March 10, 2015

Help gather information to improve Miami parking

By Stonly Baptiste

Stonly_HeadshotParking can be a challenge in most metropolitan cities and while the gripes of Miami parking may seem unique and insurmountable, they are neither. One startup from New York wants to explore two questions, “How bad is it?” and, “Can we help?”

My last parking experience in NYC caused me to avoid having to park when I travel. After finding the “perfect” spot, I returned to find a $200 parking ticket. I’ve since sworn off driving in NYC or any city I visit when I can avoid it.

Parking challenges are not unique to any one city and Miami is no stranger to its own parking issues, as revealed in the Yelp reviews of The City of Miami Beach Parking Department.

“Dear Miami Beach Parking:

I'm officially dropping you to 1 star.  Why?  Because you thoroughly suck, that's why! This past Friday night I was heading to an event at the Bass Museum.  I never made it.  Why?  Because after arriving at about 9:15 and driving around for more than 30 minutes trying to find parking anywhere within a 5 block radius, I finally gave up and left Miami Beach as I was extremely frustrated, and the event I was there to attend was nearly over at that point…”

- Paul V.

The parking problems don’t stop once you cross the bridge from Miami Beach. These struggles have also been long-time challenge across Miami Dade College’s eight campuses. Historically there were too many students and not enough parking. Even extensively planned venue’s like the Marlins Stadium still struggle to build enough parking to meet the demand of its visitors.

At the same time, development projects like the District 36, a 19-story building in Midtown Miami, struggle with minimum parking requirements, which increase costs even for owners or renters who prefer to go car free. The 197-unit project is currently on hold as it works with Miami’s Urban Development Review Board (UDRB) to appease the board's concerns over its parking capacity and design challenges.

Parking is just one of many of the challenges that Miami faces as it continues to grow. At the Smart City Startups event in April, we’re bringing together some of the best startups in the world focused on Urban tech. We’ll be asking founders to pitch us on how they can help us solve our city’s growing pains.

As part of the pitch process, one of the companies, Valet Anywhere*, wants to learn more about what makes parking painful in Miami. Here is your chance to help the company bring a better parking experience to Miami by filling out this really brief survey. We want to hear your biggest complaints, gripes and bad parking experiences to learn how we can work to solve Miami’s parking problems.

Stonly Baptiste is a serial entrepreneur and cofounder of Urban.Us, an investment fund focused on investing in startups that make cities better. He also produces Smart City Startups, an annual event that hosts 100 startups and over 1,000 people and organizations transforming our cities in the next decade taking place April 23, 2015 in Miami. 

* disclosure: Urban.Us is a producer of Smart City Startups and an investor in Valet Anywhere.   

February 26, 2015

I Hacked Miami was the spark, but civic open-data projects need your input

By Maggie Diaz-Vera / @codeformiami

Code for Miami is setting the tone for civic hacking and community engagement in South Florida. With help from The Knight Foundation, Code for Miami and Miami Ad School hosted I <Hacked> Miami last Saturday, a Code Across 2015 hackathon coinciding with events from around the world hosted by Code for America brigades. Miami brigade members used human-centered design to create applications that would allow residents to gain easy access to public data.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez launched Miami-Dade County’s open data portal to kick-off the event. The Mayor commented on the future of technology in Miami-Dade, “we cannot attract innovators without being innovative ourselves.” The portal provides free, up-to-date access to public data on civic services, geographic information, building permits, and employee salaries. The portal will continue to be updated with additional data over time.


The goal of the hackathon, and Code for Miami, is to engage residents in creating applications for the community. "What is cool is that citizens feel like they have a stake in building the government they want," shared brigade co-captain Rebekah Monson. Hackathon participants joined to create tools that will help residents make informed decisions about the community they live in and apply it to their own personal and business goals.

The hackathon focused on 3 major projects:

Miami Answers is a platform to answer frequently asked community questions in regards to public services. The questions and answers were written by volunteers in a casual and friendly voice so that it could easily be followed and understood by everyone.

