May 15, 2015

Health startups pitch at AARP convention to tap huge senior market


Mel Taylor, president/CEO of Splitsecnd, demonstrates how her portable emergency roadside device competes against other health tech startups during the AARP Health Innovation50+ LivePitch, part of a three-day expo in Miami Beach, on Thursday, May 14, 2015.  | CARL JUSTE 

 By Ana Veciana-Suarez

One company offers a mobile medication management platform that reminds patients to take their meds and alerts caregivers if they miss a dose. Another company helps people improve their brain function with personalized exercises and data. And a third combines neuroscience research with the latest in virtual reality technology to evaluate key brain functions, such as balance and reaction time.

These were some of the 15 health startups that duked it out before a panel of venture capitalists in Thursday’s AARP Health Innovation50+ LivePitch, one of the events at the advocacy group’s annual conference in the Miami Beach Convention Center. The four-hour program gave companies access to thousands of potential consumers as well as a handful of potential angel investors who might, at a later date, open their wallets. 

In the end, Splitsecnd a Nashville-based maker of a portable device that plugs into a cigarette lighter to provide automatic car crash notifications, got the nod from the judges. The $99 device’s ability to provide real-time GPS tracking and connection to a 24/7 emergency response center appeared to be the most scalable of the companies and the one with big numbers behind it: Of the 230 million drivers in the U.S., 33 million are 65 and older. What’s more, 500 people are injured in crashes every day.

While the winner of the LivePitch competition won’t get money a la Shark Tank, the company staff member will receive hours of free mentoring and lots of exposure. 

“We’re incredibly passionate about what we do, so to have judges believe in it too is a great affirmation and vote of confidence,” said Splitsecnd CEO Mel Taylor after the win. “Just being able to be here has given us a great platform.”

Thursday was the first day of the AARP Life@50+ National Event & Expo, a three-day extravaganza of speakers, celebrity guest appearances, and a 150-exhibitor fair. It is AARP’s first time in Miami and five of the 15 companies that pitched their health tech products were from Florida.

In addition to the judges’ choice, AARP conference-goers voted two companies, Audicus and Constant Therapy, as AARP Consumer Winners. Audicus seeks to reach the 40 million people suffering from hearing loss by offering less expensive hearing aids online. Constant Therapy helps people improve their brain function after a stroke or brain injury, by providing personalized exercises.

This is AARP’s fourth LivePitch, an event aimed to attract more startups to the 50-and over market. The first LivePitch, in New Orleans, attracted 80 applicants. This year, 228 companies worldwide applied for a spot onstage.

The previous LivePitch events helped 15 of the past 30 finalists raise $50 million in investments.

“It’s become a real destination for startups, entrepreneurs and investors,” said Jody Holtzman, AARP’s senior vice president of Thought Leadership.

 The market for health technology is certainly there. Almost 45 percent of Americans are over 50 and this group spends between 9 to 18 percent of their money on healthcare-related products, said Lisa Suennen, managing partner at Venture Valkyrie Consulting.


Miami Beach, FL
AlzhUp seeks to improve the quality of life of people with Alzheimer’s by integrating actual memories and scientifically-proven therapies in a single platform, slowing the cognitive decline of the patient, as well as facilitate the active participation of the entire family and care team in the treatment process.

Tesser Health
Miami, FL
Deliver custom and personalized educational content to the patient to improve health outcomes. By educating the patient at the moment of need with appropriately sized content on relevant medical information increases engagement, the result is a better patient experience, and lowers costs for healthcare focused organizations.


May 14, 2015

Gov. Scott signs drone privacy bill

Floridians won’t be able to use drones to spy on their neighbors -- at least not legally.

Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill prohibiting the use of drones for surveillance anywhere there’s a “reasonable expectation of privacy,” such as flying over someone’s backyard.

 The restrictions would also apply to state and local governments. The law, which takes effect July 1, does not call for any criminal penalties. Instead it allows people to sue someone who photographs them with a drone. It includes several exceptions, including drone use by utility companies and property appraisers.

