May 17, 2016

Startup Weekend Education @ FIU: And the winners are ...

By @MarioCruz

What an amazing honor to be a Judge with Startup Weekend Education (#swedumiami) at FIU this past Sunday, May 15. The judges heard pitches from 8 teams, some teams with members as young as elementary school students.

The pitches were phenomenal and the amount of work these teams put in such a short amount of time was impressive. The best pitches clearly communicated the value proposition of the idea, had a simple prototype or flow that showed how the product or service would work, and addressed the business potential and educational impact of the concept. The prize winners were as follows:

Here are the top three winners:

1st Place: Liber-P, an Online/Offline content delivery platform that allows inmates to gain access to bridge the skills of higher education and help them prepare for the 21st century workforce. As a prize, three team members from Liber-P will be traveling next year to South-by-Southwest EDU in Austin, with flights and hotel covered!


2nd Place: Blueprint Created a tool to help students set academic goals, understand their GPA and its determinants, and provide them with a suite of resources that will ultimately improve their life trajectory.


3rd Place: @BookCloud Making education more affordable by offering unlimited e-textbooks to students on a subscription model.


The judges also named Beyond the Grade with “Education Impact Award,” as an honorable mention. Beyond the Grade’s mission was to focus on growth, not grades, and created a parallel grading tool for schools and districts.


Congratulations, not only to our winning teams but to everyone who participated this past weekend. A big thank you to The Knight Foundation for making the weekend possible as well as the mentors, volunteers and other judges (pictured below) who contributed so much to make Startup Weekend Education such a huge success.


May 02, 2016

Registration open for free CS50x coding course at MDC

Registration is underway for CS50x Miami, the in-person version of Harvard University’s flagship online introduction to computer science course. It is now being offered free through an expanded partnership between The Idea Center at Miami Dade College and LaunchCode, a nonprofit that places aspiring developers and technologists into paid apprenticeships and jobs. The Idea Center is MDC’s hub for entrepreneurship. 

The 20-week class will provide students with a foundation in computer programming and web development that puts them on a path to launch a career in technology. All applicants must register and complete a skills assessment test prior to enrolling.

 “CS50x is the most efficient and cost-effective way to learn the skills needed to be a successful programmer,” said  LaunchCode Executive Director Brendan Lind. said  The Idea Center’s Executive Director Leandro Finol added, “Now, by offering it for free, we are confident in our ability to attract South Florida’s best and brightest applicants, particularly focusing on the inclusion of minorities and women.”

In addition to providing educational opportunities for students interested in learning how to code, LaunchCode places qualified candidates into apprenticeships and jobs in tech. To date, LaunchCode has placed CS50x Miami graduates with companies including MasterCard, Boeing, Modernizing Medicine, and Kairos.

To register or for more information, visit CS50xMiami.comClasses begin Monday, June 13.

April 25, 2016

MentorDay: How Miami leaders are paving the way for entrepreneurs

By Juan Lopez Salaberry

Wow! Thirty less headaches for Miami entrepreneurs, and a $50,000 prize. Twenty-two industry experts helped 30 entrepreneurs solve their business problems  in 45 minute sessions for high impact mentorship across 4 venues in Miami.

MentorDay, a new made-in-Miami platform, was launched this moth to give industry leaders and experts a chance to pay it forward to the community, helping up and coming entrepreneurs solve specific obstacles in their ventures. Mentor Day allows entrepreneurs and startups to receive high impact mentorship in free one-on-one mentorship sessions with industry experts on topics ranging from marketing, venture capital, growth hacking, accounting, legal and beyond.

I have witnessed first hand how mentorship has a deep impact in one's company and also how countless opportunities to work with impressive mentors are lost because of a lack of a mentorship culture. On its first edition, MentorDay received 60 applications, gathered 30 entrepreneurs, 22 experts and solved 30 specific business hurdles.

And magic did happen! We are extremely proud and humbled to be even a (small) part of Cetus Labs’s story. This is an amazing startup from Venture Hive, who applied asking for help with their pitch deck as they had been selected to present at the early-stage competition at Emerge Americas. They won the competition and took $50,000 with them! “Thanks to Mentor Day, we had a great meeting with RJ Roshi where he helped us perfect our pitch before the eMerge Americas startup competition, which we ended up winning!,” Luc Castera, founder of Cetus Labs, told us on a written note.

