October 05, 2017

Real estate-tech startup Home61 receives $4M in funding, will expand nationally

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

A Miami real estate startup is on the move, with plans to bring its tech-enabled brokerages to new cities next year. 

In buying his own condo several years ago, Home61 CEO Olivier Grinda found the experience stressful and unnecessarily complicated, and as a serial entrepreneur, he thought there had to be a better way. With Home61, which now operates in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, technology enables easy scheduling of viewings, anytime access to notes and analytics and a streamlined contractual process for buyers and renters, as well as sellers and agents. Agents unburdened by administrative work can better focus on service for clients with any budget, Grinda says.

Home61 announced Thursday it has raised an additional $4 million in venture capital to take its service nationwide, with plans to expand next to Chicago, Houston and Phoenix. The new round brings Home61’s total funding to $5.3 million.

“Miami is the heart of our company and a key city as it’s representative of the larger U.S. real estate market,” said Grinda, who was raised in France and ran startups in Brazil before moving to Miami in 2013. “The first thing we will do with this funding is continue to strengthen our presence in Miami before expanding to new cities. We currently have 55 agents in Miami and plan to nearly double that to 100 by the end of this year.”

According to Grinda, Home61 agents average $70,000 in earnings in their second year, far more than the industry average, because Home61’s platform provides them with a steady stream of leads, intensive training and automation tools.

In 2016, the company did $44 million in sales and has done close to 900 closings since its Miami launch in 2015, Grinda said Wednesday. In March, Home61 launched an agent accelerator program modeled after tech accelerators. Agents complete a training program of up to 120 days in which they are taught how to use Home61’s technology tools and best practices for communicating with clients.

But for this underdog upstart, taking on the traditional real estate model is no easy feat. The U.S. real estate market, with $2.17 trillion in residential sales in 2016, is an enormous opportunity, but tech companies have yet to make significant progress nationally — more than 90 percent of the market is still owned by conventional real estate firms. Yet, venture capital interest has been on the rise for tech-enabled businesses. In 2016, U.S. real estate-tech companies set a record, raising $2.6 billion, and this year the sector is on track to lure about $3.4 billion at the current pace, according to venture tracker CB Insights. In South Florida, real estate tech firms are adding up, too, including RealConnex and Gridics that have recently raised funding.

Investors in Home61’s new round include FF Angel, Founders Fund’s early stage investment vehicle that has also backed SpaceX, Facebook and Airbnb; global investor Fabrice Grinda of FJ Labs (also the CEO’s brother); and AGP Miami, an active angel network that has invested in 23 South Florida companies. 

“The Home61 team is exceptional. We love the way they are making the process of finding your next home easier and more transparent, and are really excited to see them grow into new markets in the coming months,” said Raul Moas, managing director of AGP Miami, whose members invested $400,000 into Home61’s financing round.

Home61 plans to enter its next city in 2018, setting up a a physical presence there and finding a local partner to ensure a level of service consistent with its Miami operation, and then will roll out to additional cities, Grinda said.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

October 04, 2017

Court Buddy co-founder becomes 14th African American woman ever to raise $1 million or more

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Only 14 African American women have raised $1 million or more in venture capital, and Kristina Jones of Miami-based Court Buddy is one of them.

Court Buddy is a legal tech startup founded by James and Kristina Jones that helps clients save money on legal fees by avoiding paying high retainers and hourly fees that traditional law firms charge while also helping thousands of attorneys grow their law firms. The company announced Wednesday that it has raised $1 million in seed funding.

When Court Buddy launched in 2015 in Miami, its web-based instant-matching platform allowed consumers to choose the a-la-carte legal services  at flat rates and then matched them to pre-screened solo and small law firm attorneys. Since then, Court Buddy has launched an app, CourtBuddy Chat, and a secured attorney-client payment exchange, CB Direct Pay. Now once matched, consumers can instant message, video chat and pay  attorneys for the legal services that they need, and solo attorneys can create and manage the legal tasks they perform for clients and collect legal fees.

The Court Buddy platform has grown to match over 11,000 consumers with attorneys across the country.

Earlier this year while participating in the 500 Startups seed program, Court Buddy soft-launched Instaclient for lawyers, which allows lawyers to pre-screen payment-verified clients who have pending court appearances or court-related matters before representing them. More than 5,000 lawyers signed up within 30 days of the launch. It also opened its San Francisco office.

