Want to know about Miami startups? A user's guide to this blog

Dear reader, Starting Gate has been providing and archiving South Florida startup and tech community news, views and resources since 2012. New to the Miami area? Thinking about relocating here? Just want to keep up with news, events and opportunities? We're there for you.

How to use Starting Gate: Besides scrolling the blog for the latest entries, you can access news and views by category. The "Funding" category will capture venture capital and angel funding news of individual startups as well as stories about funders. The startup categories chronicle news and my regular "Spotlights," and in Q&As you'll find interviews with CEOs and leaders in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. There are also categories for guest posts, views, accelerators/incubators, resources, events and more.

Thank you for your support through the years and please come back often. Follow me on Twitter @ndahlberg. - Sincerely, Nancy Dahlberg

November 04, 2017

Nuvola brings digital white-glove service to the hotel industry

SBDC-Success-Story_Juan-Carlos-Abello-NUVOLA-1
 

By Ana Acle-Menendez

Perhaps no other industry relies as heavily on customer service as the hotel industry.

So, imagine if there was a way for guests to communicate to staff directly and conveniently through the touch of a button on their mobile phone. And imagine if guests would be notified of happy hour specials while walking by the bar in real time, allowing hotels to gather behavioral data and provide better service.

Juan-Carlos-Abello-NUVOLA-2That communication platform was imagined and created. Now, it is offered by a guest service management software developed by Nuvola, a Miami-based company founded by Juan Carlos Abello, who worked as a manager at various hotels.

But while Abello developed a solution for hotels, he needed solutions of his own to grow his new startup business.

He heard about the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, a contest for startup entrepreneurs, through Florida International University (FIU), his alma mater. While creating the video presentation for the contest, Abello then learned about the Florida SBDC at FIU — the small business development center at the College of Business, which provides no-cost consulting to entrepreneurs and small-business owners.

“My biggest obstacle was closing on my first customers,” said Abello, who earned an MBA from Emory University and a bachelor’s degree in international business from FIU. “In technology, if you don’t have references and you’re selling software that’s intangible, it’s a tough sales pitch. Closing on my first 20 to 30 customers was the biggest challenge.”

He specifically wanted guidance on finding an investor.  “In my particular case, I was looking to accelerate the growth of the company,” he said. “I was looking for funds and I was assigned to an advisor who had experience as an investor.”

For the next six months, he met with the expert consultant every two weeks on Saturdays, going over spreadsheets, sales pitches and the program to grow more capital.

It soon paid off.

“I was extremely satisfied because I was able to raise additional funds for the company,” Abello said. “I closed with two investors and now basically I’m living my dream.”

What started three years ago with business development and sales of $30,000 doubled every year. Now Nuvola is well over $1 million in sales this year, Abello said.

What’s more, his one-man team has now grown to 18 full-time employees.

“I would recommend the SBDC,” Abello said. “First, because they understand that you’re an entrepreneur — you don’t have a flexible schedule — and most of the time they were able to accommodate my needs.

“Second, I felt that every single member of the organization that I interacted with was professional, willing to assist and the advice they gave was definitely significant in terms of the objective that I had,” he continued.

“Lastly, it’s a free service,” Abello said. “They do understand that starting a business is not easy and you’re going to face a lot of obstacles. Most of the time they know what obstacles you’re going to face so you can anticipate them, which is great.”

Additionally, he said he made friends during the process and still keeps in touch with his advisor. He is also mentoring others so they can sell to their first 20 to 30 customers before going to investors.

By the way, in case you’re wondering, Abello and his team won first place in that Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge in the FIU Track category. That’s another feather in his cap that he can use for marketing purposes.

 

Ana Acle-Menendez wrote this article for Florida SBDC at FIU, which gave Starting Gate permission to post it.

 

READ MORE about Nuvola here. 

 

November 01, 2017

Miami’s TheVentureCity launches $100M global fund for tech startups

THE VENTURE CITY FUND MH AF001

Clara Bullrich, left, and Laura González-Estéfani at their TheVentureCity office in Miami Beach. TheVentureCity is now launching a $100 million fund for startups. Alexia Fodere for The Miami Herald

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@Miamiherald.com

This summer, when former executives of Facebook, Google, eBay and other hyper-growth companies formed a global “city” based in Miami with everything a tech startup needs to scale internationally, they were missing one key element: the money.

But not anymore.

