September 23, 2016

Spotlight: Rising Tide Car Wash makes waves in social impact

Risingtide
From left, Andrew D’Eri, Donna D’Eri, John D’Eri, Tom D’Eri and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, celebrate ‘Employing the Full Spectrum,’ part of Starbucks’ new ‘Upstanders’ series.

This social entrepreneurial company focuses on employing adults with autism. 

Name: Rising Tide Car Wash

Location: 7201 N. State Road 7, Parkland

What it is: A car wash with a focus on employing adults with autism. 

Website: risingtidecarwash.com

Services provided: Washes, some cleaning services. Prices start at $6 for a simple, basic wash of the exterior and use of a free vacuum. 

How it began: An existing car wash was purchased and renovated in 2012, and then launched as Rising Tide in April 2013 in Parkland. The business gives job opportunities to people with autism. When John and his son Tom D’Eri learned that 80 to 90 percent of adults with autism are unemployed, they set out to change that statistic. The D’Eris researched options and determined a car wash would be the ideal business for creating jobs for people with autism, like Tom’s brother Andrew, who likes structure and performing repetitive tasks and follows safety guidelines to the letter. 

Management team: John D’Eri, CEO; Tom D’Eri, co-founder and COO; Tom Sena, CFO. Dr. Michael Alessandri, executive director of the University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, is an advisor.

Number of employees: 42, with 35 on the autism spectrum. 

Competitors: Others are in the area including Express Car Wash in Boca Raton and Sample Road Auto Spa in Pompano Beach.

Year-over-year: Six months after it started its car-wash operation, the business had tripled its customer base of 35,000 to 40,000 and had its first profitable month in October 2013. In its first full year, Rising Tide did about 110,000 car washes. In its second year, it did 142,000. For its third year, the company projects 160,000 to 170,000 washes. 

Milestone: 

September 2016: Starbucks is highlighting the business in one of 10 videos “about ordinary people doing extraordinary things to create positive change in their communities,” as it says in a news release. The “Upstanders” series, as it’s called, is available through the coffee chain’s mobile app, website (Starbucks.com/Upstanders) and its YouTube account. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, senior vice president of public affairs at Starbucks and the executive producer of the company’s social impact media initiatives, wrote and produced the series. Shot over two days in August, the six-minute video entitled “Employing the Full Spectrum” shows Andrew D’Eri drying cars and polishing tires with fellow employees at Rising Tide as well as scenes from D’Eri’s family’s home life in Fort Lauderdale. John and Tom D’Eri also are in the video.

Watch video below:

Upcoming: A second location in Margate is planned, with groundbreaking expected in the next two weeks. It’s projected to be completely built in about six months, with a spring opening. The new car wash  will be on 1.5 acres at 2970 N. State Road 7 that were purchased for $1.5 million and will be about one and a half times larger than the one in Parkland. It will cost about $3.4 million to get  it up and running. More than 50 people will work at the Margate location. 

Major keys to success: “You can’t do this without dedicated employees,” John D’Eri said. He cites “the dedication of all his employees, their willingness to follow proper protocol, their desire to deliver value, the fact that they treat clients with respect, value their position in the company and create a culture of acceptance” for the success of Rising Tide.

Strategy for success: John D’Eri said the company plans to replicate the success of the business locally, regionally and then nationally with a hub-and-spoke concept with the Parkland operation as a hub. In addition, he said, the company plans to analyze and use the knowledge gained to produce a superior product and delve into other businesses, using best practices as they relate to people on the autism spectrum — “the autism advantage,” he calls it.

RORY CLARKE

 

Read more Startup Spotlights

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Why Hope Solo is partnering with this startup

To see all Startup Spotlights, go to the Startup Spotlight category of this blog.

 

For small businesses stung by Zika, here's help

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Small businesses who suffered business losses due to being in the Wynwood “Zika zone” may be eligible for a loan program.

Miami Bayside Foundation, an economic development nonprofit, will be extending loans of up to $20,000 to minority- and woman-owned businesses in the city of Miami that can demonstrate their business has been adversely affected by the Zika vrus.