The law joins existing limitations on drones that ban law enforcement from using them to collect evidence without a warrant, but the issue will likely return in future legislative sessions as use of the technology grows. For example, Amazon is preparing to launch a drone service to deliver packages within a half hour of an order being placed online.

 - Miami Herald staff and wire services

See an earlier takeout on drones here.

Next Galaxy, Miami Children's team up to create VR content

Under a multi-year agreement, Next Galaxy Corp. and Miami Children's Hospital are jointly creating virtual reality instructional content for patient and medical professional education on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and other lifesaving procedures, which will be released as an application for smartphones, Next Galaxy CEO Mary Spio said.

Incorporating eye gaze control, gestures and voice commands while "walking around" inside an emergency medical experience or crisis, Next Galaxy's Virtual Reality Model engages participants far beyond today's methodology of passively watching video and taking written tests.

“Assessments are incorporated directly into the medical VR models. We will design situations where participants are required to make the appropriate decisions about proper techniques," said Spio. "The Virtual CPR instructional will measure metrics and provide real-time feedback ensuring participants accurately perform CPR techniques. Further, the instructional will explain any mistake and prompt users to try again when errors are made. Supportive messages are delivered upon success."

 The medical VR models will be viewable through smartphones and desktops as 3D,  and via VR devices such as Google Cardboard, VRONE and Oculus Rift.

See earlier interview with Mary Spio here.

Amadeus, travel incubator team up to offer new resource for travel startups

Travel startups, take note of this announcement from Amadeus:

Amadeus, a leading technology partner for the global travel industry, announced today the launch of “Amadeus for Startups,” a new program designed to equip travel startups in the North American marketplace with technology, expertise and consultative support to navigate the complexities of the travel industry and achieve success. 

Said Alix Argüelles, Vice President Online Travel Group, Amadeus North America: “Through Amadeus for Startups, we are aligning the technology, investment and academic communities to offer new travel companies a simplified, affordable consulting partnership  that will help ensure they are equipped with the travel and technology solutions and guidance they need.”

To further enhance the value delivered to emerging online players, Amadeus has also partnered with the incubator Travel Startups Incubator. Travel Startups Incubator is a virtual, global, travel technology incubator and platform which funds seed-stage and early-stage travel startups and entrepreneurs and offers a private network to connect with advisors, mentors, partners and investors. Amadeus will provide the incubator with access to Amadeus’ tenured team of travel experts and best-in-class technology solutions, as well as opportunities to participate in industry training workshops, startup bootcamps and educational seminars co-hosted by the two organizations.

Through the new alliance, Travel Startups Incubator will work closely with Amadeus’ leading online travel experts who will provide customized support, account management and technical and operational sales support to further optimize the startups’ solutions. 

For more information about joining the Amadeus for Startups program, please visit

May 12, 2015

South Florida entrepreneurs honored at White House


Young South Florida entrepreneurs were honored at or invited to the White House this week: Felipe Gomez del Campo V, a student entrepreneur at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland who went to high school at Cypress Bay High School in Weston; Vicente Fernandez, co-founder of Miami-based Sportsmanias, and Felice Gorodo, CEO of Clearpath.

Also representing the 305 at the White House's #StartTheSpark event, Gorodo said: Melissa Medina of eMerge Americas and Tony Jimenez of Richmond Global. Both took part in an investor segment. 

Felipe Gomez del Campo (pictured above)  began his work for a science fair project at Cypress Bay. The founder of FGC Plasma Solutions is one of five entrepreneurs President Barack Obama recognized at a White House event yesterday to highlight the importance of investing in women and young entrepreneurs. Gomez del Campo’s application was selected from among the many business startups that had been assisted by a U.S. government initiative.  The other four were from Virginia, Colombia, Nigeria and Lebanon.

Since his science fair days, Gomez del Campo turned his idea into a company with two patents (the latest just filed last Friday) and has conducted research with NASA.

