May 17, 2016

Startup Weekend Education @ FIU: And the winners are ...

By @MarioCruz

What an amazing honor to be a Judge with Startup Weekend Education (#swedumiami) at FIU this past Sunday, May 15. The judges heard pitches from 8 teams, some teams with members as young as elementary school students.

The pitches were phenomenal and the amount of work these teams put in such a short amount of time was impressive. The best pitches clearly communicated the value proposition of the idea, had a simple prototype or flow that showed how the product or service would work, and addressed the business potential and educational impact of the concept. The prize winners were as follows:

Here are the top three winners:

1st Place: Liber-P, an Online/Offline content delivery platform that allows inmates to gain access to bridge the skills of higher education and help them prepare for the 21st century workforce. As a prize, three team members from Liber-P will be traveling next year to South-by-Southwest EDU in Austin, with flights and hotel covered!


2nd Place: Blueprint Created a tool to help students set academic goals, understand their GPA and its determinants, and provide them with a suite of resources that will ultimately improve their life trajectory.


3rd Place: @BookCloud Making education more affordable by offering unlimited e-textbooks to students on a subscription model.


The judges also named Beyond the Grade with “Education Impact Award,” as an honorable mention. Beyond the Grade’s mission was to focus on growth, not grades, and created a parallel grading tool for schools and districts.


Congratulations, not only to our winning teams but to everyone who participated this past weekend. A big thank you to The Knight Foundation for making the weekend possible as well as the mentors, volunteers and other judges (pictured below) who contributed so much to make Startup Weekend Education such a huge success.


May 11, 2016

Still time to join Startup Weekend EDU, coming to FIU this weekend


By Kiesha Moodie

Want to know what it’s like to launch a company in a weekend? Do you have ideas for new educational tools, school models or learning spaces? Are you passionate about creating change in the education sector? Then join us this weekend, May 13-15!

Teach For America has teamed up with The Knight Foundation, Florida International University and 4.0 Schools to host Startup Weekend EDU, a 54-hour event that takes you from pitch to prototype. We are looking for educators, technologists, designers, students and parents to develop new ideas that will impact the education system.

With support from NBCUniversal Open Possibilities, we are presenting the challenge of “21st Century Readiness.” The weekend will be filled with collaboration and lots of food (all meals included), fun, swag and prizes!

Friday night, individuals pitch their ideas, which are voted on and teams are formed. Saturday, expert mentors will be on site to coach teams through their prototyping and business modeling. Sunday, teams will pitch their solutions to an all-star panel of entrepreneurs, investors and education leaders.

The event, to be held at FIU's Tech Station on the Modesto Maidique campus, is free for students and parents. For others to register with a 50% discount, use the code “future305” at

Brian Brackeen, Founder & CEO - Kairos
Johanna Mikkola, Co-Founder - Wyncode
Matt Mawhinney, Community Manager - Launchcode
Juha Mikkola, Co-Founder - Wyncode
Christina Freire, Senior Instructional Designer - FIU Online

Robert Gordon, Advisor - Investor Solutions
Willie Avendano, Co-Founder - Zero1 & Wynwood Maker Camp

Jade Palomino, Manager - Endeavor Miami
Mario Cruz, Director - Watsco Ventures
Leslie Miller Saointz, Board Chair – Teach For America
Sasha Lopez, Executive Director - Miami Dade County Public Schools Human Capital
Archie Cubarrubia, Vice Provost for Institutional Effectiveness – Miami Dade College
Alia Mahmoud, Sales & Business Development Exectuive, Kairos

Kiesha Moodie is the Managing Director of Alumni and Community Impact at Teach For America Miami-Dade.


May 02, 2016

Registration open for free CS50x coding course at MDC

Registration is underway for CS50x Miami, the in-person version of Harvard University’s flagship online introduction to computer science course. It is now being offered free through an expanded partnership between The Idea Center at Miami Dade College and LaunchCode, a nonprofit that places aspiring developers and technologists into paid apprenticeships and jobs. The Idea Center is MDC’s hub for entrepreneurship. 

The 20-week class will provide students with a foundation in computer programming and web development that puts them on a path to launch a career in technology. All applicants must register and complete a skills assessment test prior to enrolling.

