from the pack? The written business plans scored well in more key areas, such as marketing strategies, financials, management teams, market opportunity and growth plans. With many of the plans that were entered, judges liked the ideas, but the plans themselves were not developed enough to win.

Some of the winners and finalists are first-timers; others are serial entrepreneurs with decades of industry experience. But all are in the early stages of their businesses — we’ll be watching how they do!

Read the accompanying profiles to learn more about the winners.

Meet the 2015 Business Plan Challenge judges

 

Business Plan Challenge finalists represent South Florida’s trending industries

View the videos from 2015 Business Plan Challenge Finalists

 

 

High School Track winners:

Duo’s app would simplify college-application process

Teenography: Weston teen’s business lets other students learn, profit

Trucking company plan salutes veterans

FIU Track:

Room2Care: Cost-sharing program gives seniors an alternative to assisted living

Out to change how Latin Americans shop

Senzu Foods team sees big appetite for insect-based foods

Service brings access to legal system to the people

 

Community Track

Lovable Juana la Iguana stars in apps for kids

To see the opportunity for Stow Simple, look up

The HighBoy: Online antiques marketplace reflects results

April 19, 2015

Last day to vote in the Business Plan Challenge!

Indexes to measure the stability of fine art and the impact of climate change, an antiques marketplace, an online mall, solutions for your thousands of photos and storage-impaired condos. A “shared economy” company for long-term care, a learning platform for Hispanic kids, a tool to find an affordable lawyer, a business software platform, a campus coffee house/incubator – we’ve even got a food product line made with bugs.

Who is building the best new business? You tell us!

Take a look at the top six finishers in the Community and FIU Tracks of the 17th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, and we are asking you to vote for your favorite plans in The People’s Pick competition.

To vote for your favorite contestants, here’s what to do:

Click on the top story on MiamiHerald.com/Challenge to bring up the voting page. View the short videos of the finalists’ elevator pitches. The six selections in the FIU Track follow the Community Track.

Then scroll down to the bottom of the page to cast your ballot, voting for one video in each track.

Lastly, get out the vote! Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, April 19.

The top voted team from each track track will be awarded the People’s Pick and honored in the April 27 Business Monday section along with the judges’ selections.

Vote here – hrld.us/BizPlan2015 – or go to MiamiHerald.com/challenge to find the voting page.

The contenders are:

Community Track

Accidental Archivist, pitched by Stephanie Norman. Got photos? This is a free platform full of training and tips from industry leaders, a wide array of products and services, and a community of all ages who share tips, rate products and connect with one another.

Art Preservation Index, pitched by Emily MacDonald-Korth. The Art Preservation Index, or APIx, is a stability rating system for fine art, based on its patent-pending rating algorithm, comprehensive database of art material information, and proprietary mobile art evaluation software.

Coastal Risk Consulting, pitched by Albert Slap. A comprehensive online service called the “Coastal Risk Rapid Assessment” provides a property’s future flood risk, changing the conversation around climate change.

Juana la Iguana, pitched by Tania Gilinski. This learning and entertainment platform will help parents transmit to their kids their values, culture, music and Spanish vocabulary. It looks to launch 20 applications in the next four years.

Stow Simple, pitched by Silvia Camps and Jorge Camps. With the click of a button, Stow Simple will pick up, safely store and return your belongings, with prices comparable to traditional self-storage. The initial target market will be city high-rise dwellers.

The HighBoy, pitched by Douglas Scott and Olga Granda-Scott. Leveraging deep industry experience of its founders, The HighBoy delivers a streamlined method for sourcing and purchasing exceptional antiques, fine art and other historic design items online.

FIU Track

Court Buddy, pitched by by James Jones Jr. and Kristina Jones. Founded by an attorney, this online legal matchmaking system connects people and businesses with affordable attorneys based on their budgets; it gives people, regardless of background or financial situation, access to a legal system.

FlowKPI, pitched by Luis Caro, Ernesto Ruiz and Giancarlo Zarrillo. This provider of business software wants to redefine the tools businesses rely on to accomplish their goals and achieve their real potential. It plans to develop software-as-a-service solutions for different industries.