LDR Ventures led the seed funding round, with participation from XFactor Ventures/Flybridge Capital, UpHonest Capital, GingerBread Capital/KKR, LSS Fund, Equipo Ventures, 500 Startups, L.A. Women Angels, and angel investors. Andrew Koven of LDR Ventures will join Court Buddy’s board of directors as part of the deal.

“With the new infusion of capital from our investors, not only can we continue building on our core products, but we can also hire more top talent to support the company’s rapid growth and expansion,” said CEO James Jones Jr., also a Florida attorney.

Court Buddy was named the winner of the American Bar Association’s Brown Select Award for Legal Access earlier this year, a winner of the inaugural American Entrepreneurship Award in 2016, and was the 2015 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge People’s Pick Winner.

October 03, 2017

Grameen America will open micro-lending branch in Miami

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By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

With Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus, the father of micro-financing and world-renowned champion of poverty alleviation and social entrepreneurship, by her side, the CEO of Grameen America announced Monday evening that the micro-lending organization for women would be bringing its services by the end of the year to Miami-Dade County, an area with one of the highest poverty rates in the nation.

Grameen America facilitates micro loans to women to help them start businesses, as well as providing training and support. Miami will be the 13th city location in the Grameen America network that started in 2008, and over the next several years, the organization will likely add several more branches in the area, said Andrea Jung, CEO of the network. New York City, for instance, has seven branches.

She said in a few years’ time, 4,000 to 5,000 women who have been shut off from traditional networks of financing can be helped. Grameen America also has a credit score program that has helped women who lack scores, or who have very low ones, achieve scores of 650 or higher in 26 weeks, she said. 

Andrea JungYunus and Jung took part in a discussion with an entrepreneurs’ group in Brickell before they headed to Books & Books in Coral Gables, where the 77-year-old social entrepreneur would be discussing his new book, “A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Net Carbon Emissions.” Yunus pioneered the micro-credit concept that uses small loans made at affordable interest rates to transform the lives of impoverished women. He is the founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, and Yunus and Grameen Bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

“Poverty is not a problem of the people — it’s the system around them. Society never gave people the base for which to grow,” said Yunus, who also said that he hopes one day, the only place people will experience poverty is in a poverty museum. 

In calling for a world with zero poverty, unemployment and net carbon emissions, Yunus said the problem that needs to be solved is to reverse the greatly accelerated wealth concentration at the very top — what he called “an explosive time bomb ticking away” — while anger and unhappiness festers at the bottom, he told the entrepreneurial group gathered by attorney Juan Pablo Cappello at Novecento on Brickell. “We can not go on ignoring it.”

Yunus said the way to eliminate unemployment is through entrepreneurship: “The job is such an old-fashioned idea. Humans are not born to work for anyone. ... Be someone who has unleashed his power and make something happen.”

Grameen America opened its first branch in 2008 in the New York City area. Its first year, it helped 500 women with $1 million in capital. Now the organization has lent $1 billion to more than 100,000 women and their families in its 19 branches in 12 cities — loans that have helped women start food businesses, cleaning services, lawn services, dress shops and tire stores. First-time loans are typically $1,500, and subsequent loans can be larger as the women establish a track record. Grameen America has a 99 percent loan repayment rate.

“We do everything banks won’t do,” said Jung, former chairman and CEO of Avon. “It’s a brilliant social business model that people didn’t think would work in the U.S.”

JPMorgan Chase provided a 2016 grant to Grameen America of $500,000 to expand its network to Miami. Miami Foundation is also a funder, and other corporations are coming on board. “We truly believed in the Grameen model and saw its potential to benefit Miami’s underserved women entrepreneurs,” said Maria Escorcia, VP of global philanthropy for the bank.

The needs in Miami-Dade are great. According to a United Way report released in February, six out of every 10 Miami-Dade County residents struggle to pay for the basic necessities of food, housing, transportation, healthcare and childcare, and 21 percent of local families live below the poverty line. 

Grameen America would be joining Accion and Partners for Self Employment, which have already been providing micro-loans and training in South Florida. 

“We will be here for the long term in this city,” Jung said. “Our goal is to have a movement that offers a hand up, not a handout, and the only way to do that is through financial inclusion.” 

