February 20, 2017

Aminta Ventures launches to support women investors, plans workshop

Womeninvestimage

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com 

The numbers say it all. 

Women make up only about 25 percent of angel investors in general, and women received just 29 percent of angel capital sought in 2015.

It gets worse as the checks get bigger. In the venture capital world, less than 5 percent of VCs are women. Only about 3 percent of venture capital goes to companies with female CEOs, and 85 percent of funded companies have no women on the founding teams.

Aminta Ventures, a new South Florida organization aimed at educating and supporting aspiring women investors, wants to attack that gap – at least locally. The big goal: a new wave of female angel investors that will ultimately help to shape a stronger, more diverse ecosystem.

“Given the powerful role that women play in leading a myriad of business, philanthropic, and community efforts in our city, it is a natural extension to think of them playing a strong role in the progress of our entrepreneurship and innovation sector,” said Natalia Martinez-Kalinina, one of the co-founders of Aminta, in a news release. “Currently, we don’t necessarily see much parity reflected in the makeup of our local investor network so our intention is to capacitate and shepherd more women to throw their hat in the ring and join the existing momentum.”

In addition to Martinez-Kalinina, the Aminta Ventures team includes Deborah Johnson, Mary Anderson, Carolina Canida, Rosario Chozas, Julia Ford-Carther,  Nelly M. Farra and Alia Mahmoud. For their first educational event, Aminta has teamed up with Startup Angels to bring an angel investing workshop to the Cambridge Innovation Center in Miami on Feb. 28 and March 1. 

The Startup Angels Workshop will provide education, strategies and tools for startup investing to investors at all levels, whether someone is writing their first $1,000 check to a crowdfunding platform or a $1 million check to a VC fund. “Miami is poised to expand its pool of investors by breaking down barriers for more women to participate,” said Leslie Jump, founder and CEO of Startup Angels.

After the workshop, the Aminta team plans to expand efforts to develop a support network for mentorship and guidance for angel investors and female-founded startups. This is not a fund, but rather a resource to help them navigate and plug into the existing ecosystem, Martinez-Kalinina said. They plan to partner with existing angel groups and investor networks in the city and the state in ongoing programming efforts, including a second workshop this year.

Speaking at the investing workshop include: Loretta McCarthy of Golden Seeds; Jaclyn Baumgarten of Boatsetter; Pandwe Gibson of EcoTech Visions; Melissa Krinzman of Krillion Ventures; Mary Anderson of GlamST; Brian Garr of Cognitive Code; and Joy Randels of New Market Accelerator. 

To learn more and buy tickets for the upcoming Startup Angels workshop, visit the event registration page at StartupAngels.com

Launch Florida initiative lifts off with 54 entrepreneurship and tech organizations

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Launch Florida, a statewide innovation coalition representing 54 organizations, announced its launch this week with a mission to foster collaboration between entrepreneurs, policymakers, business leaders, venture capitalists, philanthropists and other stakeholders in order to share knowledge and ultimately grow Florida’s innovation economy.

Launch Florida represents organizations from coding schools to universities, technology associations to startup accelerators. From South Florida members include: The LAB Miami, Building.co, SFTA, Refresh Miami, eMerge Americas, SUP-X, Ironhack, Wyncode, LaunchCode, FAU Tech Runway, Startup FIU, Research Park at FAU, Palm Beach Tech, Palm Beach Code School and the Florida institute for the Commercialization of Public Research.

“We will be the go-to resource for elected officials to help guide policy efforts supporting an innovation economy, “ said Joe Russo, executive director of the Palm Beach Tech Association and Launch Florida co-chair. 

By at least one measure, Florida has a lot of work to do if it wants to join the ranks of innovation powerhouse states. The Sunshine State ranked 34th out of 50 in The Bloomberg U.S. Innovation Index.

The organization will gather during the Launch Florida Summit May 18-19 in Orlando, coinciding with the Florida Venture Forum’s Early Stage Capital Conference. Learn more at LaunchFlorida.org

February 09, 2017

WIN Lab Miami gets new director: Meet Carolina Pina

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

CarolinaPinaWIN Lab Miami, an accelerator program for women entrepreneurs created and run by Babson College, has named a director.