The new Zika Emergency Assistance Loan Program, or ZEAL, part of the Miami Bayside Foundation’s micro-loan program, is designed to specifically provide assistance with payroll expenses in order to ensure job retention in what was previously designated “Zika Zone.” The loans are for two years at 6 percent and the only fees are $100 for pulling credit and closing costs, said Kathleen Murphy, the foundation’s executive director.

The Zika zone designation was lifted by Gov. Rick Scott on Monday, but businesses are still feeling the impact, said Murphy. "We know local small businesses are struggling to recover until the season kicks in and our number one priority is to help them stay open and ensure they are able to pay their employees."

For more information on loan criteria and to apply, visit www.miamibaysidefoundation.org.

September 18, 2016

Why every incubator needs social entrepreneurs

Startupfiucohort1

Photo by Daniela Cadena

By Robert Hacker

In January 2016, Emily Gresham and I began to design the program that became StartUP FIU, Florida International University’s (FIU) new incubator. Emily, who is Assistant Vice President for Research and Economic Development, holds the strong belief that hospitals and universities are the anchor institutions in cities. This philosophy lead to StartUP FIU’s focus on serving the entire community and not just the Brickell-Wynwood corridor. I believe there is much confusion between small business management and entrepreneurship and that Miami would be best served if StartUP FIU supported the entrepreneurship that grows large, scalable ventures. With community and scalable ventures in place as the founding principles, Emily and I quickly added other key principles:

Inclusion We welcome everyone to apply to StartUP FIU, from high schoolers and college students to faculty from any university in South Florida. We welcome retired people, FIU alumni and people with no formal education. We received 160 applications to Cohort 1 and the applications were split almost evenly between students, alumni and the community. As they say, “we bet on the jockeys and not on the horses”.

Free: To be truly inclusive a program cannot have financial barriers to entry. The signature, 13-week incubator program “Empower” is totally free--no application fees, no payments or charges during the program and no equity participation for the incubator. We also provide mentors, consultants, space and university resources at no charge.

Stage Agnostic: When we first started talking to prospective entrepreneurs, we realized that many people did not even know how to advance their ideas beyond their first doodles on a piece of paper. Therefore, we decided that we would accept people who just had ideas, people that had a minimal viable product (MVP) but no revenue and companies with revenue. Applicants did not even have to have a company formed.

General Incubator: We think of StartUP FIU as a startup. We are iterating to determine the best way to serve the South Florida community. Today we accept all types of ideas from food and fashion to edtech, high tech and medical diagnostics. We even have a chair company in Cohort 1. We may experiment with specially “themed cohorts” in the future as we continue to explore what types of entrepreneurship will best serve South Florida, but today we welcome applications from all industries.

Authenticity: When one spends a lot of time with students, one realizes that they are most engaged by hands on, experiential learning. StartUP FIU’s incubator is offered through a group of entrepreneurs that use the customer fieldwork approach in a modified Lean Startup methodology. We do not use the professorial approach so common in most academic incubators. Demo Day at StartUP FIU is a pitch day to angel, seed and “A” round VCs.

The last key decision Emily and I made was to combine traditional and social entrepreneurs in the same cohort. Several institutions have separate incubators for traditional and social entrepreneurs, but we found that perhaps only Y Combinator shares our view that all the entrepreneurs should be combined in one cohort. We opted for this approach in part because we believe that diversity breeds better collaboration.

Secondly, we believe that the social entrepreneurs will help the traditional entrepreneurs to remember their responsibility to not only make a profit but also to improve society.

Lastly, millennials have a high level of genuine social concern. As they reach the years where they become the major purchasers, they will force all entrepreneurs to become social entrepreneurs.

