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

June 03, 2015

View from the inside: Startup Weekend Diversity Miami

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The winning Breakin' Bread team are (left to right) Monica Delgado, Juan Murillo, Miguel Hidalgo, Francisco Tamayo, Adriana Castro, Daniela Hernandez. On the far right is Joshua Gaviria-Bradshaw, expansion lead for WeWork.

By Francisco Tamayo

"What did you do this weekend?" is a question I hear from friends, co-workers and family members every Monday. This week, my answer was different - "I started a company with complete strangers in 54 hours.”

The adventure started Friday night alongside 59 other wide-eyed participants at a sold out Startup Weekend Diversity Miami, a Google for Entrepreneurs global event series, which gives aspiring entrepreneurs a chance to launch their own business in a weekend. It was hosted at Venture Hive.

Many South Floridians feel their gender, age, ethnicity, background or technical ability is a hurdle to entering the startup world, and I can confirm that perception was changed at with over 15 countries represented, multiple ethnicities, 5 different languages spoken, ages ranging from 18 to 60, an even split amongst genders and all types of backgrounds and abilities present.

Startup Weekend's hashtag #SWMiami was trending on Twitter when the event began with 60 second pitches for startup ideas thanks to the amount of social media activity happening inside Venture Hive. Teams were formed and the process kicked off.

My team of six -- Monica Delgado, Juan Murillo, Miguel Hidalgo, Adriana Castro, Daniela Hernandez plus me -- was determined to launch our startup Breakin' Bread, a social platform that allows people to instantly join unique, communal dining experiences. By Friday night's end, we had delegated responsibilities and began the 54-hour journey.

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LiveAnswer’s Founder and CEO Adam Boalt (above)  sat down with us Saturday and immediately noticed roadblocks he had previously experienced in his entrepreneurial career. He took the time to carefully guide us through the process to show where Breakin' Bread could be improved and what actions to take in order to band together and impress the Sunday night judges.

By the time we presented Breakin' Bread Sunday night to a capacity crowd at Venture Hive, the judging panel of Nicolai Bezsonoff (COO and CO-Founder .CO INTERNET), Brian Brackeen (Kairos CEO), Johanna Mikkola (Wyncode Academy Co-Founder) and Roberto Interiano (STS Capital Partners) believed in us enough to vote our startup 1st place. As a matter of fact, I spoke with Roberto after winning and was fortunate enough to receive his priceless advice.

After a mentally and emotionally draining 54 hours, the bonding continued at Adam Boalt’s home where he hosted us with Miami Dolphins DJ Supersede, a red carpet, a photo booth, a bounce castle and drone lessons. I met a lot of contacts at the party ranging from venture capitalists and web designers to software engineers and attorneys specializing in startups.

Startup Weekend Diversity could have never been possible without UP Global facilitator Lee Ngo, the Community Leader for Startup Weekend Pittsburgh, and Miami Lead organizer Paula Celestino (COO, Crea7ive Interactive Advertising) along with Pia Celestino, Gaby Castelao, Ryan Amsel and Anas Benadel.

Without a doubt, the event changed me personally. Professionally, the Breakin' Bread team's main focus is to preserve the bonds we made and work hard together to properly develop our MVP for release later this summer.

We are looking forward to Breakin' Bread with you soon, Miami.

Francisco Tamayo is a team member of Breakin' Bread.


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.  



May 30, 2015

Code for Miami invites you to #HackforChange on Saturday

 Code for Miami's #HackforChange event is coming Saturday, June 6, to The LAB Miami.

The event is set to coincide with National Day of Civic Hacking, a nationwide event aimed toward improving our communities and our governments.

The event will have data and hackathon challenges focusing on four core areas: Transportation, Disaster Preparation and Relief, Climate Change, and the Florida State Budget:

  • * National challenges including new data on climate change and the environment, local civil services, and much more.
  • * Our first-ever state challenge with civic hackers in cities throughout Florida to create visualizations and apps using Vendor Payment Data from CFO Jeff Atwater's office.
  • * Local challenges using county 311 and GIS open data, prioritizing data sets we would like to get opened in Miami, and drafting your ideas for an Open Data Policy.

