July 21, 2015

National Urban League 'hacking' a path to social justice in Fort Lauderdale

Some of the nation’s brightest minds in tech will be working around the clock at the National Urban League 2015 Conference, designing original applications to alleviate the most pressing social issues of our day.

“More and more, the fight for social justice is being waged online,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. “The new face of civil rights is young, educated and tech-savvy. And these 21st-Century civil rights defenders are developing the 21st-Century tools they need.”

Hosted by the National Urban League in partnership with Digital Grass, the two-day “TechConnect: Hack-A-Thon for Social Justice,” presented by Comcast NBCUniversal, will take place from 5 pm Thursday, July 30, to 6:30 pm Friday, July 31.

 "Digital Grass is honored to help with civic hacking in our community" Digital Grass Founder and CEO Michael Hall said.  "It's important to not just develop social apps but software and applications that can help with civic innovation and improve the quality of life for our core urban community. This event is the right step in that direction."

TechConnect provides a space for innovators to design original social justice applications, specifically those in tune with this year's Conference theme, “Save Our Cities: Education, Jobs, and Justice.” At least one of the top resulting application/software will be implemented by the Urban League to enhance civic engagement, voting, education equity, housing, health, justice and job creation in urban communities

Developers, designers, civic leaders and creative thinkers are all invited to be among the first to create solutions to Save Our Cities and compete for $2,500 in cash and $25,000 in prizes.

WHAT: “TechConnect: Hack-A-Thon for Social Justice,” to develop innovative and impactful tech solutions to address some of the nation's biggest problems in the areas of public safety, voting, education, jobs, housing or health. 

WHERE: Greater Fort Lauderdale / Broward County Convention Center, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd. • Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33316

WHEN: Intro and Information will take place July 30; the Hackathon will take place July 31.

COST: Free Entry Fee for Competitors

TO REGISTER:  nultechconnect.digigrass.com

Press release supplied by Digital Grass



July 14, 2015

Upcoming Emerging Technologies & Business Showcase to award $150K; apply by Sept. 30

Space Florida, Enterprise Development Corporation of South Florida and Florida Venture Forum will co-host the 2015 Emerging Technologies & Business Showcase on Nov. 4 at the Hyatt Regency in Coral Gables.

The Showcase is a capital acceleration competition and business-networking event featuring presentations by some of Florida’s most promising early and mid-stage companies, a keynote address by retired NASA astronaut Capt. Winston Scott, and an investor panel discussion.

Presenting companies compete for cash awards totaling $150,000:

**$100,000 for a Growth Stage Company (To be considered, companies cannot have raised more than $3 million in equity capital from professional investors.)

**$50,000 for a Start-up Company (To be considered, companies cannot have raised more than $500,000 in equity capital from professional investors.)

Presenter applicants will be chosen by a selection committee and selection criteria are available on the Florida Venture Forum website. Selection preference will be given to companies in space transportation and advanced aerospace platforms, satellite systems and science payloads, ground and operations support systems, agriculture, climate/environmental monitoring, civil protection and emergency management, International Space Station and human life science (including medical research), communications, cyber security & robotics, adventure tourism, clean /alternative energy applications, advanced materials and new products, knowledge-based services, information technology and health technology.

Additional event Details and Applications are available on the Florida Venture Forum website.THE FINAL APPLICATION DEADLINE IS SEPT. 30.

- submitted by Florida Venture Forum


July 07, 2015

A new competition for food & beverage startups, small businesses

WHAT:                 Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Pitch Room Wild Card Competition in partnership with Entrepreneur Magazine. This virtual competition will allow food and beverage small business owners in Miami to submit a product sales pitch for a chance to win a $10,000 business grant and extended mentoring from Samuel Adams.

HOW:                   Miami entrepreneurs with a food or beverage product, including craft brewers, are invited to upload a two-minute or less video of their best sales pitch. A panel of experts from Samuel Adams and Entrepreneur will judge the videos based on criteria including pitch quality, creativity, product viability and passion.

