October 12, 2016

One reason the tech ecosystem isn’t growing the way it could

Jim McKelvey at Toqueville tighter

Photo provided by United Way

By Alma Kadragic

Since arriving in Miami three years ago, I’ve been hearing about the developing technology ecosystem, spurred by eMerge Americas and bolstered by funding from the Knight Foundation.

I’ve been a believer, having attended the past three eMerge conferences, each year bigger with more entrepreneurs participating and tech companies sponsoring, and followed the growth of The Lab Miami, Venture Hive, WIN Lab Miami, Endeavor and other organizations dedicated to building the tech ecosystem here.

But Tuesday morning I attended a session of the Toqueville Society, a networking and fundraising arm of United Way where a group of corporate leaders invest a considerable amount to attend and hear significant speakers.

The speaker Tuesday was Jim McKelvey, co-founder of Square, and founder of the nonprofit LaunchCode. He came to talk about his challenges establishing LaunchCode in South Florida, which according to a recent survey is among the worst metropolitan areas in the U.S. for technology development.

Just three years ago, McKelvey founded LaunchCode in his hometown of St. Louis. He trained 400 people to code – a process that takes six months, he says - and was able to find what became permanent jobs for 40 or 10 percent of them by calling CEOs of companies like Boeing and Anheiser-Busch.

That same method hasn’t worked here. Somehow, McKelvey says due to his own mistake, LaunchCode became identified as a charity and instead of CEOs, he or Matt Mawhinney, the head of LaunchCode in Miami, are sent to HR departments and community relations officers, none of whom understand what LaunchCode has to offer and that some of those trained through LaunchCode could become top level IT employees even though they lack traditional credentials.

All this while, says McKelvey, at least 500 well-paying IT jobs go unfilled here. One reason is that traditional hires are based on academic record, graduation from a respectable institution of higher education, and so on. He has spent enough time in Silicon Valley where not only stars like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates never completed college but also many top employees whose names we don’t know draw six figure salaries and stock options, sometimes going straight from high school to high tech employment.

Perhaps because the tech ecosystem is so new in South Florida, few people in a position to hire are ready for disruptive hires of people who never graduated from college or do not have a resume full of enlightened volunteer activities.

One of the reasons McKelvey came to the Toqueville Society was to ask the approximately 40 people there to each contact the CEO of a top organization in South Florida and tell that person what LaunchCode has to offer. Maybe this kind of indirect approach will work and help connect good jobs and trained coders.

For more information on LaunchCode, go to launchcode.org/Miami

Alma Kadragic is president of Alcat Communications International and president of the Miami chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). Follow here on Twitter @almakad.

Read more: Launch, grow, invest: Ways to make women count in the tech ecosystem

Read more: Q&A with Jim McKelvey: LauchCode ‘just flat-out life changing’

September 18, 2016

Why every incubator needs social entrepreneurs


Photo by Daniela Cadena

By Robert Hacker

In January 2016, Emily Gresham and I began to design the program that became StartUP FIU, Florida International University’s (FIU) new incubator. Emily, who is Assistant Vice President for Research and Economic Development, holds the strong belief that hospitals and universities are the anchor institutions in cities. This philosophy lead to StartUP FIU’s focus on serving the entire community and not just the Brickell-Wynwood corridor. I believe there is much confusion between small business management and entrepreneurship and that Miami would be best served if StartUP FIU supported the entrepreneurship that grows large, scalable ventures. With community and scalable ventures in place as the founding principles, Emily and I quickly added other key principles:

Inclusion We welcome everyone to apply to StartUP FIU, from high schoolers and college students to faculty from any university in South Florida. We welcome retired people, FIU alumni and people with no formal education. We received 160 applications to Cohort 1 and the applications were split almost evenly between students, alumni and the community. As they say, “we bet on the jockeys and not on the horses”.

Free: To be truly inclusive a program cannot have financial barriers to entry. The signature, 13-week incubator program “Empower” is totally free--no application fees, no payments or charges during the program and no equity participation for the incubator. We also provide mentors, consultants, space and university resources at no charge.

Stage Agnostic: When we first started talking to prospective entrepreneurs, we realized that many people did not even know how to advance their ideas beyond their first doodles on a piece of paper. Therefore, we decided that we would accept people who just had ideas, people that had a minimal viable product (MVP) but no revenue and companies with revenue. Applicants did not even have to have a company formed.