The founder and CEO of TheVentureCity, Laura González-Estéfani, former director of international business development and mobile partnerships for Facebook, and co-founder Clara Bullrich, a 20-year private banking and asset management veteran, have launched a $100 million fund for tech entrepreneurs. This will be a tool in its unique TheVentureCity, which offers a tailored fellowship program and consultancy for tech startups with global hypergrowth potential.

TheVentureCity Fund I has already has already put $20 million to work, investing in about 14 companies globally – four of them based in the Miami area.

The new fund has invested in Boatsetter, a boat-rental platform; gaming venture The FastMind; and financial-technology startups Above & Beyond and RecargaPay, all from South Florida. It has also funded three Silicon Valley companies; the remainder are from Latin America and Europe. One has roots in Angola. Another five companies are in the pipeline. TheVentureCity typically invests more than $1 million.

“We want to accelerate emerging tech hubs around the world with amazing entrepreneurs who want to make their dreams come true. The way to do that is to guarantee that the right, smart money is there,” said González-Estéfani, in an interview last week. “There’s a lot of money in Miami but many of the LPs [limited partners] don’t understand tech.”

TheVentureCity Fund I joins several new funds launched in South Florida in the past couple of years for early-stage investments, including Krillion VenturesRokk3r Fuel ExOLas Olas Venture Capital and AGP Miami, an active angel investing network. But the number of South Florida startups has risen 63 percent in the past two years, and the lack of local venture capital options has long been an issue in the area.

Some of South Florida’s most successful startups have gone elsewhere, including Silicon Valley, for their funding. Some don’t come back.

González-Estéfani said the fund is looking for companies that can show at least six months of strong growth and customer engagement. “We are not looking at revenues from the very beginning, which is something that happens in Miami all the time – investors want to see early revenues,” said González-Estéfani, a native of Spain who worked in Silicon Valley, Europe, Latin America and Miami at Facebook for nine years, and before that was with eBay, Siemans and Ogilvy.

“But if I have a small company, I want everyone focused on growing the company. The Googles, Facebooks, eBays of the world, they didn’t start monetizing until the year three or five.”

With an “international-first” approach, TheVentureCity aims to create cross-functional bridges between key regions to scale startups on a global level through its consultancy, its acceleration programs and in-house product and engineering expertise, González-Estéfani said.

The headquarters of TheVentureCity is in Miami Beach, but the team of 17 is looking for a 10,000-square-foot office in Miami. There is a second campus in Madrid and an office in San Francisco. It just added a presence in Sydney, Australia, and Singapore may be in the works, González-Estéfani said. Elisa Rodríguez-Vila, who co-founded The LAB Miami, runs the Miami campus.

TheVentureCity’s 36-month or 18-month tailored acceleration programs, which will be called The Garden Fellowships, will launch this month at WebSummit in Lisbon, Portugal. TheVentureCity will take equity in the startup as the partnership progresses, not upfront, González-Estéfani said.

This fall, Miami Dade College and TheVentureCity launched a two-year degree in entrepreneurship. TheVentureCity recently received a “key” from the Miami-Dade Beacon Council for locating and investing in Miami.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

October 27, 2017

Innovation festival unbound lands in Miami Nov. 1-2

 

  Unbound

By Daniel Seal 

Daniel SealFive years ago, I saw there was a need for a forum that could connect brands and corporations with grassroots startups and the cutting-edge technology that they offer. With so much innovation and ingenuity on the start-up stage, I saw an opportunity to bridge that gap between growing and established brands and the new ideas that will inevitably shape how we live and how we do business. That is how unbound was born. For startups, festivals are the opportunity to meet individuals crucial to their future success: investors, clients and partners, and for organizations, unbound festivals are where they can build their own platforms, connect with key audience members, and deliver but also look beyond their strategic objectives.

Anchored by annual festivals in London and Singapore, we wanted to add a third festival to the roster, and Miami was the best destination for us. As the gateway to the Americas, Miami and its thriving entrepreneurial community – connecting the US and Latin America – is the perfect backdrop as it’s now on everyone’s radar, from venture capitalist firms, to funds and angel investors from across the globe.

Next week, Mana Wynwood will host the first unbound Miami festival. The two-day event kicks off on Wednesday, November 1, and will gather 100+ future-focused speakers from the worlds of fintech, adtech, AI, healthtech, eCommerce, robotics and more, as well as feature immersive brand experiences, pitch sessions and startup battles. We have assembled a prestigious lineup of speakers (from VICE Media, Twitter and Slack to Marriott, VISA and Johnson & Johnson), sessions, and partners that set this event apart from any other taking place in South Florida.