The top 5 best video submissions from across the country will then post to the Entrepreneur site, and the general public will be invited to vote for their favorite. The small business owner who receives the most votes for his/her sales pitch will be named the Wild Card winner and receive a trip for two to participate in the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Pitch Room finals this December.

WHEN:                 Applications will be accepted from July 7th to July 30th.

Top 5-6 submissions will be posted on Entrepreneur.com for public voting from August 16 to Sept. 7th.

Winner will be invited to compete in the finals in NYC this December.

WHERE:               Entrepreneur.com via http://entm.ag/samadamspitch2015

WHY:                    The Wild Card Pitch Room Competition is part of Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream, a micro-lending and coaching program for food and beverage small businesses including craft brewers that provides a unique combination of the two things Sam Adams brewer and founder, Jim Koch, wished he had when starting Sam Adams: access to capital and expert business advice. As an important extension of the program’s coaching and mentoring activities, the Pitch Room Competition helps small business owner’s better position and communicate about their products.

- Submitted by Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Pitch Room Wild Card Competition


July 04, 2015

Game On! Submit ideas now for MIA Animation game competition with $1,000 prize

Students, professionals and members of the community are encouraged to submit ideas to win $1,000 in Game On, the first ever indie game competition, which is sponsored by MIA Animation and the Idea Center at the Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus.  The submission deadline is July 10.

The competition was created to encourage independent game development and fresh voices in the video game industry. In addition to a $1,000 cash award, the winner will receive a consulting meeting with an experienced incubator program. 

Applicants should submit a video of no more than three minutes that describes the game idea, showcases the art style and demonstrates any development or prototype work that has currently been completed.

The finalists will be showcased October 16, at the MIA Animation Conference & Festival where attendees will be able to play the prototype. The submissions will be judged on overall appeal, artistic style, creative vision, interview performance and feedback from attendees.

The MIA Animation Conference & Festival is an industry conference focused on computer animation, gaming, visual effects and motion graphics, film, web design and visual arts.  It has been designed to be a forum for active networking and practical information exchange with strong commitment and emphasis in education while developing and nourishing new talent.

The event has become one of the most exciting and cutting edge events in Miami, alongside a community of advanced technology-explorers, decision-makers, trend-setters, software developers and creative industry professionals. MDC will soon make major announcements regarding the future of gaming and animation at the college.

For more information, contact Mauricio Ferrazza at 305-237-7852 or mferrazz@mdc.edu.


July 03, 2015

Flat Out of Heels wins national pitch competition

DawnMiami-based startup Flat Out of Heels won a $25,000 cash prize this week in an entrepreneur pitch contest held at the annual PowerMoves.NOLA conference in New Orleans. Flat Out of Heels President and CEO Dawn Dickson presented in the Big Break Power Pitch along with three other nationally-sourced entrepreneurs of color who were selected to participate in the competition. 

Flat Out of Heels are the solution to stiletto sore feet. The rollable flats are stylish, comfortable, durable and compact enough to fit in a small clutch purse. Placed in venues like airports, nightclubs, malls, and hotels, Flat Out of Heels vending machines make it convenient to get emergency shoes when needed. 

PowerMoves.NOLA is an annual conference that convenes the country’s premier entrepreneurs of color. The event was held in New Orleans on July 1-3, 2015 to coincide with ESSENCE Festival and was designed to connect nationally-sourced entrepreneurs with advisors, experts and investors. The conference advances PowerMoves.NOLA’s mission to increase the number of America’s venture-backed, minority-founded companies in high-tech and high-growth sectors.

More recent news about Flat Out of Heels here.

July 02, 2015

Miami developer in running for $100,000 prize in AT&T contest; public voting now open

Public Voting has opened for the “Popular Choice” winner of the Connect Ability Challenge, a technology competition sponsored by AT&T and New York University’s ABILITY Lab. In recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Connect Ability Tech Challenge looks to spur innovation of new technologies for people with disabilities. People can vote on the apps, wearable tech and other solutions that will help people with physical, social, emotional and cognitive disabilities. A total of sixty-three solutions from 15 countries and 16 states, including Florida, are open for public voting. 