                     Awesomest Mentor: Elizabeth

                     Awesomest Team: Miami Answers

Public services were also the focus for Open 211, a technical project to format sample data provided by Switchboard Miami so that it can be easily pulled by developers for future applications.

                     The “Dale” Award: Bryce

                     Awesomest N00b: Walter

                     Awesomest Project: Open 211

Open311 utilizes the newly open Miami-Dade data portal to display county information so that it can be easily interpreted and analyzed. Through visualization and data mapping, citizens and government officials will be able to efficiently identify trends and gain insights on how and where resources are being allocated.

The data was used to create visualizations such as: Map of Reported Dog Bites by Volume; Flood Zones Map; Evacuation Centers by distance and animal acceptance

Residents like you are needed to user-test these apps and give feedback to complete the projects. Join Code for Miami at 7PM on Monday nights at LAB Miami in Wynwood to share ideas and develop these applications further.


MIA Music Summit, HackDay out to help make Miami a hotbed for digital music startups


Shown above, last year's MIA Music HackDay in progress at The LAB Miami,  and below, when the winners, Erik Mendelson and Brandon West, were announced at the MIA Music Summit for their app to  make your own remix.


By Demian Bellumio

DemianOn March 26th, 2015, with the support of the Knight Foundation, the MIA Music Summit will once again bring together some of the world’s leading digital music experts to discuss the future of this fast-growing industry.  More importantly, we will continue to explore how Miami can become an ideal location for creating and growing digital music startups.  

As a city, we have a rich music history that includes musical legends like The Beatles, Bee Gees and Bob Marley, and which today is home to top record labels, music executives, artists, festivals, media companies and even some globally recognized digital music startups, such as Choose Digital, Batanga Media, F# and Senzari, the startup I lead from this city.

The event will gather approximately 400 attendees at the classic Colony Theater on the same day that Miami Beach turns 100 years old, which is no coincidence.  Music will be front-and-center at the Miami Beach Centennial celebration, where maestro Rudy Perez will be coordinating performances from over two dozen musical artists, including global stars  Andrea Bocelli, Gloria Estefan and Flo Rida, as well as hot local acts, such as Raquel Sofia and Afrobeta.  In addition, that same week, Miami is host to the Winter Music Conference and the Ultra Music Festival, so there will be no better time to celebrate Miami’s music scene.

As in 2014, we have an amazing line up of musical guests and industry experts that are coming to Miami from all corners of the world to share their insights and experiences.  On the artistic side, we are very excited that we will have as panelist and musical guest Ryan Leslie, who recently spoke and performed DLD in Munich, as well as Sony Music’s rising local artist Raquel Sofia, and Guti Talavera, as the resident DJ for the event.

From a corporate standpoint, we will have global industry leaders 8tracks, Havas Sports & Entertainment, Atom Factory and Qualcomm, among many others, who will be joined by disruptive startups like Jukely, Splice and  We will cover topics such as branding and music, investing in music startups, artist and music marketing in the digital age, Big Data techniques for music, and many other relevant themes of great importance to anyone dealing with musical content, including artists, songwriters, record executives, entrepreneurs, advertisers, ad agencies, artist managers, broadcasters and investors.  For example, to provide attendees with in-depth analysis of the major market trends, we will feature two amazing keynotes by Liv Buli (Next Big Sound) and Robby Towns (EDMTCC), who will present 2014: State of the Industry and The EDM Guide: Technology, Culture, Curation, respectively.

But going back to the our key objective of making Miami a hotbed for digital music startup creation, I’m thrilled to announce today the second edition of the MIA Music HackDay, which will take place the weekend before the MIA Music Summit, on Saturday March 21st and 22nd.  Over the course of the weekend, we will be hosting 50 hackers who will be competing for a chance two win a cash prize and two VIP tickets to attend the 16th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards and Official After Party in Las Vegas on November 19th!

