May 11, 2015

Jim Moran Institute accepting applications for free fall program; deadline May 20

The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship, housed in the Florida State University College of Business, is now accepting applications for the South Florida division’s fall 2015 Small Business Executive Program (SBEP) until Wednesday, May 20. The SBEP will kick off on Monday, July 27, with an orientation and opening ceremony at the Bimini Boatyard Bar & Grill from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The first class will take place Tues., July 28, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will run from July to November 2015 with for-profit and non-profit businesses in mind.

With the help of several supporters, this program is offered at no cost to accepted participants.  Meetings will be held at various locations in the Broward County area every two weeks on Tuesdays. Topics range from strategic planning to social media and financing growth.

SBEP offers a world-class learning experience that equips executives with the necessary skills to turn challenges into strategic advantages. Candidates must be actively involved in running the business and their companies should have been in existence for at least two years and have three or more employees. Whether candidates seek a more global perspective, better ways to seize opportunities or greater insight into managing day-to-day operations, SBEP can help!

For more information about the South Florida Small Business Executive Program or The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship’s other outreach initiatives, contact Jennifer Brin Kovach at or visit The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship’s South Florida website at


May 06, 2015

For small businesses and startups, Legal Hero launches in Miami

Legal Hero is a New York-based on-demand legal services provider for startups and small businesses that want to find quality lawyers at reasonable and fixed prices. The startup announced this week it is launching its services in Miami.

The founder and CEO,  Annie Webber, grew up in Coral Gables and went to Harvard for her undergrad and JD-MBA degrees. But she said the seed of Legal Hero was planted much earlier, talking business around the dinner table with her parents about their family's flower importing business. “I was really cognizant of how difficult it was to get good legal help at reasonable prices, but most importantly at fixed prices. It is just so hard for small businesses to manage their legal budget when they are billed by the hour,” said Webber, who spent a couple years as a lawyer before launching Legal Hero.

Founded in November, Legal Hero offers services in New York, Massachusetts and now Florida. So far, the network has 60 attorneys; 15 of them are in Florida with most of them in South Florida, Webber said. They handle issues from entity formation, business contracts and employment agreements, to immigration and intellectual property concerns, she said.

Unlike most legal services providers that rely on retainers and hourly billing, Legal Hero shows the full price of 30 common projects on the website. After a customer chooses a project, the customer is provided a selection of vetted lawyers to complete the project at that price. Legal Hero will manage a bidding process for other services; the prices may vary lawyer to lawyer, but the fee will be fixed.

Webber says her biggest competitor by far is traditional law, and she also considers do-it-yourself advocates like Legal Zoom a type of competition. But there are also a number of online startups nationally going after a slice of the $60 billion small business law services market, including Court Buddy, a Miami-based startup that launched recently and chose South Florida as its initial market.

Legal Hero secured startup funding last fall from a group of angels that includes Jose Rasco of Miami’s STRAAT.

“There is a different energy in Miami now than there was 10 to 15 years ago and I love the ecosystem that has spring up to support entrepreneurship,” said Webber, who has started to work with startup groups in the area. “We’re so excited to be a part of it, and that is why we decided to come here.”

For more information, visit

May 04, 2015

eMerge Americas announcement: Patent pro-bono program for qualified inventors

By Nancy Dahlberg /

At eMerge Americas on Monday, The Institute for Commercialization of Public Research will announce  the launch of the Florida Patent Pro Bono Program in partnership with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The program links qualified inventors and small businesses with volunteer patent agents and attorneys who provide pro bono legal assistance on specific aspects of the patent process, and with Florida's launch it is now active in nearly all 50 states. In 2011, the U.S. Congress passed the America Invents Act, which called for the USPTO to establish the regional patent programs.

"We're so happy to be launching in Florida," said Jennifer McDowell, USPTO pro-bono coordinator, adding that the Sunshine State has a large number of patent filings and under-resourced inventors.

The Institute will match up low-income inventors with patent lawyers, in order to level the playing field. "It's an issue of fairness and economic development. When you unlock that innovation, that is how you make a difference," said McDowell in an interview on Friday. "And once these matches get made and the patent applications get filed, we want the inventions to turn into money making machines."

If accepted into the  Florida Patent Pro Bono Program, applicants may expect exposure to intellectual property experts, support in certain aspects of the patent application process, and partnership opportunities to enhance business development. The legal services would be free; the inventors would still need to pay the patent filing fees but could qualify for steep discounts.

