July 02, 2015

Wyncode begins offering part-time courses, starts with iOS coding

Wyncode Academy, South Florida’s first brick-and-mortar coding school and bootcamp, is adding part-time coding courses to its offerings, starting with an iOS coding course beginning Monday.  The six-week program will teach participants how to build iOS applications from the ground up using Objective-C, Swift, Xcode IDE and Parse APIs.

Taking place three days a week, the course will cover everything from basic animation, debugging and data storage, to geo-location, security and advanced object-oriented coding.  Karl Goodhew, development and architecture director at YellowPepper, and Derek Miller, iOS developer, also at YellowPepper, will teach the iOS course.

Tuition for the iOS cohort is $3,500 with graduates from Wyncode’s intensive web-development courses receiving a $500 discount from their tuition costs. The iOS course is designed for experienced coders and does require previous programming knowledge. All applicants will be tested on their understanding of core programming concepts prior to the admission process.

For more information, or to learn how to apply, visit http://wyncode.co/ios/

June 15, 2015

Attn. software engineers: New TEALS program at MAST Academy needs you

 Wifredo Fernandez has been working with a school board member, principal and dedicated parent to help bring a program called TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) to MAST Academy. Part of the project includes recruiting four software engineers from the community to help teach over the course of the year and is hoping for some leads.

Here is his post with more information:


Calling all software engineers of South Florida!

Have you ever wanted to teach high school computer science and help shape the next generation of programmers and teachers?

MAST Academy has been accepted into the TEALS program, a Microsoft-backed organization that is on a mission to bring computer science to every high school.

What is TEALS?

TEALS (Technology Education And Literacy in Schools) is a grassroots program that recruits, trains, mentors, and places high tech professionals from across the country who are passionate about computer science education into high school classes as volunteer teachers in a team teaching model where the school district is unable to meet their students’ computer science (CS) needs on its own.

TEALS works with committed partner schools and classroom teachers to eventually hand off the CS courses to the classroom teachers. The school will then be able to maintain and grow a sustainable CS program on their own.

We are looking for 4 brave software engineers from the community to volunteer (with a modest stipend) their skills and brain to this effort for the first year. The commitment is 2 first period morning classes per week at MAST in Key Biscayne.

If you are interested, please fill out this brief form. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me directly at wfernand@mdc.edu


June 14, 2015

South Florida education-tech company Nearpod enables teacher 'magic'



By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Since 2012, three founders have grown their revenue-generating education-technology startup to 40 people and attracted millions in financing. Their product is used by thousands of schools and millions of students around the world.

Another Silicon Valley company? Nope. This startup is headquartered in South Florida, although the California Bay Area certainly plays a key role in this story — we’ll get to that later.

NearpodteamGuido KovalskysFelipe Sommer and Emiliano Abramzon, Argentines who have worked together on other ventures for more than a decade, co-founded and run Nearpod, a fast-growing mobile learning platform that helps teachers create engaging classroom experiences for use with smartphones, tablets, desktops and multiple operating systems.

“We use technology to leverage the power of teachers, in terms of multiplying the touch points they have with their students exponentially. Technology becomes the super enabler,” said Kovalskys, CEO of the Aventura-based company. “We are at the super forefront of where the classroom will be in five or 10 years from now.”

Nearpod’s model is to take a bottom-up approach, by first becoming a free tool that K-12 teachers want to use to engage their students. Nearpod gives them a safe, secure platform to create their own content or curate inexpensive lesson plans from the Nearpod store. Once the teachers are fans and users, they become ambassadors, making it easier for Nearpod to sell customized licenses to schools and even bureaucratic school districts, although the founders acknowledge they faced their share of naysayers at first. “Our conversion strategy from free to paid is proving to be very effective,” Kovalskys said.

Today, Nearpod reaches almost 2 million students monthly in 100 countries, 85 percent of them in the United States. Among its 2,000 school contracts are large school districts for Florida’s Seminole County, Fulton County in Georgia, San Francisco and Houston, as well as Eanes Independent School District near Austin, Texas and the Canyons district in Utah. But a huge market awaits. Market estimates vary, but a BMO Capital Market report in 2013 valued the K-12 software market at about $8 billion and the larger education-technology market at $34 billion.

Put another way: “There are 125,000 schools in the U.S. alone, and technology is on the agenda of all of them,” Kovalskys said.

Venture capitalists are taking notice, too. Globally in 2014, education-technology companies raked in $1.87 billion in VC investment in 350 deals, a new record, according to CB Insights. On a year-over-year basis, ed-tech funding jumped 55 percent while deals only climbed 5 percent, the research company said. While startups continue to enter the K-12 market, Nearpod’s biggest competitors are Promethean’s ClassFlow and Socrates Online, said Abramzon, Nearpod’s chief marketing officer.