We created MentorDay to provide a platform for both mentors and mentees to feel comfortable and protected (We even created rules for that purpose.) No deceitful approaches and no broad open questions. We want to educate mentees on how they need to formulate their asks and be clear about them,  while allowing experts in various areas to donate their time in an effective way. With clear expectations before coming, both will end the meeting with the satisfaction of solving one specific problem.

This also de-personalizes mentorship and takes a ‘problem focused’ approach. Instead of having a line to meet & greet with one our mentors, we can be flexible and allow anyone -from the mayor to a visitor to a local hustler, - to be able to share their expertise and pay it forward.

MentorDay started in Miami, and it will hopefully start happening in other cities soon. Silicon Valley has a mentorship culture, however the rest of the world does not look like Silicon Valley. Miami does not look like it. As most nascent and developing entrepreneurial ecosystems, we have our own strengths and areas of opportunity and we have an amazing chance ahead of us to do something about it. There is amazing talent right here and by facilitating the connections we have an amazing future ahead.

MentorDay wants to empower local communities, we want to see each other’s faces, 1-on-1 meetings, in person, for free, at least once a month and help someone else have a fair chance. We want to democratize the chances of success, regardless race, gender, or age. Whether or not entrepreneurs  are part of Endeavor,  received investment, work at a co-working space, or from home and are just starting. We can all use some help.


Photo by Al delcy

Magic happened

We had an amazing contribution from local and even guest mentors. The .CO crowd almost in full jumped in to help out, investors such as Christian Seale and RJ Joshi, entrepreneurs from Wyncode or Gasninja, among many others. Even my dear friend and former partner at 500 Startups, Cesar Salazar, who was visiting the city took one of the sessions and said: “I've been to a large number of mentorship events and this one has by far the best return on time invested.”


Photo by Al delcy

Our first go at MentorDay also received the immense support of four venues:, WeWork, The LAB Miami and Venture Hive, in which at anytime last Friday you would have found a room with 1 mentor, and 1 mentee.

Our sponsors also rocked. LateralView helped us put together our platform in record time, housed us since the beginning and StartupVisa also helped with the initial funding to set this not-for-profit off the ground.

Next MentorDay

We honestly had no idea what was going to happen last Friday. We did our homework and put a lot of hard work, specially Pete Kovach who was instrumental to the success of the day. But we honestly had no idea what the response was going to be like. Now we want more.

Now that the format has been proven we want to test the frequency. Ideally we want to hold MentorDay once a month (3rd Friday of every month) but it is ultimately the market that will really dictate what will happen.

Our next MentorDay is scheduled for the 20th of May and we have already aligned some incredible mentors. Applications are now open and will close May 9th. We have also put together 5 tips to make sure mentees have higher chances at getting a session.

Get ready, Miami - we are only getting started!

Juan Lopez Salaberry is the founder of the new Miami nonprofit,

April 14, 2016 to expand to Miami, will launch Create Miami campaign to fund entrepreneurs, an international crowdfunding platform, on Thursday announced its expansion to Miami and the launch of the Create Miami campaign, which will help 20 Miami entrepreneurs receive funding for their ideas from investors in the United States, Latin America and beyond. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is investing $175,000 to bring to the United States.

The Create Miami campaign will establish a platform to crowdfund ideas from entrepreneurs who are focused on creating social, urban or community impact in Greater Miami. The campaign aims to identify 20 entrepreneurs to feature on the platform. The selected entrepreneurs will receive workshops, marketing support and coaching to help with business development and growth, in addition to fundraising opportunities through the site. Knight Foundation will match 50 percent of any funds raised through the platform with a limit of $5,000 per project. Applications are open until June 15 at is the largest crowdfunding platform in Latin America, with more than 110,000 backers who have signed up to help fund cutting-edge ideas. has funded about 1,700 projects, mainly in Latin America.