ProColombia will be using unbound Miami as a platform for its annual Colombia Bring IT On campaign, bringing together 120 Latin American startups to meet brand and corporate decision makers in Miami with experience in mobile applications, digital animation, video games, digital marketing and IT solutions.

In addition, unbound Miami will present the Female Founders Startup Challenge, which will see eight female founders battle for access to a place on the Babson College Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab program. Claro Americas will also be hosting a startup battle to showcase the best innovations in the areas of Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and ecommerce, among others. The winner will have the chance to visit the company’s facilities in Guatemala.

We hope you can join us and participate in what is sure to be a memorable event. Please follow this link to register and use discount code sgate50.

 

When: November 1 & 2, 2017- 9:00am – 5:00pm

Where: Mana Wynwood, 2217 NW 5th Ave, Miami, FL 33127

Who: 3,000 attendees – made up of 35% corporate and brand executives, 35% founders and entrepreneurs, 15% digital and media agencies, 5% government and trade agencies, 5% investors, 5% journalists.

 

Daniel Seal is the Founder & CEO of unbound.

October 26, 2017

Endeavor taps Miami-based Chargello to join global network

Chargello

 

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com

Your phone is dead – again.

In our world where a dead phone is a catastrophe, Miami startup Chargello has a solution for that. Its proprietary battery device, already available at thousands of venues worldwide, can simultaneously charge six phones three faster than a wall charger and four times faster than a battery pack.

ChargelloteamThis week, the entrepreneurs behind Chargello, co-founders Johnny Bosche and Freddy Sidi, were selected as Endeavor Entrepreneurs at Endeavor’s 75th International Selection Panel held in Sofia, Bulgaria. Endeavor is a global nonprofit organization that selects, mentors and accelerates high-impact entrepreneurs.

Bosche and Sidi, both born in Latin America, founded the ad-tech company in Miami in 2015 and began selling the product last year. Chargello is focused on building a platform to solve the low-battery problem in public places, such as restaurants, hotels and airports.

The batteries not only charge phones, but serve as an advertising platform. Chargello’s batteries can be found in about 5,500 businesses across 22 countries, and the startup is working with global brands such as Diageo, Heineken and Uber. Locally, the devices can be found at Casa Tua, Cipriani, Prime 112, Morton’s, W Hotel, Confidante, One Hotel and the Collection car dealership, among many other businesses, said Bosche, in a phone interview from Sofia. Former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning is a shareholder and brand ambassador.

Chargello is a team of 14 in Miami, but it has more than 200 employees through partnership businesses in the countries it sells in, Bosche said.

“We’re looking to scale globally and get access to top-tiered talent. Our goal is to be in 100 countries by the end of next year,” Bosche said. “We believe Endeavor will be an undeniable resource to us as we expand.”

Endeavor Entrepreneurs receive services that include mentorship and access to capital, global markets and talent. Based in New York City, Endeavor operates in 27 countries in Europe, Latin America, North America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and supports more than 1,000 entrepreneurs.

Endeavor Miami launched in September 2013 with the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as the first U.S. affiliate of Endeavor Global. Endeavor Miami’s entrepreneurs are now generating close to $130 million in revenues and employ 1,600 people, according to its impact report released earlier this month.

“As we support Chargello in scaling rapidly via a robust advisory board and additional services, I am confident that Johnny and Freddy will act as role models to inspire the burgeoning South Florida entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Laura Maydón, managing director of Endeavor Miami.

For more information on Endeavor Miami or to nominate South Florida entrepreneurs, visit www.endeavormiami.org.

October 17, 2017

Endeavor's impact on South Florida entrepreneurship: It's in the numbers

WyncodeAuston-instructing-students
 

EverymundoSFBJBy Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com
 
EveryMundo, founded by Anton Diego and Seth Cassel (pictured here), provides performance marketing technology for airlines. The Miami startup  has grown the team to 60 employees and has experienced double-digit revenue growth every year. It's now working with about 30 airlines.
 
Founded by Juha and Johanna Mikkola, Wyncode offers coding boot camps that prepare students for the local tech job market. It has graduated more than 450 students and more than 200 companies have hired them. It recently raised funding and opened its own headquarters space (shown above).
 