To compete in a hot market, Nearpod recently closed a $6 million Series A financing round with Silicon Valley and South Florida investors including Marc Benioff, Salesforce’s CEO, Storm Ventures, Rothenberg Ventures, Stanford University (via its STartX fund), NewSchools Venture Fund, Reach Capital and Deborah Quazzo of GSV Advisors, as well as Florida-based investors Krillion Ventures, angel investors in the AGP network, Arsenal Venture Partners and the Knight Foundation’s Enterprise Fund.

“We immediately understood Nearpod’s value as an in-class educational tool that facilitates the development of teacher-generated curriculum and increases student engagement. We were also impressed by Nearpod’s adoption and usage rate by legitimate educators across the country and believe that their innovative platform represents the future of classroom learning,” said Melissa Krinzman, co-founder of Krillion Ventures in Miami.

“Nearpod is also a great local story,” added Benoit Wirz, who manages the Knight Enterprise Fund. “Based in Aventura and growing quickly, Nearpod is a great example of the burgeoning Miami startup community that Knight’s charitable efforts are focused on strengthening. Even more exciting, Nearpod is being adopted locally.”

NearpodscreenshotTeachers within Miami-Dade public schools have been using the platform, as it has spread through word of mouth to different departments and classes. Three local private schools, Immaculata-La Salle, Pine Crest and American Heritage, were among Nearpod’s first customers.

“We’ve been helping them test new features, and our teachers have given them input and created content — it’s been a nice partnership,” said Fredy Padovan, executive director of advancement and technology at La Salle and an Apple Distinguished Educator.

Padovan said La Salle teachers structure their Nearpod lectures differently, but usually after two or three slides there is something interactive such as a question or a poll, and the teacher can see in real-time if the students are engaged and understanding the material. Even a student sick at home could participate if they want to. And the teachers have employed the interactive features in other ways, he said. For instance, if online tests are administered through the platform, the teachers can monitor the students taking tests and will know if they are being distracted or possibly cheating. “That’s been one creative way we have used it outside the standard interactive lecture,” he said.

Another way: Four La Salle teachers created Catholic school-specific content and helped launch a Catholic school library on the Nearpod platform for other Catholic schools to also use. “There really isn’t a lot out there when it comes to religion and technology,” Padovan said.

All the recent progress aside, this entrepreneurial journey hasn’t always been easy for the three founders, who say they have been doing business together for 10 years but have been friends for far longer. Kovalskys and Sommer, Nearpod’s president, even went to the same high school and universities. Between the three of them, they have founded and run several businesses before Nearpod and worked at companies such as Accenture and McKinsey.

For the first two years, the founders bootstrapped while building out their model that was already generating revenue. But after coming to the realization that to scale big they would need outside investors, they naturally went to Silicon Valley, where Kovalskys and Sommer also went to college (University of California, Berkeley). At first, they were getting nowhere — and many of the investors told them that if they were based in Miami, they weren’t interested — but then a big door opened. Kovalskys was invited to join Stanford University’s well-known design accelerator as a fellow. “And that opened a lot more doors,” Kovalskys said.

NearpodToday, about 25 members of the 40-person team handle all operations in the Aventura headquarters. Nearpod also has a product team in Silicon Valley, where Kovalskys spends most of his time. Nearpod was also recently accepted into Co.Lab, an education-gaming accelerator hosted by Zynga.org in San Francisco.

The first version of Nearpod’s product focused on putting on the secure platform what teachers needed for lectures — “PowerPoint on steroids” is how early media reports described it. But the platform took off after the team began incorporating features teachers asked for, such as virtual field trips, and began paying its top teachers to create content for a Nearpod marketplace, where lessons sell for $1.99 or less if bought in bundles. “We turned them into publishers,” said Sommer. “We’re the tool, the teachers are responsible for the magic.”

Last year, the company did a large pilot test with the San Francisco Unified School District, which is still using Nearpod today. Just about everything they tested in San Francisco was learned and developed in their first schools in South Florida. Padovan said his students last year were beta-testing a revamped Nearpod student application pre-production while teachers were testing the teacher app.

“We are very devoted to our first schools,” said Abramzon. “They taught us the power of the product.”

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.




Business: Learning platform for the K-12 schools marketplace in the education-tech industry.

Headquarters: Aventura

Launched: 2012

Management team: Co-founders Guido Kovalskys, CEO, Felipe Sommer, president, Emiliano Abramzon, chief marketing officer.

Employees: About 40; 25 are in Aventura, the rest in Silicon Valley.

Financing: Recently closed a $6 million Series A round from South Florida and Silicon Valley investors.