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

September 30, 2017

Miami health-tech startup DermaSensor is developing a hand-held device to evaluate skin cancer risk

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Cody Simmons is CEO of DermaSensor, a Miami-based health-tech startup that is developing a medical device that aims to detect the risk of skin cancer. A user would scan a mole or lesion with the device and the technology inside the device would determine whether the lesion is potentially cancerous, based on its data and algorithm. A prototype of the handheld device that Simmons is holding is a little larger than a pen, but the device started out at as a 30-pound desktop machine that sits next to him. The technology has been miniaturized to be contained in a hand-held device. Emily Michot emichot@miamiherald.com

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Chances are you have looked at a mole or irregularity on your skin and thought that maybe you should see a doctor about it. And, chances are, you didn’t.

Yet, there are more new cases of skin cancer every year than the combined incidences of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon, according to the American Cancer Society. And one person in the U.S. dies every 52 minutes of melanoma, the most-deadly form of skin cancer, which can afflict any age group, gender or race.

DermaSensor, a Miami-based health-technology startup, has been quietly developing a hand-held device that uses artificial intelligence to help users evaluate skin lesions for cancer. The device, undergoing clinical trials, would allow physicians and eventually consumers to perform simple skin checks in physician offices and patient homes at the first sign of a potential problem.

DermaSensor recently completed a $2 million financing deal, comprised primarily of South Florida and New York angel investors with medical device and finance expertise. This financing round brings the company’s total funds that have been raised to $4.45 million. The company is now raising a Series A financing round to further grow its team and fund continued product development, clinical development and commercial efforts.

“We are excited about this novel spectroscopy technology and its potential to transform skin cancer care and save lives around the world,” said Cody Simmons, CEO of DermaSensor.

The company’s recent clinical developments spring from the rapidly growing medical device and health-tech industry in South Florida. The industry benefits from the region’s large hospital district and access to universities and research institutes, the area’s history with successful medical device and pharmaceutical companies, and access to Latin American markets. A number of companies have sprung from Mako Surgical’s sale, for instance. Others are incubating at wet labs and offices at Cambridge Innovation Center, in partnership with the University of Miami. Some have benefited from the services of Startupbootcamp Miami, an accelerator for health-tech startup that focuses on eradicating healthcare disparities in the United States.

[READ MORE: A health system bets big on Miami’s future in health-tech]

DermaSensor was founded in 2009 by healthcare investor and serial entrepreneur Dr. Maurice Ferré, who was previously the CEO of MAKO Surgical, which sold to Stryker for $1.65 billion. Ferré, son of the former Miami mayor, is also chairman and CEO of Insightec, a brain health company founded in Israel; co-founder of Miami-based Fastrack Institute; and on the board of Endeavor Miami, an organization that supports high-impact entrepreneurship.

“What we’ve learned is that this is a public health issue,” Ferré said about DermaSensor’s journey. “The issue is catching these things early, and what we find is not enough people go see dermatologists.”

DermaSensor’s patented technology was pioneered at Boston University and University College London, and the device has been undergoing development since 2011 through clinical studies and collaborations with dermatologists in Florida.

The device itself is evolving, from a 30-pound desktop system to a hand-held device that is now just a little larger than a pen.

The device itself includes the technology, which records the skin lesion and runs a machine-learning algorithm that was developed using a trove of spectroscopy data on lesions. Within seconds, the technology evaluates the risk and recommends further evaluation from a dermatologist, if necessary. Clinical validation of the prototype is underway in Florida clinics, Simmons said.

Simmons came aboard in 2016 to lead the company through its clinical trials and into commercialization. Before joining DermaSensor, Simmons led commercial efforts for a Silicon Valley mobile health device startup and held business development and commercial strategy roles at biotech company Genentech.

Christian Seale, founder of Startupbootcamp Miami, originally introduced Simmons to Ferré, a mentor and advisor for Startupbootcamp, with the idea that they might work together to build DermaSensor. Seale is a member of DermaSensor’s advisory board, which also includes Dr. Stewart Davis and other Miami entrepreneurs in the healthcare and tech industries. “The Miami ecosystem is working,” Ferré said.

DermaSensor is undergoing clinical trials in the United States, working toward FDA clearance, a process that can take years. DermaSensor’s product will likely hit the market first in Europe, where the regulatory process is further along, Simmons said.