“As an international gateway, Miami was our first choice for global expansion,” said Alejo Nitti, director. “Our goal is to engage and connect the Greater Miami community. We want to partner with passionate entrepreneurs to take their creativity around tech and innovation to the next level.”

April 07, 2016

Women business owners: News to use


The free ChallengeHER event in North Miami will educate attendees on growth opportunities in government contracting as well as how to participate in the SBA’s Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract program. Additionally, business owners can sign up to participate in Contract Connections – one-on-one meetings with procurement officials, government buyers and large prime contractors.

ChallengeHER is a national initiative designed to promote the WOSB Federal Contract Program, bring more women-owned firms into the federal government’s supply chain and provide an avenue for government agencies to meet qualified women-owned small business contractors.


ChallengeHER is a joint initiative from the U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) and AmericanExpress OPEN, the small business division of the financial services company.

A sample of confirmed participating speakers/organizations at the event include:

  • U.S. Army
  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs
  • Miami-Dade County Public Schools
  • Turner Construction Company



Friday, April 15, 2016

9:00 AM – 1:30 PM

*Registration begins at 8:00 AM


Florida International University – Biscayne Bay Campus

Hospitality Management Building

3000 NE 151st Street

North Miami, FL 33181



Media must RSVP to attend. Please contact Alison at or (212) 539-3260.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced last month that the federal government met its goal of awarding 5% of federal contracts to women-owned businesses (WOSBs) for the first time in history. This is a huge milestone for women entrepreneurs – and for those that are newer to government contracting, now is a great time to get started.

April 04, 2016

Rhys Williams to lead FAU Tech Runway

By Nancy Dahlberg /

RhyswilliamsRhys L. Williams, the co-founder and former president of New World Angels, has joined Florida Atlantic University as its new associate vice president and managing director of FAU Tech Runway. Williams succeeds Kimberly Gramm, who has taken the position of managing director of the Innovation Hub at Texas Tech University.

“Rhys has been the leader of the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem throughout South Florida and the state for years,” said Dan Flynn, FAU vice president for research. “His deep understanding about what it takes to take a kernel of an idea and turn that into viable company will benefit not just Tech Runway, but the wider university community as well. We’re confident that he’ll take the reigns at Tech Runway and launch it into its next phase of growth.”

Williams has been active in efforts to commercialize biotechnologies from Florida’s research universities and institutes, having co-founded several biotechnology spinout ventures. Previously he was a venture capitalist with SI Ventures and held executive positions with Ixion Biotechnology, Smith Barney, American Express, and the U.S. Army Special Forces. “As a part of extending Tech Runway’s impressive track record, additional emphasis will focus upon supporting entrepreneurial efforts aligned with FAU’s strategic plan in the four areas of sensing and smart systems; neuroscience; healthy aging; and ocean science and engineering/environmental sciences,” said Williams.

Williams presently serves on the boards of Aplicor; the Florida Venture Forum; the University of Miami’s Coulter Center Technology Review Committee; the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium; The LeMieux Center at Palm Beach Atlantic University; University of Florida’s Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation; and the Harvard Club of the Palm Beaches.

Tech Runway is a public-private partnership formed to foster technology startup companies. Since its inception, FAU Tech Runway has supported 15 companies who have produced more than $3 million in total revenue. Florida Gov. Rick Scott recently approved the legislative budget request of $750,000 in funding for FAU Tech Runway in the 2016-17 state budget.

Read more: New World Angels names new president

March 29, 2016

Meet Nelly Farra, new leader of WIN Lab set to launch in Miami

By Nancy Dahlberg /

Wanted: South Florida women “with the fire to make it happen.”

Nelly farraThat’s Nelly Farra’s message. She’s the new director of the WIN Lab, a Miami accelerator for women entrepreneurs launching on Thursday. With the launch, the program plans to begin taking applications for its first cohort of 20 selected female founders that will start this fall.

The eight-month entrepreneurship program was the brainchild of Babson College, consistently ranked tops in the nation for entrepreneurship education, and its Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership. Its Miami expansion, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, will be modeled after Babson’s successful program in Boston.

The WIN (Women Innovating Now) Lab is looking for outstanding early-stage founders — so-called WINners — from South Florida.