The event will take place in Miami's newest co-working space,, and run for 12 consecutive hours each day.   Five teams will be chosen on Sunday evening by a panel of expert judges (based primarily on the technical merits of the hack), to then go on to pitch on the main stage of the MIA Music Summit on Thursday 26th for the grand prize.

This could be the best chance for local developers and entrepreneurs to build the music startup that they have been dreaming about.  And to make it even more exciting, this year’s MIA Music HackDay will be powered by Rokk3r Labs! Therefore, the five finalists won’t have to prepare for the main show by themselves, as they will have expert guidance on how to turn their hacks into disruptive, exponential startups.

During the course of the week, the Rokk3r Labs team will meet with the five teams and introduce them to their proprietary "cobuilding" process, which has been utilized over and over to successfully launch their portfolio companies.  So, fame and fortune will surely follow for the lucky hackers!

“Like other industries, music is seeing a significant disruption via exponential technologies. Rokk3r Labs is excited to provide local entrepreneurs with a unique opportunity to go through our strategic process to inspire, empower and cobuild their ideas to disrupt every aspect of the music industry in a very high-profile way.” explains Nabyl Charania, CEO of Rokk3r Labs.  “It is also a great showcase for Rokk3r Labs’ proven methodology that can be leveraged by the stakeholders of the local music industry, from labels to artists, to launch their disruptive projects in partnership with us.”

Lastly, all team members that finish and pitch their hacks will get a free pass to the MIA Music Summit ($199 value).  And since it’s a "music" HackDay after all, there will be plenty of music throughout the weekend, including cool entertainment both evenings of the event.

It is free to register and capacity is limited, so make sure you register to secure your participation today at

For those interested in attending the MIA Music Summit, the first 50 users to use the code HERALDVIP, will get $50 off the current early-bird price of $149, so act fast! 

 Demian Bellumio is COO of Senzari and a founder and organizer of the MIA Music Summit. 

Read reports on last year's MIA Music Summit here and here.



February 14, 2015

Expand your network: Ditch the denim (once in a while)

By Christine Johnson / @christinecelise


Christine johnsonOne of the factors used to measure a vibrant ecosystem is its surplus of events that foster the engagement and growth of  its entrepreneurs. Miami is certainly not at a loss in this area and is on track to be one of the country’s most active entrepreneurial communities. However, because we are all creatures of habit, local startup circles eventually find their calendars to be mere duplications of weeks prior. They max-out within their comfort zones and begin to feel frustrated with the ecosystem as a whole. They find themselves kicking-it with the usual suspects versus growing their contact lists, and accessing new networks and knowledge.


While there are gaps to be filled concerning untapped markets and programmatic offerings in every ecosystem, it may serve local entrepreneurs well to also determine if they have leveraged the spectrum of available opportunities. For example: Are they intersecting with other stakeholders that play a larger role in shaping Miami’s entrepreneurial landscape (e.g. relevant organizations, associations and technology alliances, universities and government sector)?


Recently, Miami Finance Forum hosted, “Mapping Miami’s Financial Future: An Insight into South Florida’s Hottest Emerging Sectors”. The star studded panels included the region’s top industry leaders for media and technology --  from those newly migrated to Miami to staples of the growing scene. The room was packed to capacity with faces rarely, if at all, seen intersecting with the entrepreneurial community. Instead of a high concentration of wall-to-wall denim, there was a sea of men in tailored suits and women in stockings - typically triggering disdain for startup culture, when it should trigger potential OPPORTUNITY.


An evolving community, Miami still has deeply entrenched silos of all kinds. Many of those that are shaping the landscape; have investor dollars; clout and decision-making ability are not at the typical meetup or event. They are regulars at events hosted by organizations like the Forum and other affinity groups around town.