Pincho Factory, the fast-casual restaurant concept inspired by Latin American street food founded in 2010, has been on a growth spurt since the beginning of 2016. It has gone from two locations to eight, with three more are on the runway, and has added 180 employees. Today it is closing in on $14 million in annual revenue systemwide. It was founded by Otto Othman and Nedal Ahmad.
 
What the three South Florida companies have in common is they were all selected by Endeavor, the global organization that provides mentorship and services to high impact entrepreneurs, including access to talent, capital and markets on local and global levels. The Endeavor Miami chapter, the global nonprofit's first office in the U.S., opened in 2013.
 
"Endeavor has been monumental in terms of mentoring and advising us with our growth strategy. We were able to truly learn how to raise funds and how to negotiate term sheets with the help of our mentors," said Othman. "The networking component provided to us by Endeavor has been huge for us as well. Meeting other fellow entrepreneurs and successful Miami locals has played a big role in our growth. From advising to sharing best practices, these are the lessons you just simply don't learn in school."
 
FigsThese companies and others were highlighted in Endeavor Miami's just released annual impact report, which shows that the 16 active Endeavor Miami companies are booking $130 million in 2017 revenue. Together they employ 1,600 people, and that's up 37 percent since 2014 while jobs statewide were up 9.4 percent in the same period. They've raised $15 million in capital, Endeavor Miami says in its new report.
 

These include companies such as the My Ceviche fast-casual restaurant company, which has grown from two restaurants to six, including its Midtown Miami, Coral Gables and MIA locations, since the founders were selected in 2013. Powerful's yogurt and other other all-natural products are in 10,000 stores, including Target, Walmart and Kroger. FIGS, founded by Trina Spear (pictured here) and Heather Hasson, offers antimicrobial, breathable and fashionable scrubs, and is also a B Corp. that has donated more than 75,000 sets of scrubs in 26 countries. Kairos, the facial recognition and  human analytics technology startup used by a number of enterprise clients, made a strategic acquisition and has raised some $8 million in funding to power its growth.

Brian Brackeen OfficeEndeavor Miami's network of 75 mentors have donated 1,371 mentor hours to help make these successes happen, according to the report. "It’s like having a network of experts at my disposal 24 hours a day, 7 Days a week. It’s family. They would do anything to help us to win," said Brian Brackeen, founder and CEO of Kairos.

To be sure, Endeavor is part of a whole network of community organizations and university programs offering services and support to entrepreneurs in South Florida. Endeavor focuses on selecting companies that are ripe to scale and could benefit from Endeavor's help, as well as founders who are likely to give back to the South Florida community after they've found success by helping the next generation of startups through mentorship and/or investment.

Four years in since the Knight Foundation funded the launch of Endeavor Miami, the community is already seeing the give-back, with entrepreneurs like Brackeen, the Pincho founders, the Mikkolas and many others mentoring startups, offering connections and speaking around town and beyond about entrepreneurship. The organization is celebrating with a benefit gala on Saturday honoring tech visionary Salim Ismail. 

Read the Endeavor Miami impact report here.

To nominate a company for the Endeavor network, go to www.endavormiami.org

October 08, 2017

StartUP FIU: Your chance to change the world

StartupfiucohorteUntitled design (38) (1)
 

By Kate Sackman

What do fair trade yoga pants, paying off student loans, and promoting minority businesses have in common? Yep, all of these opportunities, and more, are being addressed by the StartUP FIU Empower Accelerator companies.

An exciting array of startups are in the third cohort of companies now going through the fall 2017 Empower Accelerator on the main campus of Florida International University.  This 14-week intensive program guides early stage companies rapidly through the key analyses and decisions for building a strong company foundation and scaling. Of the eleven companies in Cohort 3, six are FIU-affiliated (students, alumni, and faculty) and five are from the Miami community.  All of the companies at least have a prototype in development and four of them are generating revenue. The industries represented include apparel, food service, finance, ecommerce, supply chain monitoring and digital marketing

Companies in Cohort 3 are working to provide fair incomes and humane treatment of garment workers in Sri Lanka, help people get out from under crushing debt, and reduce fraud at construction sites.  Cool technologies such as artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and predictive analytics are being applied by companies to improve consumer intelligence, make online marketing more fair and efficient, and yes, help you get fit.

Here are the companies in Cohort 3:

Alana Athletica: Alana designs and sells yoga pants made to employ and empower women in Sri Lanka who are abuse survivors.