“The Institute is pleased to be administering this important program for Florida inventors, which promotes entrepreneurship, job growth and innovation-based economic development,” said Jamie Grooms, CEO of the Institute. “The Florida Patent Pro Bono Program will accelerate the commercialization of important new products and enable Florida companies to compete more effectively in the global economy.”

More information on the program is available at and www the Institute is also looking for more patent attorneys who want to volunteer. The announcement is scheduled to  be made about 1:15 p.m. on the expo stage of eMerge Americas.

The Institute  is a non-profit organization that works  with  technology licensing and commercialization offices of Florida’s state universities and private research institutions to leverage a $2 billion-plus research base and form investable companies that create jobs.  Thirty-eight companies have been funded since the program’s inception.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

Miami's Watsco to launch accelerator for startups

By Nancy Dahlberg / 

One of Miami’s biggest public companies is launching a new  program to help technology startups.

Watsco, the world’s largest distributor of air conditioning and heating products that generates about $4 billion in annual revenue,  will start an accelerator. The 12-week program is built for early-stage companies focused on the B2B or home comfort industries.

Ivan rapin-smith“When people think of innovation in the heating and air conditioning industry they usually think slick, new thermostats or the connected home. Our scope is much broader,” said Ivan Rapin-Smith, director at Watsco Ventures. “We’re interested in any technology that can add value to a distribution business like Watsco, whether it’s internet-of-things applications, supply chain management, sales and marketing or anything that may help consumers or businesses become more comfortable, more economical or more environmental-friendly.”

Accelerator participants will reach receive initial funding of $25,000, mentoring, HVAC and distribution industry expertise, concept validation, investor connections and office space in Watsco’s Coconut Grove headquarters. Watsco Ventures will retain a small equity interest with an optional follow-up investment at the conclusion of the program, said Rapin-Smith, who was program director for Venture Hive’s accelerator and incubator for about two years and co-founded the Belgium-based accelerator Idealy. Rapin-Smith also founded two tech companies.

“An accelerator powered by a Fortune 1000 company brings strategic resources that a traditional accelerator cannot – financial capacity to invest; an opportunity to have Watsco as a first customer; scalability to hundreds of distribution locations, and potentially tens-of-thousands of end-users in the form of contractors and end-consumers,” said Rapin-Smith, who has a particular interest and expertise in B2B startups. “We invest in talented teams that bring innovation that can be scaled not just within Watsco but also within other enterprises.”

Accelerators hosted by corporations are becoming common in other cities. For instance, Fort Lauderdale-based tech company Citrix runs accelerators in several cities, but not in South Florida. Indeed, corporations and startups don’t often mix enough in South Florida – considered an important ingredient in a healthy startup ecosystem – although that is beginning to change. Kaplan announced earlier this year it will be launching an ed-tech accelerator in Fort Lauderdale, for instance. Goldman Sachs brought its 10,000 Small Businesses program here last year, in partnership with Miami Dade College; Microsoft opened its first Microsoft Innovation Center at Venture Hive in downtown Miami, and Citi is hosting ongoing Citi Fintech Meetups and hosted part of its global Citi Mobile Challenge from South Florida.

Watsco’s accelerator program is part of its Watsco Ventures division. Watsco Ventures invests in technology through three primary channels: a new fund that is beginning to make strategic investments in startups, an innovation lab for its intrapreneurs, and this new accelerator program.

The accelerator application period is May 18 to July 26. The accelerator program runs Sept. 1 through Nov. 20. Up to 10 startups will be selected for the program. For more information, go to

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.


May 02, 2015

Meetup to kick off Small Business Week with social entrepreneurship discussion

Kicking off in Miami on Monday during National Small Business Week, Dell and Northside Media will be hosting a series of Small Business Innovation Meet-ups to explore the business and market needs faced by entrepreneurs and growing businesses today and how the right technologies can serve as a secret weapon for success and growth. 

Here is the event in Miami:

Monday, May 4 from 6:30-9:00pm, the Miami event will focus on the value of social entrepreneurship. Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, the CEO of the social-impact accelerator, Radical Partners, will be leading a panel discussion with Miami's forward-thinking entrepreneurs and thought leaders where they'll explore the role of technology in creating a sustainable, global community.