Recent partnerships: Common Sense Media and OZY Media; accepted into Co.Lab, an education gaming accelerator hosted by Zynga.org.

Website: Nearpod.com


June 05, 2015

Cinco de Wyncode: 250+ people pack LAB to celebrate new coders

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By Juha Mikkola

Many are saying that 2015 is the year of coding (and for the foreseeable future), and it's fast becoming one of the most important and desirable skills here in South Florida.  

This trend was reinforced at Wyncode’s Pitch Day V last night, or as we called it, Cinco de Wyncode.  The vibrancy and enthusiasm of the Miami tech community never ceases to amaze.  More than 250 people packed into The LAB Miami ready to be wowed by the ideas from the 20 students who participated in Wyncode’s fifth cohort. 

Once again, we saw firsthand the real appetite that exists out there for product and service development, as well as the many interesting ideas and agile creation coming out of the coding community.

Wyncode’s students dedicated nine weeks completely immersed in learning how to code for JavaScript, CSS, Ruby on Rails, HTML5 and more. All of the hours and hard work pays off on Pitch Day, where they present their full stack applications created in groups during the final two weeks.  Pitch Day also gives the students an opportunity to show off skills equally important to coding, their business acumen. The presentations demonstrated that Pitch Days are a direct route to new entrepreneurial thinking and that businesses would be remiss to ignore the opportunities present in these events in a time of digital disruption.

Each student group project is built from the ground up and focused on solving real-life problems across a variety of industries.  Presentations from the seven groups were nothing short of impressive.  The projects included Booksie, Therapy on Demand, Squad-Up, CoffeeBreak, FoodNag, Outnix and Muzaik. Each project was closely judged by Felecia Hatcher, Co-Founder of Code Fever and Black Tech Week, Andrej Kostresevic, CEO of Nomads, Chris Alper, Manager of PDIS Training and Employee Development at Ultimate Software, and Ivan Rapin-Smith, Director at Watsco Ventures. 

Among those checking out the new crop development talent were executives from CarHopper, ClassWallet, EarlyShares and HBO as well as investors, executives and other leaders from Miami’s tech community.

And the winner is…

After much deliberation from the judges, the winning team was a group of three guys who created an application that helps you find what sporting events are on TV at your local bar, called Outnix (pictured below).  The creators Alexis Diaz, Griffin Markay and Sean Consentino received $1000 in cash.  “We came to Wyncode to learn and have fun and we absolutely had a ton of fun,” says Markay. “We loved Pitch Day and everything they set up, we loved the challenges, and getting our teeth sunk into a real life problem, and I guess winning was a bonus.  Even if we didn’t win we’d have still walked away with a great experience.”


The Outnix team also revealed that they had already raised $50,000 ahead of Pitch Day to help bring their app to market.

Although Pitch Day V has concluded, Wyncode never stops. Our next Miami cohort starts June 15th and we will be celebrating the first Pitch Day Fort Lauderdale on June 18th. 

Juha Mikkola is co-founder of Wyncode.

May 22, 2015

International Women's Forum bringing 2-day workshop to Miami

The International Women’s Forum, the largest global membership organization for women in senior leadership positions, will host a two-day Executive Development Roundtable in Miami to provide leadership, training and professional development to women entrepreneurs, with $104,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The invite-only event will be held July 14-15.

A 2015 snapshot from the Department of Labor Bureau of Statistics shows women have surpassed men in post-secondary degree attainment as well as labor force participation at a rate of 57 percent, yet persistent barriers remain for women. A recent Small Business Administration and Kaufman Foundation study found that women-run firms were generating half of the total revenue of their male counterparts.

The two-day intensive training aims to help women innovators scale their work, strengthen their professional acumen, and accelerate their careers. The approach focuses on improving leadership skills, self-efficacy and goal setting through training sessions, one-on-one coaching and networking in a supportive environment. “Investing in women entrepreneurs means investing in the growth of Miami’s startup community and its wider success,” said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami. “This program provides women innovators access to a global network of high-power leaders, as well as the chance to learn more and scale their ideas.”

For more information on the International Women’s Forum, visit www.iwforum.org.



May 21, 2015

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

Start Up_6893-

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.”

  Start Up_6734- (1)

May 18, 2015

Harvard teaming up with LaunchCode, Idea Center to offer free CS50x Miami course

Harvard University is teaming up with job-placement nonprofit LaunchCode, The Idea Center at Miami Dade College and Career Source South Florida to offer its computer programming course to the public free of charge. Based on the popular Harvard University/edX CS50 class, CS50x Miami is a 16-week course that requires no prior coding experience. Online lessons will be supplemented by live instructors.