General Incubator: We think of StartUP FIU as a startup. We are iterating to determine the best way to serve the South Florida community. Today we accept all types of ideas from food and fashion to edtech, high tech and medical diagnostics. We even have a chair company in Cohort 1. We may experiment with specially “themed cohorts” in the future as we continue to explore what types of entrepreneurship will best serve South Florida, but today we welcome applications from all industries.

Authenticity: When one spends a lot of time with students, one realizes that they are most engaged by hands on, experiential learning. StartUP FIU’s incubator is offered through a group of entrepreneurs that use the customer fieldwork approach in a modified Lean Startup methodology. We do not use the professorial approach so common in most academic incubators. Demo Day at StartUP FIU is a pitch day to angel, seed and “A” round VCs.

The last key decision Emily and I made was to combine traditional and social entrepreneurs in the same cohort. Several institutions have separate incubators for traditional and social entrepreneurs, but we found that perhaps only Y Combinator shares our view that all the entrepreneurs should be combined in one cohort. We opted for this approach in part because we believe that diversity breeds better collaboration.

Secondly, we believe that the social entrepreneurs will help the traditional entrepreneurs to remember their responsibility to not only make a profit but also to improve society.

Lastly, millennials have a high level of genuine social concern. As they reach the years where they become the major purchasers, they will force all entrepreneurs to become social entrepreneurs.

Perhaps the evidence for this view of social entrepreneurship comes from the people and companies that began Cohort 1 Sept. 6 (pictured above). We have a former Detroit schoolteacher trying to provide better information about higher education alternatives to students. We have a team originally from Venezuela working to use bee keeping as a micro-entrepreneurship concept to help poor women raise their standard of living. We have a team composed of about fifteen FIU computer science graduate and undergraduate students from all over the world creating a new pedagogy for early child learning using the agile development methodology. We also have a PhD researcher from Baskin Palmer working on a new approach to eye diagnostics and a team building prosthetics with 3-D printers. As is obvious, the line between social and traditional entrepreneurship is becoming very cloudy.

[Who's in Cohort 1? See the list here.]

StartUP FIU will begin accepting applications Sept. 19, 2016, for its second cohort beginning in January 2017. Applications and more information about StartUP FIU can be found at Startup.FIU.edu.

Robert Hacker is the Director of StartUP FIU and teaches social entrepreneurship at FIU, MIT and UM. He is the former CFO of One Laptop per Child and prior to that built a publicly traded billion-dollar company in seven years in Indonesia. He consults to companies in the U.S., the Caribbean and Central America on growth strategies and complex problems through GH Growth Advisors. His books on entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship are available on Amazon.

READ MORE: Multi-campus StartUP FIU gets ready for takeoff

READ MORE: Q&A with Robert Hacker on scaling social entrepreneurship, finding partners, thinking big


 Above, Bob Hacker introduced the mentors to the StartUP FIU entrepreneurs. At top of post, the first cohort of StartUP FIU.

September 13, 2016

Launch, grow, invest: Ways to make women count in the tech ecosystem

United Way Womens Luncheon

A sea of women entrepreneurs attends a United Way Women's Leadership luncheon. Photo by Sidonia Rose Swarm

By Alma Kadragic

First came the birth of the Miami technology ecosystem, strongly supported by the Knight Foundation and visible with the launch of e-Merge Americas in the first half of 2014. As e-Merge continued, incubators and accelerators grew together with co-working spaces like Pipeline and WeWork. And then someone realized that despite a few stars, the technology ecosystem seemed to benefit male entrepreneurs far more than women.

One answer was the launch in May of WIN Lab Miami, The Center for Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership, backed by Babson College. Starting this month 20 women - from new entrepreneurs to those with several startups behind them - will spend eight months at WIN Lab developing concepts, brands, and management to create scalable companies.

WIN Lab Director Nelly Farra moderated a panel of women entrepreneurs today, sponsored by United Way as part of its Women's Leadership Let's Do Lunch program. The panel included Mary Anderson, a tech industry senior marketing executive focusing on investing and advising early and mid-stage companies; and entrepreneurs Suzanne Batlle, founder and owner, Azucar Ice Cream Company; Marilu Rios Kernan, co-founder and president, Pepe Loves Books, working on her fifth startup; and Amanda Pizarro, co-owner, The Salty Donut. 