 “CS50x is the most efficient and cost-effective way to learn the skills needed to be a successful programmer,” said  LaunchCode Executive Director Brendan Lind. said  The Idea Center’s Executive Director Leandro Finol added, “Now, by offering it for free, we are confident in our ability to attract South Florida’s best and brightest applicants, particularly focusing on the inclusion of minorities and women.”

In addition to providing educational opportunities for students interested in learning how to code, LaunchCode places qualified candidates into apprenticeships and jobs in tech. To date, LaunchCode has placed CS50x Miami graduates with companies including MasterCard, Boeing, Modernizing Medicine, and Kairos.

To register or for more information, visit CS50xMiami.comClasses begin Monday, June 13.

April 26, 2016

Code Art Miami funds MDC scholarship to encourage women to get into animation, gaming

Members of Code Art Miami’s event committee present MDC with a check to fund a new scholarship for Animation and Gaming students at MAGIC. From left to right: Diana Bien Aime (MDC Wolfson Dean of Academic Affairs), Josie Goytisolo, Sofia Garcia, Mauricio Ferrazza (MAGIC Chairperson), Amy Austin Renshaw, Lander Basterra, Maria Mejia, Lisa Hauser and Allison Cammack.

By Amy Austin Renshaw

For the past two years I have had the privilege to be an instructor with the Girls Who Code Club at iPrep Academy. The club was founded last school year by then junior, Maria Mejia, who was inspired to get more girls into coding after completing the Girls Who Code summer immersion program. This year Maria wanted to do even more to inspire girls to learn to code, and from that was born the idea for Code Art Miami, an event aimed at encouraging more girls to learn to code by highlighting the creative side of computer science through a student digital art exhibition and speaker symposium. 

Volunteers from three local Girls Who Code Clubs (iPrep Academy, The Idea Center @ MDC, and Pinecrest Library) and CODeLLA, a local organization that teaches coding and tech skills to Latina girls, came together to plan the event, which was hosted in early February at the Miami Animation & Gaming International Complex (MAGIC) at MDC Wolfson Campus. The event was a great success with over 300 attendees and over 150 student submissions of art-generating programs that ran on digital flat screens throughout the event venue.

In addition to the event, Maria worked to establish the Code Art Miami Scholarship fund at MDC to give back to our host and to make a positive impact on more lives. "A disadvantaged student should not be limited by finances in order to pursue an education, especially when the odds are already against her. Just as I have been fortunate enough to have an entire network of supportive friends and mentors, the Code Art Miami scholarship is my way of providing those same resources to someone else,” said Maria. 

"In setting up the scholarship, we were amazed to learn that just $7,000 would cover tuition costs for one student for both years in the two-year MAGIC program,” said iPrep math teacher and Girls Who Code Club advisor Lisa Hauser. Funds for the scholarship were raised at the event through a silent auction, which included donations from Miami Heat player Chris Bosh and artist Ahol, and through continued post-event sales of a limited-edition print donated by London-based artist Ryca. By early April, we reached our fundraising goal, and on April 20th, Maria and the rest of the Code Art Miami planning committee presented MDC with a check for $7,000 to establish a scholarship fund for women or other underrepresented minorities enrolled in one of MAGIC’s two-year programs. “Currently only about one-fifth of gaming developers are women. This new scholarship will help encourage more women to enter this field,” said Mauricio Ferrazza, MAGIC Chairperson. 

Volunteers who helped Maria make the event and the scholarship fund a reality include my event co-chairJosie Goytisolo and executive planning committee members Lander Basterra, Allison Cammack, Marina Ganopolsky, Sophia Garcia and Lisa Hauser, all of whom share a passion for education — particularly computer science eduction — and a belief in its ability to change lives. Speaking for the group, Allison said, "Coding teaches problem-solving, teamwork, and tenacity. Whatever you can dream, coding gives you the tools to build. And with imagination and determination, you can change the world.” 