Carolina Pina, an entrepreneur, advisor and philanthropist, will take over as director of the Miami program that is already in progress. Most recently she was the director of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “I look forward to working with Babson College and the entire WIN Lab team to make an impact on Miami’s entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Pina said in the announcement.

WIN (Women Innovating Now) Lab was originally launched by Massachusetts-based Babson College in 2013, and expanded to Miami in 2016, with $800,000 in support from the Knight Foundation. The first cohort in the eight-month program started in the fall of 2016 and finishes this spring; another cohort will follow next fall. Entrepreneurs in the program can come from any industry. The first cohort includes startups focused on tech, food, fashion, e-commerce, shipping and other areas.

[READ MORE: Meet WIN Lab’s first accelerator class]

In addition to her Kellog School position, Pina founded Ignitus, a consulting practice that helps organizations implement social impact initiatives. Her most recent accomplishment was leading the RiseUp AS ONE concert in San Diego for Fusion Media Group. She has also held leadership roles with the New World Symphony, the Miami Film Festival, and the Lung Transplant Foundation.

Originally from Venezuela, Pina holds a bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Florida International University, an MBA from Rice University’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management, and Executive Scholars in Leadership and Management from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

“Carolina brings both great managerial talent and passion for women’s entrepreneurship to this role,” said Babson WIN Lab Global Director Heatherjean MacNeil. “She has a strong vision for WIN Lab Miami and is dedicated to building an ecosystem where women founders thrive.”

February 02, 2017

Meet the entrepreneurs in Cohort 2 of StartUP FIU accelerator

StartUP C2

StartUP FIU is launching  its second cohort of its 14-week accelerator, Empower, this month. The cohort includes entrepreneurs from 17 businesses or concepts in a variety of industries, including music, fashion, shipping, health and education. It also includes a number of social entrepreneurs. The free program accepted entrepreneurs from the idea stage to revenue-producing companies; it includes community members as well as FIU students and alumni. Read more about the program here: Multi-campus StartUP FIU gets ready for takeoff

Who's in Cohort 2 of StartUP FIU?  Find the list below: 

Audio EP

Founder: Stephen Sullivan

Audio EP provides music students interactive exercises to develop various music related skills essential to music production and songwriting in today's digital age. It also connects students with music instructors through the online platform for coaching services.

BECOS

Founder: Jorge Arias

BECOS produces handbags, book bags, wallets and others, with recycled materials in order to create conscience within our customers. The recycled materials are from cement bags and food sacks for animals, and these bags are put together by employees with disabilities. In addition to that, 15% of  annual profit will support children that have been displaced by violence.

BENBO

Founder: Carolina Hoyos

BENBO is a new interactive, simple and easy to use business networking app, where we try to simplify the user’s interaction when sharing business cards.  BENBO lets you: Create and customize your very own business card, uniquely designed, in just a few seconds.

Boatrax

Founder: David Villegas

Boatrax facilitates the logging experience for boat owners with a mobile app that allows them to organize their logs and share them with local service providers to purchase right-on-time services using our marketplace platform.

Cargo42

Founder: Francine Gervazio

Cargo42 is a marketplace for trucking committed to reducing idle time and capacity. We seek to provide shippers (local businesses) a more competitive rate and simplify the shipping process, while carriers (local trucking companies) enjoy an additional revenue stream and maximize the trucks productivity.

Clutch Couture Bags

Co-founders: Jordan Johnson and Tia Plagata

Clutch Couture Bags provides a luxury handbag rental service that serves US customers via an online store. We provide a service that allows fellow fashion-lovers to experience the luxury of carrying some of the world’s most sought-after handbags, while paying a fraction of the price on a monthly basis.

Container Retail

Founder: Charles Sims

Retail Incubator space developed with reused shipping containers located in (Liberty City) Miami, FL. The hope is that a sustainable model can be created and deployed in similar communities throughout the U.S.

Extreme Weather Experience

Founder: Erik Salna

Extreme Weather Experience is a one-of-a-kind concept to develop an immersive, experiential, interactive, hands-on weather education theme park attraction with entertainment, retail, restaurants, a weather forecast center and a media broadcast center.