Relentless Roasters, pitched by Daniel Choiseul Paguaga. A collaborative workspace and specialty coffee café on the FIU campus would serve as a retail location, roasting facility and educational center focused on entrepreneurship and School of Hospitality-connected activities.

Room2Care.com, pitched by Todd Florin and Richard Ashenoff. Leveraging the power of the sharing economy, this end-to-end platform is designed to connect those who need long-term care with those who can provide care in the local community.

Senzu Foods, pitched by Ricardo Delgado and Nicolexander Garza. This company’s goal is to provide a sustainable solution to food security, public health and environmental concerns by becoming a leading producer and distributor of insect-based food products.

Wuelto, pitched by Alejandro Gomez. This global social e-commerce platform provides users with a going-to-a-mall experience by allowing people to share items with friends while also being able to ask questions and interact with the stores.

WHERE TO VOTE AND WHAT’S NEXT?

To cast your votes for the People’s Pick, go to hrld.us/BizPlan2015.

The winners including the People’s Picks, finalists and semifinalists will be unveiled in a special report in Business Monday on April 27.

April 18, 2015

UM announces Business Plan Competition winners

Innovations in the areas of everyday life improvement, access to higher education, and an invention to prevent urinary tract infections in patients have taken top honors in the University of Miami’s 2015 Business Plan Competition, hosted by the University’s School of Business Administration, and sponsored by The Launch Pad. The competition winners, honored in an awards ceremony April 17, took home a combined total of $52,500 in first, second, third and other prizes.

Dibi - undergradHunter Bihn won the Grand Prize and $10,000 in the undergraduate student category for DiBi, a patented, portable container for diabetics that both carries and disposes insulin pens and needles.

In the graduate student category, Erica Barrios, Phi Ho, and Iman Rabizadeh took home the Grand Prize and $10,000 for their venture, MediTick which prevents urinary tract infections in patients with Meditick - gradurinary catheters.

And in the University of Miami alumni category, Eric Stepansky and David Primach won the Grand Prize and $10,000 for Campus Breeze which tackles higher education access issues.

Second Place in the undergraduate category and $5,000 went to Jake Esposito, Mitchell Pasqualoni Campus breeze - alumniand Courtney Wemyss for Grain, a software that runs iOS and Android devices. Second Place in the graduate category and $5,000 went to Adam Rosen, Alexander Barsan, Sarah Sonny, Danielle Neuman and Sebastian Rivera of HouseCall MD, which offers health care via mobile phone. Second Place in the alumni category and $5,000 went to Kristina Astone and Jennifer Tang of Lavender & Lace, a lavender-based apothecary company.

Third Place in the undergraduate category with $2,500 went to Spencer George and David Silverman for Ubitt LLC which simplifies the purchase of goods. Third Place and $2,500 in the graduate category went to Veronica Fortino, Jordan Greenberg and Carlos Carballosa for Stemcellect, an innovation in dental stem cells; while Third Place and $2,500 in the alumni category went to Christopher Poore for Cornverter, ethanol kits for performance vehicles.

In addition to the undergraduate, graduate and alumni category prizes, the Paul K. Sugrue Entrepreneurial Spirit Award and $1,000 was presented to Charles Tyler Szuchan of PocketDoc, an innovative mobile telehealth company.

“The quality of the business plans presented this year was extremely impressive,” said Susy Alvarez-Diaz, director of entrepreneurship programs at the University of Miami School of Business. “The teams brought forward plans ready to go beyond the ideas phase and right into execution. It makes sense that the entrepreneurial culture of both the School of Business and South Florida region would produce such big thinkers.”

The Business Plan Competition started last fall when 64 concept papers were submitted to the judging committee. Ultimately 42 semifinalists were asked to submit their business plans and after another round of judging 15 final teams were selected to present to the judges on April 15-16, with the winners named the following day. The judges included 15 successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists from South Florida and the Northeast.