 “We are industry-agnostic and age-agnostic. We are looking for women who might have come out of wonderful corporate jobs and now are starting their own businesses as well as individuals earlier on in their careers who have that idea and are going for it,” Farra said.

Farra, born and raised in South Florida, most recently led business development for the Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra (MBAF) accounting firm, where she expanded the firm’s reach into the entrepreneurial ecosystem through its work with Endeavor. Before joining MBAF, Farra partnered on the launch of a green-gym concept in the Los Angeles area and also pioneered wellness professional talent management in South Florida. Farra is a graduate of the University of Miami and received her MBA from Babson College in 2010, where she was also co-chair of the Babson Entrepreneurship Forum.

“Our secret sauce is a developing community of women eager to build the next big idea,” said Farra, noting that just 15 percent of venture accelerator participants are women. That low level of diversity also pervades venture capital, the tech industry, CEO ranks and boards. To help build a stronger pipeline, Farra said: “We use near-peer role modeling so we have women who have been there and done that. We’ll have 20 female mentors matched up with the founders. We will also have entrepreneurs, executives and investors in residence.” Johanna Mikkola, co-founder of Wyncode Academy, will be an entrepreneur-in-residence, and others will be announced soon. The program will be free, and WINners will also get co-working space.

The program will meet one evening a week. It will begin with a two-day retreat for self exploration, idea investigation, inspiration and community building, Farra said. Then the WINners will get help in every step of launching and growing a business, including building a team, customer acquisition, capital raising and scaling.

The program is more spread out than a traditional three-month accelerator, so women may find it easier to work into their lives while their build their startups. They could also be students.

In Boston the WIN Lab has attracted founders such as Emily Levy and Maria Del Mar Gomes of PICCPerfect, maker of functional and fashionable medical dressings for chronic illness patients treated with PICC lines. Francine Gervazio of Cargo 42 created a platform where customers can post their shipping needs and shippers can make an offer to carry their cargo. Bernette Dawson launched Made Organics, a line of handcrafted personal-care products.

“We will expect a lot from our founders — an eight-month commitment — but we provide a lot in return,” Farra said.

The program embodies entrepreneurial thought and action — part of Babson’s methodology — to balance action, experimentation and creativity to create economic and social value. “That is what we are all about,” Farra said. “The concept is to take iterative steps to prove your model. That’s how I embody it: Everything I do is to go out and get it done.”

The deadline for applications will be May 2. For more information about the WIN Lab, go to and learn more about the program at the launch event on Thursday. (See accompanying box).

WIN Lab Miami Launch

When: 6-8 p.m. Thursday

Where: The Light Box, 404 NW 26th St., Miami

Speakers: Mary Biggins of ClassPass and MealPass; Julia Ford-Carther of Bammies; Jessica Do of PalmPress; Isabella Acker of Culture; Johanna Mikkola of Wyncode Academy

Cost: Free, but registration is required on Eventbrite.

For more information about WIN Lab:

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

Read more: Babson's Women Innovating Now Lab to launch in Miami

Read more: Numbers don't lie: Silicon Valley still has a diversity problem


January 27, 2016

South Florida fintech startups invited to compete at Temenos’ series of innovation events

Temenos, the market-leading provider of mission-critical solutions to the financial services industry, has announced its investment in creating various platforms that will allow fintech companies and start-ups to pitch their products and solutions to the world’s largest financial institutions.  

“The Fintech Innovation Jams provide a unique opportunity for us to engage, identify and partner with the hottest fintech companies in the world. Through the Temenos MarketPlace, fintechs get access to the more than 2,000 financial institutions running our software, who serve more than 500 million banking customers. Our clients in turn get access to cutting-edge innovation, making it a true win-win situation,” said Ben Robinson, CMO for Temenos. He added that “Latin America is a region bubbling with technology innovation and we are excited to help propel fintech to the forefront as a sector with great opportunities for innovative entrepreneurs.”

The series of events will include demo presentations from fintech companies and startups showcasing their innovations to Temenos’ world class banking customers. It will also include presentations from various thought leaders providing insights to the opportunities that market disruptive forces offer to innovative companies, including a feature presentation from financial disruption guru and best-selling author, Brett King.

