New research on women entrepreneurs: Quality but not enough quantity

Early-stage venture capital firm First Round recently released findings from its deep dive into 10 years of investment data. Among the Silicon Valley firm’s findings among the 300 startups it has invested in over the decade: Its investments in companies with at least one female founder performed 63 percent better than its investments in all-male teams. And, if you look at First Round's top 10 investments of all time based on value created for investors, three of those teams have at least one female founder — far outpacing the percentage of female tech founders in general.

You can read about First Round's other findings, all very interesting, at

While women-founded companies perform better, there needs to be more of them. The Kauffman Foundation, an authority on all things entrepreneurship, also released some interesting research about women in entrepreneurship recently.

While the number of women entering the workforce has significantly increased over several decades, they are still half as likely as men to start a business, and the findings are fairly consistent across all age groups, according to Kauffman’s most recent Entrepreneurship Policy Digest.

Women are one-third as likely to access equity financing through angels or venture capital, and they begin their companies with about half the capital of men.

Kauffman Foundation found the lack of women entrepreneurs is not just a gender issue, it’s an economic issue. Research shows a lack of female mentors (in one survey, half reported challenges finding mentors), challenges to maintaining work-life balance and an implicit bias against women as entrepreneurs as major obstacles.

The Digest offered suggestions to entrepreneurial programs and organizations to help more women become successful. Among them:

* Develop and report entrepreneurial program metrics by gender to better understand what works best for women entrepreneurs.

* Increase the number of women represented in entrepreneurship programs to expand access to female mentors.

* Partner with women’s professional organizations to increase awareness of Small Business Innovation Research awards. Just 15 percent of SBIR awards went to women-owned businesses in 2012.

* Celebrate successful women entrepreneurs to counter the false narrative that only men are successful entrepreneurs.

Read more from the Policy Digest here.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

July 29, 2015

The Idea Center launches MarketHack, a new digital marketing program

Submitted by the Idea Center at Miami Dade College

The Idea Center at Miami Dade College (MDC), Miami’s hub of innovation and entrepreneurship, is launching a comprehensive professional training program in digital marketing called MarketHack.  Registration is open now at

The program, which will include workshops and public events, will tap into top industry experts and use real-life group projects to teach participants how to influence customers in the digital era, create connections, sell products and ultimately grow their businesses.

MarketHack aims to fill the gap in the South Florida marketplace for highly skilled and broadly knowledgeable digital marketers, a key discipline for any enterprise.

“Miami is a creative city with top marketing and advertising agencies, but there has not been a place to learn about the latest digital marketing tools and techniques—until now,” said Leandro Finol, Executive Director of the Idea Center at MDC. “With MarketHack, we are creating a talent pipeline for the marketers of the 21st century.”

The first MarketHack course, a 16-week introductory course in digital marketing, runs from August 25 through December 15, 2015. The course will cover the techniques and tools used by digital marketers to generate and sustain conversations with their customers and, more importantly, conversions. It will feature guests from the top creative agencies to expose students to state-of-the-art techniques in this fast-moving industry. 

MarketHack courses will be taught by two top digital marketing professionals: Dan Grech, Vice President of Marketing at Offercraft, and Mike Schott, Director of online marketing at Open English.

“We have been hearing from employers across South Florida that they simply cannot find local talent in digital marketing.  We aimed to solve that,” said Grech.

The program will build relationships with local companies and creative agencies to create a pipeline for internships, apprenticeships and jobs. “República is committed to being a leader in South Florida's innovation ecosystem. As Miami emerges as the tech hub for the Americas, we are thrilled to partner with The Idea Center at MDC to launch MarketHack, a groundbreaking program that will cultivate some of the best and brightest digital marketing professionals in the country," stated Jorge A. Plasencia, República's co-founder, chairman and CEO.

Subsequent courses and workshops, with deep dives into specific topic areas, such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will roll out starting in 2016.  The course costs $1,499 for community members, with an early-bird price of $999 until August 21. Current degree-seeking Miami Dade College students pay $249.

For more information, please contact Leandro Finol at

WHAT:            MarketHack: Introduction to Digital Marketing

WHEN:            Tuesdays, August 25 thru December 15, 6p.m. - 9p.m.