Now in its 13th year, the Business Plan Competition is open to all University of Miami students and alumni. Past winners in the competition have gone on to build their ventures into businesses that have garnered national attention. They include such companies as College Hunks Hauling Junk and My Therapy Journal.com, both of which have been featured on ABC Television's “Shark Tank,” a reality program in which entrepreneurs share their business ideas with a group of five self-made millionaires in hopes of getting venture capital to help them attain similar levels of success.

- submitted by the University of Miami

Captions: Top photo: Undergrad category, Dibi -- from left to right:  Susy Alvarez-Diaz, director of the University of Miami School of Business Administration entrepreneurship programs; Nicholas Sando and Jake Elliot, founders of SnagTag (2014 Business Plan Competition); Hunter Bihn, grand prize winner, undergraduate track; and Adrian Alvarez, program director, Univeristy of Miami Launchpad

 

Middle photo: Graduate category, MediTick -- from left to right:  Susy Alvarez-Diaz, director of the University of Miami School of Business Administration entrepreneurship programs; Phi Ho and Iman Rabizadeh, grand prize winners, graduate track; and Adrian Alvarez, program director, Univeristy of Miami Launchpad
 
Third: Alumni category, Campus Breeze -- from left to right: Susy Alvarez-Diaz, director of the University of Miami School of Business Administration entrepreneurship programs; David Primach, grand prize winner, alumni track; and Adrian Alvarez, program director, Univeristy of Miami Launchpad

 

 

 

 

 

April 10, 2015

FAU announces business plan contest winners

RotationManager

From left, FAU President John Kelly; Max Cacchione, CEO of Rotation Manager, first place winner of the entrepreneur track; Dr. Maurice Ferré, co-founder of MAKO Surgical Corp., and Kim Gramm, co-founder and associate vice president of FAU Tech Runway.

 

Florida Atlantic University has announced the winners of the 2015 Business Plan Competition, which concluded today at FAU’s Boca Raton campus. 

First place winner of the student track is SoFla Sunwear, a beach apparel company which set out to distinguish and celebrate the lifestyle that exists in South Florida. Second place went to Hyperbius, LLC, creator of the HyperChiller, a simple device that takes up to 12 ounces of hot coffee fresh out of a single-serve machine down to room temperature within 60 seconds after brewing stops without diluting the coffee’s strength. Third place winner of the student track is TripsCommerce, a SaaS-based system, e-commerce solution for travel operators to manage and automate their business more efficiently and economically, enabling travel operators to establish their business online in minutes without any need for designers or programmers.

First place winner of the entrepreneur track is Rotation Manager, a company that makes clinical rotations in nursing and allied health programs easy and compliant by bringing students, hospitals and colleges into one unified platform. Second place went to Transfasten, a posterior minimally invasive approach to sacroiliac joint fusion to alleviate sacroiliac joint pain. Third place winner in the entrepreneur track is CO2 Conversion/Dioxide Materials, a new chemical value chain that uses waste CO2 and renewable energy instead of oil and gas to provide an inexpensive route to high volume chemicals.

Hosted by the Adams Center for Entrepreneurship and the College of Business, the competition provided the opportunity for participants to vet their business ideas before a panel of successful entrepreneurs, early stage investors and venture capital principals. More than 200 teams originally registered to compete, with judges selecting 16 teams to advance to the final round.

Final round teams in the FAU student track and entrepreneur track competed for a share of more than $200,000 in cash and prizes to launch their business. Red Pepper Group was the event’s presenting sponsor.

The three-day event began with the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) Investor Panel, a culmination of a 30-week program in which students in grades 6-12 developed legitimate businesses and pitched to investors for seed funding. 

At the Kick Off Reception and Elevator Pitch Event, each of the 16 final round teams presented a 90-second elevator pitch, and reception guests voted for their favorite. The winner, Let It Rot, will receive the $5,000 People’s Choice Award sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co. Let It Rot, is a social enterprise working under the already established nonprofit organization, the Palm Beach County Food Bank, and is working to heighten the efficiency of the Food Bank by repurposing their food waste into a marketable worm compost product.

The competition concluded with business plan presentations from the FAU student and entrepreneur tracks and a keynote talk by Dr. Maurice Ferré, co-founder of MAKO Surgical Corp., a world leader in robotic orthopedic surgery.