Code for Miami  is expecting a group filled with writers, policy makers, developers, government folks, journalists and even Florida’s CFO Jeff Atwater. Coding isn’t required, you only need to want to make Miami better.

Learn more about the challenges at: http://codeformiami.org/events/national-day-of-civic-hacking-2015

May 26, 2015

Fishackathon returns to Venture Hive to find sustainable solutions for fishing industry

Fishackathon Miami

Venture Hive has partnered once again with the State Department to host the 2nd Annual Fishackathon, the world’s largest hackathon supporting our oceans.

The Fishackathon brings together technologists and coders over a weekend to create tools to address challenges in sustainable fishing around the world. There are 15 cities participating including London, Kuala Lumpur, Vancouver, New York City, Boston and Santiago.Chile.

Miami's Fishackathon 2015 kicks off on June 5th until June 7th and welcomes hackers, coders and enthusiasts to create solutions that can impact the health of our oceans.

More prizes will be confirmed soon but include a trip to the second annual Our Ocean's conference in Chile this fall and a trip and a chance to present at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. 

Click here to learn more and register.


StartupBus Florida invites Miami techies to Highway Hackathon



StartupBus produces the most intense startup competition in the world, where top talent compete as 'buspreneurs' to build the next generation of technology companies over the course of a 3-day roadtrip. 

This is StartupBus' 5th year embarking on their fast-paced highway hackathon, where 5 buses from different regions of the continent compete for startup glory.

Basically, you have 3 days and 700 miles to build something epic.  


StartupBus Florida leaves from Tampa on June 4th, and ends in Nashville, TN on June 8th.


We've coined the following terms for participants who are looking to push themselves to 70mph:

Hackers (Developers)
Hipsters (Designers)
Hustlers (Entrepreneurs, Biz Dev, Marketing)

Whether you're a hacker, developer or hustler, StartupBus is for anyone who's looking to network with top tech talent in North America, while building an awesome product along the way. 

Much like the Startup Weekend model, you enter the bus not knowing most of your fellow buspreneurs. Ideas are then pitched/selected, ice is broken, and before you know it, you're building something epic, and making lifelong friends along the way.


After 3 days of continuous building, StartupBus ends at Nashville's 36 | 86 Conference, where teams will pitch/demo their product to a panel of notable tech founders and VCs. (There is no bus ride back to Florida, however) 

Additional links and resources:

StartupBus Website: http://startupbus.com/

May 21, 2015

Miami Dade College's inaugural Startup Challenge: And the winners are ...

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Photos by Carlos Llano/Miami Dade College

Leando Finol, executive director of the Idea Center, and Matt Haggman, Miami program director of the Knight Foundation, flank the winners of Miami Dade College's Startup Challenge: Socrate Elie and  Felix Puello of Onetown Boards. Below, Puello and Elie pose at their display.


Four months of work came down to this: Six finalists pitched for prize money and bragging rights at  Miami Dade College’s inaugural Startup Challenge on Wednesday. Leandro Finol, executive director of the Idea Center, said the entrants came from all MDC campuses and many different areas of study.

The grand prize, $5,000, went to Onetown Boards, which presented a prototype for an interactive experience for skaters. Second place, wining $3,000, was Marketing Connections, a provider of affordable, high quality, digital marketing solutions for small businesses, and third place, also winning $3,000, was Hi Foods, a food cart offering a variety of healthy, alternative seafood options.

“We offer a waterproof longboard with dual cameras, one that points forward and one pointing toward the rider, with lights and LED lighting for safety, a speedometer and distance tracker that can be viewed in an LED screen,” said Felix Puello, who pitched Onetown Boards – his first business – in the contest and said his Idea Center mentor has been helping him every step of the way.

Puello, who has an art and design background, at first was hand-painting skateboards, but came up with the idea for a teched-up board that would both record the skater’s experiences and mitigate safety risks. The business student from MDC’s North Campus and his business partner, Socrate Elie, will use the $5,000 for product development and the patent process. “I’m meeting with engineers tomorrow,” said Puello, who is also planning a Kickstarter campaign.

In all, 80 teams participated in the Challenge. Finol said it is not just about winning but the education – each contestant now knows how to start a business. “We planted the seeds of a program that will become part of the DNA of Miami Dade College in years to come.”

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