That more than 100 women attended the lunch at United Way's headquarters in Miami suggests that women are beginning to become visible in the technology ecosystem. Not everyone will start a company and not all of the attendees were business owners. However, they listened and applauded as the entrepreneurs shared experiences, some difficult, all of them instructive. 

As president of the Miami chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), I came to luncheon to see if I could find new members. Too many women in business go it alone and prefer to follow the hidden path in the woods rather than the broad avenue in the sun. I believe in exposure with all the risks that can entail. Certainly the panelists had taken and were continuing to take risks. I hope their example will inspire at least some of those 100 women to launch a business; grow their business; or invest in someone else's business - all good ways to make women count in the technology ecosystem.

Alma Kadragic is president of Alcat Communications International and president of the Miami chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). Follow here on Twitter @almakad.


September 10, 2016

How I became a Maker (again) -- and you can, too


Join the movement. Let's make Miami a Maker town!



I often get asked by people what a maker or maker space is. A maker is someone who likes to DIY by repairing or creating electronic devices, building models, creating cosplay or 3D printing items, but in reality anyone who creates things can be considered a maker.

I was the kid who liked taking things apart and putting them back together. This was not always a successful process, but I got better and better. I eventually started to repair broken instruments, games, stereos and other electronic devices for my friends and me. The deal was when I repaired things for my friends, I charged a low price with the disclaimer that whatever I was repairing might end up as a pile of parts inside a Ziplock bag.

Additionally, I was interested in computers, which became an increasingly inexpensive way to create and invent because there was no need to purchase materials, no delay while waiting on mail orders, and no special tools were needed. My hardware career was short lived and my days of replacing broken screens or modifying gadgets were over as I got more and more into software and networking.

Last year the universe conspired to get me back into becoming a maker. First, Moonlighter Miami opened up and once again gave me access to all the things I had as the son of a mechanic: an awesome workshop and even new digital tools only available to real fabricators. Second, I took a job at Watsco Ventures and started working on extremely cool projects that required building prototypes using Raspberry Pi and Arduino. This made me spend even more time at Moonlighter tinkering and learning for my day job and as a curious maker.

Over the last year I have built lots of “stuff,” most of which is work related to be shown at a later date. However, I have made some things that have been shown off, including the Moonlighter photo booth that was built with a broken laptop’s monitor and a Raspberry PI, the modified PiGRRL 3 used for Moonlighter summer camp, and the poetry printer for the O'Miami poetry festival (See photo below). These are just some of the “stuff” that I have created as a maker, not to mention the bounty of projects I have in store for the future.

I have also helped on countless projects for others and have received help on my own projects. It's one thing to build something alone at home, but another thing entirely if you do it while surrounded by other makers. The communal experience of sharing thoughts and know-how, as well as having access to digital fabrication prototyping and manufacturing tools has made me more involved in the community. The teamwork and togetherness at Moonlighter this past year have not only been experienced by me, but also by my own young children, as they’ve created their own projects and received help and feedback from the community.

The barriers to becoming a maker have shrunk significantly with the cost of kits decreasing and with increasing availability of access to memberships to places like Moonlighter. These barriers that previously prohibited people from inventing, making prototypes or simply creating are a thing of the past. All you need today to become a “maker” is to use free tools like TinkerCad or Google Draw to make this into a reality.

The shop classes we all participated in when we were in school are nearly extinct, and there are little to no digital fabrication classes to take their place. Moonlighter and Learn01 have added summer camps, workshops, after-school classes  and events to fill the gap, but we have a long way to go before 3D printing and Raspberry Pi become household names.

Join the movement, mentor a future maker, and allow making to be something you do and share. Let's make Miami a Maker town!

Mario Cruz is a director at Watsco Ventures, an entrepreneur, a mentor and a drummer. He is not an investor in Moonlighter, but is a proud Moonlighter member and Maker Dad. 


Photos taken at Moonlighter provided by Mario Cruz.

August 22, 2016

Learn to code in 10 weeks? Try one day.


Photos by Andrew Sierra of Digital Taste Makers


By Jocelyn Caster

This past Saturday morning, nearly one hundred young professionals flocked to the Wynwood Art District’s Miami Light Project for a truly unique experience. Unlike the crowd in Wynwood later that night, these men and women did not come for a chic gallery opening or a trendy bar night. No, these people gave up their Saturday to start on the path of learning how to code at Wyncode’s Wyntroduction to Code.