Gomez del Campo, a junior who is majoring in mechanical and aerospace engineering, founded FGC Plasma Solutions in 2013 to bring to market a device that shoots a precise amount of plasma into jet engine fuel. That plasma injection blows the fuel apart into its component molecules, allowing the engine to burn it more efficiently. The product can improve the safety and efficiency of jet engines, as well as lead to a 10 percent decrease in fuel consumption. His work could result in significant savings and reduce harmful gas emissions for both jet engines on airliners and industrial gas turbines used to generate power.

A native of Mexico City, Gomez del Campo moved to the Miami area at the age of 6. Now, after becoming a U.S. citizen just last year, he hopes to set up an “entrepreneurship ecosystem” in Mexico, similar to the one he’s had at Case Western Reserve.

Also on Monday, Vicente Fernandez from Sportsmanias (pictured below at the event with Mark Cuban) was an invited guest for the Emerging Global Entrepreneurs Event. About 70 entrepreneurs were invited as part of the White House's emphasis on young and female entrepreneurs creating innovative business solutions to tackle the world's toughest challenges. Fernandez was being recognized for carrying on his family's entrepreneurial spirit with his grandfather creating a family bus company that has thrived for 40 years since fleeing Cuba and moving to the U.S., and Fernandez enduring all his success since launching Sportsmanias.

Sportsmanias, launched in 2012 by Fernandez and his mother, Aymara Del Aguila,  is a comprehensive and personalized media site for die-hard sports fans that has formed partnerships with sports journalism sites, including the Miami Herald, and has attracted several million in Series A funding. Fernandez, who started Sportsmanias when he was a student at University of Chicago, was the only sports or media entrepreneur invited.



ClearpathFelice Gorordo, the son of Cuban immigrants, is CEO of Clearpath, a venture-backed tech company that revolutionizes the confusing, costly, paper-based immigration filing process by making it easier, more affordable and secure for individual immigrants to file their own immigration applications.

Along with Tony Jimenez, Gorordo co-founded Roots of Hope, a national non-profit focused on youth empowerment in Cuba. He previously was appointed by President Obama as one of 15 2011-2012 White House fellows.

President Obama spoke at the #StartTheSpark event, as well as guest speakers such as Sharks Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran and Daymond John.

These entrepreneurs were only the latest to be invited to the White House. Other South Florida entrepreneurs who have been honored there or have been invited there include Champions for Change Susan Amat of Venture Hive, Felecia Hatcher of Code Fever and Rob Davis of Code for Fort Lauderdale, as well as Juha and Johanna Mikkola of Wyncode, Jim McKelvey of LaunchCode and NFTE student Karen Bonila of John A. Ferguson Senior High and FIU, who was invited to participate in the White House Science Fair this year.

As global entrepreneurs gathered for the event at the White House, the White House said President Obama announced several steps to increase support for emerging entrepreneurs here in the United States and around the world.  First, the president made investing in women and youth entrepreneurs the top priority for his Administration’s global entrepreneurship programs.  Second, ahead of his travel to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi this July, the president issued a call to action, challenging companies, organizations, and individuals to increase their investments in global emerging entrepreneurs.  Third, the president announced nine new Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship, enlisting even more of America’s top talent to expand the frontiers of inspiration, opportunity, and development around the world.  Finally, he recognized the creation of the Spark Global Entrepreneurship coalition, made up of leading entrepreneurship organizations who will support his call to action and better connect, coordinate, and communicate entrepreneurship efforts across the globe.


May 11, 2015

University of Miami’s RoboCanes win RoboCup US Open 2015



The RoboCanes, the University of Miami’s team of autonomous soccer-playing robots developed by students and faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences Computer Science Department, won the 2015 RoboCup US Open – claiming victory for the first time since entering the competition in 2012.

Functioning as the American RoboCup playoffs, the US Open is one of three key events leading up to the annual World Championships. This year’s contest will take place in July in Hefei, China.

 After defeating 2012 world champions Austin Villa (from the University of Texas at Austin) 3-0 in Saturday’s semi-final match, the RoboCanes met the Bowdoin College Northern Bites in the final match. It was a close game, which showcased the impact of new rules in the robot soccer league.

