View: Blacks must be part of Miami’s tech evolution


When I played basketball in high school, my coach Ms. Johnson would always tell the team, “We are only as strong as our weakest player, so it's important that everyone is comfortable with the ball.”

As I translate that to the work we are doing with Code Fever, I have realized that we can’t build a thriving start-up ecosystem in Miami without making sure everyone has an understanding and the access to technical training to take advantage of and contribute to that ecosystem.

The conversation about tech diversity and inclusion is not a new one, but it has garnered a new spotlight recently since Google, Facebook, Twitter and others have released their diversity numbers.

The numbers show women, blacks and Hispanics are, sadly, underrepresented, blacks in the low single digits. However, it doesn’t do anyone justice to just release diversity numbers if no organizations are putting together outreach programs that either educate people on the exact steps they need to take to qualify for those jobs or create a direct pipeline to employment, through training, not just for youth but also adults.

South Florida’s black community is in a state of emergency. Most of our youth, regardless of economic standing, have a mindset shaped by materialism and the consumption of technology, with a total disregard to understanding tech, becoming technology producers and being community change agents. As we talk about the digital divide, we don’t have the big access to technology issues like we did five years ago — black residents index high in the use of mobile technology use and consumption. We also rank highest on social-media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram.

The digital divide is now on the tech-creation side.

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Radio series to help small business owners re-think and re-tool for 2015

Could your business use a re-boot? For a small business owner, the fourth quarter is a great time to take a deep look at your operations and put some key changes in place in order to get a fast start in 2015.

De la torre SallyTo help, hosts Pete De La Torre and Sally Villalba launch a two-week radio program on Monday called the Entrepreneur Re-Boot Academy. The series is designed to help entrepreneurs re-think, re-tool and re-energize their existing businesses.

Each morning, local and national business leaders, including the head of the Small Business Administration, will join the show. It will run in the time slot of his usual weekday drive-time show from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m on WZAB 880AM The Biz, Miami’s only all-business radio station.

De La Torre said the series will cover key areas of running a business and provide information on business trends to inspire business owners and give them practical insights. “We want to keep it at a very high level, from financials to marketing to training, and everything is broken down to a daily lesson,” said De La Torre, an adjunct professor at Miami Dade College who heads Pete De La Torre Enterprise, a consulting company providing communication, training and professional speaking services.

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LearnerNation duo tapped as Endeavor Entrepreneurs


Michael McCord and Michael Laas of LernerNation. Photo by Natalie Fertig/Miami Herald. 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

LearnerNation developed an adaptive learning platform for the corporate training market. The two-year-old Miami company has attracted nearly 150,000 users from 2,300 companies and organizations in 60 countries.

This week, the company can add one more big gold star to its accomplishments. Endeavor, the global nonprofit organization that selects, mentors and accelerates high-impact entrepreneurs as a means to significant job creation, has selected LearnerNation‘s cofounders Michael McCord and Michael Laas as Endeavor Entrepreneurs.

“We are very excited because the two Michaels are already young leaders in the Miami tech scene,” said Laura Maydón, managing director of Endeavor Miami. “We believe they have the values and qualities to be high impact entrepreneurs and will continue to be role models.”

Endeavor is a global nonprofit that selects, mentors and accelerates high-growth entrepreneurs as a means to significant job creation. Endeavor Entrepreneurs generated nearly 400,000 jobs and more than $6.5 billion in revenue in 2013. Endeavor now supports 948 entrepreneurs from 606 companies across 20 countries, and they typically go on to become mentors and investors in their communities.

During Endeavor Global's 54th International Selection Panel this week in New York City, Endeavor's judging panels interviewed and ultimately selected entrepreneurs from 21 companies in 15 countries. Becoming part of the Endeavor network means LearnerNation will get lifetime access to global mentorship, local advisors, professional services and funding networks to help it scale quickly.