Wyncode Academy’s Lead Instructor, Ed Toro, helped attendees write their very first lines of code using the language Ruby. Less than eight hours later, these development newbies had completed an entire coding project - one that Wyncode’s own students work on during their first week at the web immersive bootcamp.

This wasn’t the first time Wyncode hosted a one day bootcamp. In the first iteration of the day-long introductory workshop, Wyncode welcomed ten students participating in the Ancient City Ruby Conference in St. Augustine to spend the day with Wyncode’s Head of Product Development Sean Sellek. Based on overwhelming positive feedback, Wyncode brought the workshop to Miami. The workshop was quickly waitlisted, despite the size of the Light Box, where there is much more room for increased participation compared to Wyncode’s traditional sample classes.

Wyncode Miami’s flagship classroom is just next door at The LAB Miami, which allowed interested students the chance to pop their heads in and see where they could be spending ten exciting but demanding weeks, should they apply and get accepted into the bootcamp. Wyncode also has a campus in Ft. Lauderdale’s trendy FATvillage district at co-working space General Provision.

The majority of participants showed up motivated and interested in learning how to code. But, many also came with an ulterior motive - a chance to figure out if the $11,500 investment in the full-time, immersive coding bootcamp is really worth it compared to other learning options, such as self-teaching, part-time courses, or online course routes.


Auston Bunsen, Miami Tech leader and Wyncode Fort Lauderdale’s lead instructor, said:, “A full-time program really pushes you to learn how to code and challenges you more than you ever could by yourself...You’re firing on all-cylinders, with a massive amount of content coming at you.” While he understands that this intense environment is not for everyone, Auston said “you really need to be [mentally] prepared for it, [if you are] it’s definitely the highest return on investment.”

With the heavy burden of expectation placed on bootcampers from the get-go, many Wyntroduction attendees spent the day not only wiring their first lines of code, but also evaluating if they are up for the challenge of completely immersed in the world of coding and South Florida's up-and-coming startup ecosystem for 10 weeks. In order to be accepted into the web immersive bootcamp, a potential student must prove he or she is prepared for the rigors of the course through a series of interviews and challenges.

Attendees of last Saturday’s Wyntroduction event were additionally able to experience the networking potential from enrolling in Wyncode first-hand. Wyncode welcomed alumni Sara Hincapie of Careerscore, Matthew Kellough of Sandals and Christina Nguyen of SapientNitro to share their Wyncode experience as well as the challenges and rewards of learning to code. Auston Bunsen used emojis to present his version of Miami Tech history in 5 minutes. Hiring partners JC Carrillo of Kipu Systems, Ivan Rapin-Smith of Watsco Ventures and Emilio Cueto of LiveNinja talked about their need for talent and why they hire from Wyncode, as each have hired multiple developers out of the program. The day wrapped up with a happy hour at nearby Gramps bar, where the attendees mingled with the Wyncode team, alumni as well as with local players in the Miami tech scene. Everyone was documenting the day with Wyncode’s custom Snapchat filter.

If Saturday was any indication, interest in the Miami Tech scene is at an all-time high. Wyncode was able to show how they can help totally inexperienced coders gain the skills and confidence necessary to tackle the process of learning to code and can supply you with a local community of similarly-minded individuals in the process.

Given how much was accomplished in one day, we look forward to what this group of ambitious individuals will do should they join Wyncode’s 350 graduates and 80 hiring partners in the future.


To learn more about Wyncode or sign up for the next Wyntroduction event, please visit www.wyncode.co


Photos by Andrew Sierra of Digital Taste Maker

August 13, 2016

Let’s be mindful about Wynwood and Zika

Sacred space

Yoga at the Sacred Space in Wynwood.

By Demian Bellumio

Kahill Head, one of the most positive and inspiring people that I’ve met so far through Dawnings  —  a little event that I created in order to bring mindfulness and wellness to Miami’s entrepreneurial and professional communities — told me today:

“Dawn is the light that comes after the darkness, so Dawnings was born at the perfect time to help Wynwood”

He told me this insight after I called him to see how we can raise awareness around what is going on by leveraging our next Dawnings event Burning Man Edition, which is taking place next Wednesday, Aug. 17th starting from 6 to 9am.