Among the submissions is Blindfold Pong, a game from a Miami-based developer in the Solutions for People with Sensory Disabilities category. The game uses rapid audio play where everything including how to play the game is spoken and the gestures within the game are natural movements. Watch this video to see and hear how the game works.

Public Voting is open from July 1-10. People can view all the submissions at http://connectability.challengepost.com/submissions.  A panel of experts from the engineering, technology and disability community will also be judging the submissions and helping to identify the winning solutions.

Winners of the AT&T Connect Ability Challenge will be announced July 26, 2015 on the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act passing.  Participants are competing for a total of $100,000 in prizes. Follow the latest news on Twitter using the hashtag #ConnectAbility.

June 11, 2015

EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2015 Florida winners announced


Five South Florida entrepreneurs were winners at a gala event on June 11 at The Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate. They will compete in the national awards in November. The Florida winners in each category were…

Distribution & Manufacturing: Marcelo Young, Founder and CEO Transnational Foods Inc., Miami

Emerging: Daniel Cane, President, Co-Founder and CEO, Modernizing Medicine, Inc., Boca Raton

Family Business: Jerry P. Brown, President Tom Brown, Vice President Marketing, Florida Food Products Inc., Eustis

Financial Services: Kenneth E. LaRoe, Founder, Chairman, President and CEO, First GREEN Bank, Mount Dora

Health Care & Life Sciences: Ricky Caplin, CEO The HCI Group, Jacksonville

Hospitality & Retail: Robert M. Beall, Chairman Beall’s Inc., Bradenton

Real Estate & Construction: Ron Antevy, CEO e-Builder, Plantation

Services: Jamarlin Martin, Founder and CEO, Moguldom Media Group, Fort Lauderdale

Technology: Sam Zietz, Founder and CEO TouchSuite, Boca Raton

Wyncode team chosen as Endeavor Entrepreneurs

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 By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

At Wyncode Academy’s pitch day last week, some of the boot camp graduates who learned to code and created an entertainment app  also formed a company called Outnix. Not only did they win the pitch day for their app –- and $1,000 in cash -- they also already raised $50,000 from angel investors ahead of the pitch day to help bring their app to market. “We were very excited for them,” said Juha Mikkola, CEO of Wyncode, a coding school. “That was a Wyncode first.”

And here’s another first for the growing Miami-based tech-education company: Halfway around the world, Juha and Johanna Mikkola, the husband-wife co-founders, were selected Thursday as Endeavor Entrepreneurs, an honor that brings with it a global network of mentorship and support services to help them expand their business (pictured above, receiving the award), Endeavor Miami announced.

Endeavor is a global organization that supports selected high-impact entrepreneurs, and the Endeavor Miami office launched in the fall of 2013. With the addition of the Mikkolas who run 15 South Florida entrepreneurs from nine companies have now been selected. Endeavor Entrepreneurs receive targeted services as well as access to capital, markets and talent.

The Wyncode entrepreneurs were selected by panelists with global expertise at Endeavor Global’s 59th International Selection Panel in Amman, Jordan. In all, a total of 20 high-impact entrepreneurs representing 15 companies from 10 countries were also selected at this panel.

“It was a really rigorous process, and the Miami mentors and staff at Endeavor have already helped expose us to veterans that are helping us grow our business,” said Johanna Mikkola on Thursday from Amman. “We are excited to have that support to help us make good, sound decisions and think bigger.”

In a new industry that has sprung up to help reverse a growing shortage of technology talent, Wyncode Academy offers students a nine-week full-time coding boot camp with a curriculum that includes front-end web design/development and back-end/server coding and is designed to meet the needs of local hiring partners. “We are focused on the double-impact of this — creating jobs for people to teach coding as well as filling roles with new local tech talent,” said Juha Mikkola.

Since May 2014, 88 students from five cohorts have graduated from Wyncode’s boot camp in Wynwood’s The LAB Miami. Wyncode’s placement rate is 92 percent, meaning that many found technology jobs or started their own companies, like the OutNix team did, within three months of graduating, the Mikkolas said. Miami’s Watsco Ventures, Cloud Logistics in West Palm Beach and Kipu Systems in Miami have each hired four Wyncode graduates; MDLive in Fort Lauderdale has hired three.