- information submitted by FAU 

  SoFlaSunwear

From left, FAU President John Kelly; Thomas Gregory, of SoFla Sunwear, first place winner of the student track; Dr. Maurice Ferré, co-founder of MAKO Surgical Corp., and Kim Gramm, co-founder and associate vice president of FAU Tech Runway.

 

 

April 05, 2015

Business Plan Challenge semifinalists announced

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

ChallengeThis year’s entries in the 17th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge include concepts for fashion, art, restaurants, maker spaces, social gaming, healthcare, real estate and logistics. There are plans to educate our kids, help us eat better and live socially conscious lives. And for every time you said “where’s my waiter?” there is a plan for that, too.

So who will win the 2015 Challenge? Thirty young businesses and business ideas are still in the running.

Having the right ingredients to win over our judges isn’t easy: They were looking at the viability of the business model, the team, marketing strategy, financial projections and more. A good idea alone won’t get you very far: Our judges were looking for a strong plan for execution.

To be sure, our three panels of judges — serial entrepreneurs, investors, academics and executives — had their work cut out for them. The Business Plan Challenge, sponsored by FIU’s Pino Global Entrerpreneurship Center, drew a record 248 qualified entries. The Community Track drew more than 100 entries, presenting a mix of businesses representative of South Florida’s diversity. Veteran judges said the overall quality of the entries was higher than previous years.

Competition in the High School Track, co-sponsored by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship in South Florida, was especially fierce with a record 111 entries. Half of those entries were from two schools, Ransom Everglades and Gulliver Prep, and classes taught by three teachers, Jennifer Nero of Ransom and Kamal James and Daniela Brenha of Gulliver.

For all 248 of you who entered, congratulations! You now have a strong start on your business plan — your road map to growing your business. Even if you didn’t make the list this time, we know you will carry on; please let us know how you do.

This week we announce our semifinalists. Next week we will unveil our top six in two tracks, and they will also be part of the video competition. The winners, finalists and semifinalists in all three tracks will be included in a special section April 27. Here, in alphabetical order are the semifinalists:

Community Track

Accidental Archivist, by Stephanie Norman. Got photos? This is a free platform full of training and tips from industry leaders, a wide array of products and services and a community of all ages who share tips, rate products and connect with one another.

Art Preservation Index, by Emily MacDonald-Korth. The Art Preservation Index, or APIx, is a stability rating system for fine art, based on its patent-pending rating algorithm, comprehensive database of art material information, and proprietary mobile art evaluation software.

Coastal Risk Consulting, by Albert Slap. A comprehensive online service called the “Coastal Risk Rapid Assessment” provides a property’s future flood risk, changing the conversation around climate change.

Creating Revolutions, by Einer Rosenberg. To help restaurants and retailers capture the billions in sales lost each year due to poor customer service, CR has developed a patented simple-to-use technology called NFC Paging. First product: NFC Service Pager.

cTHRU Nutrition, by Lisa Dorfman and Adeel Murtaza. A feature-rich shopping application aims to ensure that families and consumers worldwide have a handy, fast, easy-to-use personalized tool to help them select the healthiest groceries and restaurant meals.

EarthWare, by Michael Caballero and Pandwe Gibson. Moving beyond old wasteful practices, EarthWare creates utensils, tableware and containers made from natural and recycled materials that are biodegradable and compostable.

Educrate, by Jacqueline Basallo and Patricia Ortega. This is a subscription e-commerce platform of educational and office supply products for teachers nationwide. Educrate brings teachers the tools to create, inspire and teach outside the box.

Grasp Learning, by Gary and Valerie Berman. Reinventing the K-8 after-school tutoring and academic support experience, Grasp empowers “edu-preneurial” teachers to supplement their income by operating their own micro-learning centers within nonprofits and community centers.

Juana la Iguana, by Tania Gilinski and Amanda Quijano. This learning and entertainment platform will help parents transmit to their kids their values, culture, music and Spanish vocabulary. It looks to launch 20 applications in the next four years.

Stow Simple, by Silvia Camps and Jorge Camps. With the click of a button, Stow Simple will pick up, safely store and return your belongings, with prices comparable to traditional self-storage. The initial target market will be city high-rise dwellers.