As I researched more and more about the Zika issue, I had more questions than answers. And, as I talked to more and more people that live and work in the area, I realized that the public officials and government institutions also did not have all the answers that the citizens were looking for.

One question in particular stuck out to me. What is more dangerous, the Zika virus or the chemicals that are being used to fight it? I live in Edgewater, basically the same neighborhood as Wynwood, and from my hi-rise, I saw the planes spray gallons after gallons of liquid just a few blocks from the park where my daughter plays every afternoon.

After speaking with Kahill and other partners and friends, I decided that we MUST to use the next Dawnings as a platform to raise awareness about the real issues that concern the Wynwood and Miami community (the infamous map actually includes Edgewater, Midtown, Design District, but Wynwood is the one singled-out) and more importantly, to bring our collective positive energy and support for the people whose livelihoods are being threatened by the negative, and sometimes not completely accurate, press that is coming out daily in local and national outlets.

We couldn’t have asked for a better partner for the venue. The Sacred Space Miami is a state-of-the-art facility that has plenty of indoor space to accommodate our guests, so the entire event will take place inside. In addition, they installed a permanent system called Mosquitonix on the property to mist spray and ensure that you can walk safely to your car. The spray is biodegradable and plant based. I expected no less of the Miami home to the world-famous Plant Food + Wine Miami.

Yoga at The Sacred Space Miami

During the Meditate section, where we will start with a 30-min yoga session led by Pablo Lucero (OM Movement)followed by an inspiring candlelight meditation led by Kahill Head (SPIRIT-ILL) that will culminate with the creation of a shrine with our collective candles and with the special intention of helping our Wynwood neighbors. It will be followed by the Educate section, with inspiring talks from Natalia Martinez-Kalinina(CIC) and Dane Andrews (Roam). And we will end the morning experience with a celebration during the Liberate section that will include kick-ass music by DJ Alan Epps (Do Not Sit on the Furniture), natural juices from ColdPressRaworganic fruits from Endlessly Organic and healthy treats, including organic teas, acai bowls, and local fruits and breads from Wynwood Farmers Market’s vendors.

In conclusion, Dawnings was born in Wynwood at LAB Miami and we will do everything we can to support this energetic, entrepreneurial, forward-thinking and creative piece of Miami. We will take every precaution to have a safe experience for all guests, and we will harness the positive intentions of the community so that we can close this chapter sooner rather than later. But we are conscious that there are many questions still unanswered, so we want to provide a platform to find the correct answers. Therefore, I want to offer the following:

If you live/work in Wynwood and feel that you need a mindful experience and community to rely on, I want to offer you a free ticket to Dawnings. Please contact me at dbellumio@miacollective.co

To the rest of the Miami’s entrepreneurs, professionals, adventurers, artists, athletes and just curious beings, please join us next Wednesday at 6am and help us create a more mindful, educated and health-aware Miami. For more information, please visit Dawnings.co.

August 10, 2016

50 participate in Ironhack's inaugural We/Code: Women's Weekend


Photographer: Mary Beth Koeth (http://www.mbkoeth.com/)

By Greyceli Marin

Ironhack2Ironhack coding school, an intensive web development and UX/UI design bootcamp, hosted its first multi-day coding workshop for women only, We/Code: Women’s Weekend. It was dedicated to teaching the fundamentals of front-end web development, guiding the attendees through building their own personal web pages from scratch.

To participate, women had to submit written applications answering the question, How will knowing the fundamentals of web development improve your professional profile? After reviewing over 130 applicants, 50 were carefully selected to attend free of charge. The lectures were helmed by Ironhack’s Head of Product, who also built the curriculum for the school’s new Front-End Web Development bootcamp.

On Saturday morning, 50 enthusiastic women made their way to Ironhack Miami’s campus inside Building.co, a collaborative workspace in Brickell where they were greeted by complimentary breakfast. Day 1 began with an introduction to HTML and CSS, their syntax and how the languages worked together on a website. Everyone was asked to download a text editor they would use to build their sites, and then went straight to coding.

The instructor coded along with the class, with his laptop connected to the big projector in front of the room. As the group built, seven assistants, ladies who were either Ironhack alumni or current students in the front-end course, were available throughout the weekend to help out.