Ubbo Visser, an associate professor of computer science in the College of Arts & Sciences and leader of the RoboCanes project (alongside a group of dedicated graduate students), said, “The public has seen very close games the whole weekend and we have seen significant improvements among the teams. One of the new rules this year consists of the robots listening to the human referee starting a game with a whistle. RoboCanes was the only team that could handle this situation. We gained from that by having extra 15 seconds at the start of the game.”

He added that the American teams will be tested in China, when they face perennially strong squads from Europe and Asia.

RoboCup aims to promote robotics and artificial intelligence research, by offering an integrated research platform that covers areas including vision, context recognition, strategy acquisition, motor control and more.

- submitted by the University of Miami


Code Fever’s Felecia Hatcher to be honored with leadership award

Felecia Hatcher Photo 2The Miami Foundation announced today that Felecia Hatcher, the co-founder of Code Fever and Black Tech Week, will be the recipient of the 2015 Ruth Shack Leadership Award.

The Ruth Shack Leadership Award is given annually to an emerging community leader that embodies the hard work and dedication to community of the foundation’s former president Ruth Shack. Hatcher has earned widespread recognition as the co-founder of the ice cream company Feverish Pops and Code Fever, an initiative that trains African American youth technology and entrepreneurship. In 2014, the White House named her a Champion for Change for her work in STEM access and diversity. This year, Hatcher and Code Fever hosted their first Black Tech Week celebration, which celebrates innovators of color in the United States and all over the world. “Felecia found a way to take her passion for technology and entrepreneurship to inspire and empower others, and in the process create a cadre of emerging tech innovators in Miami,” said Hank Raattama, Co-Chair of LEAVE A LEGACY.

“Ruth Shack has been phenomenal in the work she’s done and it’s an honor to even be considered,” said Hatcher. “To me this award reassures me that we are doing the work in the right communities and are headed in the right direction by impacting families.”

LEAVE A LEGACY also announced today that Baptist Health South Florida is the recipient of the 2015 Community Champion Award, which honors the person or organization that contributes to the wellbeing of the community through its work and philanthropy. Baptist Health South Florida is the largest healthcare organization in the region, with seven hospitals, 30 outpatient and urgent care centers, 15,000 employees and 2,200 doctors. Baptist Health Foundation, the fundraising arm of the organization, is highly regarded for its support of community programs for families in need.

Both awards will be presented at the 17th Annual Donor Next Door Luncheon, Thursday, May 14 at Jungle Island.

Jim Moran Institute accepting applications for free fall program; deadline May 20

The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship, housed in the Florida State University College of Business, is now accepting applications for the South Florida division’s fall 2015 Small Business Executive Program (SBEP) until Wednesday, May 20. The SBEP will kick off on Monday, July 27, with an orientation and opening ceremony at the Bimini Boatyard Bar & Grill from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The first class will take place Tues., July 28, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will run from July to November 2015 with for-profit and non-profit businesses in mind.

With the help of several supporters, this program is offered at no cost to accepted participants.  Meetings will be held at various locations in the Broward County area every two weeks on Tuesdays. Topics range from strategic planning to social media and financing growth.

SBEP offers a world-class learning experience that equips executives with the necessary skills to turn challenges into strategic advantages. Candidates must be actively involved in running the business and their companies should have been in existence for at least two years and have three or more employees. Whether candidates seek a more global perspective, better ways to seize opportunities or greater insight into managing day-to-day operations, SBEP can help!

For more information about the South Florida Small Business Executive Program or The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship’s other outreach initiatives, contact Jennifer Brin Kovach at or visit The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship’s South Florida website at


May 10, 2015

Cohealo hires Miami-based execs to lead marketing, finance

Cohealo, a technology company founded in South Florida that leverages the sharing economy for hospitals and health systems, announced that it has added two Miami-based senior managers who bring to Cohealo decades of experience successfully scaling high-growth businesses in their respective domains.