Work is already underway for next year’s event. We are reaching out now to area schools to schedule information sessions and workshops in the fall for both teachers and students in the hopes of involving more girls next year. In addition to including more students, we plan to add age brackets and categories for next year’s competition. “It was incredibly difficult to choose just three winners from this year’s submissions, which came from girls in grades 4-12 and included still images, 3D-printed art, animations, and interactive art programs,” said Head Judge Marina Ganopolsky. To learn more about Code Art Miami or schedule an information session at your school or club, email

March 15, 2016

Meet the 5 graduating startups of Founder Institute Miami


By Melanie Haselmayr

Over the course of 3½ months, 30 ambitious startup founders followed a strict curriculum. Only a handful of them made it to graduation day.

The Founder Institute is renowned worldwide as one of the toughest yet rewarding incubator programs. The goal of the foundation is to support early stage startups in the most crucial phases of their companies’ phases: from conceptualization to launch. The program consists of weekly meetups, mentor presentations and detailed assignments based on a lineup of topics - all in all, an orchestrated ensemble of elements that guides young entrepreneurs in achieving their milestones toward their startup launch.

Program directors Juan Meza, Gustavo Fernandez and Enrique Sierra invited some of Miami’s most outstanding business leaders to share their knowledge and insights with the aspiring newcomers, and included Cody Littlewood of Codelitt, Kevin Levy of GrayRobinson PA, Leonel Azuela of Quaxar and Nestor Villalobos of Tudor Ice Company.

Just five companies survived the rapid pace of the program and concluded the Miami semester in a ceremony  Tuesday night:

LiVi - Live Stream by Request, led by Carlos Romero, is the only live stream mobile App that gives the control to its users.  LiVi is redesigning this technology by applying peer-to-peer and on-demand models while the competition is focused on mass broadcasting, making it difficult to monetize.  

VOICE YOUR VOICE, led by Camilo Silva and Jose Aliaga, aims to encourage the public to actively engage in politics and democracy by addressing issues that impact them through a mobile platform that aims to connect the community with its respective political leaders on the city, district, county, state and national level.

IMPACT COACH, led by Coach Guillermo Juliao, is an educational coaching platform to help the Hispanic community find their passions, purpose and strengths so they can start their own companies or find their dream jobs.

DRONELANCER, led by Matt Hall, is a marketplace to connect licensed drone owners with businesses looking for aerial photos and videos. the marketplace allows clients to interview, hire and work with drone owners through its easy, transparent platform. 

TRANSPARENT, led by Melanie Haselmayr, helps renters, realtors and landlords engage in simplified rental transactions. The company helps landlords and realtors filter potential applicants, and offers an escrow service to renters to safeguard their money until move-in.

The Founder Institute is a startup incubator out of Silicon Valley that hosts programs in 110+ around the world to help startup founders build sustainable companies. For more information about the Miami program, please visit

The graduation ceremony took place Tuesday at TamboWorks, a co-working space in South Miami, located at 5790 Sunset Drive. "TamboWorks is proud to have hosted this first group of entrepreneurs who have met in our space on a weekly basis," said TamboWorks co-founder Adolfo Taylhardat.





Meet the 8 South Florida companies incubated at Founder Institute


Submitted by Founder Institute

Ten entrepreneurs from eight companies pitched their new startup at General Provision last Friday in front of their families, friends, mentors, business leaders and colleagues.

These entrepreneurs are the first graduating cohort from the Fort Lauderdale-Boca Raton chapter of the Founder Institute, a global entrepreneur training and startup program that has helped launch over 1,600 companies through chapters across 85 cities and 40 countries

For the ten graduating entrepreneurs, Graduation Day was the culmination of a 3.5 month program where they “learn by doing” and launched their company with structured training, expert feedback, and support from experienced startup CEOs. Thirty-four candidates initially joined the program in November 2015 after going through the application and ‘entrepreneur DNA aptitude’ testing process.

Rodolfo Novarini, Michel Triana and Mark Volchek, three serial entrepreneurs and business leaders, led the Founder Institute’s efforts in Fort Lauderdale and were supported by a strong network of 34 CEOs and founders in the South Florida business community.

The eight emerging startups from the Fort Lauderdale-Boca Raton chapter are:

  • GameFace (com): an ecommerce subscription-based men’s personal care called ‘Nasty’ for athlete consumers.
  • ONENESS: a solution for cities and marinas to meet their sustainability goals for water clean-up with proprietary line of green boats.
  • SpeechMED (com): a voice and video information platform that gives people the ability to see and hear their medical information in their native language (see Startup Spotlight).
  • Teak Health: the “” of medical health records striving for patient empowerment and provider solutions.
  • Velatino (com): an internet video network exclusively curated for Hispanic audiences.
  • Vendor Hive (com): centralized platform that manages information and transactions between festival event producers and retail vendors.
  • VidTec (co): automated tool for digital marketers that converts products and other website content into videos.
  • Winspire: a software solution to help people improve their people and leadership skills by partnering with Leadership Coaches.