Aromas del Peru: A successful Peruvian restaurant chain in Miami that plans to franchise nationally.

CoinStash: An automatic savings plan that helps users pay off student and credit card debt by automatically rounding up their purchases to the nearest dollar and applying the difference to their debt.

Ekkobar: A sophisticated application of machine learning, Ekkobar enables companies to analyze their digital media in real time and interact directly with their audience.

Lunchology: A healthy meal delivery service for schools using only fresh, local ingredients.

Major Marketplace: An online marketplace for minority businesses and those who want to support them.

Merkari: A digital marketing company that enables companies to run multi-channel campaigns across any device.

Mettosof: Mettosof makes InstanRate, a SaaS system that expedites customers’ review process and helps business operators analyze customer feedback   to improve their operations.

Origo: A blockchain-based web platform that allows businesses to validate the true identity and fair trade practices of traders in the Americas.

Smart Barrel: Provides rugged, solar-powered IoT products for construction jobsites that enable construction workers to punch in and out without an RFID tag or other device and enables project managers to oversee and plan construction sites more efficiently.

Sodima Solutions: A chatbot company that provides customer management and a lead generation fitness assistant for the Facebook business page of fitness professionals and gyms.

APPLICATIONS OPEN FOR NEXT COHORT

Applications are now open for Cohort 4! Aspiring entrepreneurs from throughout South Florida are invited to apply.  Companies that have a prototype in development and a good understanding of their customers and market are eligible. Preference is for companies with some revenue, but companies at any stage are welcome to apply. You can apply on the StartUP FIU website: http://startup.fiu.edu. Cohort 4 begins in January 2018.

On the website you can also find StartUP FIU workshops, speakers, and other programs for the public. Upcoming workshops by leading experts include A Beginner’s Guide to Crowdfunding (October 5), and Sea Level Rise Mitigation (October 12). 

Kate Sackman is the director of the StartUP FIU Empower Accelerator and a seasoned entrepreneur.  She has a background in finance, marketing, high-tech, and media. She is also a consultant and a professor of Global Social Entrepreneurship at FIU.

 

October 03, 2017

Grameen America will open micro-lending branch in Miami

Yunus

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 19, 2017

Meet the next class of women selected for WIN Lab Miami

Womeninvestimage


By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

A straw that helps detect date rape, advances in breast pump technology, a dinner party in a box. These are products and services in development by just a few of the 17 companies selected by Babson College to participate in the 2017-2018 Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab Miami.

WIN Lab Miami, an eight-month accelerator program entering its second year in the region, aims to catalyze the long-term success of female entrepreneurs by fostering creativity and collaboration, increasing visibility, providing mentorships, identifying branding and marketing tactics, and leveraging funding opportunities and competitions.

Around the world, female entrepreneurship is on the rise. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor's 2017 survey of 63 economies, Total Entrepreneurial Activity among women increased by 10 percent in the past two years, and the gender gap (ratio of women to men participating in entrepreneurship) narrowed by 5 percent. WIN Lab seeks to accelerate the trend by offering a supportive rather than a competitive environment of traditional accelerators. It's program is part-time over a longer period to better work with entrepreneurs at their own stages of growth. 

WINlab_womenceos_038 (2)

 “We have selected a group of incredibly impressive women entrepreneurs to join WIN Lab Miami’s next cohort,” said Babson’s WIN Lab Miami Director Carolina Pina (pictured above). “One team won the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, some have already made strides as participants of the Idea Center’s CREATE program at Miami Dade College; one has just recently won an American Entrepreneurship Award; and two have been selected to pitch their businesses at the upcoming Demand Solutions competition. We look forward to helping further develop and advance their businesses, and being witness to all of their accomplishments to come.”

WIN Lab's Advisory Board will be chaired by Carol Faber, Partner at Akerman LLP. Faber was recently named one of Real Estate Forum’s 50 Women of Influence in Real Estate, and is also the Chair of Akerman’s Women’s Initiative Network and Co-chair of its Distressed Property Practice Group.

WIN LAB has also named its Entrepreneurs-In-Residence and Investors-In-Residence for the second cohort.

Entrepreneurs-In-Residence are Johanna Mikkola, Co-Founder, Wyncode Academy; RJ Joshi, Co-Founder and COO, Bodhi Tree Asset Management; Silvina Moschini, Co-Founder and CEO, SheWorks!; and Ze’ev Feig MBA’03, CEO, Zensah.

