June 15, 2016

Traffic woes, income gap threaten Miami’s emergence as global city

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

With 5.8 million residents and an economic output of more than $300 billion, the Greater Miami regional economy is one of the largest in the world, comparable to Singapore or Hong Kong.

Urbanism expert Richard Florida said he doesn’t think people realize just how big and economically powerful the region is. “Miami still thinks of itself as a tourism economy, a hospitality economy, a real estate economy; it doesn’t see itself as a global city,” said Florida, director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and Visiting Fellow of the FIU-Miami Creative City Initiative.

Florida and his Creative Class Group have authored a study on the current state of the economy with Florida International University, which will be released during Thursday’s morning session of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce 2016 Goals Conference, the organization’s annual two-day planning retreat being held at the Hilton Downtown Miami.

The 34-page study, titled “Miami’s Great Inflection: Toward Shared Prosperity as a Creative and Inclusive City,” is a data-driven analysis of Miami’s economy and talent base, as well as the results of several focus groups with local business leaders; it is designed to spur conversation and strategic thinking, Florida said. For the report, a first step in a multiyear study, researchers examined Miami’s economic progress and studied the divides and challenges it faces.

“Miami has almost become a global city by accident, without a plan,” said Florida, who lives in South Florida part time. “The point of the report is that it is time for a plan now. We need to think about this region as a region ... and act collectively with Broward and Palm Beach.”

Indeed, Miami has reached a crisis of its own success, Florida said, citing traffic woes (12th-worst in the country) and housing affordability, which must be addressed to be a truly great city, he said. Furthermore, Greater Miami is one of the nation’s most unequal and segregated metros, with a level of income inequality on par with Nicaragua or Zimbabwe, and ranking seventh in the nation for income inequality, the report said.

Yet, significant challenges present opportunities, and the report made recommendations, including leveraging the region’s role as a globalization hub, including port and airport improvements; upgrading the region’s service sector with suggestions for higher-wage occupational categories to focus on growing; broadening the thriving creative economy, which combines arts, fashion, music and media; and capitalizing on the “brain circulation” from Miami’s hub of college students who tend to stay. The metropolitan area ranks 8th in the nation for college students per capita and has a 67 percent retention rate of graduates, ranking 16th.

The report also recommended deepening the region’s growing startup ecosystem, and noted that there’s work to do, with Miami ranking 101 out of the nation’s 250-plus metros in its Technology Index. It also placed 148th out of 200 metros on the Milken Institute’s High Tech Index, and MIT and the Kauffman Foundation studies unveiled data showing substantial difficulties with scaling companies. However, Florida’s report noted that the region’s projected rate of growth for high tech jobs is a substantial 15 percent.

Among the recommendations, Florida said the Miami region, which is already rich in urban neighborhoods that attract and nurture startup energy, should do more to leverage its other creative economy strengths beyond technology — including arts, culture, fashion, music, design, media, entertainment and food. Read the study here.

“It is clear from this study and others that we have done at FIU, that as a community we have challenges but also golden opportunities to shape our future,” said FIU President and Greater Miami Chamber Chairman Mark B. Rosenberg. “We must harness the entrepreneurial energy in South Florida into ventures that will lead to jobs and wealth accumulation.”

Florida said in future years, the study team will likely do a deeper dive into key aspects of the creative knowledge economy and also upgrading the service economy, as well as Miami’s role as a global city and its connections with Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia.

Florida’s presentation on the report and a panel discussion takes place Thursday morning. Other topics that will be part of the Goals Conference are Cuba, sea level rise, transportation, Asia ties and cybersecurity.

June 14, 2016

Miami startup NightPro acquired by Tablelist


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Tablelist, a platform for real-time online reservations for nightclubs, lounges and bars, has acquired Miami startup NightPro.

Juan Bermudez and Francisco Quintero (pictured above) started NightPro about four years ago in a Midtown coffee shop. In fact, Bermudez pitched a very early concept of the venue management company at a HackDay Miami event in 2012. NightPro was also part of the inaugural class of Venture Hive in 2013.

 Over the years, NightPro made several iterations, but it grew into a venue/guest management platform for more than 100 venue partners worldwide, through which it has helped to manage over $250 million in reservations and 500,000 guests, Bermudez said. As revenue began spiking, so did interest from acquirers; NightPro received offers from two suitors.

But Bermudez said the company began partnering with Tablelist, based in Boston, by integrating Tablelist’s consumer sales technology into the NightPro platform, and they quickly released that their visions aligned and began talking.