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Splyst raises seed round, launches app

Splyst1Homegrown Miami startup Splyst launched its application in the Apple store last week. Splyst developed a social platform that reinvents the way people receive and share information by allowing them to share their reactions to personalized content with a single tap on one of 12 emoji icons. Effectively, Splyst is a social network for personalized Internet content around your interests.

Travis2After just a little over a week, the app has drawn 1,000 users with user engagement rates above the industry standard. “We personally reached out to the first 700 users and the feedback we have received from users has been extremely positive,” said Travis Montaque, founder and CEO. “In the first week we received over 100,000 unique screen views and a  5 Star rating on the App Store.”

Montaque founded Splyst as a sophomore at the University of Miami. Fed up with inefficient and unreliable tools to receive and share internet content, he set out to develop a platform that would revolutionize the way people would receive and share things they found interesting. Splyst launched last year.  He’s now out of school and has a team of nine. The company raised $570K in a seed round and Splyst jis trying to raise a Series A now. John Fanning, founder of Napster, joined as an advisor.

Alex de Carvalho named Knight Innovator in Residence at FIU

Alex_de_carvalhoThe School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Florida International University has named Alex de Carvalho, a social media professional with extensive involvement in South Florida’s tech community, Knight Innovator in Residence.

As Knight Innovator in Residence, de Carvalho will work with students and faculty to develop media projects, as well as new courses and teaching techniques in digital media. The initiative is funded by $150,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation that will support the program for three years.  

In recent years de Carvalho has organized events for South Florida new media professionals, such as The Startup ForumSocial Media ClubBarCampIgnite MiamiSocial Media Day and Mobile Monday events. He is also a founding member of RefreshMiami and BuzzMed.

Prior to being the Knight Innovator, de Carvalho was South Florida regional development director for Constant Contact,  and  an adjunct professor in the University of Miami’s School of Communications, where he taught a social media course. De Carvalho is also the co-author of "Securing the Clicks: Network Security in the Age of Social Media.


Guy Harvey to speak at Miami Herald event Aug. 20


For fans of Florida fishing and wildlife, artist Guy Harvey is a living legend. He’s also an entrepreneur whose endeavors reach onto dry land in hotels, apparel and books — a story we tell in our Aug. 18 issue of Business Monday.

Find out how he’s expanding his brand at live conversation with Miami Herald reporter Hannah Sampson Aug. 20 at 6 p.m. in the Miami Herald Community Room, 3511 NW 91st Avenue, Doral, 33172. Tickets, $10, at Http://hrld.us/tickets.



KidoZen expands global footprint

 KidoZen, an enterprise mobile app platform company based in Miami, said it has added eight new channel partners including large system integrators and enterprise mobility specialty firms across four continents. 4Mobi, Aptera, Apptivation, Brillio, Calance, Innovecs, NationSky and YellowLink  will address growing demand for KidoZen's platform in emerging markets such as Africa, Brazil, China, India and Mexico as well as Europe and the United States, KidoZen said in a press release.

 KidoZen said its channel partners, which now number 25 firms across 50 countries, deliver expertise in implementing end-to-end mobility solutions and services to help customers streamline business processes, boost employee productivity and drive innovation. In return, KidoZen gives partners access to technical, sales and marketing benefits to grow their business.

"By expanding our global partner footprint, we are able to satisfy market needs while delivering a fast, affordable and secure way of deploying enterprise mobile apps for our rapidly expanding customer base," said Jesus Rodriguez, founder and CEO of KidoZen.

 The KidoZen platform is used by organizations such as American Airlines, Boeing, DuPont, Pfizer, Microsoft, Shell, Toyota and United Healthcare.


Our City Thoughts explores challenges of being a social entrepreneur

Ebonie Mukasa_Our City Thoughts

Photo and story by Ilana Berman of Our City Thoughts

Social entrepreneurs are the new philanthropists. They are individuals who, through innovative business practices, find solutions to the problems that vex our communities, states, and countries. Founder of CLOAK INC, Ebonie Mukasa, is a social entrepreneur committed to putting the mission before the money. Her journey has been one punctuated by challenges and change. But Mukasa’s faith in the transformative power of fashion has helped her overcome those roadblocks, to become one of Miami’s bright new stars of business.