The ultimate goal is to be able to sell the device at an affordable price, for a few hundred dollars, Simmons said.

Once cleared by regulators, the go-to-market strategy is to sell the device first to clinicians, and eventually consumers. To save lives, he said, “we want to make it very easy to use.”

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

September 29, 2017

Doral really wants to be the home of Amazon’s massive new headquarters

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By Nancy Dahlberg and Rene Rodriguez / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Find Seattle on a map. Now find the farthest U.S. city from it.

The Miami metro area wants to be on Amazon’s map as the home for its second headquarters, a planned $5 billion, eight-million-square-foot, 50,000-employee campus for Amazon executives, staff and high-tech professionals (Read: high-paying jobs).

But while economic development agencies in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties are putting together a rare, tri-county proposal to lure the Seattle-based online shopping giant to the region, one South Florida city is flying solo with its pitch to bring Amazon here.

READ MORE: “Jeff Bezos: A rocket launched from Miami’s Palmetto High”

The city of Doral, in conjunction with developer Codina Partners, is offering Amazon 47 acres of prime space in downtown Doral for the first phase of its HQ2 expansion. Future growth space for the Amazon project would include part of the 250-acre White golf course, which Codina and Lennar Homes bought in 2016 and had earmarked to use for single-family home development.

“When we looked at Amazon’s [request for proposal], we felt like we met all the requirements to be the home of their second headquarters,” said Doral Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez. “I may be a little bit biased, but I think Doral is a very good fit.”

For its planned HQ2, Amazon seeks a major metropolitan area of more than 1 million people within 45 minutes of an airport and near quality universities. Its checklist for its planned HQ2 includes a business-friendly climate, low taxes, cultural amenities, proximity to mass transit, affordable cost of living, a diverse population — and a package of economic development incentives.

 

Bermudez said Doral fits all those requirements, including proximity to Miami International Airport and Florida International University; a booming (and growing) downtown area of restaurants, shops and entertainment; a large housing stock of condos, apartments and single-family homes; an educated and multilingual workforce; an ethnically diverse population, and a modern infrastructure with public spaces, bike paths and other live-work-play conducers.

The mayor said Doral even fulfills Amazon’s desire for “proximity to mass transit” with its three routes of free trolley service, which connects to the Palmetto Metrorail Station in Medley. At Wednesday night’s Doral City Council meeting, the council unanimously approved a resolution to endorse and support the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization’s Miami Area Rapid Transit Smart Plan, which intends to reduce the county’s traffic congestion woes — a particularly grave problem in Doral.

“If we were going to submit our proposal with the existing status quo transportation, it would probably be deficient,” said Ana Codina, CEO of Codina Properties. “But we’re coupling our proposal with some ideas we have to enhance and improve the bus and trolley system so that there would be more transit options than there are now. I see it as a challenge, but not something that can’t be overcome.”

Doral is the fastest-growing city in Florida and 11th fastest in the U.S., according to Florida International University’s Metropolitan Center. Its population is 58,000, and the median household income in 2015 was $72,933, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

But the competition to become the home of Amazon’s HQ2 will be fierce — and rich with incentive offers. Since Amazon put out its request in early September, the Super Bowl of Economic Development has already drawn interest from several hundred metro areas. Orlando, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Brooklyn, Chicago, Boston, Denver, Toronto, Ottawa, Washington, D.C., St. Louis, Las Vegas, Detroit, Tulsa, Tucson and even Frisco, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, are a few that have already said they will have or will be submitting proposals by the Oct. 19 deadline. Tucson even sent Amazon a 21-foot cactus.

But none of those cities can boast that Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos graduated from one of their high schools. Bezos was valedictorian at Miami Palmetto and was a Miami Herald Silver Knight recipient.

The Miami-Dade Beacon Council, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance in Broward County and the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County are working on a proposal of their own to lure Amazon.

“There is a real opportunity to show off the region’s transit and other assets,” said Susan Greene, spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, adding that the timing of Brightline “couldn’t be better.” Brightline’s inter-city train service is expected to connect the downtown centers of the three counties before the end of the year.

“We are in conversations with Mayor Bermudez about potential sites in Doral,” she added. “We’ve heard from lots of people with sites in Miami-Dade to consider.”