 “Everything we were doing, we were heading in the same direction. It just made sense to join forces,” said Bermudez on Tuesday.

 “By merging our two platforms, we would be able to provide our partners with a one of a kind, all in one venue/guest management system that would not only streamline business operations, but also drive more business.”

NightPro’s management platform now complements Tablelist’s front-end booking application for tables at high-end clubs. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Venture-backed Tablelist launched its service in Miami last fall, joining a number of locations, including New York, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, DC, and Las Vegas.  Bermudez said the NightPro team will be continuing to work with Tablelist to distribute the joint platform and aggressively expand.

“Together we are the leading platform for real time online reservations and venue/guest management solutions for nightclubs, lounges and bars. This is an absolute game changer for the entire industry,” Bermudez said in a blog post to NightPro customers.

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

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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 12, 2016

Entrepreneurship Datebook: Events, workshops, upcoming program deadlines in South Florida

Tech eggBrainfood with Endeavor: The speaker series features Donato A. Montanaro Jr., co-founder and CEO of tradeKing Group, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 14, The LAB Miami, 400 NW 26th St., Miami. More info: thelabmiami.com

Making the Leap from Employee to Entrepreneur: Hear advice and best practices from those who have left jobs to start their own companies, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 14, TamboWorks, 5790 Sunset Dr., South Miami. Register: http://FI.co/e/88681

How to Start a Startup in South Florida: Guest speakers at this Founder Institute - Fort Launderdale event are Randy Wood, co-founder of Citrix, and Sergey Petrossov, CEO of JetSmarter, 6:30 p,m. Tuesday, June 14, Broward College - Reubin O’D Askew Tower, 220 South East 2nd Avenue, Floor 7, Fort Lauderdale. Register at: http://fi.co/e/91671

Innovators + Executors: This matchmaking and networking event will seek to connect executors (established businesses) with creative innovators to bring advantages to both sides, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 15, C1 Bank. Wynwood, 2632 N. Miami Ave. Register at www.collabevent.com

StartUP FIU Speaker Series: Topic of free workshop by Robert Hacker is idea validation, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, June 16, FIU MARC Pavilion. More info here.

The Evolution of the CEO: The South Florida Technology Alliance presents a panel discussion with the CEOs of Horizon Growth Advisors, e-Builder, LearnerNation, LiveNinja and Palm Beach Software Design, 5:30-9 p.m. Thursday, June 16, FAU Tech Runway, 901 NW 35th St. Tickets: www.southfloridatech.org

Upcoming deadlines

Create Miami: Through Wednesday, June 15, Idea.me’s new Create Miami campaign is offering locals a chance to get $10,000 to make their ideas happen, with support from Knight Foundation. Apply here. Read more about the campaign here.

10KSB: The deadline to apply for Cohort 9 of the free Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses at Miami Dade College is Thursday, June 16. The program is opened to established busiensses with at least $150,000 in annual revenue and four team members. Apply at http://www.10KSBapply.com

Starting Gate

What can #MiamiTech learn from the arts? Read the guest post and more startup news, such as a report about a new multi-hub incubator and accelerator program called StartUP FIU open to the community, on the Starting Gate blog on MiamiHerald.com/business.

Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg

June 10, 2016

Scout Ventures announces Chris Callahan as Venture Partner

Chris callahanChris Callahan, president and co-founder of Startup Palm Beach, has joined Scout Ventures as Venture Partner based in South Florida. Chris will be focused on connecting with entrepreneurial talent, generating deal flow and engaging investors across Florida.

“Chris’s deep connections within the entrepreneur and investor communities make him the perfect fit to lead our efforts in South Florida,” said Brad Harrison, managing partner of Scout Ventures

Callahan will remain active in Startup Palm Beach, leveraging the organization’s workshops, events and mentoring efforts to engage entrepreneurs and generate deal flow for Scout Ventures. In addition, Callahan will regularly host meetings for South Florida based investors in order to help raise capital for Scout Ventures Fund III, its latest fund. “The firm’s goal of working with smart and scrappy entrepreneurs who are disrupting established business models and creating products that matter aligns perfectly with the trajectory of the startup ecosystem across Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties,” Callahan said.

 New York-based Scout Ventures opened its office in Miami in the fall of 2014 and made investments in local companies Rokk3r Labs, LiveNinja and Fitting Room Social in early 2015. To learn more about Scout Ventures, visit www.scoutventures.com

FIU faculty leads program for Cuban entrepreneurs

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By Cynthia Corzo / FIU

A group of 15 small business owners from Cuba this week became the first cohort of InCubando@FIU, FIU’s first-ever customized program designed to sharpen the managerial skills and business savvy of young entrepreneurs from the island.