The HighBoy, by Douglas Scott and Olga Granda-Scott. Leveraging deep industry experience of its founders, The HighBoy delivers a streamlined method for sourcing and purchasing exceptional antiques, fine art and other historic design items online.

UX Gofer, by Jacqueline Stetson Pastore. Built by UX pros, this app makes usability testing easier, faster and more accessible. It streamlines the workflow of senior practitioners and guides the newbie on how to set up a study, capture data and do analysis.

FIU Track

Court Buddy, by James Jones Jr. and Kristina Jones. Founded by an attorney, this online legal matchmaking system connects people and businesses with affordable attorneys based on their budgets; it gives people, regardless of background or financial situation, access to a legal system.

FlowKPI, by Rodolfo Navarro, Luis Caro, Ernesto Ruiz and Giancarlo Zarrillo. This provider of business software wants to redefine the tools businesses rely on to accomplish their goals and achieve their real potential. It plans to develop software-as-a-service solutions for different industries.

Relentless Roasters, by Daniel Choiseul Paguaga and Andre Villarreal. A collaborative workspace and specialty coffee café on the FIU campus would serve as a retail location, roasting facility and educational center focused on entrepreneurship and School of Hospitality-connected activities.

Room2Care.com, by Todd Florin and Richard Ashenoff. Leveraging the power of the sharing economy, this end-to-end platform is designed to connect those who need long-term care with those who can provide care in the local community.

Senzu Foods, by Ricardo Delgado, Nicolexander Garza and Valerie Yoda. This company’s goal is to provide a sustainable solution to food security, public health and environmental concerns by becoming a leading producer and distributor of insect-based food products.

Wuelto, by Gerson Gomez and Alejandro Gomez. This global social e-commerce platform provides users with a going-to-a-mall experience by allowing people to share items with friends while also being able to ask questions and interact with the stores.

High School Track

2 Charge, by David Herrera, Gustavo Ciobataru and Lain Huguet, Gulliver Prep. The 2 Charge Power Card will transfer battery from one phone to another and charge two phones at once, all in one product no bigger than a credit card.

All Pro Sports Highlights, by Emmanuel Cineus, Miami Edison Sr. High. This service business would create customized, personalized mobile apps for athletes, showing highlights and stats and becoming a marketing tool to show to college recruiters.

Find My Dog, by Lucas Lowenstein, Tatiana Ramirez and Sophia Esquenazi, Gulliver. A GPS tracking dog collar would track a dog through a detailed map using the Find My Dog app or website. The collar would also include a fitness monitor and a camera at an extra cost.

Food Pages, by Noah Rolnick and Yoav Grainer, Miami Palmetto Sr. High and Ransom Everglades. An iOS app that would allow users to research food products rated by people like them while earning rewards for their ratings.

Magistrae, by Alain Carles, Ransom Everglades. A smartphone application aims to consolidate and catalog lists of academic tutors, art instructors and sports coaches all in one place, with user profiles, a calendar, ratings and reviews.

Mood4Food, by Alex Levine, Jillian Hersman and Kayla Sharp, Gulliver. A mobile food-ordering company would connect consumers and corporate businesses with thousands of restaurants in South Florida. A portion of the profits would go to charity.

MyScholarship, by Wesley Villano and Eduardo Garcia-Montes, Ransom Everglades. This app would match you to university aid packages and scholarships, with tips on the process and a rating of universities based on affordability.

ROBA, by Gabriela Telepman and Madeleine Granados, Gulliver. This website would act as an outlet to buy fashions worn by popular figures. By clicking on a photo in an article, the customer will be taken to online stores where they can buy that item or one like it.

Savvy Seniors, by Sophie Leon, Ransom Everglades. To help navigate the college application process, Savvy Seniors notifies students and parents about important dates and deadlines.

SOSpeech, by Valentina Barragan and Michelle Palm, St. Thomas Aquinas. This app would perfect the eloquence of your words in presentations, interviews and conversations; it’s targeted at students as well as adults.

