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.”

  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

Robocanes

 

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.

 

May 04, 2015

eMerge Americas: NFTE students pitch to win; winner learned from failure

  NFTE2

 

NFTE BizPlan Competition Winners:  (l to r) Zack Walsh, 3rd place, Kevin Diniz, 2nd place, and Jason Ramadan, 1st place, will travel to New York in October to compete against other high school students for $25,000 in funding.  They pitched their businesses May 4th at Emerge Americas on the Expo Stage.

 

The student who took the top prize in the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship's (NFTE) BizPlan Competition at the Emerge Americas conference won, in part, because he talked about how he'd failed in the past.  Jason Ramadan earned the top spot in the contest for Cliff Fall, a game for the IOS platform. Judges liked that he'd created another game before that had problems.  

  "I did feel confident this time," said Ramadan, a senior from Coral Springs Senior High, who was a first time competitor, "With my other game though, I didn't even realize all the mistakes I'd made.  It was pretty bad," said Ramadan.
  One judge, Maura O'Donnell, who works in Business Development and Finance, for MasterCard, said entrepreneurs must learn from their mistakes to improve.  She said the panel liked that Ramadan found lessons in his errors and also that he studied his biggest competitor and addressed several areas to differentiate his product from theirs for gamers - personalization, creating different skill levels for players, and offering users the choice for a user to opt out of advertising.  Ramadan received a $1500 prize from MasterCard.
  Second place went to Kevin Diniz, a senior from Piper High School, for his app idea to simplify the college scholarship research process.  Third place went to Zack Walsh of Coral Gables Senior High who pitched an idea to create an app that would offer roadside repair and rentals to cyclists stuck on the side of the road. Both students received prizes of $1000 and $750 respectively. O'Donnell said both ideas were strong but that Ramadan was further along with product development.
  All students were given eight minutes to explain and sell their business idea with another three minutes for questions.
  The three winners will compete in New York City in October in a national competition for a $25,000 in funding.
NFTE brings  entrepreneurship programs to low-income schools globally, and in South Florida throughout Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
-Karen Rundlet

Miami's Watsco to launch accelerator for startups

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com 

One of Miami’s biggest public companies is launching a new  program to help technology startups.

Watsco, the world’s largest distributor of air conditioning and heating products that generates about $4 billion in annual revenue,  will start an accelerator. The 12-week program is built for early-stage companies focused on the B2B or home comfort industries.

Ivan rapin-smith“When people think of innovation in the heating and air conditioning industry they usually think slick, new thermostats or the connected home. Our scope is much broader,” said Ivan Rapin-Smith, director at Watsco Ventures. “We’re interested in any technology that can add value to a distribution business like Watsco, whether it’s internet-of-things applications, supply chain management, sales and marketing or anything that may help consumers or businesses become more comfortable, more economical or more environmental-friendly.”

Accelerator participants will reach receive initial funding of $25,000, mentoring, HVAC and distribution industry expertise, concept validation, investor connections and office space in Watsco’s Coconut Grove headquarters. Watsco Ventures will retain a small equity interest with an optional follow-up investment at the conclusion of the program, said Rapin-Smith, who was program director for Venture Hive’s accelerator and incubator for about two years and co-founded the Belgium-based accelerator Idealy. Rapin-Smith also founded two tech companies.

“An accelerator powered by a Fortune 1000 company brings strategic resources that a traditional accelerator cannot – financial capacity to invest; an opportunity to have Watsco as a first customer; scalability to hundreds of distribution locations, and potentially tens-of-thousands of end-users in the form of contractors and end-consumers,” said Rapin-Smith, who has a particular interest and expertise in B2B startups. “We invest in talented teams that bring innovation that can be scaled not just within Watsco but also within other enterprises.”

Accelerators hosted by corporations are becoming common in other cities. For instance, Fort Lauderdale-based tech company Citrix runs accelerators in several cities, but not in South Florida. Indeed, corporations and startups don’t often mix enough in South Florida – considered an important ingredient in a healthy startup ecosystem – although that is beginning to change. Kaplan announced earlier this year it will be launching an ed-tech accelerator in Fort Lauderdale, for instance. Goldman Sachs brought its 10,000 Small Businesses program here last year, in partnership with Miami Dade College; Microsoft opened its first Microsoft Innovation Center at Venture Hive in downtown Miami, and Citi is hosting ongoing Citi Fintech Meetups and hosted part of its global Citi Mobile Challenge from South Florida.

Watsco’s accelerator program is part of its Watsco Ventures division. Watsco Ventures invests in technology through three primary channels: a new fund that is beginning to make strategic investments in startups, an innovation lab for its intrapreneurs, and this new accelerator program.