Wyncode, which is state certified, is starting its sixth cohort with 30 students in Wynwood next week and has recently expanded to Fort Lauderdale. Its first cohort at General Provision in FAT Village (Flagler Arts and Technology Village) is wrapping up, and several more cohorts are planned this year in both locations. Wyncode is also starting to offer part-time programs, such as one in iOS development. Statewide expansion – and beyond – is in the longer-term plans for the fo-founders who have been invited to the White House – twice.

Endeavor’s International Selection Panel, intensive small group interviews over two days, yielded important feedback that helped the co-founders crystalize their vision and brand, Juha Mikkola said. “We’ve made business connections that will last a lifetime as well as friendships.”

Laura Maydón, managing director of Endeavor Miami, said that the Mikkolas not only have the leadership potential to scale their company but are already helping to narrow the talent gap in South Florida. “Panelists were impressed by the preparedness of the founding team, their clear strategy for growth, while maintaining high quality of education and collaborative culture,” she said.

Endeavor Miami launched its operations in September 2013, backed by a $2 million investment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and an active local board of business leaders. “The growing group of diverse Endeavor Miami entrepreneurs signals a corresponding growth in the city’s innovation ecosystem,” said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami. “Wyncode will now be able to benefit from Endeavor’s wide network of high-impact entrepreneurs and expand their focus on preparing emerging tech talent to the benefit of Miami.”

For more information on Endeavor Miami or to nominate entrepreneurs, visit www.endeavormiami.org.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

June 07, 2015

Miami joins global event focused on government innovation


By Ezequiel Williams

 This year Miami will join the Global GovJam, a global workshop focused on making government more innovative and user-friendly, for the first time. On June 10 - 11 Miami GovJam participants will join people in 37 other cities around the world in a global event aimed at teaching and practicing innovation techniques to government workers and people passionate about civic life.

The GovJam movement started in Canberra, Australia in 2012 with a group of 80 people. In the months that followed the same people were inspired to scope or launch over a dozen innovative public projects as a result of the event. In 2013 innovation consultants Markus Hormess and Adam Lawrence of WorkPlayExperience took the event global, bringing close to 30 cities on board. The Global GovJam is now a growing, volunteer-run event aimed at bringing together people around the world to learn innovative problem-solving skills and techniques aimed at making government services more responsive and user-friendly.

In the past two years the the GovJam has attracted several senior civil servants, city mayors, the head of the UK’s Cabinet Office Policy Lab, and the Australian Federal Minister (assisting) for industry, innovation and tertiary education. The Australian government has since used the event format for training and policy development. The 2013 Paris GovJam took place in the office of the Prime Minister of France.

The Miami GovJam offers local government workers and other professionals the opportunity to learn and practice design thinking techniques applicable to government in a hands-on, project-driven workshop. Participants, also known as GovJammers, will work in small teams around a common design theme for the purpose of conceiving, designing, and prototyping a new public service that is responsive and user-friendly. Jammers will publish short videos of their prototypes on the Global GovJam website under a Creative Commons license to widely share their projects.

Design thinking is a method of creative problem solving that focuses on creating innovative solutions that are user-friendly, efficient, and responsive to people’s real needs. This approach has gained significant traction in the private, public, and education sectors in the last decade. The government in the United Kingdom routinely uses design thinking for problem-solving, and Australia's Taxation Office, their equivalent to the IRS, has successfully employed design thinking to maker their services more accessible and user-friendly for its constituents. Several U.S. Federal Government agencies have begun to incorporate design thinking in their work in the past five years, including the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, FEMA, and Veterans Affairs.

Far from being a novelty, organizations that are serious about employing design thinking at the core of their operations show substantial positive results. The Design Management Institute, with funding from Microsoft, is tracking the performance of U.S. companies that employ design thinking at the core of their business strategy. Results show that companies like Apple, Target, IBM, Coca-Cola and other design-centric companies have outperformed the S&P 500 by as much as 219% in the last 10 years.   