Teenography.com, by Katelyn Barclay, University School. This operating teen-owned photography business offers services of talented and ambitious teen photographers at affordable prices.

USA Veteran Transportation, by Alexander Futernick, Ransom Everglades. USAVT strives to be the safest and most reliable transportation service to companies across America while combating nationwide veteran unemployment.

Find more information about the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge at MiamiHerald.com/challenge. Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

March 17, 2015

Business Plan Challenge attracts 248 entries

A record 248 entries flowed into the 17th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge by the deadline on Monday, making it the biggest year yet for business plan entries.

If you entered the Challenge and did not get a confirmation email from Nancy Dahlberg or have a question about whether your entry was received, please email her at ndahlberg@miamiherald.com and put Challenge in the memo line.

Education was a big trend in the contest this year, with ideas for apps, services, classes, books, videos and more. Food and fashion continued to draw a lot of interest, as did technology and plans with a social mission. This year there were also ideas and young businesses tied to South Florida’s biggest industries – real estate, construction and tourism – and this year drew more healthcare-related ideas than years past. The contest attracted entrepreneurs of all ages, including a number of people from the corporate world ready to make the jump into entrepreneurship for the first time.

Next the plans go to the Business Plan Challenge judges, who are serial entrepreneurs, investors, executives, advisors or professors in the field of entrepreneurship. The semifinalists in each of the three tracks – Community, FIU and High School – will likely be announced in Business Monday March 30. After that, finalists will be announced and a People’s Pick video contest launched on MiamiHerald.com. In that contest, finalists will present their elevator pitches and readers and views will determine the winners.

The judges’ winners in all three tracks, including an overall Challenge Champion, and the People’s Pick winners will be announced and profiled in a special section of Business Monday on April 27. The Business Plan Challenge is sponsored by Florida International University’s Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

 

March 16, 2015

Last hours to enter the Business Plan Challenge: Do you have what it takes?

Bootcamp artWill you be the next winner of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge? Entries are due at midnight Monday.

So put those final touches on your short business plan and email it in. Don’t forget to include highlights of all the business plan basics such as concept, target market, team, business model, growth, marketing and financial strategies. Tell us what differentiates your product or service from the competition, why it’s needed in the marketplace and why you are the one to execute the plan. If you entered before and didn’t win, you can update your plan and try again.

Your plan will be judged by a panel of angel and venture capital investors, serial entrepreneurs and senior executives, and the top six finalists in the Community and FIU tracks will also participate in our online popular contest. The top three winners in each track and the People’s Picks will be profiled in a special section of Business Monday.

Ready to take the Challenge? Here is your survival guide:

Who can enter: Entrepreneurs with businesses less than 2 years old or with business ideas. There is a Community Track, FIU Track and High School Track.

What to enter: Up to a three-page business plan (one additional page for charts or photos is allowed).

Entry deadline: 11:59 p.m. March 16

Email entries to: Challenge@MiamiHerald.com (for the Community Track), FIUchallenge@MiamiHerald.com or highschoolchallenge@MiamiHerald.com. You should get a confirmation your entry was received. If you do not, email ndahlberg@miamiherald.com.

Contest rules, judges’ bios, other info: MiamiHerald.com/challenge

Questions: ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

 

March 10, 2015

Wyncode joins national effort to establish standards, best practices among coding schools

 In support of the White House and President Obama's TechHire initiative, Wyncode and nine other coding schools announced the formation of a new trade organization called the New Economy Skills Training Association (NESTA). Joining Wyncode in the endeavor are: App Academy, Dev Bootcamp, Flatiron School, General Assembly, Galvanize, Hackbright Academy, Hack Reactor, MakerSquare and Turing School.

NESTA's mission is to establish best practices, standards, and increase accountability for outcome-based NESTA organizations.  Their first initiative is to develop and agree on a standardized outcomes reporting methodology.

As part of their commitment, NESTA wrote a letter to President Obama outlining its commitment to publish outcomes on an annual basis and have them verified by third-party CPAs.

 

March 08, 2015

Last week to enter the Business Plan Challenge

Will you be the next winner of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge? Entries are due next Monday.