The Forum’s executive director, Elena Djakonova, sites the Forum’s events as having few entrepreneurs, which is understandable given their membership.  “Mapping Miami’s Financial Future”  attendee demographic included, “...10% -15% entrepreneurs and the rest of the audience fairly evenly split between bankers, wealth management professionals, Private Equity, VC, Accountants and Lawyers,” says Elena.


Being one of the 10% (opposed to 90%) in this room, or in others with a wide range of various industry professionals and key influencers with great depth of knowledge and resources, can provide the ability to:  1) gain valuable intel first that may not be made public in a room of entrepreneurial peers, 2) discretely secure handshakes with stakeholders without competition, 3) begin to expand the strength of networks to include ancillary resources that may not be as obvious, 4) land a future champion or mentor to support a company’s growth, and 5) enhance expertise in a beneficial field.


By the way, this piece is in no way encouraging an entrepreneurial flashmob of epic proportions. There are definitely events and programs that do not target entrepreneurs as attendees because it may change the intended climate, but for those with open access “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission,” per popular business wisdom.


It also goes without saying that most events hosted by these groups have hefty price tags. In those instances, here a few ideas:


  • * Leverage your present champions and mentors that have inroads or the means. Ask them to sponsor your attendance. Or, perhaps they have guest passes.

  • * Contact the organizer to see if there is a discounted rate for entrepreneurs that may not be public.

  • * Volunteer for the event in a capacity that doesn’t tie you down in one place the entire time.


Solutions abound when exploring ways to expand networks. Today’s entrepreneurs, particularly the startup culture, are the risk-takers and wild childs of the ecosystem, so put on your thinking caps and go!

Christine  Johnson has dedicated 10+ years to developing educational programming for technology entrepreneurs. She is the CEO of  The Founder Development Group, and recognized for her commitment the past 5 years to diversity in technology (women, ethnic minorities, LGBT and youth) through her organization, DiversiTech.

February 12, 2015

FIU, Creative Class Group launch Creative City Initiative

FIU and the Creative Class Group,  founded by Richard Florida,  have joined forces to launch the FIU-Miami Creative City Initiative, a project to harness creative and entrepreneurial forces that can help accelerate greater Miami's transformation into a creative economy.
The FIU-Miami Creative City Initiative will engage political, business and cultural leaders, faculty, students, alumni and the greater community in a dialogue on how creativity, culture and design can drive a regional economy.
"At FIU we see creativity and the arts as equal partners with technology and entrepreneurship in moving our economy and job creation forward," said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. "The FIU-Miami Creative City Initiative is our way of helping to galvanize these forces in our community so that we create solutions, take full advantage of the opportunities that exist and create new ones."
The three-year initiative will be based in the College of Architecture  + the Arts' Miami Beach Urban Studios, on Lincoln Road.

This first salon held Jan. 29 and open to the public focused on the topic of creating public spaces that ignite creativity and promote community, often referred to as "place making."  The discussion featured Florida in conversation with Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and FIU Department of Landscape Architecture + Environmental and Urban Design Chairperson Roberto Rovira. Florida, Levine and Rovira discussed Miami Beach's creative future around arts, design, culture, innovation and entrepreneurship and invited ideas on how to further support the revitalization and creative energy around the Miami Beach Convention Center, Lincoln Road and Washington Ave. area. "The key asset to any city is talent," said Levine. "We are creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem where existing talent will want to stay and work and where new talent will want to launch startups."
In addition to other salons throughout the year, CCG will conduct research to further understand and define Miami's creative economy and its impact on the region. The study will examine Greater Miami's talent base, greatest needs and talent-based advantages.
"Greater Miami is at an inflection point," said Florida.  "Its economy, historically based on tourism and retirement, is shifting to a more robust creative economy, built around its stature as a global city: its ability to attract talent from Latin America, Europe and around the world; its global airport, its natural assets and quality of place; its arts and culture; educational institutions, and the ongoing resurgence of its urban core. These assets will be critical economic drivers for Miami's future. We are looking forward to partnering with FIU to bring the city some insights."
FIU Provost and Executive Vice President Kenneth G. Furton noted that this initiative is directly tied to goals in the strategic plans of the College of Architecture + the Arts and FIU.
"Traditionally universities have served as catalysts for the creative economy, helping to create ecosystems where creative talent and enterprises thrive," said Furton. "We want to use all of our resources, including the talents of students and faculty in the College of Architecture + The Arts, to spur economic development in Miami and beyond."