The accelerator application period is May 18 to July 26. The accelerator program runs Sept. 1 through Nov. 20. Up to 10 startups will be selected for the program. For more information, go to watscoventures.com.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

 

April 13, 2015

Wyncode expands to Fort Lauderdale's General Provision

After graduating four cohorts and nearly 70 students from their Wynwood location at The LAB Miami, Wyncode founders Juha and Johanna Mikkola have decided it’s time to expand to General Provision co-working space in downtown Fort Lauderdale’s FATvillage.

The development boot camp welcomes programming newcomers. Over the nine-week period in a small class, students spend at least 300 hours learning and working collectively to create their own web apps. At the end of the course, Wyncoders pitch their apps to a panel of South Florida technology leaders and could walk away with a cash prize and/or a job. In the first four cohorts, Wyncode has a 92 percent placement rate.

The Fort Lauderdale campus’ lead instructor, Damon Davison, will be leading a free information session and demo lesson at Wyncode’s Open House on April 13. Wyncode’s first cohort in Fort Lauderdale on April 20. For more information, visit www.wyncode.co.

Davison studied  web development at the University of Cologne and worked as the Director of Technology at Southern Records in London and at other companies. Since moving to South Florida, he has quickly integrated into the tech community, organizing Rails Girls South Florida and the Broward Ruby Brigade.

March 29, 2015

Q&A: Technion's role in Israel's Startup Nation immense

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

TPeretz Laviehe Technion developed into a world-class research university out of necessity.

As President Peretz Lavie explains it, although the Israeli university’s roots date back to 1912 as an engineering school, it wasn’t until 1948 that Technion began its transformation into a leading research institution. Simply put, then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion believed the new state of Israel needed aeronautical expertise to power its Air force to defend the country; now aeronautics is one of the largest industrial complexes in Israel, he said.

 And that was just the beginning, Prof. Lavie said. “We have become a world class university, with 3 ½ Nobel laureates and a global presence, and we are the cornerstone of Startup Nation.”

The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology is a public research university in Haifa, Israel that offers  degrees in science and engineering, architecture, medicine, industrial management and education. With 18 academic departments and some 50 research centers, it is often grouped with  Stanford and MIT, universities that have played outsized roles in building their entrepreneurial ecosystems. Israel's movement, powered by Technion, is dubbed Startup Nation. The USB flash drive, drip irrigation, a Parkinson’s drug, the Iron Dome air defense system, the data compression algorithm used in pdfs, and instant messaging are some of the inventions developed at Technion or by alumni.

Prof. Lavie, who grew up in Israel but earned his PhD in physio-psychology (a precursor to neuroscience) at the University of Florida, joined Technion in 1975 to set up a sleep research lab. He worked his way up and became president in 2009. He’s also started two medical device companies and two medical service providers.

In 2011, a bid by a consortium of Cornell University and Technion won a competition to establish a new high-tier applied science and engineering institution in New York City. A state-of-the-art tech campus, the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech, is being built on Roosevelt Island, while the campus is currently housed in Google’s mammoth New York offices.

Technion is also establishing a technological institute in Guangdong Province, China. As part of the agreement, the Li Ka Shing Foundation will donate $130 million to Technion – the largest donation in the university’s history.

Lavie talked with the Miami Herald when he was in town earlier this month for an American Technion Society board meeting. Here are excerpts of the conversation.

Q. How did Technion become a powerhouse for high-tech?

A. In 1969, the Technion established a micro-electronics institute, when no one had heard of it. After the ‘67 war, we needed night vision devices and infrared sensors, there was no knowledge in Israel but Technion established the institute to produce the first semiconductors.  ... If you ask anyone where the high-tech sector in Israel started, everyone would say ’69 in the Technion. This is where they started to teach microelectronics, this is where semiconductors were produced, this is where it all started. …

The same year the faculty split into electrical engineering and computer science, these two are the backbone of the Israeli high tech sector.in 69 The Technion also decided to open a faculty of medicine. It was again prophetic -- the decision was made because in the future, medicine and technology would work hand in hand. This is why Israel now is an empire of medical devices.

Today, a 10 minutes’ drive from the Technion you will find Yahoo and Google and Intel and H-P and Philips and GE and now Apple, relying on Technion students and Technion graduates.

I just completed a study on companies established in the last 20 years by Technion graduates.  Of the 2,000 companies, ... 169 were established outside Israel, mostly in the U.S., the rest, more than 1,800 were in Israel. The number of jobs was 100,000, the mergers and acquisitions [activity] was $28 billion, the total money raised was $6 billion. ... And if you ask them why they are doing it, they want to change the world; it’s not the money.

Q. Sounds like you don’t have a problem with brain drain.

A. Brain drain is not an issue and I’ll tell you why. Intel is largest tech employer with 8,000 or 9,000 jobs. Intel in Israel was started by a Technion [graduate who moved back from the U.S.]. Same with Applied Materials, same with Apple, and others.