So put those final touches on your short business plan. Don’t forget to include highlights of all the business plan basics such as concept, target market, team, business model, growth, marketing and financial strategies. Tell us what differentiates your product or service from the competition, why it’s needed in the marketplace and why you are the one to execute the plan. If you entered before and didn’t win, you can update your plan and try again.

Your plan will be judged by a panel of angel and venture capital investors, serial entreprenreurs and senior executives, and the top six finalists in the Community and FIU tracks will also participate in our online popular contest. The top three winners in each track and the People’s Picks will be profiled in a special section of Business Monday.

Ready to take the Challenge? Here are the basics:

Who can enter: Entrepreneurs with businesses less than 2 years old or with business ideas. There is a Community Track, FIU Track and High School Track.

What to enter: Up to a three-page business plan (one additional page for charts or photos is allowed).

Entry deadline: 11:59 p.m. March 16

Email entries to: Challenge@MiamiHerald.com (for the community track), FIUchallenge@MiamiHerald.com or highschoolchallenge@MiamiHerald.com. You should get a confirmation your entry was received. If you do not, email ndahlberg@miamiherald.com.

Contest rules, judges’ bios, other info: MiamiHerald.com/challenge

Questions: ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Your questions answered

Q. I am an FIU alum and a proud Miamian. Can I enter both the FIU and Community Tracks?

A. No, we’re sorry: Pick one. The FIU Track typically receives fewer entries, but the choice is yours. To be eligible for the FIU Track, at least one team member needs to be a current FIU student or alumnus.

Q. Is a cover sheet counted in the page limit?

A. No, but it isn’t necessary. Our judges will judge the written plan.

Q. Can high school finalists participate in the video contest?

A. While the People’s Pick video contest is open to the Community and FIU Tracks, we will invite the winner or winning team of the high school track to make a video of the winner’s elevator pitch in our studio if they wish. It won’t be mandatory, but we will proudly feature it on MiamiHerald.com.

By the way, we don’t have any entries in the high school track yet — your odds are very good. College counselors have told me that being a winner or finalist in the Challenge sure looks good on college and scholarship applications!

Q. I incorporated my business in 2012 but didn't launch it until December 2013. Am I eligible?

A. Yes, to be eligible, your business can't be more than 2 years old, and we look at the time you opened your door or launched online. By the way, in our contest, business ideas are welcome too!

Don't see your question answered here? More Q&As are on MiamiHerald.com/challenge, or you can email ndahlberg@miamiherald.com and put Challenge in the memo line.

 

February 21, 2015

Business Plan Bootcamp: Focus, share, test, learn

 

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Focus on customer experience first. Share your idea widely to gain valuable feedback. Start building your network and never stop learning.

A panel of serial entrepreneurs and investors — most were both — shared that advice and more with 325 attendees at the Miami Herald’s Business Plan Bootcamp Wednesday night at Miami Dade College. The bootcamp was held in conjunction with the

2015 Business Plan Challenge, the Miami Herald’s annual entrepreneurship contest that is open for entries until March 16.

Panelists included Melissa Krinzman, co-founder of Krillion Ventures; Steven McKean, serial tech entrepreneur and startup advisor; Benoit Wirz, director of venture investments for the Knight Foundation; Leandro Finol, executive director of Miami Dade College’s Idea Center; and Adam Smith, partner at Medina Capital.

What do they look for when they are reviewing business plans?

"What’s the problem you are trying to solve but also how do you know it is a real problem, what’s the evidence?" Wirz said. "What is it about you, specifically the team, that makes me believe you can solve that problem? As a general rule, the more competitive the space, the more important it is you have a very specific background that gives you an unfair advantage."

Wirz also looks for a plan for how customers find out about your product. "If you have some secret hook, an advantage you can leverage, that’s great," Wirz said. Be sure to show evidence of product-market fit, added McKean.

Krinzman and McKean, veteran Business Plan Challenge judges, also advised paying attention to the storytelling. Said Krinzman: "You have to remember that there is a person reading the plan, and we need to be interested. ... Work hard on your first paragraph and define the problem you are solving: why should we care, why should we keep reading, and do we understand what you are talking about. Share at least your first couple of paragraphs with someone who doesn’t know your business and see if they understand it."