Give Wink

Founder: Francine Delarosa

Give Wink is a full-service boutique that provides added value services such as full space planning and design, nursery set up and reveals, customization and personalization of many products, gift registries and educational classes/events

 

GlanceHouse Cloud

Founder: Andrew Ritch

GlanceHouse allows businesses and organizations to automate the backup and archiving of video surveillance data to the Cloud. Users can store that data from 30 days to an indefinite amount of time.

Mind&Melody

Founder: Cristina Rodriguez

Mind&Melody has designed a proprietary music curriculum with three goals: to deliver live musical performances; teach music theory concepts in a simple, fun and artistic way; play sheet music and create original composition through our color-coding system. Our program is highly individualized to reach and engage different levels of dementia and musical ability.

SkillCourt LLC

Founder: Gudmundur Traustason

SkillCourt is an athletic training system consisting of pads built with LED lights for cue targets. The goal of the illuminated targets is to be hit with an object like a soccer ball through a timed sequence. Inside each pad are sensors that provide feedback for detailed performance which reports performance information to the SkillCourt app.

Stealth Simulation

Founder: Christian Gutierrez

Stealth Simulation by Boorpus™ LLC was born out of the need to increase the fidelity of standardized patient physical examination. We focus on technology-driven innovative solutions aimed to improve medical simulation while maintaining the highest degree of realism of virtual patient encounters.

Viera Academy

Founder: Carlos Raul Garcia

Viera Academy provides a playground e-learning platform that specializes in Standardized Tests, as well as world level Mental Math and Memory courses, developed by Guinness World Record holders.

WeWomen

Founder: Dorothy Peck

WeWomen is aiming to solve the lack of feminine hygienic pads in refugee camps. Their solution is using banana leaves from banana trees to produce hypoallergenic and environmentally friendly menstrual pads. Providing women with a product that will allow them to work, go to school and be productive members in society

Worcket

Founder: Sergio Klarreich

­

Worcket is a millennials-ready phone app and a cloud service that enterprises use to recruit University and College students or professionals for employment opportunities, in the US first and then worldwide. It leverages disruptive technologies like Video Profiles, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence. We are a truly innovative Seattle based start-up, that is part of the Microsoft BizSpark incubation initiative. Our first production release will be ready in mid-December.

No Name Company

Founder: Megan Twomey

The idea presented here is for a novel class of Nitric Oxide (NO) probes that are based on unique metal photoluminescent complexes that directly react with NO to provide highly sensitive and cost-effective detection. This novel class of probes would benefit the scientific and medical communities by advancing the understanding of NO's biological roles and subsequent pathological conditions that arise from NO dysfunction.

January 04, 2017

Combining two chapters, the South Florida Founder Institute launches; first two info sessions planned

The Founder Institute, a global idea-stage accelerator and startup launch program, announced that South Miami Founder Institute and Fort Lauderdale- Boca Raton Founder Institute chapters will merge to form the new South Florida Founder Institute.

The first South Florida Founder Institute program will begin in April of 2017, and applications are open now to anyone interested in launching a technology company at http://fi.co/apply/south_florida.

“We have seen great results from running South Miami and Fort Lauderdale independently, because the greater Miami region is one of the fastest growing startup hubs in the U.S.,” says Adeo Ressi, founder & CEO of the Founder Institute. “However, combining the amazing talent and mentor pools from across these two chapters gives us an opportunity to really push things forward and help build a wide range of new companies under one program umbrella.”

The South Florida Founder Institute will host a series of free startup events for the general public starting in January 2017 with:

*Tuesday, Jan, 12 “How to Start a Startup in South Florida” @ Venture Cafe Miami

*Thursday,  Jan. 24 “Founder Institute Graduate Showcase” @ BUILDING Miami

In the new South Florida chapter, program participants will be able to leverage the experience and mentorship of over 70 of the region’s top entrepreneurs, including;

*Randy Wood, co-founder of Citrix, one of the largest technology companies that has originated in South Florida. Randy is also an active angel investor through New World Angels.

*Sergey Petrossov, founder and CEO at JetSmarter, an organization that is reshaping history by changing the way people fly by making the private air travel industry accessible to the entire World.

*Felipe Sommer, co-founder and CEO at NearPod, a mobile platform that empowers educators to create learning experiences that engage and inspire millions of students around the world.