-Submitted by Florida International University


Posted Feb. 12, 2015

February 04, 2015

I Hacked Miami needs you: Join Code for Miami's hackathon Feb. 21

By Maggie Diaz-Vera / @codeformiami

Technology is rapidly changing how citizens communicate with their government, and Code for Miami wants everyone to help, regardless of their skillset and level of tech savviness.

On Saturday, February 21, Code for Miami and Miami Ad School will be hosting I <Hacked> Miami, a local CodeAcross 2015 hackathon. Launched by Code for America, CodeAcross is a national event set to inspire residents everywhere to become actively involved in their community.

Coinciding with International Open Data Day, Miami-Dade County will be opening its Open311 data to developers for the very first time, providing new opportunities to create citizen-focused applications in a creative, collaborative environment. But it’s not just developers who can help. Writers, designers, and anybody willing to learn can help with various projects including Miami Answers, which will create a platform for finding answers to citizens’ most frequently asked questions.

Code for America has chosen Miami-Dade County as a fellowship city for 2015. Selected among the best and brightest developers, designers, and project managers, Code for America Fellows spend a year partnering with volunteers and local governments to create open source solutions for government issues. This will be an chance for the community to meet with and discuss their personal experiences with the fellows to influence future projects.

While hacking is often seen as a daunting and unreachable skill only for the most advanced type of technology user, it is really just the ability to approach a problem in an unconventional way that leads to results. So come and join fellow Miami civic hackers on Saturday, February 21st at Miami Ad School to unlock the future of the community.

Follow along at #ihackedmiami and @codeformiami.

 Posted Feb. 4, 2015

January 28, 2015

Learning from failure: Strategies for bouncing back

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

When Susie Taylor walked onto the set of ABC’s Shark Tank, she showed the investors her stain-resistant baby bibs and asked them for $40,000 to grow her Miami business. But something happened Taylor didn’t expect. The “sharks” reduced her to tears by calling her business a hobby, her margins terrible, her management skills lacking, and then delivering their famous line to indicate they weren’t investing: “I’m out!”

Taylor walked off the set in tears, having failed to secure an investment before seven million viewers on national television. Then she faced the challenge of bouncing back.

If your business or strategy failed, if you made an expensive mistake, or if you experienced a business or personal setback in 2014, this is the time for recovery. Today, failure is a hot topic, and the topic of bouncing back is even hotter. In Silicon Valley, for instance, failure has emerged as a badge of honor among start-ups who share their lessons publicly. FailCon, a one-day conference in San Francisco celebrating failure has been so successful that it has spread to other countries.

While no one wants to fail, wildly successful entrepreneurs such as Spanx founder Sara Blakely say that true failure is not taking risks or trying. Blakely publicly credits her embrace of failure for what helped make her the youngest self-made female billionaire in America.

“Most successful people have ‘failed’ multiple times,” says David Harkleroad of Chief Outsiders in Miami, a consultant to CEOs of small and mid-size companies. “What makes them successful is they seek to understand the opportunities that arise from the failure.”

To understand the opportunities, the first step is acknowledging your situation. Since her Shark Tank fiasco, Taylor has tried to scrutinize what went wrong and how it affected Bibbitec, her bib business.