Robert Valli, one of the graduates and the CEO of VidTec Corporation, emphasized the access to the mentor network as a key benefit of his participation. “Thanks to the new Founder Institute chapter here in Fort Lauderdale, anyone in Southeast Florida with a good idea has a very real opportunity to build a tech company—backed by their own local network—by the time they graduate, even if they had neither to start. I know, because I did it," says Valli.

The Fort Lauderdale-Boca Raton Chapter will accept applications for the next session this summer. Interested applicants can visit for more information and to join the mailing list.

Fi crowd

March 09, 2016

Miami joins White House TechHire initiative

By Nancy Dahlberg /

Miami has joined the White House’s TechHire initiative, with 14 community partners and more than 140 companies committing to work together to train and place nearly 2,500 candidates into well-paying technology jobs by the end of 2020, the White House is expected to announce Wednesday.

TechHire, launched one year ago by President Barack Obama, is a multi-sector national initiative to create a pipeline of Americans with technology skills via universities and community colleges, as well as coding boot camps and high-quality online courses that can rapidly train workers for a well-paying job.

The Miami area is one of 15 U.S. communities joining Wednesday and is now part of a network of 50 communities. It’s the first such initiative in Florida.

CareerSource South Florida and LaunchCode, both nonprofit groups dedicated to placing place "job-seekers in tech jobs, are leading Miami’s efforts to train and place 1,190 individuals into tech jobs by the end of 2017 and 2,415 individuals by the end of 2020. The TechHire initiative comes with no federal dollars attached, but grant programs are available, said Jacob Leibenluft, deputy director of the National Economic Council. “We see it as an opportunity to bring together partners and provide tools,” Leibenluft said on Tuesday. “Part of the goal of this program is that communities learn from each other. As the network grows, we will see returns to scale.”

Miami currently has 140 companies committed to interviewing qualified candidates that graduate from Miami TechHire’s training partners, including the Idea Center at Miami Dade College, Wyncode, Code Fever Miami, New Horizons, Florida Vocational Institute, the Academy of South Florida and Ironhack. The Beacon Council, along with Miami-Dade County, the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce and e-Merge Americas, will lead efforts to ensure that employers’ commitments to the community of Miami are fulfilled, the White House said.

In addition to the new TechHire partners, the White House will also announce new rules that aim to extend the time international students graduating from U.S. universities with STEM degrees can stay in the U.S. The White House also said the U.S. Department of Education will also be holding a “makeover challenge” to encourage more maker spaces in high schools and that the White House plans a “Week of Making” June 17-23 to feature makers across the country.

March 02, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Ironhack coding school

BM Startup Spotlight IronHack b epfCompany name: Ironhack

Company description: Ironhack is an international coding boot camp that believes the best way to learn is by doing it. This ideology is reflected in its teaching practices, which consist of eight-week immersive programming courses aimed to graduate students as full-stack junior Web developers. Ironhack has three locations: Barcelona, Madrid and Miami.

On average, the students log in over 400 hours of work throughout the course, finishing with a final project Web app that they present to the local tech scene. After Ironhack, graduates are equipped with the knowledge and tools of the latest Web and mobile development technologies. Ironhack says it has a 94 percent job placement rate, a global alumni network of 500 graduates, and is one of the first coding bootcamps with a presence in both Europe and the Americas.

Headquarters: Miami and Madrid.


Story: Ironhack was founded in Spain by two Wharton MBA grads, Ariel Quiñones and Gonzalo Manrique. At the time, Spain was at the worst point of its financial crisis, with unemployment for adults under 30 reaching 57 percent. Paradoxically, there were approximately 700,000 unfilled IT/coding jobs in Europe. Quiñones and Manrique saw this as fertile ground to re-train many young adults who were unemployed and place them in the jobs that were available.