Bermudez said that he learned about the tri-county effort last week while talking to Beacon Council president and CEO Michael Finney.

“In the long run, it would behoove South Florida to offer Amazon several opportunities,” Bermudez said about the unexpected competition. “But we began this process before we even knew the Beacon Council was involved. The majority of Miami-Dade County residents live west of I-95. I see no reason why we can’t offer different options as a community.”

At stake for South Florida: Thousands of high-paying technology jobs in an economy that is now highly dependent on low-wage service jobs.

“Amazon HQ2 will be a complete headquarters for Amazon — not a satellite office,” Amazon said in its news release. “Amazon expects to hire new teams and executives in HQ2, and will also let existing senior leaders across the company decide whether to locate their teams in HQ1, HQ2 or both. The company expects that employees who are currently working in HQ1 can choose to continue working there, or they could have an opportunity to move if they would prefer to be located in HQ2.”

Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle covers more than 8 million square feet of space across 33 buildings and houses about 40,000 of Amazon’s global workforce of about 380,000.

The practice of cities and states lavishing millions of dollars in tax breaks, relocation perks and other credits on companies to lure them is widespread, yet still controversial. The media often doesn’t hear about these kinds of incentive-laden deals being negotiated until a deal is done — or at least in the final stretches. But Amazon’s very public call for proposals changed all that.

Timothy J. Bartik, a senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo, Michigan, told the New York Times that the average incentive package from a state usually adds up to 2 percent to 3 percent of wages. Recently, he said, there has been a spate of mega-deals, such as the $3 billion in state tax credits that Wisconsin offered Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn. Boston’s deal to nab GE was another. Such outsized offers could end up being a “winner’s curse” where costs outweigh the benefits, he said.

A former governor went further.

“Competition for jobs should not be seen to hinge on which government can write the biggest check to an employer, but on the kinds of things that officials in Delaware and other states spend so much time on to make their communities places worth living in: the quality of schools, workforce development programs, the transportation grid and other infrastructure, and the overall quality of life,” Jack Markell, former governor of Delaware, wrote in the New York Times.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

September 28, 2017

SpringBIG, a cannabis marketing platform, wins Shark Tank style pitch event -- and $50K

SpringBIG Pitch Jeffrey Harris

 

Arcview Forum Palm Beach brought in a crowd of over 100 high net-worth investors who gathered to observe 20 cannabis-related companies competing for investment at the Eau de Palm Beach Resort  during the September 19-20 event. The Arcview Investor Network includes more than 600 accredited investor members who have put more than $152 million behind 162 cannabis-related companies. Nine of the companies competed “Shark Tank” style to a panel of judges and investor attendees with the hope of coming out on top and bear the title of most investible concept. 

Judges agreed that springBIG, a Boca Raton based company pictured above, was the best. SpringBIG takes home the “Best Pitch” trophy  and the $50,000 “Winner’s Fund” award as well (pending due diligence).  

SpringBIG is a customer engagement and marketing platform for cannabis dispensaries and brands.  Their data-driven approach includes loyalty and rewards, personalized messaging and analytics.  The team has extensive experience in the loyalty sector and launched their platform in January of this year. 

"We've been working hard to solve some of the marketing and sales challenges that these new cannabis firms are facing. It feels great to know that the true insiders that are placing capital in this space have validated that we are on the right track and are putting their faith in us to deliver the best loyalty marketing and communications solution for this burgeoning industry,” said Jeffrey Harris, CEO of SpringBIG.

Employing adults with autism, Rising Tide Car Wash opens second South Florida location

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An employee details a car at Rising Tide Car Wash in Parkland in 2013. Miami Herald File Photo

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Rising Tide Car Wash, a unique social venture with a mission to employ adults with autism, opened its second South Florida location on Thursday.

Rising Tide has operated in Parkland since 2013. The new Margate location, located at 2970 N. State Road 7, is estimated to create about 50 new jobs in the community.

“By opening the Margate location, we are not only giving more young adults with autism opportunities to realize their capabilities, gain confidence, make friends, gain financial independence, and have a place to call their own, but we are also providing South Floridians with another top-notch car wash experience,” said John D’Eri, CEO of Rising Tide.