WHERE:         MDC, Idea Center Building 8, Fifth floor, 315 NE 2nd Ave


July 28, 2015

Wyncode offers bootcamp scholarships in low-income communities

Wyncode Academy, which runs coding bootcamps, will provide scholarships to nine Miami-Dade County residents from low-income neighborhoods.  The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is investing $75,000 to fund the scholarships.

Recipients of the Future Leaders of Tech scholarships will be enrolled in a nine-week Wyncode Academy cohort at its Miami campus, which is located within The LAB Miami in Wynwood.  Wyncode’s coding bootcamps are focused on project-based learning and promote hands-on education as students learn to build full stack Web applications.

“Our mission at Wyncode is to give anyone the skills and tools to begin a career in coding,” said Wyncode Academy co-founder Juha Mikkola said the scholarships “enable us to extend this opportunity to members of our community who lack the means, but certainly not the passion and drive, to follow their dreams and learn to code.”

Scholarships will be awarded on an ongoing basis, but to be considered for a scholarship in time for Cohort 7, which starts on Sept. 23, applications must be received by Sept. 2.   For more information or to apply, visit

July 23, 2015

Idea Center, LaunchCode expand CS50x training to MDC's North and Homestead campuses

To serve more communities, the Idea Center at Miami Dade College, in partnership with LaunchCode, a nonprofit focused on technology education and job placement, will expand its CS50x Miami program to additional locations in Homestead and Northern Miami-Dade County, as well as the Wolfson campus. CS50 is an introduction to computer science offered online through edX and HarvardX, and the Idea Center complements the course with in-person mentors.

Registration is now open for the 20-week class, which provides students with a foundational understanding of computer science principles and includes six weeks highlighting web and mobile application training. Classes, which are open to the community, begin Aug. 31. The $299 course fee covers all materials and expenses.

LaunchCode and The Idea Center will offer free information sessions at the CS50x Miami locations:

Friday, July 31, 6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. at The Idea Center @MDC

Monday, August 10, 6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. at MDC  Homestead Campus

Tuesday, August 11, 6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. at MDC North Campus

“We’re making better jobs accessible through world-class education,” saysLeandro Finol, executive director of The Idea Center at MDC. “Now, with three locations and extended supplemental tracks, CS50x Miami is poised to offer even more expertise and support to students pursuing technology careers.”

For more information and to register, please visit


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

June 27, 2015

Refresh Miami's startup series kicks off with design thinking deep dive



Refresh Miami’s summer startup series kicked off with a partnership with Design Thinking Miami, a nonprofit that offers educational and community-building events centered around the creative problem-solving methodology. The Refresh event was just one of three parts to the design thinking theme — there was also a happy hour networker on Friday and a full day boot camp on Saturday. Refresh Miami’s startup series will follow with events on funding and launching and end with a demo day in September, said Peter Martinez, co-director of Refresh.

Startups and students — I was sitting with a row of interns from AdMobilize — packed the Miami Science Museum to hear Andy Hagerman, co-founder of The Design Gym, a New York City-based creative education company launched about three years ago “to empower people and organizations to create change.” He said what he has found is that a lot of organizations say they are innovative companies but they don’t really know what that means on a daily basis.

Through his talk and exercises with the audience, he briefly explained the stages of design thinking — examine, understand, ideate, experiment and distill — and how the methodology can be especially helpful to startups that need to get to market very quickly.

First off, understand you are not the smartest person in the room; design thinking is about learning about your customers’ wants and needs first-hand. Exercises in brainstorming and interviewing techniques asking open-ended question helped the audience understand some of the principles. Just the use of “yes, and” instead of “yes, but” can help get the ideas flowing, he said. There are places in the design thinking process for the “yes, but” people, but that comes much later in the process – in the close. “It’s about putting structure into the process… When the team says now it is time to close, that’s when you start bringing it in,” he said.

The design thinking process can last hours, months or even years; the important thing is to put the process in a time box, whatever the time line might be.

One of The Design Gym’s initiatives: Design Taco, a pop-up taco shop. Turns out the tacos and beer were just the bait to get different groups mixing it up.

Design Thinking Miami, founded by Jessica Do and Mariana Rego, holds regular meetups and workshops. Find out more at Design Thinking Miami.


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


June 14, 2015

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



By Nancy Dahlberg /

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 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



June 05, 2015

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

Wyncodepitchdayv_june2015_039 (2)

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



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.”

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