 Its Investors-In-Residence are Adam Smith, investor; Blaire Martin, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Florida Angel Nexus; and Raul Moas, Managing Director, AGP.

WIN Lab Miami was founded with support from John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, FedEx, and Akerman LLP, and sponsor HSBC. The Miami program’s inaugural cohort of ‘WINners’ raised nearly $2 million in funding in the first year, WIN Lab said, and celebrated with a grand finale pitch competition in April 2017.

Here are the 2017-2018 Miami WINners (list provided by WIN Lab), which were to be announced Tuesday night at its  kickoff event at CIC Miami, where WIN Lab is based.

Caribu
Maxeme Tuchman, Co-Founder and CEO

Communication and collaboration platform that helps parents, extended family, and mentors read and draw with children when they are not in the same location. Caribu is one of two WINners selected by the Inter-American Development Bank to compete at Demand Solutions. It also won third place in the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge.

ETC

Karley Chynces, Founder and CEO

Mobile app that will allow students to buy and sell books and dorm supplies locally.

Ginger Straps
Leana Loh, Founder and CEO

Add-on ankle strap for high heels and flats to transform shoes from strapless to strappy.

Imalac, LLC
Noreen Gordon Sablotsky, Co-Founder and CEO; Rachael Sablotsky Kish, Co-Founder and COO

Healthcare technology company focused on increasing the efficiency and practicality of breast pumping.

Impetus Social
Sonia Hinestrosa, Founder

Education technology company providing critical skills in areas like digital literacy, STEM, leadership, and financial literacy.

Lean Orb
Anastasia Mikhalochkina, Founder

Plant-based, biodegradable catering supplies. Lean Orb has also been selected to compete at Demand Solutions this fall.

Luxe Fête Social
Nathalie Anne Cadet-James, Founder

Service company that provides a dinner party in a box.

MADSTUDIOS, Inc.
Jennifer Nicole Hardcastle, Co-Founder

Platform that provides resources and access to all creatives with the tools needed to be successful.

Major Marketplace
Leyanis Diaz, Co-Founder and CEO

Online marketplace for minority businesses and those who want to support them. Diaz also participated in Miami Dade College Idea Center’s 10-week go-to-market program called CREATE. She recently won an American Entrepreneurship Award.

PEX+
Jessica Coane, Founder and President

Travel search engine for using miles and points.

Prizm Art Fair, LLC
Mikhaile Solomon, Founder and Director

Cutting-edge art fair that expands the spectrum of exhibiting international artists from Africa, the global African Diaspora, and emerging markets.

Sayblee
Ashley Sebok, Founder and CEO

100 percent natural, organic, handmade hair care system formulated to repair damaged hair, and maintain healthy hair.

Smart Straws
Susana Cappello, Victoria Roca, Carolina Baigorri, Co-Founders

Straw that detects the most common date rape drugs, GHB and Ketamine, found in alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Cappello, Roca, and Baigorri won this year’s Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge High School Track.

SpeechMED Inc.
Susan Alanna Perry, Founder and CEO

Patient engagement platform that makes healthcare information accessible to all patients regardless of age, language, or literacy levels.

TeaRado Tech
Nicole Tirado, Founder

Tech-infused tea cup that allows users to consume tea hands-free.

Voyz.es, Inc.

Ana Maria Carrano, Co-Founder and CEO

Agile and collaborative transcription platform that allows users to transcribe audio and video content fast, with high accuracy and affordable rates, using machine learning and crowdsourcing.

Wedding QuickQuote
Madeline Daryadel, Founder and President

Extranet software program featured on venue sites that expedites the search and sales process providing users with an instant reply to an online inquiry.

Massachusetts-based Babson College has also recently announced an expansion of its graduate programs to Miami. The new effort builds on the ongoing success of WIN Lab Miami, as well as its Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program hosted at Miami Dade College, which empowers local small business owners to help their companies grow. The application period for the graduate programs is open and classes are set to begin in Fall 2018.

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A scene from an event, shown above, for WIN Lab Miami's first cohort, shown below.

Group Photo - Lobby 2

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September 14, 2017

NFTE among organizations receiving new Knight funding

Submitted by Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced more than $590,000 in new funding for three projects aimed at fostering community among entrepreneurs and tech innovators while advancing the city as a diverse and inclusive innovation hub.