Fintech companies and startups can register for a demo slot by January 29, 2016 (subject to the rules of entry) and compete for an opportunity to win a place in the Global Innovation Jam finals taking place at the upcoming Temenos Community Forum (TCF) in Barcelona, in May 2016.

About the series:

-           March 10, Miami

-           March 22, Singapore

-           April 6, Dubai

-           April 13, London

The Miami Innovation Jam will take place at The Lightbox at Goldman Warehouse in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District. Each demo will last for 7 minutes and the audience will vote to choose two winners at the end of the event.

For more information, visit the Innovation Jam Miami page.

- Submitted by Maria L. Mancuso, FinTech Americas 

January 20, 2016

Meet Keiretsu Forum’s new Miami president

KeiretsuIt’s official: Deborah Johnson is the new president of the Miami Chapter of Keiretsu Forum South-East, the 31st chapter of the international angel organization.

Keiretsu Forum was founded in 2000 in the San Francisco Bay Area, and now has 40 chapters and more than 1,500 accredited investor members across the globe.  Keiretsu Forum members typically provide capital in the $250k – $3 million range in Series A and B funding series.  Members collaborate in the due-diligence, but make their own investment decisions.  Keiretsu Forum members have invested more than $550 million in technology, consumer products, Internet, healthcare, life sciences and real estate companies.

“I’m excited to facilitate a role connecting our local Florida entrepreneurs to funding.  We have a growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in Miami and Keiretsu’s proud to be a part of it,” said Johnson, who has been no stranger to South Florida recently,  attending events regularly.

 Johnson has an extensive history working with entrepreneurs, investors and tech-sector innovators in Southwest Florida.  The founder of Plum Ventures, she has worked in region building awareness of the entrepreneurial community as the special events coordinator for Tamiami Angel Family of Funds.  She also served as the administrator for the Gulf Coast Venture Forum for several years, running chapters in Naples and Sarasota.  That entity has now morphed into Fusion Pointe, a non-profit that she currently consults with, providing mentorship to entrepreneurs and high-impact networking.  

She has hosted VenturePitch South Florida from Naples to Sarasota as well as founder talks and meetups.   She also works with the Southwest Florida Regional Technology Partnership whose mission is to be the leading technology interest group in Southwest Florida.  

Johnson plans to continue to build partnerships with other angel and venture organizations in South Florida.  Keiretsu's Miami chapter welcomes interested investors seeking membership or startups seeking funding; contact her at The organization, which launched in Miami in 2014, meets monthly and the next meeting is Feb. 9. It has not made any local investments yet although one is in due diligence.

To find out more about Keiretsu Forum South-East, or to learn about angel investment in general, visit

New AngelSummit Americas coming to Miami


Startup Angels, a global platform that provides services to new angel investors, will host the AngelSummit Americas conference April 14-15 in the lead up to the eMerge Americas technology conference.

AngelSummit Americas aims to convene more than 300 investors, entrepreneurs and industry and community leaders from across the Americas to discuss ways to unleash the potential of startup investors in Miami and globally, said Leslie Jump, founder and CEO of Startup Angels. Speakers include Dave McClure of 500 Startups; Marc Nager of Techstars; Alex Mittal of FundersClub, and John McIntire of Open English. Community partners include AGP Miami, CREATE Miami, and Endeavor Miami, as well as global partners such as Techstars, 500 Startups, the Global Accelerator Network, the Latino Startup Alliance and Startupbootcamp.

“The AngelSummit will connect local investors with the best startup investment practices, and inspire them to invest in Miami’s emerging entrepreneurs and our city’s future,” said Matt Haggman, Miami program director of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which provided a $125,000 grant to bring the conference to Miami. Lack of a strong capital network has been one of the South Florida entrepreneurial ecosystem’s biggest challenges.

As part of a partnership with eMerge Americas, AngelSummit participants will have the opportunity to attend eMerge Americas April 18-19, while eMerge participants will be able to attend AngelSummit Americas. Startup Angels’ mission is to increase the number of startup investors across the U.S. and around the world. For more information and to register, visit