 Monday, May 4th, 6:30pm-9:00pm

342 NW 24th Street

RSVP here


6:30 - 7:00pm Grab a beer and mingle

7:00 - 8:00pm Lightning talks and panel

8:00 - 9:30pm Free beer and food


  • ·         Rebecca Fishman Lipsey | Founder & CEO of Radical Partners
  • ·         Michael Hall I Co-founder & CEO of Digital Grass
  • ·         Adele Bagley I Chief of Engagement for Miami-Dade County
  • ·         Stonly Baptiste I Co-founder of Urban.US
  • ·         Kane Sarhan I Co-founder of Enstitute
  • ·         Michelle Dow-Okomo I Founder & Chief Story-Teller ofSocial Swag

April 21, 2015

Enstitute apprenticeship program launching in Miami this week

Enstitute, a national non-profit apprenticeship program, will launch its Miami Hub this week.

In conjunction with the launch, Enstitute is bringing in a dozen investors and entrepreneurs from around the country to explore the Miami startup ecosystem and meet with local founders and investors.

Visiting venture capitalists mainly from New York, San Francisco and Washington will spend 36 hours “founder dating” with about 30 Miami startups, touring local co-working spaces and communities such as Wynwood, Buro Midtown and The Idea Center, and have meetings with the Miami DDA, Knight Foundation, Venture Hive and other key Miami organizations, said Kane Sarhan, co-founder of Enstitute.

Investors include Nic Poulous of Bowery Capital, Scott Laughlin of LAO Ventures, Greg Rosen of BoxGroup, Patrick Murphy of Universal Music Group, Julia Taxin of GroTech, Megan Hannum of Comcast Ventures, Will Peng of Red Swan Ventures and others.

Enstitute is also hosting a launch event to introduce its program at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Venture Hive. More info:

To equip millennials with relevant skills for 21st century careers, Enstitute provides participants with one-year, paid, full-time apprenticeships at high-growth startups, small businesses and corporations. Through Knight Foundation funding, Miami became the organization’s third hub; the others are in New York and Washington.


April 16, 2015

UM team wins Knight funding to create entrepreneurial hubs in underserved neighborhoods

By Nancy Dahlberg /

The University of Miami School of Architecture will  bring entrepreneurial spaces -- including incubators for startups, marketplaces and training centers -- into two underserved Miami area neighborhoods. Its project was funded with $650,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The so-called Third Place Project will create hubs that provide resources to entrepreneurs, artists and other creatives, nonprofits and civic leaders, while helping transform the neighborhoods. “Third places,” as defined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg, are  informal public gathering places where people from all walks of life come together. 

The UM project is designed to fuel economic integration, said Charles Bohl, associate professor and director of the graduate program in Real Estate Development + Urbanism at the University of Miami School of Architecture and one of the project leaders.

"We have lots of very well to do and lots of poor people and they are clustered far from each other. Other cities have created these neighborhoods where the communities can cross paths; people are more connected and involved,"  said  Bohl, explaining he recently returned from Barcelona, which has 40 public markets that have become vibrant centers of activity.

Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami, said the project will also help ensure a constant diversity of ideas. “The Third Place Project will grow and foster the unique character and qualities of these neighborhoods, bringing the ideas of entrepreneurs, artists and others into the forefront.”

 The metropolitan Miami neighborhoods have not yet been selected, but it could be in areas such as, for example, Allapattah, Little Haiti/Little River or Opa-locka, said Bohl, adding that the School of Architecture has already been working in these long-struggling urban areas for years. The new spaces will build on the art, culture and entrepreneurial energy already present, and a key component is that they will provide training programs to entrepreneurs and nonprofits through the incubators, he added. The two projects will be created over the next two years.

Along with the School of Architecture, the project will also involve UM programs in business and social entrepreneurship, including the Center for Urban and Community Design, the Office of Civic and Community Engagement, and business startup and support programs at the School of Business Administration.

The next step is to identify and secure sites that have the best potential to serve as gathering places. It could be land  or a structure that could be adapted, with indoor and outdoor space. Architecture faculty and students will help adapt existing buildings, or create  “pop-up” structures to house entrepreneurs and vendors. Kiosks could be arranged to create year-round marketplaces  that showcase the mix of art, commerce, food and entertainment and attract new visitors -- while also offering full Internet connectivity and other resources for the businesses.