Anyone interested can register by May 29 for the course at www.launchcode.org/cs50xmiami. LaunchCode and The Idea Center will host an open house and informational session for CS50x Miami on May 22 at 5:30PM in the Chapman Conference Center at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus.

“The opportunity to have free access to a high-level coding class is revolutionary,” saids Jim McKelvey, co-founder of both LaunchCode and Square. “South Floridians can get the hands-on education, mentorship, and experience they need --for free.” Students who complete the course are eligible to apply for an apprenticeship through LaunchCode’s job placement program.

The Idea Center’s goal is to put 1,000 students through the program over the next year, said Leandro Finol, executive director of the Miami Dade College entrepreneurship hub.

May 11, 2015

University of Miami’s RoboCanes win RoboCup US Open 2015



The RoboCanes, the University of Miami’s team of autonomous soccer-playing robots developed by students and faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences Computer Science Department, won the 2015 RoboCup US Open – claiming victory for the first time since entering the competition in 2012.

Functioning as the American RoboCup playoffs, the US Open is one of three key events leading up to the annual World Championships. This year’s contest will take place in July in Hefei, China.

 After defeating 2012 world champions Austin Villa (from the University of Texas at Austin) 3-0 in Saturday’s semi-final match, the RoboCanes met the Bowdoin College Northern Bites in the final match. It was a close game, which showcased the impact of new rules in the robot soccer league.

Ubbo Visser, an associate professor of computer science in the College of Arts & Sciences and leader of the RoboCanes project (alongside a group of dedicated graduate students), said, “The public has seen very close games the whole weekend and we have seen significant improvements among the teams. One of the new rules this year consists of the robots listening to the human referee starting a game with a whistle. RoboCanes was the only team that could handle this situation. We gained from that by having extra 15 seconds at the start of the game.”

He added that the American teams will be tested in China, when they face perennially strong squads from Europe and Asia.

RoboCup aims to promote robotics and artificial intelligence research, by offering an integrated research platform that covers areas including vision, context recognition, strategy acquisition, motor control and more.

- submitted by the University of Miami


Jim Moran Institute accepting applications for free fall program; deadline May 20

The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship, housed in the Florida State University College of Business, is now accepting applications for the South Florida division’s fall 2015 Small Business Executive Program (SBEP) until Wednesday, May 20. The SBEP will kick off on Monday, July 27, with an orientation and opening ceremony at the Bimini Boatyard Bar & Grill from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The first class will take place Tues., July 28, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will run from July to November 2015 with for-profit and non-profit businesses in mind.

With the help of several supporters, this program is offered at no cost to accepted participants.  Meetings will be held at various locations in the Broward County area every two weeks on Tuesdays. Topics range from strategic planning to social media and financing growth.

SBEP offers a world-class learning experience that equips executives with the necessary skills to turn challenges into strategic advantages. Candidates must be actively involved in running the business and their companies should have been in existence for at least two years and have three or more employees. Whether candidates seek a more global perspective, better ways to seize opportunities or greater insight into managing day-to-day operations, SBEP can help!

For more information about the South Florida Small Business Executive Program or The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship’s other outreach initiatives, contact Jennifer Brin Kovach at jkovach@business.fsu.edu or visit The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship’s South Florida website at sfl.jmi.fsu.edu.


May 05, 2015

LaunchCode and Idea Center to bring Harvard's popular online computer science course to Miami

Announced at eMerge Americas: Non-profit LaunchCode and The Idea Center at Miami Dade College have partnered to offer the introductory computer science course CS50xMiami to the Miami community following the Harvard and edX class’ success as a pilot program.

In his keynote speech at the eMerge Americas conference on Tuesday, LaunchCode co-founder Jim McKelvey announced that the class will kick off with an event on May 22 at 5:30 PM in the Chapman Conference Center at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson campus. The event is free and open to the public.

CS50xMiami is a live version of CS50x, Harvard’s introductory computer science class offered through edX, a massive open online course (MOOC) platform. The class prepares students for careers in technology through LaunchCode apprenticeships. The 16-week course requires no prior programming experience and gives students a solid foundation with which to pursue a career in computer programming.

Career Source South Florida and other generous sponsors are working to provide scholarships for CS50xMiami students--in order to participate, students should register as soon as possible and complete the assessment portion of the application.

Students can register at www.launchcode.org/cs50xmiami. The application deadline is May 29th.

LaunchCode first offered a live CS50x class in St. Louis in the spring of 2014. Both LaunchCode and The Idea Center at MDC are supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

LaunchCode partners with over 300 companies nationally, 100 in South Florida, to place job seekers from non-traditional educational backgrounds in paid apprenticeships in technology jobs. LaunchCode currently has offices in St. Louis and South Florida and places apprentices in 10 different states with a goal of operating in all 50 states by the end of 2015.