Include financials in your plan, but be realistic and include assumptions. A photo or rendering is good to include, particularly if you are a product company. In live pitches, product demos are effective, Smith said. If you get to the finalist stage of the Challenge, you will be presenting your elevator pitch on video.

Advice on starting a business came pouring out. "If you are small and don’t have a lot of capital, go after a small but growing market and think about world domination later," Finol sad. In selecting your idea, follow your passion and do it because you love it, he said. "Branding is important but focus on user experience first," Finol added. Focus on the why — why should customers tell others to use your products. The branding will evolve."

Wirz said in most cases entrepreneurs shouldn’t be so secretive: "Tell everyone about your idea, and get feedback. The more feedback the stronger your idea will become and the more ready you are to build your business."

If you are a first-time entrepreneur, you can establish some credibility through social proof, said Krinzman. One way to do this: Create a board of advisors of people who believe in you and have credibility in your category or can add value.

When capital raising, do your homework and target investors in your industry or sector, Smith said. It sounds obvious, but the investors said the great majority of emails they receive are not fits. If you do get in the door, "don’t be defensive, you are going to be challenged, and you can’t have all the answers so don’t worry about that," said Smith. "Be engaging and conversational and you will get through it."

Get introduced the right way. Get active on LinkedIn and build your networks, McKean said. It’s a relationships game.

The good news on that front: Thanks to the Knight Foundation and others, South Florida’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has evolved. "It’s an ecosystem that is very open and if you are part of it, opportunities will come to you as well. More doors will open," Finol said.

A not to be missed event, particularly if you are in tech, is the eMerge Americas conference coming up in May. A sampling of other resources mentioned by the panelists (get on their mailing lists): Refresh Miami (refreshmiami.com), the largest meetup group for early stage entrepreneurs; The LAB Miami (thelabmiami.com), a co-working space in Wynwood with many events; and AGP (AGPMiami.com), an active angel network. For companies much further along, there’s Endeavor Miami (endeavormiami.org) providing mentorship and support. Take advantage of local resources and follow the Starting Gate blog (on MiamiHerald.com/business).

Some recommendations on other blogs, books and websites from the panel: The Hard Thing about Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz, Brad Feld’s books on capital raising, blogs by well-known investors such as Fred Wilson (http://avc.com/) and Mark Suster (http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/); and Eric Reis’ The Lean Startup, particularty if you are a tech company. Pitchenvy.com is an enviable collection of investor decks, and there’s "How to get an investor to say yes," by Adeo Ressi (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tzef-oKee0).

"Over the winter break I went through "How to Start a Startup" by YCombinator’s Sam Altman (http://startupclass.samaltman.com/). It is free and it is unbelievable," said Finol.

Listen to podcasts. Smith suggests Jason Calacanis’ "This Week in Startups" podcast (http://thisweekinstartups.com), which includes a new series for his Launch incubator with great speakers. Another is "Startup," a series by Gimletmedia (http://gimletmedia.com/show/startup/)

At eMerge Americas last year, Manny Medina interviewed Pitbull; an amazing and enlightening interview worth watching, the panelists said (watch it here).

Just getting started? Finol said the Idea Center, theideacenter.co, offers a workshop on design thinking every month that will help you create, refine, validate and test innovative ideas. After the Bootcamp, he suggested  this template  may also help -- start with the pains and gains sections.

"Find mentors who have been there before to help get you there faster," McKean said. "Your ability to grow a company will be dependent on of how fast you are able to learn. The fastest learning will come from who you surround yourself with."

 

 

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Panelists were Melissa Krinzman, co-founder of Krillion Ventures; Steven McKean, serial tech entrepreneur and startup advisor; Benoit Wirz, director of venture investments for the Knight Foundation; Leandro Finol, executive director of Miami Dade College’s Idea Center; and Adam Smith, partner at Medina Capital.

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Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg and find rules, tips, a Q&A and other resources for the Business Plan Challenge at MiamiHerald.com/challenge.

Posted Feb. 21, 2015