Most of the women participating had never touched a line of code before and most of them came from non-technical backgrounds. There were entrepreneurs, project managers, designers, marketers, educators and even a 14-year-old about to enter her freshman year of high school. They all successfully built customized resume web pages using HTML and CSS.

Day 2 concluded with finishing touches on the web pages and three workshops led by industry leaders. The workshops were 30 minute presentations on how having basic coding knowledge helped them succeed in their non-technical roles, with a Q&A session at the end. Speakers included Linda Koritkoski, director of marketing at STRAAT, where her HTML and CSS competency comes in handy when prototyping, building SEO and communicating with her developer team; Alexandra Floresmeyer, lead designer at Liveanswer who works closely with web developers and says that understanding web languages helps her create more feasible designs; and Marsha Belinson, managing director at JBCConnect (and a participant in the event) who gave best practices on recruiting, interviewing and working with developers.

The weekend was a direct successor of its namesake, We/Code, Europe’s largest intro-to-coding event launched by Ironhack’s Spain Campuses in collaboration with Google for Entrepreneurs’ Campus Madrid. For more information about Ironhack and future events, visit https://www.ironhack.com/en.

June 14, 2016

Come explore the dawn of a new and more mindful Miami - inaugural event June 29

NIC_8941 (1)

By Demian Bellumio

As a Miami tech entrepreneur, over the last decade I have had my share of the emotional ups-and-downs that come with the “startup life.”  Founding and running a company is not only stressful, but also a very lonely experience.  Sometimes you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders, as you know that your employees, your family, your investors and even your customers, depend on you.  Your only option seems to be just to succeed, despite having all the odds against you.

In addition, year after year, I have also experienced the same frustration that is shared by many other busy professionals that juggle long workdays, busy travel schedules, endless networking events and an active family life, while trying to start and maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Dieting, exercising, or just staying relatively active seems to get harder and harder as the years go by.

But as I traveled the world, I have found that there are some people that seem to have found ways for dealing with the struggles of entrepreneurship, or have successfully cracked the code of work-life balance.  They seem to be successful while living happy and healthy lives, and inspiring others to follow their lead.  For example, I have listened to Arianna Huffington talk at DLD about the benefits of napping, watched Lebron James swear by his Yoga practice, follow Russell Simmons mindful lifestyle on social media and read the posts by my friend Loic Le Meur where he shares how meditation changed his life. 

I therefore began to get curious about what Miami had to offer in the areas of mindfulness, yoga, meditation, wellness, etc. and I was surprised about what I found.  For all the superficiality that sometimes our city is known for, there is a large and growing community of fascinating people, places and companies that are building a much more interesting and healthier Miami.  My interest in showcasing these individuals to the broader community, while gathering together other like-minded people around a fun and unique experience, has inspired me to start Dawnings.

Dawnings will be a monthly event that will take place in different locations around Miami and will aim to bring together entrepreneurs, executives, creative professionals, artists and other busy people in order to disconnect from our routines and reboot our mind and bodies.  The first event will be June 29 at The LAB Miami. 

The event will be divided in three sections.  It will start with the “Meditate” section, where during the inaugural Dawnings, local yoga master Pablo Lucero (pictured above) will guide attendees through a session that will relax the mind and body under the sunrise.  Then, during the “Educate” section, local entrepreneurs Myk Likhov (Modern Om), Patrick Hilsbos (Neuromore), and Tatiana Peisach (CPR) (all pictured below) will share their amazing stories in order to inspire attendees to build a better future.  Lastly, we will end the event with the “Liberate” section, where we will enjoy a “wellness happy hour”, complete with healthy snacks and drinks.  The first Dawnings is sponsored by Innovate Miami and is supported by LAB Miami, Senzari and WeWork.

Dawnings will start at 6 in the morning; yes, you will have to wake up while it is still dark to attend it.  Why? Because I have found that it is hard for a lot of busy people to disconnect in the afternoon, and early in the morning seems to fit their schedule better and get them ready for the workday.  But more importantly, I have always found Miami’s sunrises to be re-energizing and full of beauty, and naturally seem like the perfect backdrop to explore the “dawn of this new and more mindful Miami”.

Please visit Dawnings.co to learn more about the inaugural June 29 event. Use code Herald25 to receive 25% off the current early-bird ticket price ($25), which ends on June 15th at 11 pm.

Demian Bellumio is the founder of MIA Collective and COO of Senzari.