During the six-week program, College of Business faculty will deliver courses in Spanish covering small business management, accounting and finance, access to capital, sales and marketing, corporate social responsibility, and business plan writing. Participants will also receive intensive English courses offered by the FIU English Language Institute.

“The goal is to promote grassroots entrepreneurship and empower a new generation of business owners in Cuba,” said Carlos Parra, marketing and Information Systems and Business Analytics professor at FIU. He will discuss proactive stakeholder engagement and strategic alliances in the InCubando@FIU curriculum.

Marta Deus, owner of an accounting and financial consulting venture in La Habana, welcomed the exchange of business practices and networking that InCubando@FIU offers.

“The business landscape in Cuba has many unique features that business-owners here might find interesting,” said Deus. “I want to benefit from the hands-on experience and new opportunities we’ll receive so I can apply them to my business and watch it grow.”

InCubando’s participants are all under the age of 40, have a self-employed (cuentapropista) license issued by the Cuban government and have been operating a business on the island for at least one year.

Yorgis Morejon explained he’s anxious to learn about business management and the U.S. consumer market to help expand his Matanzas-based fly-fishing business. His dream: “to become the Bass Pro Shops Cubano.”

As part of the program, participants will also meet with local entrepreneurs who will serve as mentors and make field visits to high-profile businesses including Western Union and a Carnival Cruise Lines ship at the Port of Miami.

“Cubans have an amazing intuition for business and they seem to be eager to learn about different approaches to business decision-making,” said Parra.

InCubando@FIU is a partnership between StartUp Cuba, part of the Roots of Hope organization, and FIU’s Cuban Research Institute, College of Business, and English Language Institute.

6 South Floridians named EY Entrepreneurs of the Year for Florida

At an awards gala Thursday night in Tampa, EY announced the 13 winners for the Entrepreneur Of The Year 2016 Florida Program. This group of leading entrepreneurs was selected by an independent judging panel made up of previous winners of the award, CEOs, investors and other regional business leaders

 “This year’s winners have not only taken their companies to the top, but they have also acted as mentors to their employees and made impressive contributions to the community,” said Greg Rosica, EY Entrepreneur of the Year program principal.

 The winners included six South Florida entrepreneurs, including the only two female entrepreneur winners:

Distribution and Manufacturing

Angel Alvarez – ABB Optical, Coral Springs

Financial Services

Kent Ellert – Florida Community Bank, Weston

Healthcare & Life Sciences

Nestor Plana – Independent Living Systems, Miami

Hospitality & Leisure

Michelle Fee – Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, Coral Springs, FL

Real Estate & Construction

Vincent Signorello – Florida East Coast Industries, Coral Gables, FL


Ellen Latham – Orangetheory Fitness, Fort Lauderdale

The prestigious awards program recognizes entrepreneurs who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities. A list of all 13 award recipients is attached or can be viewed here.

Regional award winners are eligible for consideration in the national competition in November in California.

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.

June 06, 2016

Multi-campus StartUP FIU gets ready for takeoff



Emily Gresham and Robert Hacker, shown at Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, are spearheading the StartUP FIU program. It will include three hubs, with programs for food businesses, tech and social entrepreneurship, and will be open to the community as well as to students. Alexia Fodere For The Miami Herald

Below: One of the events held for students as part of StartUP FIU. Photo by Daniela Ferrato.


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Cheng photoIn the culinary kitchens of Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, Michael Cheng smelled opportunity. The commercial facilities were only being used about half time; as the director of the food-and-beverage program, Cheng thought FIU should offer the excess capacity to companies for a fee.

But after a discussion with Emily Gresham, who is spearheading a university-wide StartUP FIU program, and its student leader Valeria Siegrist, Cheng’s mindset changed. “They opened my eyes... They told me ‘there is an entire community of food entrepreneurs out there who would die to have this space but they can’t afford it.’ and I said ‘Well, let’s open that up to them.’ That’s how Food FIU got started.”

Beginning this fall, the Food FIU program will help entrepreneurs from low- and moderate-income communities in three stages of development – those at the idea stage, entrepreneurs selling in farmers’ markets but are ready to move to the next level, and later stage companies that want to scale. Cheng (pictured at right), who is also an associate processor, said StartUP FIU will start working with firms from North Miami, where the Biscayne Bay Campus is located, with a potential Homestead outpost at a later time. The program is free, and the entrepreneurs do not have to be affiliated with FIU in any way.