When John and his son Tom D’Eri learned that 80 percent to 90 percent of adults with autism are unemployed, they set out to change that statistic. The D’Eris researched options and determined a car wash would be the ideal business for creating jobs for people with autism, like Tom’s brother Andrew, who likes structure and performing repetitive tasks and follows safety guidelines to the letter.

Rising Tide’s innovative, scalable model breaks the car-washing process into 46 distinct steps. Employees work in a mirror image of each other, and are able to thrive off the repetitive structure to produce extraordinary results, John D’Eri said.

Rising Tide is also one of the largest employers of people with autism in the U.S. Since its inception, Rising Tide has created 85 jobs in the South Florida area.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

Magic Leap's road to the big reveal paved with $$$, teasers

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

MagicleapscreenHello, Magic Leap.

On its road to the big reveal, the secretive South Florida tech company has refreshed its website as another teaser of what’s to come. This all arrives fresh off reports that Magic Leap is raising another $500 million in funding, give or take a few million, and that insiders have said that its product launch could be within six months.

Go to MagicLeap.com today and there is no more 3-D whale flying through a gym. Gone are all the videos, blog posts and other distractions. Now its mascot greets you with a simple “Hello” and a message that reads, in part: “We’re taking you with us on this journey to launch. More to come ...” It invites you to submit your email for its mailing list.

The only other element on Magic Leap’s revamped website is a careers page, advertising 253 jobs, most of them in Plantation, where Magic Leap is based. Magic Leap’s social media pages have also been updated and simplified.

Magic Leap is reportedly building a wearable computing device based on its “mixed reality” technology called “Digital Lightfield.” The company has already raised nearly $1.4 billion from Google, Alibaba, Qualcomm and other venture firms, valuing the company that has yet to launch its first product at $4.5 billion.

The Bloomberg report earlier this month said that Temasek Holdings, an investment company owned by Singapore, may take part in a new financing round of more than $500 million, valuing Magic Leap at close to $6 billion. Magic Leap and the investment firm have declined to comment.

According to Bloomberg’s sources, the headset device — bigger than a pair of glasses but smaller than VR headsets on the market now — could cost between $1,500 and $2,000. People would have to carry a second device about the size of a smartphone to power the glasses, the sources told Bloomberg.

On the eMerge Americas stage in Miami Beach in June, Magic Leap’s CEO and founder Rony Abovitz shared his thoughts on the future of technology, his vision for more natural computing and the tech ecosystem in South Florida.

To experience the world more naturally, he said then, “we’re trying to build a computer that acts like people, so you don’t have to look at your phone all the time.”

Abovitz said then that Magic Leap had more than 1,000 employees, with about 800 in South Florida. “We are bringing in people from all over the world. This brain trust will at some point spin out their own startups,” he said.

What happens next is pure speculation, and it’s out there. Unnamed sources told a Bloomberg reporter earlier this month that the company’s first product could ship in the next six months. Since the revamped website launched Wednesday, Reddit commenters with time on their hands have uncovered what they say are hints within the website — including Morse code messages and Alpha Ceti symbolism within the coding pointing to a December launch.

Stay tuned.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

September 27, 2017

11 South Florida leaders selected for cohort 4 of Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp

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Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, center, is founder and CEO of Radical Partners, a social impact accelerator.

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

What are some of the most pressing issues facing our region, and how can we solve them?

Ask the alumni and new cohort of Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, an accelerator program for social-impact ventures based in South Florida.

The program, led by Radical Partners, announced its fourth cohort on Wednesday, selecting 11 leaders at the helm of some of the most innovative organizations seeking to improve our region. From expanding opportunities for diverse food entrepreneurs to providing a support network for transgender locals, the cohort of both for-profit and non-profit companies is committed to strengthening communities, increasing equity, and improving the quality of life for those in our city.

Each participant is offered a full scholarship to enable participation in the 12-week accelerator program focused on scaling the impact of their ventures. Upon completion of the program, participants are welcomed into an active alumni network, where they will continue to focus on strengthening Miami alongside some of the most celebrated social innovators in the region.

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In an effort to diversify the investor base in the social innovation sector, Radical Partners sought to fund the entire program through support from female investors and philanthropists. All scholarships for this fourth cohort were made possible by female investors who are committed to the future of Miami, including Tere Blanca of Blanca Commercial Real Estate, Leslie Miller Saiontz of Achieve Miami and Teach For America, CL Conroy of The Conroy Martinez Group, Ruth Admire of The William J. and Isobel G. Clarke Foundation, Dr. Elizabeth Leight, Stephanie Ansin, and Michelle Huttenhoff, among others.