Headshot Myk Patrick

June 08, 2016

In building an innovation economy in Miami, look to the arts for proven model of success


By Olga Granda-Scott

OlgaAs an early adopter of many early initiatives in Miami’s startup scene, I’ve enjoyed several years of conversations surrounding the hows and whys of investing in a technology-enabled entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Most recently, I turned my focus to the intersection of that entrepreneurial community and the arts. What I’ve observed are the essential building blocks the arts industry has employed in creating a community which now boasts a monumental economic impact while establishing a global brand.

I believe Miami’s arts scene is a true case study for the “innovation economy.” Here’s why:

P3s. Before it was a trendy acronym, private-public partnerships were laying the groundwork for the creative powerhouse that is Miami today. From the contribution of public lands to cultural organizations to cemented affiliations with public institutions of higher education (The Wolfsonian-FIU, MDC’s Miami International Film Festival, etc), these partnerships have given each side of the relationship opportunities to maximize their scalability and impact. These are cases in which the sum is exponentially greater than the parts.

Training. To name a few, a single decade saw the creation of: the New World Symphony, New World School of the Arts, Miami City Ballet, Design and Architecture High School, YoungArts, ArtCenter South Florida, Miami Light Project, Bakehouse Art Complex, and the Rhythm Foundation.

All of these institutions, some public, some private, were founded with aspirations to achieve artistic excellence at national and international levels and have sought to develop artists and audiences, from children thru post-graduates. Alumni are now making strides at home and abroad, pointing to Miami as their seminal reference.

Financial resources. From government grant programs to private foundations, aspiring artists and potential founders know there are annual funding opportunities from a few hundred dollars into the millions. Locally, the County’s Department of Cultural Affairs, the Knight Foundation, and the Miami Foundation are exemplary entities who have led this charge with boundless ambition and sustainable results.

Want $1,000 to try out a quirky idea? Apply for a micro-grant from the Awesome Foundation. Need $5,000 to host a choreographic festival? Solicit for a grant from the Funding Arts Network. Dream of $250,000 to launch a seaside artists’ residency? Pitch 150 words during the Knight Arts Challenge.

Everyone has a place to start exploring and seek the financial resources to get off the ground -- and know those public and private supporters will be there for continued capitalization if a successful product and experience is being delivered.  Much of that funding doesn’t come with strings attached, permitting a level of self-driven independent creativity that is equally essential for success.

Millions of dollars have been pumped into the local arts industry establishing schools, residencies, companies, work spaces, museums and cultural facilities -- all because the arts transform communities. The arts transform neighborhoods. The arts transform lives.

Now read that paragraph again, replacing the word “arts” with the word “technology.”

If we want to have global stature in technology as we do in the arts, we already have a proven model for success.

Olga Granda-Scott is a Cuban-American entrepreneur, raised in Miami. Olga co-founded TheHighBoy.com, an online marketplace for antiques and art to help other mom-and-pop shop owners compete in the digital world. After having secured a 7-figure investment round and winning the Miami Herald's Business Plan Challenge in 2015, Olga chose to pursue a new venture aimed at combining her experience in the arts and business with her passion for social impact. A believer in public-private partnerships, she is currently the Executive Director of the Coconut Grove Playhouse Foundation, whose mission is to expedite the restoration of the historic site as a world-class cultural and civic anchor. Follow her on Twitter @GrandaScott.

May 26, 2016

It’s all about efficiency: A conversation with SpeedETab’s cofounders

By Rhiya Mittal / RhiyaMittal@gmail.com

PicturePicture this. It’s already 6:50 pm and you just arrived to the Wynwood Art District to attend Startup Grind Miami’s monthly Fireside Chat. Only 10 minutes remain until the chat begins but you need to get your medium latte from Panther Coffee after your grueling day at work. For the average person, this may seem like quite the dilemma. But not for you! You’ve already ordered and paid for your coffee ahead of time through your SpeedETab app on your smartphone. You quickly run into Panther Coffee, snigger at the long line of eager coffee drinkers, spot an inviting to-go cup with your name on it on SpeedETab’s signature black and green mat, scoop it up, and leave the store- all in a span of two minutes. You then head on over to LAB Miami, Wynwood’s hub for entrepreneurs and innovators (and the venue for the night’s Startup Grind event), and make it just in time for the Fireside Chat, caffeinated and ready to go! You whip out your laptop and get ready to take notes on tonight’s conversation with SpeedETab cofounders, Adam Garfield and Ed Gilmore, to see how they made the magic happen.