When we established a branch in New York together with Cornell, everyone said ‘oh, you will cause brain drain of Israelis to New York.’ I said ‘no, what we will do is attract second generation Israelis in the U.S., including as faculty members.

I don’t think all immigrant groups have a deep sense of responsibility. A large number of Israelis feel a lot of responsibility for Israel. Israel is a startup experience on its own; there is a shared sense of responsibility.

Q. What has Technion’s role been in the tech boom of Israel?

A. MIT did a study on universities that turned their areas into ecosystems of innovation and entrepreneurship. … MIT and Stanford were No.1 and 2, and Technion was no. 6 -- it changed the ecosystem of its country. When they asked the experts to rerate only the ones in challenging environments, Technion was no. 1.

Great universities need to attract top students, to attract top faculty, and the third is a mission. A university must have a mission. The mission is part of the Technion DNA -- To serve the country, to serve mankind. During the Russian immigration wave of the ‘90s, a wave of a million people within a span of five years, Technion stood up to the challenge. We increased the number of students by almost 30 percent in one year. We have a pre-academic center for minorities, every year we have 700 of them, and students are accepted without affirmative action; 67 percent are making it [into Technion].

Arab Israelis 10 years ago were 7 percent of the Technion students. The dropout rate was 40 percent. We started bringing the top kids from all the villages into the program, appointed them a big brother or sister, and held regular discussion groups. Fast forward 10 years, 20 percent of our students are Arab and the dropout rate is 13 percent, about the same as the Israel population. 48 percent of those students are Arab women in all the faculties.’

Q. What about overall?

A. 37 percent women. But electrical engineering is still 15-20 percent. We are trying to move that. We started programs in the high schools, k-12, and to attract girls into science, math, physics.

Q. What other factors led to Startup Nation?

A. Two major characteristics I found are characteristics of Israelis. First, risk-taking behavior. ... The army service teaches you how to take risks. ... The second one is acceptance of failure. There are many countries where failure is not an option. In Israel, failure is part of the learning curve.

Then there is the emphasis on education, a Jewish tradition. But we don’t teach the materials, we are taught how to learn; it is a lifelong experience. I hear this  from our alumni, ‘we are taught how to learn … There is not a situation where we cannot cope.’

The fourth is the government during the ‘60s had the right policy when they started to support research, in companies.

Q. How is your global expansion progressing?

A. Mayor Bloomberg, I admire him for his vision. When I met with him, I said why Technion? He said I am envious of Silicon Valley and Route 128 [in Boston] and I want New York to be the capital of technology.

We are now temporarily at Google headquarters in Chelsea, I asked Eric Schmidt why, and he said we want to be close to you. You need the nucleus of academic excellence that will attract faculty, students and customers. This is a unique to have a degree in applied science and engineering. No excuses. Its tailor made for the industries of New York. We started with The Connective Media, including a major publication. Next year we have are going to open The Healthier Life. The third one is The Built Environment, to open in 2017.

We would like to be close to you. This is the key.

.... [In China,] hopefully we will get the greenlight and start in 2017; we have appointed a leader already. Cornell and China were our first expansions, and we won’t do anymore. With 14,000 students and 600 faculty, we can’t spread ourselves too thin. But I must say we became the most courted boy on the block. We have strategic agreements with the University of Michigan, Toronto, MIT, Cornell and several leading European universities. It’s exciting."

Q. What brought you to  Miami this month?

A. I was here for a board meeting of the American Technion Society. The backbone of our support has come from the American Technion society established in 1940. Without their support we would just be another college in the Middle East. We don’t get research and development funding form the Israeli government … I travel here and crisscross the country twice a year to meet our supporters. This is amazing, the dedication, the love for our institute -- now we have third and fourth generation families that support Technion.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg. 

See related story on Miami startup delegation's knowledge exchange in Israel as part of AJC's Project Interchange.

March 18, 2015

SBA accepting applications this week for next Emerging Leaders program

Seventeen Miami-Dade small business owners and principals ready to grow their businesses will be chosen for the Small Business Administration’s free Emerging Leaders Program. Applications are now being accepted for the next class that will give selected small businesses a tailored three-year strategic growth plan to help bring their business to the next level.

Owners interested in the program should be the owner or principal in the small business that has annual revenues of at least $400,000, been in business for at least 3 years, and has at least one employee other than the owner. The participant must be dedicated to attend 13 evening training sessions and complete required homework.

The curriculum called the StreetWise Steps to Small Business Growth, is comprised of five modules: Business and Strategy Assessment; Financials; Marketing and Sales; Resources (People, Accessing Capital and Government Contracting); and Strategic Growth Plan Presentations.

The deadline to apply for the next class is March 20. Register here: www.interise.org/sbaemergingleaders.