*Juan Pablo Cappello, co-founder at Private Advising Group and Board member at AGP Miami, one of the most significant Angel Investing organizations in the region.

*Michael O’Donnell, CEO at StartupBiz.com. Michael is a highly experienced venture-backed entrepreneur, angel/VC investor, business buyer and business seller, who advises entrepreneurs and investors on starting, buying or selling a business.

*Leonel Azuela, founder and managing partner at Quaxar, a premier provider of Community & Loyalty solutions.

*Marshall Swatt, founder and advisor at ATS Inc, a proprietary algorithmic trading system focused on trading strategies in exotic financial instruments (including digital currencies) currently licensed exclusively to a private fund.

And many more (http://fi.co/mentors/south_florida)

Leading the Founder Institute’s efforts in South Florida are Mark Volchek, a successful entrepreneur that built a project from three founders on a college campus into a public company listed on NYSE; Rodolfo Novarini, a seasoned entrepreneur and intrapreneur with over 15 years of experience creating and growing billion-dollar businesses; and Michel Triana, a tech entrepreneur, investor and founder of Ninut, Cine en Casa and Intelerit.

The Founder Institute is a part-time startup launch program that provides aspiring and early-stage founders with the challenging step-by-step curriculum, mentor support, and global network of entrepreneurs needed to start an enduring company. Over 2000 companies have graduated from the program (http://fi.co/companies), and promising startups that have already graduated from the Miami and Fort Lauderdale programs include:

*Carlos Romero and Juan Romero, founders of Livi (http://liviapp.co). Livi is a fast-growing “Live Stream by Request” mobile app.

*Susan Perry, founder of SpeechMED (http://www.speechmed.com/). SpeechMED is growing really fast and delivering on its focus on creating technology that battles a lack of health literacy by allowing patients to hear their information in the language that they understand.

*Matt Hall, founder of Dronelancer (http://dronelancer.io). Dronelancer is a marketplace to connect licensed drone owners with businesses looking for aerial photos and videos.

*Scott Greenhouse, founder of GameFace ( http://www.getnasty.com/). GameFace has just launched its product line of Natural ingredient based, multi-functional body care designed for athletes, which is delivered to your door every two months.

*Melanie Berguero, founder of Oneness (http://www.onenesscleanup.co/). Oneness is a solution for cities and marinas to meet their sustainability goals for water clean-up, has recently demonstrated its proprietary green boats at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show with tremendous success.

*Michelle Bazargan and Stefanie Gross, founders of VIA HALO (http://viahalo.com). VIA HALO  brings  today's  health  and  wellness  consumers  together  with  a  trusted,  accredited  network  of  proactive  providers. 

*David Karim, founder of ResolveBid (http://resolvebid.com). ResolveBid is a marketplace that allows companies and community associations to find service professionals and submit bids.

*Timothy Hamilton, founder of Rentlit (http://rentlit.com). Rentlit is a retail property management software that helps investors self-manage their residential rental properties.

*Carlos Ferra, founder of ThankStation (http://thankstation.com). ThankStation offers customer appreciation solutions to let small businesses better engage with their customers and increase happiness and retention in a cost-effective way.

*Camilo Silva and Jose Aliaga, founders of Voice Your Voice (http://voiceyourvoice.co). Voice Your Voice aims to encourage the public to actively engage in politics and democracy by addressing issues that impact them through a mobile platform.

Learn more about the Founder Institute at http://fi.co.

Ftl

Graduating class of Fort Lauderdale chapter in November, 2016.

-Submitted by Founder Institute

 

 

December 27, 2016

SBA expands microloan program in Florida

Money

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

The South Florida District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration announced that the agency’s Microloan Program is now available to qualifying small businesses throughout the state.

The expansion comes because the lending territory of a previously approved firm, Black Business Investment Fund of Central Florida (BBIF), was increased. Prior to obtaining statewide micro lending status, BBIF previously provided microloans mainly through the North Florida District.

SBA’s Microloan Program, which is focused on startups, minority and other underserved markets, provides loans up to $50,000 to help small businesses and certain not-for-profit childcare centers start up and expand. Microloans play an important role in distressed communities where access to conventional lending remains a challenge. The average microloan size is approximately $13,000. More information about the microloan program can be found at http://www.sba.gov/microloans/.