Perhaps the evidence for this view of social entrepreneurship comes from the people and companies that began Cohort 1 Sept. 6 (pictured above). We have a former Detroit schoolteacher trying to provide better information about higher education alternatives to students. We have a team originally from Venezuela working to use bee keeping as a micro-entrepreneurship concept to help poor women raise their standard of living. We have a team composed of about fifteen FIU computer science graduate and undergraduate students from all over the world creating a new pedagogy for early child learning using the agile development methodology. We also have a PhD researcher from Baskin Palmer working on a new approach to eye diagnostics and a team building prosthetics with 3-D printers. As is obvious, the line between social and traditional entrepreneurship is becoming very cloudy.

[Who's in Cohort 1? See the list here.]

StartUP FIU will begin accepting applications Sept. 19, 2016, for its second cohort beginning in January 2017. Applications and more information about StartUP FIU can be found at Startup.FIU.edu.

Robert Hacker is the Director of StartUP FIU and teaches social entrepreneurship at FIU, MIT and UM. He is the former CFO of One Laptop per Child and prior to that built a publicly traded billion-dollar company in seven years in Indonesia. He consults to companies in the U.S., the Caribbean and Central America on growth strategies and complex problems through GH Growth Advisors. His books on entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship are available on Amazon.

READ MORE: Multi-campus StartUP FIU gets ready for takeoff

READ MORE: Q&A with Robert Hacker on scaling social entrepreneurship, finding partners, thinking big

Hacker1

 Above, Bob Hacker introduced the mentors to the StartUP FIU entrepreneurs. At top of post, the first cohort of StartUP FIU.

September 17, 2016

Meet the entrepreneurs in StartUP FIU's Cohort 1

StartUP FIU launched its first cohort of its 13-week Empower incubator Sept. 6. The cohort, selected from 160 applications, includes 20 entrepreneurs from 19 businesses or concepts in a variety of industries. It also includes social entrepreneurs. The free incubator 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 1 of StartUP FIU?  Find the list below: 

Addigy

Founder: Jason Dettbarn.

Addigy provides a cloud based IT Management platform for organizations to manage their growing portfolio Apple Mac computers.

Ascynd.co

Founder: Andru Fratarcangeli

eSport is a marketplace for players to seek competitions and funding.

BAHL Design Group LLC

Founder: Brandt H. Labastille

BAHL Design Group offers world's lightest deskchair in waterproof backpack with solar panel/battery pack

Bid.Aero

Founder: Anthony Leon

Bid.Aero is a sourcing & procurement platform for aircraft and engine part sales.

College Pop

Founder: Oneika Osborne

College Pop is the mobile student development and college preparation hub.

Delta Designs

Founder: Christopher Scull

Delta Designs is proposing a locally-sourced, rapid-prototyping business with the exclusive goal to produce prosthetic components using 3D printing.

Helene's Ice Cream

Founder: Helene's Ice Cream

Helene's handcrafts highly addictive frozen custard. Happiness in a jar.

iscreen2prevent

Founder: Delia DeBuc

'One Stop Mobile Eye Care' idea is to provide convenient comprehensive eye screening to rural and urban seniors as well as the general population

Jarly

Founder: Steve Aitken

Jarly is a subscription box service for artisan made fresh baked goods. We've launched. We have customers and revenue.

Master Honey

Founder: Andrea Saladrigas

Master Honey empowers low income women by giving them all the resources necessary to start their own beekeeping business.

MMM

Founder: Giovanna Gallardo

Discover, personalize and share transportation loops linking cultural destinations.

MPG (The Molecular Pearl Group)

Founder: Xavier González & Argelio Maldonado

Technology designed for automated creation of avant-garde food/beverage pearls

Neat Study

Founder: Ranjeet Deshmukh

Neat Study's app helps students ace their assignments while making learning fun.

NPC Publishing

Founder: Ivan Rodriguez

NPC Publishing creates a game universe where the players control their content

Pilot VR

Founder: Jose Maldonado

 Pilot VR is an all-in-one affordable VR system aimed at physical therapy.

SD Technologies

Founder: Sebastian Duque

SD Technologies is disrupting a niche market within the sports industry.

SoundBite LLC

Founder: Daniel Gonzalez

SoundBite brings the beauty of audio to the social media world.

VoterAid

Founder: Christopher Knowles

VoterAid connects voters and candidates with heuristics based on a set of questions designed to highlight the differences between candidates in a given election.