Initially, she invested more money in Bibbitec to fill the orders that flooded in when the episode aired. But she had to figure out her next move: “It took a lot of self awareness.” Taylor says she considered the harsh advice doled out by the sharks and realized she needed a businessperson to run the company and an outlet for sales — not simply rely upon word-of-mouth praise among moms. Her husband now runs the company and has put in systems to operate it more efficiently. Bibbitec relinquished sales on its website and now sells its bibs almost entirely on Amazon, which markets the products for them. The company expanded its line to seven styles of bibs manufactured in Hialeah, and in 2014 the company sold 3,000 bibs for average price of $22. “We put down ‘failure,’ but it’s the only thing that makes you grow,” Taylor says.

Consultants say turning around failure requires searching for the root cause of what went wrong. “It’s usually not what people think it is,” Harkleroad says. Usually, listening carefully to customers, team members and trusted advisors reveals a clue for how to course correct: “It requires listening to understand, not listening to respond.”

When Jody Johnson expanded her company, ActionCoach Team Sage, by adding more business coaches, sales didn’t follow. She realized she needed to change course and listened carefully to feedback. “I had tried to grow too fast,” Johnson says. “I brought on coaches before I had a marketing machine in place to be able to feed them.” She then scaled back on staff and invested in marketing and tracking results for clients: “Now what I have is exactly the right plan to go forward. I will grow organically and I can bring on another coach when I’m ready.”

Another key to bouncing back is to cut losses early. Whether you’re the guy who introduced McPizza to the McDonald’s menu or the one who expanded Pollo Tropical into an underperforming market, knowing when to give up when the signs are obvious can be critical to long-term success.

Continue reading "Learning from failure: Strategies for bouncing back " »

January 23, 2015

Chile creating a nationwide lab for ecosystem development

By Susan Amat

SusanamatAcross the globe, both city and national initiatives are regularly announced, each focused on developing their own entrepreneurial ecosystems to provide funding and support to their entrepreneurs. The “Startup (Insert City or Country name here)” programs tend to have many things in common, including shocking budgets, but often fail to address the long-term cultural shift that must occur for the newly enlightened entrepreneurs to want to stay in the region. The excitement surrounding the announcement is rarely followed up with the metrics and ROI of the project. Many of those programs are designed after visits to Startup Chile, which has been successful in creating a mindset shift among Chileans and developing thousands of entrepreneurial ambassadors all over the world who will recount their six-months in Chile, having fallen in love with her people and the country itself. The agency that oversees Chile’s economic development, growth, and promotes investment and competitiveness, Corporacion De Fomento De La Produccion (CORFO), could have easily sat back and continued to be the reference point for scores of policy leaders in creating their own programs, but leaders rarely rest.

The 2013 Presidential election resulted in a shifting of power. The new administration, under President Michelle Bachelet, reflected on the results of their much lauded programs and has been diligently crafting new initiatives to build their talent, expand entrepreneurship support beyond the main cities to create multiple poles, reduce rural migration, diversify the economy, and enable the establishment of equity-based funds with generous matching parameters. This marks another meaningful experiment in Chile and the early results are promising.

The key pivot is the creation of full support across the spectrum that may last throughout the lifetime of the business rather than a six-month stint. Chilean entrepreneurs, and those who will make substantial long-term investments in Chile, will also benefit from the tens of millions CORFO is deploying to ensure there is early stage capital for both tech and non-tech businesses. The investment, coupled with the support, may act to democratize the promise of economic freedom that entrepreneurship can offer.

Chile is ripe for this innovation. During our visit to Chile last week, we met with dozens of entrepreneurs, visited several incubators and co-working spaces, and did multiple trainings for mentors and entrepreneurs. The talent is evident and plentiful – great developers who are committed to starting and growing their businesses in Chile. CORFO has made equally healthy commitments to create an incubator network, though each location is still validating their impact and success metrics. The next phase has the potential to create thousands of high-wage jobs and position Chile as a leader in Latin America, and be the reason for other policy makers to send a second delegation to learn from them. The biggest challenges lie in ensuring entrepreneurs stay in the regions where they began and not feel the need to relocate to Santiago. Currently, although prestigious universities can be found in every region of the country, the hub of activity remains in Santiago. Creating high-quality programming and services so businesses can stay in Arica or Valdivia will go a long way toward inspiring the next generation to do the same. We visited Temuco to see Incubatec, one of the top Chilean incubators with success that exceeds most incubators in and out of LATAM. Their entrepreneurs are exporting beautifully packaged high-end water from the Andes to Asia, growing and exporting tulips all over the hemisphere, and even offering technical solutions to Fortune 100 clients. The leadership at Incubatec is passionate about helping the entrepreneurs scale and be Chilean success stories, and their energy is contagious. Bottling that would be a billion dollar business.