(Side note- the above anecdote is a true story based on my personal experience/)

So, what is SpeedETab? After working long hours at a corporate finance firm in Boston, Adam Garfield would often go out with his friends to grab a beer at a local bar. It was then that he noticed a recurring problem that did not yet seem to have a solution: he would often be standing at the bar after ordering his drink, with his cash in hand, for upwards of 10 minutes, waiting for a bartender to process his order and deliver his beverage. Something had to be done. Adam and cofounder Ed Gilmore decided to take matters into their own hands and create SpeedETab, a mobile ordering app that allows users to discover nearby restaurants, order food and drinks, and pay for their order- all in one go. To retrieve their orders, users simply skip the line at their favorite venues, walk up to the SpeedETab mat by the cashiers, and pick up their items. It’s that easy! Launched in March 2015, SpeedETab has taken the South Florida region by storm and is used at over 100 venues, with plans to expand to New York soon.

NewstartupgrindProduct is king. Focus is key. In the tech environment, there are countless ways to improve a product and add new, shiny features that may seem revolutionary. However, constant feature upgrades and additions may prove to actually detract from the product itself and could be economically impractical. So how does one choose which features stay and which ones go? Adam and Ed believe that in order to be successful, a team’s main focus must be guaranteeing that its main product works efficiently and successfully while consistently delivering and achieving its ultimate goal. SpeedETab’s team focuses primarily on the ultimate user experience, for both its merchants and its clients. Before updating the app in any way, Adam and Ed ensure that the user experience will remain streamlined and reliable, as their goal is to create a frictionless connection between technology and hospitality. To do this, both cofounders constantly keep each other balanced and evaluate each change they make to make sure that the modifications will benefit the company both technologically and economically. Product success will also help in other ways. While advertising, marketing, and sales promotions do build hype around a product, the best PR comes from letting the product speak for itself. Allowing customers to share their own experiences with a product and tell their friends and families about the reasons why they love it is invaluable and extremely effective. The easiest way to make sure this happens is to have a team that focuses on the product itself, not the revenue it generates.

Healthy competition. When direct competitors are out there in the market, do not hide from them, embrace them! Your competitors will have products that serve a purpose similar to yours and may even utilize a similar platform as yours- this is extremely beneficial as it familiarizes the consumer population with your product type. For example, SpeedETab’s major competitors include other mobile ordering platforms such as the Starbucks app, Chipotle app, etc. Users who have been using these apps to order their favorite items from various venues are already educated about the benefits of mobile ordering. This reduces the efforts SpeedETab has to make to inform the public about the uses of mobile ordering, thus cutting down on promotional costs the company would have to incur. Furthermore, SpeedETab can use the fact that it has so many competitors to capitalize on the way that it streamlines mobile ordering from many venues into just one simple app. This way, instead of users having pages of mobile ordering applications on their phones, they can maximize their efficiency by just having one, SpeedETab. So remember, use your competitors’ similarities to further highlight your unique factors.

Team dynamics. To be successful in any venture, it is essential to have a diverse yet coherent team. At the inception of many startups, entrepreneurs often find themselves wearing many hats: that of a brand ambassador, marketing executive, operations director, financier, product developer, etc. While it may seem invigorating at first, this causes many entrepreneurs to burn out quickly, thus making their startup suffer. In a tech-centered business, it is often beneficial to have one cofounder who handles the business aspect and one who focuses on product development and technology. After acquiring the necessary funds, however, cofounders must recruit a structured team of specialists and delegate tasks to ensure that the company’s goals are met in an efficient manner. Communication amongst team members is necessary to make sure all team members are connected and aware of the company’s overall progress and direction. Good leaders should also focus on seeing that relationships between colleagues are both professional and amicable.

Want to gain more advice from leading entrepreneurs? Come to Startup Grind Miami’s next event on June 13. More information will be on StartupGrind.com/miami.

Rhiya Mittal is a student at the University of Miami, currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience along with minors in Chemistry, Health Sector Management & Policy, and Marketing. She hopes to work on further merging the fields of healthcare and marketing and attend medical school in the future. Reach her at RhiyaMittal@gmail.com