“Due to successful performances in BBIF’s portfolio, the SBA has granted their firm the ability to lend through the entire state of Florida, which is a win-win for businesses and consumers alike,” said SBA South Florida District Director Francisco “Pancho” Marrero. “This access opens the doors to business ownership by making loans accessible to a broader segment of our population who might not traditionally qualify for a bank loan. We look forward to working with them in their expanded capacity to assist Florida’s small businesses.” 

Headquartered in Orlando, BBIF is Florida’s largest statewide small business lender that specializes in providing capital for African-American and minority businesses.

December 12, 2016

Uber, Ironhack team up to offer coding bootcamp scholarships to Uber drivers, riders

Ironhackclass

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

South Florida Uber drivers and riders can apply for scholarships to learn to code, thanks to a partnership announced Monday between ride-hailing giant Uber and Ironhack, one of Miami’s leading coding bootcamps.

The partners will offer $100,000 in scholarships to acquire professional skills in coding and design. Two winners will be awarded full scholarships to take one of Ironhack’s bootcamps in 2017, and 50 partial scholarships will be awarded to additional winners.

“Uber’s roots will always be in building world-class technology, and this scholarship will help fuel South Florida’s growing tech ecosystem and startup scene – while making invaluable learning opportunities accessible to even more people looking to launch careers in tech," said Uber South Florida General Manager Kasra Moshkani.

It’s the first time Uber has offered coding scholarships in its markets, however it has sponsored UberPitch events in Miami and other cities that match entrepreneurs with investors, a spokesman said.

Ironhack is located in downtown Brickell at Building.co, a shared workspace for growing tech companies and startups. The school, which opened in Miami two years ago, also has campuses in Madrid and Barcelona.

To apply for the Uber/Ironhack scholarships, Uber riders and driver-partners in South Florida should check their rider or driver app before Dec. 21 and click the posted link to apply to one of Ironhack’s three courses (make sure you have the latest version of the Uber app installed). Scholarship applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 21.

Selected finalists will be contacted for second-round interviews, and winners will have six months to redeem their scholarships at Ironhack.

“Uber is making an incredible opportunity available to deserving students in South Florida who wish to become the next generation of digital creators,” said Ironhack Co-founder Ariel Quiñones, who runs the school in South Florida. “Miami has immense entrepreneurial energy, and there are massive opportunities for people who want to learn how to build and design the products and tools that will improve our lives.”

Interested Uber driver-partners and riders can also apply for the scholarship at Ironhack’s free open house on Dec. 18 at noon at Ironhack’s campus at 120 SW Eighth St. in Miami. To attend, RSVP here. For more information about the event or Uber’s scholarship, contact Ironhack at (305) 907-7086.

In Miami, Ironhack offers five nine-week nine-week bootcamps a year in Web Development and another five full-time UX/UI Design, Quiñones said. This year it began offering part-time courses held over six months to accommodate students with jobs. The goal of all the programs is to gain the skills needed to land an entry-level job in the industry. Bootcamps, capped at 20 students, cost $11,000 in 2017. Ironhack says it has an 83 percent job placement rate for its students within three months of graduation and was ranked Miami’s No. 1 student-rated coding and design bootcamp by national rating site Course Report. For more information, go to Ironhack.com.

On Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Building.co, Ironhack will be hosting its two-year anniversary party and Hackshow, a demo day for students in its most recent Web Development and UX/UI Design cohorts. RSVP here.

November 30, 2016

EDC launches “Inside the Investors Head” series with Miami DDA

EDCRob Strandberg intro Steve O'Hara

 

By Deborah Johnson

Enterprise Development Corporation launched a new series of investor/startup events meant to provide entrepreneurs valuable funding insights.  The series combines one-on-one investor/startup introductions with a reception for a broader audience of entrepreneurs.    The objective of these “capital Introductions” is to both help startups acquaint themselves with active Florida and non-Florida early stage investors and help investors identify South Florida’s best emerging investor-ready companies. 

The series launch event featured New World Angels (NWA) and their new president, Steve O’Hara.  Mr. O’Hara met in the afternoon with five NWA selected companies from a growing event database of over 30 companies.   Each company received feedback on their presentation, an initial interest level and specific advice in applying for formal consideration by NWA. 