I am very excited to watch Chile’s progression and the next data points on these new initiatives. With the new vision, CORFO itself is offering the role modeling behavior that both entrepreneurs and policy makers should follow – at least on Twitter.

Dr. Susan Amat is the founder and CEO of Venture Hive, a company dedicated to economic development through entrepreneurship education. You can follow her on Twitter at @SusanAmat

January 16, 2015

'Shark Tank' casting call draws wide range of pitches from UM alumni, students


Buttercream:   Kristine Graulich (left, BBA '00) and Jose Cuellar.


 Room2Care:   Todd Florin, (left, MD and MBA '12) and Richard Ashenoff (MBA '12)

By Richard Westlund 

Todd Florin, who earned an MD/MBA degree from the University of Miami in 2012, believes America is ready for a new concept in senior residential care.  Jordan Barrocas, who earned his MBA from UM in 2011, wants to expand his fillet mignon beef jerky business, while Justin Lichtenstaedter, a 2010 business school graduate, is ready to roll out Yapper, a location-based mobile chat service.

On Friday,  more than a dozen University of Miami alumni and student teams pitched their entrepreneurial concepts at a casting call for "Shark Tank," the critically acclaimed business-theme TV series airing on ABC and in syndication on CNBC.  

"Our school has an excellent reputation for having alumni who start successful businesses," said Susana Alvarez, director of entrepreneurship programs at the UM School of Business Administration, which hosted the casting call. "The 'Shark Tank' producers took that into consideration when selecting UM as the site of this casting call."   Two teams led by UM School of business graduates, Rodolfo Saccoman and Omar Soliman, were featured on the show in 2009.

Making their pitch on Friday were UM alumni Florin and Richard Ashenoff II, founders of "America is aging and there is a serious shortage of affordable senior care," Florin told the three "Shark Tank" evaluators, Mindy Zemrak,  casting manager, Michael Kramer, senior producer, and Shawn Aly, casting associate. "Our goal is to connect people with extra space in their homes with seniors who need some support." The team is seeking $100,000 from the show's five "Sharks" to launch and promote its innovative residential concept.

In his pitch, Lichtenstaedter asked for $200,000 to roll out his location-based messaging app Yapper, recently launched at eight universities. "This allows you to have conversations with everyone in your area in real time," he said. "It's ideal if you're going to a sporting event or a business conference or just watching 'Shark Tank' at home on a Friday night."

When Kramer asked him how Yapper will make money, Lichtenstaedter said the company's revenue model is based on geotargeted advertising, based on users' demonstrated interests, such as sports teams or happy hour lounges.

Three of the teams focused on upscale food products, including Barrocas' "Three Jerks Jerky," a company whose products are now in 75 independent grocery stores. "We are already profitable, but need funding to expand to the national chains," he said.

Alumnus Nekishia Lester hopes her sweet potato products will capture America's taste buds. "We make pies, parfaits and smoothies with this superfood, and we're looking for investment to expand our family business," she said.

For alumnus Kristine Graulich and her husband Jose Cuellar, funding from a "Shark Tank" investor would allow them to expand Buttercream Cupcakes, their seven-year-old business, whose customers include singer Celine Dion and Miami Heat star Chris Bosh. "We sell more than 150,000 cupcakes a year, but we have reached capacity," Graulich said. "We want to open a flagship store, expand our menu and keep growing our market."