“What I wanted to see, was in the fashion industry, clothing that represented more social responsibility,” says Mukasa, “I saw a lot of consumerism, images that represented brands were always discouraging to young women in the sense of acceptance, self-image.”

So she created CLOAK INC, a clothing brand driven by social initiative. CLOAK, by Mukasa’s definition, means to cover, or protect. In wearing the clothing, you are literally covering yourself, but also helping to cover those in need. With each purchase, CLOAK allocates 20% of the profit to a worthy cause.

Read her story on OurCityThoughts.org here.




Parking changes in Wynwood take huge toll on startups

By @MarioCruz

Mario cruzDoes the City of Miami Parking Authority and the mayor want to kill new tech and business in Wynwood?

As Wynwood has become a very vibrant spot for tech companies, most have moved in around The Lab Miami area, companies like LiveNinja, LearnerNation and the one I co-founded, Choose Digital. The city, the head of Miami Parking Authority Art Noriega, the director of Planning and Development Rolando G. Tapanes and Mayor Tomás Regalado have now officially made it harder on startups and startups’ employees.

Here is what has happened over the last six months: First, they changed the hours on the street meters from ending at 5pm to 2am. This change happened without warning. During a Code for Miami meetup, a group helping to create apps and solution to government problem, volunteers started to be ticketed and found out about the change then.

Now the City has removed all the monthly decal parking inside of Wynwood and has only left decal parking on Nw 6th Avenue alongside I-95 and the streets in between Nw 5th and 6th Avenue, not a safe place at night, unlike 23rd - 27th Street between 2nd and 5th Avenue, which are patrolled by security.

This leaves only metered parking on the streets in front of our businesses. To keep our employees parking on our safer block, our parking price per employee will now go from $55 a month to $200 – a 265% change in one month.

However the problems continue. Besides paying the $145 extra, you cannot pay for a day parking pass. You can only buy 120 min at a time. This requires employees to walk to the meter every 2 hours or use an app that charges you an extra $.35 a transaction for an extra 1.75 a day. Bringing your new total to $235 a month a 330% increase.

I think this needs to get fixed immediately.

Mario Cruz is the CTO of Choose Digital, headquartered in Wynwood. Mario's previous guest post is here.

Update: If you have been affected by the new ‪#‎parking‬ issue in ‪#‎Wynwood‬ I would like to talk to you. Please email me wynwoodparking@gmail.com

South Miami Hospital pilot testing Menus That Talk

South Miami Hospital is conducting a pilot program that provides patients with a hand-held wireless device that enables them to order meals in English, Spanish or French developed by a South Florida technology company, Taylannas. The unit speaks to patients and displays text in their chosen language and is designed to serve visually impaired, elderly, and non English-speaking patients.

 “Being able to hear choices described in your own language, instead of struggling to read a menu, makes a huge difference in a person’s hospital stay,” said  Susan Perry, inventor of Menus That Talk and president of Taylannas.  “The complex changes underway in healthcare underscore the importance of patient satisfaction, an ongoing goal in the Baptist Health system known for its innovative approaches to quality patient care.”

 Perry developed the original Menus That Talk as an aid to a close relative with an advanced case of Stargardt disease, a form of macular degeneration that severely limits vision. The hospital version truly crosses language barriers, she said. “Regardless of what language the patient orders in, the food choices will appear in English in the kitchen, eliminating the potential for mistakes or misunderstanding. In the future, we can add any other language as the patient population changes.”

For hospitals, the use of a talking menu reduces printing expenses and staff costs. The  technology developed with the advice of Dietary Management at South Miami Hospital also allows for nearly instant changes in menu content and can provide dieticians with greater control to fine-tune each patient’s nutrition, Perry said.

Menus That Talk is one of a number of interactive voice information systems Taylannas created or is developing.

-- Hannah Herbst