The five companies selected were:  Recordgram – a mobile music and video recording studio that allow for instant song collaboration; BBConnect – a cloud based reservation and marketing solution for the $3B B&B industry; Cargo42 – an on-demand marketplace for local trucking scheduling; YouCloud – a digital coach for team effectiveness; and Magneceutical Health – Magnetic Resonance Therapy addressing chronic stress and related conditions. 

These 1 on 1s were followed by an evening reception where Mr. O’Hara shared with the audience general funding guidance for entrepreneurs as well as specific insights into NWA’s selection and funding process. 

Future events in this series will be ongoing throughout 2017, with the January investor announced soon so please check www.enterbusiness.org for updates.

For entrepreneurs wishing to participate in future events, please submit an executive summary and investor slide deck to team@edc-tech.org

November 21, 2016

Wyncode outgrows The LAB, will open its own campus Jan.8

Wyncodefounders

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Wyncode Academy, a homegrown coding bootcamp that teaches computer programming in 10 weeks, is outgrowing The LAB Miami, where it has been based, and is moving into its own stand-alone code school campus on Jan. 8. But staying true to its name and roots, the company is staying in Wynwood.

"We have loved being at The LAB and it is always going to be a special place for us. That said, we are ready to double down on Miami and move into our own dedicated campus," said Juha Mikkola, who founded the code school with his wife, Johanna (both pictured above) in Miami in 2014.

Along with the expansion, Wyncode also announced it will also be launching its first part-time course for those who want to learn how to code without leaving their jobs and offering more corporate training.

Wyncode’s new custom-designed campus, called Wynbase, is located at 549 NW 28th St. and at 3,100 square feet is more than four times larger than its dedicated space at The LAB. Wynbase, when it opens Jan. 8, will include two full-size classrooms, a smaller classroom for corporate training programs and an open concept co-working area for Wyncode students and staff, Mikkola said.

Wyncode’s intensive, immersive full-time web development course will now start every five weeks and provide prospective Wyncoders with more flexibility in terms of start dates. More importantly, this new format provides students with the opportunity to repeat the first 5-week section if they need extra time to work on their fundamentals, said Juha Mikkola. There are benefits of culture too: The more experienced students can inspire and help the newer class, he said.

Wyncode’s part-time web development course will meet three evenings a week for 12 weeks and offer career-oriented students the option to keep their day jobs while learning to build web applications at night. More information on the new program, which will start in February, is available here. Both the full-time and part-time classes will be capped at 30 students.  

Wyncode will also follow on its first successful corporate workshop with Visa and build more corporate training programs for Miami companies looking to adopt Agile methodologies and innovate their processes through automation and other technologies. 

"This is a move to centralize and strengthen the overall experience and quality at Wyncode," said Juha Mikkola. Wyncode will be consolidating its bootcamps at Wynbase but will continue to do Wyntroductions (one-day bootcamps) and other events in Fort Lauderdale, where it has held cohorts.

Wyncode Academy, now with 13 full-time and 18 part-time employees, was the first bricks and mortar coding school to be licensed by the Florida Department of Education. About 350 people have completed the programs with a 97 percent job placement rate. Over 100 companies have hired Wyncoders, who come from a variety of careers such as  chefs, lawyers, salespeople, accountants, concierges, marketing executives and entrepreneurs.  Applications for the programs are accepted on a rolling basis and interested candidates should apply at wyncode.co.

“We’re incredibly excited to launch Wynbase and provide the best possible learning environment for our students,”  said Johanna Mikkola. She and Juha were chosen as Endeavor Entrepreneurs in 2015. "We believe the future for Miami tech is bright and we can’t wait to welcome the entire tech community to Wynbase in 2017.”

Read more: Following up on White House pledge, Wyncode releases its graduation, placement rates

Read more: Learn to code in 10 weeks? Try one day.

Wyncodeclass

A Wyncode class, above, and a Pitch Night, which ends each bootcamp, below.

Wyncodepitch

November 10, 2016

Latin American and Caribbean entrepreneurs complete Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative in Miami

Globalties

The 14 YLAI fellows with Mark Sanna and Lillian Roberts of EO (Entrepreneurs' Organization) South Florida.