The Third Place Project is evaluating project sites and is slated to begin work during the 2015-2016 academic year. Over the past 2 1/2 years, Knight has made more than 100 investments in entrepreneurship in South Florida. 

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

Read Knight blog post by Charles Bohl here.


April 11, 2015

Entrepreneurship Datebook: Startup events, workshops in South Florida

Tech eggSPEED COACHING: Samuel Adams, in partnership with Accion, hosts its small business Speed Coaching event, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 14. 10055 NW 12th St., Doral.

STARTUP GRIND: Bob Fitts, president of the Gold Coast Venture Capital Association and CEO of Trident Global, is this month’s speaker, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, April 14, Venture Hive, 1010 NE Second Ave., Miami.

WIT EVENT: eMerge Americas WIT event presents “How to Start Up Your Startup,” featuring Roger Duarte of My Ceviche, Vicky Fulop of DLA Piper and Derrick Ashong of, 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 15, Idea Center at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson campus, Building 8, fifth floor.

OPEN HACK NIGHT @ NSU: Join civic hackers at Code for Fort Lauderdale’s meetup, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 15, Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences, Nova Southeastern University. More info:

D3 CONFERENCE & EXPO: D3 (Digital Design Den) focuses on developing creative talent and improving skill, and is presented by The Idea Center at Miami Dade College and The School of Design and Entertainment Technology in collaboration with New World School of the Arts, Thursday, April 16,  at North Campus and Friday, April 17, at the Wolfson Campus Idea Center. Free but RSVP required. More info:

FEDERAL CONTRACTING 101: SCORE Miami-Dade presents a workshop on doing business without pay, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 16, Ponce Business Center, 2000 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Suite 569, Coral Gables. Fee applies. Register here.


Keep up with startup news, coming events and community views on the Starting Gate blog on

Nancy Dahlberg @ndahlberg

April 08, 2015

Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream’s Speed Coaching event returns

Samuel Adams, in partnership with Accion, is returning to Miami to host its signature small business Speed Coaching event on Tuesday, April 14. Designed to provide business advice, the event is part of Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream, a micro-lending and coaching program for small business owners working in food and beverage including craft brewing.

During the Speed Coaching, entrepreneurs have the opportunity to participate in up to six 20-minute, one-on-one sessions. Coaches will include Samuel Adams professionals, and topics covered will range from sales, distribution and packaging to finance, e-commerce, and marketing.

Participants are encouraged to bring samples of product and packaging that they want feedback on, and should also come prepared with questions regarding specific challenges their businesses are facing. For example, a small business owner may want to ask a finance professional for advice on how to competitively price his/her product.

WHEN: Tuesday, April 14, 2015, 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. EDT

WHERE: Gold Coast Beverage Distributors, 10055 Northwest 12th Street, Doral, Florida 33172

HOW: Entrepreneurs interested in participating in the free Speed Coaching should register at

April 06, 2015

News: Pipeline Workspaces announces minority investor

Pipeline 3

Pipeline Workspaces, a fast-growing shared workspace concept that started in Miami and is expanding nationally, announced Monday that it has sold a minority stake valuing the company at about $15 million.

The investment comes from Gordon G. Pratt, founder and CEO of Fund Management Group (FMG), a private holding and investment company. Pratt has been a member of Pipeline Brickell, the company’s original location, for two years.  FMG became a limited partner in Pipeline’s second shared workspace located in Philadelphia and followed up with the minority investment in the Pipeline Workspaces general partner.

Todd Oretsky headshot“Gordon tested our business platform first-hand as a member and experienced how the concept we offer and our management team is different from other co-working spaces in the US today,” said Todd Oretsky, co-founder of Pipeline Workspaces, in a news release.

In 2 1/2 years, Pipeline has opened collaborative workspaces in Miami’s Brickell Financial District and Philadelphia’s Center City. A third location is under construction in Coral Gables and should open in the first half of this year. In the planning phase is a co-working and co-warehousing space in Little River area for artists and small business owners.

Philippe Houdard - headshot 2Pipeline is also exploring expansion in Atlanta, Charlotte, Denver and Dallas, as well as other locations in South Florida.

 “Across our current locations, we already are seeing members take advantage of the opportunity to work out of multiple offices and network in new cities, which makes expansion of their businesses into new markets much more seamless,” said Philippe Houdard, co-founder of Pipeline Workspaces. “Imagine having a network with one degree of separation from many industries in multiple cities.”

That is what the Pipeline team is building.