Employing design thinking practices in local government in Miami could yield tangible results in terms of cost reduction, increased customer satisfaction and revenues. The Miami GovJam will offer Miamians a chance to get connected with a global community, learn design thinking tools and methods, build their creative confidence, network with colleagues from other governments and agencies, and sharpen their ability to innovate and make a measurable difference in the public sector.  

The Miami GovJam volunteer hosts are Siggi Bachmann, Creative Director of the New World Symphony, Vassoula Vassiliou, branding consultant and President of the AIGA, and Ezequiel Williams, co-founder and Chief Insights Officer of Contexto, a service design and innovation consultancy.

The Miami GovJam starts at 8:00 AM on June 10th at the Wynwood Warehouse Project. To learn more about or register for the event, visit www.miamigovjam.com or follow it on Twitter @MiamiJams #GGovJam.

Ezequiel Williams is an entrepreneur, business designer, and co-founder of Contexto. You can connect with him on Twitter @ContextoTweets.


L.A. GovJammers testing prototypes with citizens on the street. Photo courtesy of Global GovJam


June 06, 2015

Fla. CFO Atwater, other government leaders join #HackforChange

 Florida CFO Jeff Atwater talks with developers and designers at the LAB Miami.

Florida CFO Jeff Atwater spent his Saturday morning with a Miami coworking space full of young hackers. “I'm normally in a coat and tie -- this is dress down day for me -– but I see I have something to learn,” he joked.

The occasion was #HackforChange, part of the National Day of Civic Hacking in which technologists, designers, entrepreneurs and  nonprofit and government leaders come together to hack technological solutions to community problems by using using open government data. South Florida’s event at The LAB Miami in Wynwood, put on by Code for Miami, attracted about 100 participants. Also onhand were Mike Sarasti, program manager with Miami-Dade County, and Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso.  Miami-Dade County also recently partnered with Code for America, and a trio of fellows is working on civic projects for a year.

Hackers with two all-volunteer groups, Code for Miami and Code for Fort Lauderdale, meet about one evening a week to work on civic projects, such as an inexpensive bus traffic application that was developed recently. For this full day event, teams were working on challenges such as climate change, transportation and disaster relief -– all hot-button issues in Miami. They will likely continue working on their projects in the weekly gatherings.

But the state challenge put forth by Atwater on Saturday was the first time state data has been used in a hacking challenge. Six years of state vendor payment data was made available to civic hackers to come up with solutions on how to best use the data to result in improved services. "Imagine if we could turn loose on the state of Florida an understanding of how this all works?," Atwater said in opening remarks to the event participants. "You are going to give us a chance to open a new window to get better at what we do, to service Floridians better, to make us better."

Atwater explained that $50  billion of the $80 billion state budget goes to vendors to provide services  and it would be useful to have a better way to read and understand the vendor payment data in order to help a variety of constituencies, including the press, determine whether the public’s money is being used optimally.

 “The data will help present the questions that need to be asked,” Atwater explained to a group of hackers who were brainstorming solutions. "There will be no place to hide."

The hackers will work on the their challenges all day and then present them to the group in the early evening. Organizations in  Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville as well as around the nation are also working on challenges. Unlike other hackathons, there are no prizes, no winners. "We are about collaboratiion, not competition," said Code for Miami co-captain Cristina Solana.

“You are putting your skills into action to help your neighbors and that means a lot,” Code for Miami co-captain Rebekah Monson told the crowd to kick off #HackforChange. “You want Miami to change, you want Florida to change, … and you are the people make it happen.”

After the event, Solana said there were two concepts developing using the state vendor data that would help visualize department spending. Other concepts included an application for mapping chemicals in water, another for helping you find a safe place during a natural disaster via text or online, and several ideas aimed at improving mass-transit usage or efficiency.
  • Codeformiami

 Another group at The LAB Miami brainstorms disaster relief applications. Photos by Nancy Dahlberg