 

By Maria de los Angeles

On Friday, November 4, young entrepreneurs from Latin America and the Caribbean pitched their business plans to a panel of local judges at Florida International University’s Brickell campus. The pitch session was the final event in the month-long Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI), a fellowship program initiated by President Obama and funded by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program matched 250 emerging social and business leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean with local mentors in 21 city hubs across the U.S.; 14 of them did their residency in Miami with the help of Global Ties Miami, a non-profit that has been facilitating citizen diplomacy through cultural, educational and professional exchange tours since the 1950s.

YLAI set out to establish networks between young leaders and business mentors across the hemisphere. While in Miami, the fellows worked with their mentors for take-aways they could apply to their existing startup ventures back home.

The mentors and hosts were as diverse as Miami’s international business community. Fellows ranged from a cacao farmer in Belize to an Augmented Reality app developer from Trinidad and Tobago, to an environmentally conscious shoe manufacturer from Peru and a bespoke seamstress from Costa Rica, among others.

Some of the hosts were themselves Miami startups that have moved beyond the alpha phase: a biscuit manufacturer from Guyana worked with Lemon City Tea; the owner of a brand management company in Paraguay received mentorship from The New Tropic; and an e-commerce businessman from Nicaragua learned about tech business models from Tesser Health.

All of the fellows have founded businesses that are poised for next-level growth. They came to the U.S. to learn best practices from their mentors and to explore ways of developing their homegrown ideas within an international network.

“We were thrilled to host this group of inspiring young entrepreneurs in Miami,” said Emilie Baird, Director of Programs for Global Ties Miami. “The YLAI program contributed to deeper community connections and collaborations, both internationally and locally.

Nomad Tribe Shop and Lemon City Tea, who were both hosts and have since partnered, or the partnership that has developed between David Medina, founder of Qubo (Queer Bogotá, a non-profit that works to build self-esteem in the LGBT community through sports) and his host organization, the World Out Games, a major olympics-like event that will be coming to Miami in 2017.”

During the pitch session on November 4, each fellow had four minutes to present their business models to a panel of judges for the opportunity to compete in a national competition in Washington, D.C. with other fellows chosen from the 21 host cities. The final winner is set to win a cash prize to use for business development at home.

The judges included Carlos A. Huerta, President and Founder of PLC International, Emma Wing, Business Advisor ITMS Group, a company she co-founded with her husband, Robert Wing, and Christopher McKenney, media entrepreneur and CEO of Mango Media.

The third place winner, Guillermo Jimenez worked with mentor Humberto Lee of Tesser Health and is the founder of Eleganza Boutique, an e-commerce platform in Nicaragua. E-commerce giants E Bay and Amazon don’t sell products in the country of six million where most people are wary of online shopping -- only 20% are active, according to Jimenez. The entrepreneur seeks to build trust and to “become the Amazon for Central America.” He currently sells imported merchandise via the Facebook marketplace but the business will grow with a proprietary website.

Second place went to Bahamian entrepreneur Ashleigh Rolle, who saw room for improvement in travel options to connect the 700 islands that make up the nation. “It’s Uber for boat travel,” she said as she explained Skipper, an online platform that connects local commuters and travelers to boat captains operating in the Bahamas. Rolle’s mentor was Nicholas Scherb of 26 North Yachts, a brokerage based in Fort Lauderdale.

Kadeem Pet-Grave of Jamaica won first place for Educatours JA, a company that plans and executes gamified tours and team building activities for schools. “Learning shouldn’t be boring,” said Pet-Grave as he explained how schools can request customized mobile technology gamification for field trips featuring fun activities such as treasure hunts with score keeping and prizes. Pet-Grave’s mentors were Charles Kropke and Alison Klapper-León of Coral Gables-based tour company Dragonfly Expeditions.

The current YLAI program will continue into Spring of 2017, when some of the mentors will travel to their fellows’ countries for continued professional learning exchanges.

Maria de los Angeles is an independent journalist who writes for Global Ties Miami.

Globalties2

Nicaragua fellow Guillermo Jimenez working with host mentor Humberto Alexander Lee of Tesser Health.