The Food innovation hub, supported in part by a $500,000 grant from Citi Foundation, will be one leg of a larger effort called StartUP FIU launching this fall. The interdisciplinary multi-campus resource for students, faculty, staff, alumni and entrepreneurs in the community will include physical spaces, programs and events for entrepreneurs and entrepreneur-wannabes to meet, collaborate, be mentored and take training. An accelerator will work with teams on commercializing concepts.

“Our economy increasingly offers opportunities to people who are able to make good jobs rather than take good jobs. We see this transformation as emblematic of what we have to do at FIU,” said FIU President Mark Rosenberg. “FIU is a huge cluster of talent ... What we are trying to do is provide platforms for that talent to come together around the capabilities that we have. ... We want to provide a safe haven for that talent to come together, with some supervision, to develop products, ideas and opportunities.”

Initially, StartUP FIU, will take root in three locations: the Modesto Maidique campus in Sweetwater, the Hospitality School at the Biscayne Bay campus, and a facility near Tamiami airport serving the growing cadre of technology and medical businesses there. The program has been appropriated $1.25 million from the state in addition to the Citi Foundation funding. It is run by Gresham, FIU’s assistant vice president for Research – Innovation and Economic Development, and Robert Hacker, StartUP FIU’s director.

The program joins existing FIU entrepreneurship resources including the Small Business Development Center, a new Tech Station, the Miami Fintech Forum and the Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center, most located on the Maidique campus on Tamiami Trail. FIU is also a designated “changemaker campus” for Ashoka, the global network for social entrepreneurship.

Despite those existing resources, students had no one-stop-shop for connecting with resources, concluded StartUP FIU’s team after conducting more than 100 interviews with students, faculty and community leaders. Often, students didn’t know where to go, nor were they connecting with the larger community.

“Our students are our energy, our talent, and the diversity of our students, faculty, alumni and the community improves collaboration,” said Gresham. “We’ve decided to have a more inclusive StartUP FIU, which means everyone’s welcome.”

Regionwide, students have more resources than just a few years ago. The Idea Center at MDC opened 18 months ago with an accelerator for MDC students, startup contests, events and a coding school. The University of Miami has been expanding its commercialization efforts, particularly in the healthcare area, working closely with dozens of startups. Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton opened Tech Runway, an accelerator that also offers funding and mentorship for student and community teams. Broward College opened its incubator last month.

These join a region-wide effort, fueled by the Knight Foundation, to accelerate entrepreneurship by expanding resources for mentorship, talent-building and funding. Entrepreneurial co-working spaces, incubators and accelerators have been proliferating, but most are in Miami’s urban core.

That’s the void in the ecosystem StartUP FIU hopes to help fill by focusing on Miami-Dade’s lower income communities and far west suburbs. “There’s a lot of activity, but we are still looking for depth, right?,” said Gresham. “We think we have something to offer in terms of depth building.”

Social entrepreneurship will be a key facet of the program, said Hacker. He expects ongoing themes to include sustainable cities, sea level rise, food supply, medical technology and education technology. An international businessman, Hacker has been teaching entrepreneurship and socially concsious business for more than a decade at FIU’s Honors College and Engineering School and MIT’s Sloan School.

“Miami enjoys the distinction of being the only city in the world that has two Ashoka Changemaker campuses – FIU and MDC. I think that both universities are fomenting all kinds of social entrepreneurs looking for support. We are interested and committed to putting incubators in communities that have not been served by incubators, and I think that will also naturally produce social entrepreneurs,” said Hacker.

As a startup itself, StartUP FIU has been developing over the past year, gaining grassroots support. StartUP FIU student directors Siegrist and Alessia Tacchella took Hacker’s course on Entrepreneurship and Design Thinking. That got the entrepreneurial juices flowing. But instead of working on their own startups, they jumped on the opportunity to help develop StartUP FIU. Tacchella, a finance/economics major who recently graduated, took the lead.

They gathered a diverse group of students with marketing, finance and technical expertise and began meeting weekly to plan the launch and test concepts, she said. About 80 to 100 students have been turning out for events. “When you tell them you want to help them to make their idea become a company, they are thrilled about it. They can’t believe all the resources we are bringing in on campus,” said Siegrist, a communications student.