As the new Chief Marketing Officer, Joe Sawyer will be responsible for building Cohealo’s corporate marketing as well as a complete go-to-market for its innovative solutions. He joins Cohealo from CareCloud, where he led a marketing team that helped drive three years of average 100% revenue growth, landing the company on the Inc. 500 and Forbes list of America’s Most Promising Companies.

As Vice President of Finance, Ryan Lissauer will lead Cohealo’s financial strategy and operations while also helping build repeatable, scalable infrastructure across its key functions. Prior to joining Cohealo, Ryan was with H.I.G. Capital, a leading global private equity firm, where he acquired middle market companies and helped grow their enterprise value as a member of their Board of Directors.

 “In recent months, Cohealo has gained significant traction among health systems looking for an innovative but proven approach to managing their clinical assets more efficiently and profitably,” said Mark Slaughter, CEO and co-founder, who moved his company to Boston early last year. “We are thrilled to welcome Joe and Ryan. We will apply their talents in rapidly expanding our reach in the market while taking the positive results we deliver for clients to the next level.”

Cohealo utilizes a cloud-based software platform to bring the benefits of the sharing economy to managing and optimizing the utilization of medical equipment across hospitals and care facilities in health systems, a $100 billion market.

Founded about five years ago when Slaughter was an MBA student at the University of Miami, Cohealo closed a $9 million Series A financing round that included Romulus Capital and Miami-based Krillion Ventures last fall. Slaughter said at that time he planned to establish an office in South Florida, and these moves bring it closer to the goal. Sawyer and Lissauer will remain based in South Florida.

May 08, 2015

Startup Weekend returning to Miami May 29-31; sign up now

By Paula Celestino
 Join us for Startup Weekend Diversity Miami taking place May 29, 30 and 31 at Venture Hive. 
Startup Weekend is a non-profit, community-building event that brings together entrepreneurs of different backgrounds, including software developers, marketers, designers, and startup enthusiasts. They gather to to pitch ideas, form teams and start companies in just 54 hours. The participants that attend have 60 seconds to make a pitch, the pitches are whittled down to the top ideas, and then teams form around the ideas to come out with several developed companies or projects. Finally, the weekend culminates with demonstrations in front of an audience of judges and potential investors.
Startup Weekend has held 1000+ events in 150+ countries around the world, and we are looking forward to making a big dent in Miami. With the help of local supporters, we are planning to leverage our global reach to impact our local community.
We have already secured some amazing sponsors and notorious startup community leaders as judges and mentors for Startup Weekend Diversity Miami such as Brian Brackeen, Kairos CEO; Nico Berardi, Managing Director AGP Miami; Adam Boalt, LiveAnswer CEO; Felecia Hatcher, Author, Chief Popsicle of Feverish Miami, Co-Founder of Code Fever Miami & Black Tech Week; and Linda Koritkoski, Director of Marketing for .CO, and among others.

This particular Startup Weekend is all about Diversity and breaking tech barriers for everyone in the community.  So many people feel their gender, age, ethnicity, background or technical ability is a barrier to get into the startup world and at Startup Weekend Diversity Miami and we want to change that. 

Startup Weekend is calling for Developers, Designers, and Business/Non-technical participants to come together share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch startups in a weekend! There will be prizes for the winners!

Register now for Startup Weekend Miami Diversity as space is limited. Here is the event link:

Want to learn more about it? Here is a cool video about SW: What Is Startup Weekend; this is a fun video that explains how SW works:; and I blogged  about my journey into Startup Weekend Diversity Miami here:

For those who are unfamiliar with the Startup Weekend organization, it is a global non-profit  that supports the development and expansion of entrepreneurship through events worldwide that educate aspiring entrepreneurs by immersing them in the process of moving an idea to market. Startup Weekend has built a network of more than 100,000 alumni, thousands of volunteer Organizers and more than 100 trained facilitators spanning more than 400 cities in more than 100 countries.  Google for Entrepreneurs, Amazon Web Services, .CO, and Coca-Cola. For more information visit
Come join us May 29-31! Buy tickets here.
Paula Celestino is one of the organizers of Startup Weekend Diversity Miami.