The founders chose Miami as Ironhack’s next home because of its connections to Latin America, its fast-growing tech scene, and the high demand for technical talent.

Ironhack, which charges $10,000 for its coding school, is located at, a collaborative workspace for technology companies. The students are currently finishing up their final projects and preparing for the upcoming Hackshow, the cohort’s demo day, on March 4. Students have included former NFL players, lawyers and strategic consultants looking for a career change. “Although our student backgrounds are so diverse, they all share a common desire to improve themselves and their industries through the use of technology,” Quiñones said.

Launch Date: July 7, 2013 (Miami expansion in January 2015).

Management Team: Co-founders Ariel Quiñones, based in Miami, and Gonzalo Manrique, based in Madrid.

No. of employees: 22 worldwide, 9 in Miami.

Financing: Currently bootstrapped.

Recent milestones: Ironhack formed a partnership with McKinsey & Co., a management consulting firm with over 100 global offices, for its first nonprofit program, Generation, aimed to improve employment prospects through education initiatives. In April, Ironhack will be launching a part-time Web Development Bootcamp; the course is comprised of the same material as the immersive eight-week cohort, but will span six months, giving students the necessary time to maintain their jobs while taking the course. More recently, with its latest graduating cohorts in Miami and Spain, Ironhack has graduated 500 students into the global tech scene.

“I admire the fact that they're doing good and making a good business,” said Jose Rasco, co-founder of and a mentor. “Since they're in Building, I see firsthand the transformation of their students from Day 1 and the value that they get from the Ironhack program. The connection that students make with the instructors and the Ironhack team is truly impressive.”

Biggest startup challenge: Running a company across the Atlantic with a six-hour time difference has proved to be a big operational challenge. “Every one of the three cities is very unique — they each have their own cultures, languages, business environments and educational systems that are very different,” Quiñones said. This makes it a challenge to scale the product and market strategies.

Next step for Ironhack: To continue delivering high value to the stakeholders Ironhack works with in Miami, including students, employers and the wider tech ecosystem, by providing students with the specific skills that will align them with what top companies in South Florida need. Through the launch of the part-time Web Development Bootcamp, Ironhack plans to increase its offering to students that may not enroll in a full-time learning experience.

Nancy Dahlberg: 305-376-3595, @ndahlberg

February 26, 2016

FIU selected as Ashoka U Changemaker campus

Fiu (1)

By Nancy Dahlberg /

Miami became the first city to be home to two Ashoka U Changemaker campuses of higher learning on Thursday. Ashoka is the world’s largest network of social entrepreneurs, and changemaker campuses are recognized as leaders in fostering social entrepreneurial opportunities for its students and community.

Florida International joined the prestigious Ashoka University Changemaker Campus consortium at an Ashoka conference this week in New Orleans. Miami Dade College was selected last August. Other universities and colleges in the 35-member consortium include Arizona State University, Boston College, Brown, Duke, Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland

“We’ve long seen our FIU as a solutions center for our community and the world,” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. “We are excited to be in such great company, contributing to an environment where our students can collaborate with the brightest minds to address the most pressing issues of our time.”

Both South Florida universities went through a rigorous multi-year review process before being designated Changemaker campuses. FIU was lauded for its graduate school requirement that students engage the community while conducting research projects, its student-focused Center for Leadership and Service, and its commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship exemplified by its Small Business Development Center and plans for a new incubator, FIU said.

Being a Changemaker campus will bring students and their schools additional resources and global connections for furthering mission-driven projects and ventures.

February 16, 2016

PowerMoves launches in Miami at start of Blacktech Week


By Nancy Dahlberg /

Close your eyes and picture a typical "tech entrepreneur." If you always see a young white man -- perhaps a hoodie is involved -- you are not alone, and PowerMoves, Blacktech Week, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Case Foundation and many other organizations want to change that.

The statistics are alarming. As the second annual Blacktech Week got underway in Miami, and PowerMoves Miami launched its operations with a bootcamp and pitch contests, a new study recently surfaced that showed that  of the 10,000-plus venture deals sealed  from 2012 to 2014, just 24 of them were led by a black women founder. Of those few that have raised money, the average amount of funding was just  $36,000, even though black women comprise the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S., according to the report, Project Diane by Digital Undivided, which calls black women founders “the real unicorns of tech.”