After sampling a mini-cupcake, Zemrak had high praise, saying it was "the best frosting" she had ever tasted. Graulich responded with a big smile and a heartfelt plea, "Buttercream has been our baby for the past seven years," she said. "I want to be on 'Shark Tank' more than I want to breathe air."

Posted Jan. 16, 2015 


December 30, 2014

Inaugural Miami Bitcoin Hackathon is set for Jan. 9-11: the details

By Gianni D’Alerta

South Florida non
profit technology group Blockchain Beach will be hosting its inaugural Miami Bitcoin Hackathon. This three-day event at The LAB Miami in Wynwood starts with a reception and registration event on Friday, Jan. 9, and ends with an award ceremony on Sunday, Jan. 11.  Coders will be competing from around the tri-county area for prizes and awards in a number of categories relating to Bitcoin and crypto-currencies technology development.

Registration for the event is accompanied by a kickoff party frequented by the best and brightest in the South Florida tech scene. During the commencement ceremony, time has been allotted for networking, presentations from local experts, and business pitches from members of the local startup community. After the reception event, programming teams will begin their hacking on the following morning at 8:00 AM. Lunch and dinner will be provided to hackers, and is being supplied by event sponsors. Sunday is the final day of the event, which consists of a short morning spent on polishing the prior days code, and will be followed by presentations to the judges at 1:30. Results of the judges panel will be revealed at 4:00 PM, and will be followed by an after-party. Entry is free for all participants, as well for event spectators.

Blockchain_beach-9cac35978d9ac024641dd577d521c6caWith Miami's proximity to Latin America, and its existing infrastructure in banking and finance relations with South and Central America, Miami's community leaders are focusing on bringing attention to the region amongst crypto-currency advocates and industry leaders. The Blockchain Beach committee, which is managing the event, have recruited participants from all sectors of the local fintech economy. Notable attendees to the event include representatives from a number of the leading crypto-currency projects, including Angel Leon of the "Open Bazaar" team, and Chris DeRose of the "Counterparty" project. As crypto-currency grows from its roots as a computer science "proof of concept", and into a full-fledged remittance and payment industry, the organizers of the event believe that it is vital for Miami to remain competitive with similar institutions in New York and California.

Chris DeRose, one of the events competitors, discussed why he’s participating in the event: "People have a rudimentary understanding of this technology, and really have no concept of just how transformative Bitcoin technology will be. My hope is that by participating in events like this one, I can show members of the financial community that there are major innovations coming to their businesses". Prizes for the winners of this year's event total over $17,000 in cash (paid in Bitcoin of course), along with hand-outs and giveaways for all participating teams.

The primary sponsor of the Miami Bitcoin Hackathon is Bitstop, which is coming fresh off the heels of a "Most Disruptive Startup" award at the 2014 Refresh year-end awards ceremony. Corporate sponsorship comes from BitPay, Coinkite, Tally Capital, and the Knight Foundation. Local educational institution partners include Miami Dade College, University of Miami and Wyncode.

The Miami Bitcoin Hackathon is merely one of a number of Bitcoin themed events in Florida, happening in near-succession. The hackathon has been timed to occur two weeks after the Bitcoin Bowl in St. Petersburg, FL, and one weekend before The North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami.  The winner of the hackathon will be invited to pitch a business idea at the startup session during the subsequent Bitcoin conference. Bitstop organizer Douglas Carrillo is quick to stress the point "This hackathon is merely one step in the direction we're heading for 2015. Fans of fintech can start looking forward to a really significant year in the development of Miami, and Blockchain Beach."

For more information on the hackathon, visit the website for details, rules, and a hacker registration form.

Gianni D'Alerta works as a director at ActivePBX (a local Hosted PBX phone company). In his free time, he is a Crypto Currency champion and helps with the Miami Bitcoin Meetup / Facebook Groups. He is one of the founding members of the soon to be launched non-profit Blockchain Beach.

Posted Dec. 30, 2014