Wifredo Fernandez, who co-founded The LAB Miami and was one of the founders of MDC’s’ Idea Center, offered insights on best practices and valuable connections, said Gresham. He now works with Gresham in the Innovation and Economic Development department and is StartUP FIU’s associate director.

Applications are being accepted at startup.fiu.edu for the accelerator’s first class. The free 13-week program will begin Sept. 6, will include weekly programs, mentorship and regular milestones for teams to meet, and end with a traditional demo day in which teams pitch to investors. The new StartUP FIU hub at the Maidique campus, a-10,000-square-foot space in the Marc building, should be ready by January; the program will operate in temporary space until then. Programs at the Biscayne Bay campus and near the Tamiami Airport will also get underway in the fall. The services are free.

“It’s an idea whose time has come,” said Rosenberg. “We’re pumped, we’re ready to go.”

Nancy Dahlberg; 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg





Startup Spotlight: Modern ŌM, created mindfully


Company: Modern ŌM

Headquarters: Miami and Asheville, N.C.

Concept: Modern ŌM is a lifestyle brand that uses color to infuse the seven chakra-based intentions into its products. “We bring mindfulness into people’s everyday lives through design,” said Myk Likhov, founder and CEO.

Story: Modern ŌM is a family business built on a shared passion for mindfulness. It’s not the founder’s first business. In 2007, after earning an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Likhov founded the successful Green Monkey yoga brand at age 26. After exiting Green Monkey, he worked in consumer tech in New York City, then returned to Miami in 2014 and began working on Modern ŌM". His parents joined him in this venture with their collective 50-year background in international manufacturing and distribution.

The idea behind Modern ŌM" was to build a lifestyle product brand for people who are mindful, or spiritual in intent. “We’re creating everyday objects that people can use as reminders of how they want to live,” Likhov said. “No one is doing anything like that — and the opportunity is significant.”

Based on the color heritage of the more than 3,000-year-old chakras, Modern ŌM’s affordably priced products are infused with the meaning of seven chakra-based intentions. These ever-present cues of mindfulness are woven through Modern ŌM’s products, which include: accessories such as malas, men’s and women’s apparel, iPhone cases and sustainable beverage totes, candles and stationary. Modernom.co allows you to shop by intention — for example, Vitality, red, the energy that springs from living in balance, or Connection, violet, the joy of being present in the now — making it easy to find items containing the energy you seek.

Modern ŌM products are also carried locally at Exhale Spa South Beach and Cowshed at Soho Beach House and through the Spring app.


Website: www.modernom.co

Launched: Jan. 1, 2016; soft launched in October 2015.

Management team: Co-founders Myk Likhov, CEO; Marina Likhov, Chief of Product; Steven Wenig, COO.

$250,000 self-funding invested to date with an angel round opened this May. Seeking to raise $500,000.

Recent milestones reached: Produced the company’s first apparel line from concept to sales in high-end Italian factories. YogaWorks and Exhale, two of the largest national wellness studio brands, now retail Modern ŌM. In April, the company launched The 7, an underground meditation studio in Miami, and taught 150 students in the first month of operations.

Biggest startup challenge: “We are building a company that embodies a lifestyle, which is a much grander vision than simply making products. The biggest challenge is consumer education. Once people understand how meaning is infused into our design principles, and how having reminders of their intentions can improve the quality of their lives, they love it,” said Likhov.

Next step: To create a direct relationship with 10,000 customers. “Building awareness is a challenge for a new company. It requires creativity, passion and pursuit of a larger purpose,” Likhov said. “That’s why our strategy is all about delivering tremendous value in alignment with our mission.”

Strategies for next steps: Build The 7, an underground meditation studio, into a recognizable mindfulness resource for the Miami community by providing an immersive meditation experience, where people can recognize the value that" this lifestyle delivers to them and become evangelists/customers.

Last week, the company launched a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo to bring meditation into the prison system. The goal of this project, which continues through June 30, is to fund meditation lessons for 1,000 inmates. To accomplish this, it has created a limited edition mala (bracelet) for $29. For every one mala sold, Modern ŌM commits to funding for one inmate to learn how to meditate. “Through impact, we also build relationships with meaning-driven consumers,” said Likhov.

Oct. 22-23, the company will hold Miami’s first mindfulness festival — 7 Life — at Sacred Space, with activities, speakers, meditation classes and a party.

- Nancy Dahlberg

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter. Photos of Likhov are by Jose Iglesias/Miami Herald 

Read more Startup Spotlights under the Startup Spotlight category of this blog.