The statistics are only a little better for all minority entrepreneurs. PowerMoves, an entrepreneurship organization for entrepreneurs of color that just launched in Miami through Knight Foundation support, offers these numbers: While African-American and Hispanic students earn nearly 20 percent of computer science degrees, they make up only 9 percent of the technology industry and less than 1 percent of technology company founders. To help close this gap, PowerMoves is connecting entrepreneurs of color to mentors, capital, support and investment opportunities. The national initiative launched in New Orleans in 2014 has helped roughly 100 companies from across the country secure more than $27 million in capital commitments, the organization said.

This week, in partnership with Blacktech Week, PowerMoves held three-day  bootcamp (which followed six weeks of virtual programming) for about 15 entrepreneurs -- among them from South Florida were Daddy Knows Too, FlyScan, Jurnid, Kurator, Radifit and Renal Trkrr. It will culminate in a demo day open to the public Wednesday morning at the Fontainebleau. After holding a Disrupters Showcase on Monday night with Kairos and VOO Media representing the 305, on Tuesday PowerMoves  held two pitch competitions with $50K in prize money for eight selected entrepreneurs around the country, including two teams from South Florida: Court Buddy, a Miami-based matching service for a la carte legal services,  and Kweak, a video messaging platform company based in Miami and Berlin. Taking home $25K each  were Better Weekdays, a mobile job-matching platform, and Virgil, a mobile-first career navigation platform. Other teams pitching from around the country were Kudzoo, Unshrinkit,  CyberReef Solutions and Zoobean. 

"I was blown away by the ideas and the execution of the ideas so far. The ideas presented not only solved big social problems but would have great multiplier effects," said Carla Harris, a judge in the pitch contest and vice chairman of wealth management for Morgan Stanley, presenting sponsor of the event. "It is my thought that this will become the place for sophisticated investors who are looking for next generation technology and are specifically looking for entrepreneurs of color -- they will have to come to PowerMoves to find them."

She said that Earl Robinson, founder of PowerMoves, first asked her to be a judge for PowerMoves New Orleans in the first panel it ever had in 2014. "I was so impressed by the caliber of the entrepreneurs that I knew he was onto something that I wanted to get my firm involved in, because after all we are in the business of connecting capital with people and bringing leaders to the public and private capital markets. ... We helped support [PowerMoves] to go national."

The Case Foundation has also been a partner of PowerMoves for about a year and a half. Started by AOL founder Steve Case and his wife Jean, the foundation has been leading entrepreneurship initiatives  for decades. "But we really got to this point where the American Dream seemed to be fading, there was a full series of entrepreneurs that were being left on the sideline," said Sheila Herrling, senior vice present of social innovation for the foundation. "How could we exploit this potential to drive the economy, to drive jobs, to drive ideas, and source them from all places and all people?"

 In addition to PowerMoves, the Case Foundation is involved in JumpStart's Diversity Fund and Forward Cities and is looking for other partners.   To VCs who say 'I'd love to invest I am just not finding the deals,' PowerMoves is  creating this pipeline of entrepreneurs for them, Herrling said. The big goal: When you think of an entrepreneur, "that face that comes to you has just as much of a chance of being a women or an entrepreneur of color as the white guy in the hoodie," she said. 

That Project Diane report found that just 11 black female founders raised more than $1 million. "Four of them are PowerMoves alumni," said Herrling. "There is a secret sauce in that. Something is working. I'm optimistic we're going to level the playing field."

The second annual Blacktech Week, open to all,  also kicked off with a DiscoTech on Monday and youth event and opening reception on Tuesday. It moves into high gear Wednesday evening with the start of its 2 1/2 day summit at FIU's Biscayne Bay campus, featuring entrepreneurs and investors from around the world. On Saturday, Project Diane's author, Kathryn Finney, will keynote at the Blacktech Week Women's Innovation Brunch. Read more here from Blacktech Week co-founder Felecia Hatcher about why it's in Miami. 


See a complete schedule of events at

See more information about PowerMoves at

See past coverage of Black Tech Week 2015 here.


 Judges watch pitches at PowerMoves Series A pitch Tuesday. At top, Disrupters Showcase at the Fountainebleau on Monday.