From an innovation district designed to support emerging entrepreneurs and add vibrancy to Miami’s Opa-locka neighborhood to a technology entrepreneurship course for young people to a newly-launched nonprofit that will provide promising local entrepreneurs access to the startup world’s top resources and leaders, the projects focus on supporting and propelling entrepreneurs across the community. They also work to expand opportunity for groups that are underrepresented in the technology sector.

“Ensuring Miamians have access to the opportunities they need to scale their ideas and solve the problems they care about is essential to creating an inclusive innovation ecosystem. These projects will help to diversify Miami’s pipeline of technologists and entrepreneurs and enable Miami startups to access the best resources in new and low cost ways,” said Chris Caines, Knight Foundation interim program director for Miami.  

The projects receiving support:

NFTE - Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship ($250,000) – Helping young, aspiring entrepreneurs develop their entrepreneurial mindset by expanding Startup Tech, a technology entrepreneurship course for middle and high school students from underserved neighborhoods. The program provides students the opportunity to develop a working mobile app-based business, as well as entrepreneurship training. As part of the program,students create an original app that addresses a community need, craft a business plan and, pitch the plan to a panel of expert judges for the chance to win funding. With Knight support, NFTE will expand the program to five program sites in greater Miami public schools.

Opa-locka Community Development Corporation ($135,000) – Expanding opportunity and entrepreneurship in Opa-locka by supporting the THRIVE campus’ innovation lab and makerspace, and urban farm and market. At the innovation lab Opa-locka residents will be trained to use new media and technology, and earn marketable industry certifications, while sharing resources and knowledge in a co-working space. The urban farm will allow people to help build and manage the farm, and offer them agriculture, marketing, and training opportunities. The urban market will transform a vacant lot into a community and retail space, including redesigned shipping containers where local entrepreneurs can sell the farm’s produce and food from the campus’ commercial kitchen.

Platform.Miami ($208,000) – Supporting early stage entrepreneurs through the newly-launched Platform.Miami, a nonprofit which will provide promising local entrepreneurs access to the startup world’s top resources and leaders. The organization will offer online and offline education opportunities and services to help entrepreneurs better structure, setup and scale their startups. To this end, Platform will create "The Playbook,” a resource for best practices on product-market fit, business models, digital marketing, legal structure, and attracting venture capital. It will also showcase a selected list of top service providers to help entrepreneurs find the best professional services to support their growth.

Support for these projects is part of Knight Foundation’s broader effort to invest in Miami’s emerging innovators and entrepreneurs as a tool to build community while fostering talent and expanding economic opportunity. Over the past five years Knight has made more than 200 investments in entrepreneurship in South Florida.

August 30, 2017

Entrepreneurship degree students will be taught by Facebook, Lyft, tech and media execs

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Melissa Medina, executive vice president of eMerge Americas, will be one of the instructors in Miami Dade College’s revamped entrepreneurship degree program. Carlos LLano

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

The Idea Center, Miami Dade College’s entrepreneurship hub, and TheVentureCity, a new internationally focused tech accelerator in Miami, partnered up to redesign MDC’s Associate in Science in Business Entrepreneurship degree. As a result, students will be taught by some of the region’s top business leaders.

In the two-year degree program, which kicked off Monday, the leaders will serve as instructors to mentor students in becoming visionary entrepreneurs who turn ideas into products, services, businesses and social ventures. “An engaged and supportive mentor has a transformative impact on a young person,” said Miami Dade College President Dr. Eduardo J. Padrón, in the news release.

Instructors include Adriana Cisneros, CEO of Cisneros; Francesca de Quesada Covey, Head of Platform Partnerships for Facebook in Latin America; Melissa Medina, executive vice president of eMerge Americas; Sam Cohen, GM for Lyft in Florida; and Laura Gonzalez-Estefani, CEO and founder of TheVentureCity.

Students will work with teams of their peers to bring ideas to life. Topics covered will include startup strategy and execution, product development, project management, digital and social media marketing, user experience design, human resources and team management and organizational development.

TheVentureCity was founded by former executives of Facebook, Google, eBay and other leading companies. It launched its program at eMerge Americas in June, and at the time Gonzalez-Estefani said partnering with colleges and universities would be a pillar of its venture. The Idea Center at MDC launched in 2014. Some of its other programs include MarketHack, CREATE accelerator, CodePro, The Startup Challeng, and the Innovation Lab,

More information: mdc.edu/entrepreneurship