The cohort will also benefit from expert advice from financial advisors, branding experts, and lawyers through partnerships with Desnoyers CPA, Fiscal Management Associates, and Milkcase Creative. Participants will also receive legal health checks from Akerman and have access to the AkermanX/Radical Partners innovation space housed at the Cambridge Innovation Center for all 12 weeks of the program.

Here are the 2017 Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp cohort members (list provided by Radical Partners):

Communities In Schools of Miami

Elyssa Linares, President and CEO

Nonprofit providing wraparound resources to help students succeed, whether that’s clean clothes, help with school work, or emotional support to cope with or recover from a traumatic event.

Melanites

Jennifer Pierre, Founder and CEO

Toy company that creates diverse toys, storybooks, and games that celebrate brown boyhood and inspire children of color to dream big.

Mind&Melody

Cristina Rodriguez, President and Co-Founder

Nonprofit that creates novel music programs at healthcare facilities to improve the quality of life for individuals with neurological impairments like dementia.

Moonlighter

Tom Pupo, Co-Founder

S.T.E.A.M. Learning Center, Fabrication Lab, and Co-Working Space that encourages creative collaboration among artists, designers, engineers, students, educators, and innovators in order to catalyze meaningful solutions through education, technology, and community.

O, Miami

Scott Cunningham, Founder and Director

Annual festival with the goal of every single person in Miami-Dade County encountering a poem.

Open Referral Initiative

Greg Bloom, Founder and Leader

Open-access platform that enables people in need (and related organizations) to get accurate information about the health, human, and social services available in our region.

The New Tropic

Ariel Zirulnick, Director

Local media startup that connects people to their cities through storytelling and events.

TransSOCIAL

Ashley Mayfaire, Co-Founder and Director of Operations

Trans-led nonprofit working to build LGBTQ+ unity and expand community resources and support.

Unconventional

Jordan Magid, Founder and CEO

Art production agency beautifying neighborhoods, strengthening relationships and inspiring citizenship.

The Wynwood Yard

Della Heiman, Founder and CEO

Culinary incubator and community hub designed to foster the development of innovative Miami-based food, culture, design and fitness entrepreneurs.

Young Musicians Unite

Sammy Gonzalez, Co-Founder, President and CEO

Nonprofit giving students a voice through music by providing underserved communities with free, comprehensive music programming.

 

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A scene from Radical Partners Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp Cohort 2 workshop

 

September 24, 2017

MealPal raises $20 million in venture funding, expands services

 
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Mary Biggins, right, and Katie Ghelli founded MealPal, a restaurant lunch subscription service, in Miami. It's now international.
MealPal
 
By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

MealPal, the Miami-based startup offering a subscription restaurant lunch service, announced it has raised a $20 million Series B investment, led by Silicon Valley firm Menlo Ventures.

The round brings MealPal's total funding to $35 million since its Jan. 2016 launch. In February, MealPal raised a $15 million Series A round; Miami-based Krillion Ventures is an investor. MealPal aims to make lunch pick-up from restaurants convenient and affordable. MealPal offers its service in  Miami, as well as New York, Boston, San Francisco, Toronto and a number of other cities around the world. 

Along with the funding, the company recently announced it expanded its lunch pickup service to include dinner, starting in New York City, its largest market. 

"MealPal has helped thousands of people upgrade their lunch break by skipping long restaurant lines and getting lunch for as little as $6. Now we're excited to bring this quality, affordability and efficiency to dinner," said CEO Mary Biggins, who co-founded MealPal with Katie Ghelli.

MealPal has serviced more than 3 million lunches and expended to 12 markets, most recently Manchester in the United Kingdom and Melbourne, Australia, said Biggins, who previously co-founded ClassPass, which offers fitness classes by subscription.

Previous MealPal investors, including Bessemer Venture Partners, Comcast Ventures, Haystack Partners and Next View Ventures, all participated in this new round.

The new funding will support further team and market expansion in the United States, United Kingdom Canada and Australia, as well as new markets throughout Europe in the next several months.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter. 

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