No Name Company

Founder: Rory Kennedy

Natural organic banana juice based beverage marketed towards individuals with active healthy lifestyles.

Startupfiucohort1

 Photo of StartUP FIU's Cohort 1 of Empower by Daniela Cadena

September 12, 2016

WeWork Lincoln Road launches entrepreneur support program with partners

Wework lincoln road
 
By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com
 
Co-working center WeWork Lincoln Road launched a new initiative offering Miami area entrepreneurs a chance to receive support to achieve their missions, while at the same time giving back to their local community.
 
The new program, called Mission Possible, offers  Miami area companies of all sizes, stages and industries a chance to be selected for 3 to 12 sponsored months of membership at WeWork's Lincoln Road workspace free of charge, along with other services to help them grow their companies. This is a significant value as memberships at the Lincoln Road location begin at $220 a month.
 
"It is a specific way to support Miami locals who want to impact change but also may not have the resources to join the WeWork community otherwise," said Anna Prisse, WeWork's Miami community manager for Miami. 
 
In addition to the collaborative work space, the selected companies will receive:
 
 * Programming from partners such as Refresh Miami, South Florida's largest entrepreneur and tech meetup group, Mentor Day, a new initiative offering entrepreneurs mentorship sessions with experts in their needs; and AGP Miami, an active South Florida angel investor network;

 * A chance to participate in community Demo Day pitch competition and other events;

 * Mentorship and professional advice from members and industry experts;

 * Access to a global community of over 65,000 members through WeWork's mobile app for members;

 * Reduced rates on healthcare, payment processing, accounting/legal advice, and more offered by WeWork's global partners.

What's the catch? Give back.

"We ask that Mission Possible Members donate five hours per person to a nonprofit of their choice for each month that they are part of the program," Prisse said.

More info on the program and where to apply: we.co/missionpossiblemiami 

There is not a deadline for applications, as participants will be chosen on a rolling basis but applications are open so  "the sooner the better,"  Prisse said. There is not a specific number of participants WeWork is looking for. 

"We want the program to be inclusive, not exclusive. We are going to be selecting the members based on how much we can accomplish together during the time of the program," said Prisse. WeWork and the community partners have an outline of what they would like to accomplish but they will will evaluate the needs of each applicant  and tailor the program appropriately, she said.

Mission Possible was inspired by a WeWork program in  Brooklyn called "Take Your Business to New Heights" but will be unique to Miami, particularly because of the entrepreneurial partners involved, Prisse said.

"WeWork has been a valuable partner of Refresh Miami since they entered the South Florida market in 2015," said Brian Breslin, founder of Refresh Miami. “We're very excited to extend our partnership to now include the Mission Possible program. As an organization, providing our community with the tools and resources needed to build innovative businesses is our upmost priority." 

Part of a wave of co-working spaces rolling into South Florida, WeWork Lincoln Road opened last summer and is currently at 85 percent capacity, a WeWork spokesman said. The New York-based company recently opened its WeWork South of Fifth location. At least two more South Florida locations are on the runway: WeWork has recently leased four floors in Brickell City Centre and the entire Security Building in downtown Miami.

Founded by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey in New York City in 2010, WeWork is a privately held company with over 1400 employees. Worldwide, Wework has  65,000 members at more than 100 locations in 12 countries. "The mission of this program is aligned with our own mission where people work to make a life, not just a living," Prisse said.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

 

September 09, 2016

Do you like Pincho Factory? So does Endeavor

Pinchu Factory

Cousins Nedal Ahmad and Otto Othman of the Pincho Factory, a Miami-based fast-casual food company that has plans to expand. The two founded the company with Nizar Ahmad. Photo by CHARLES TRAINOR JR./Miami Herald

 

The Miami-based fast-casual restaurant chain was chosen to join the Endeavor network and will get help to scale.  

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

The global nonprofit Endeavor tapped a Miami-based food and beverage company on Friday to join its network that will help the young company grow.

Pincho Factory is now the 15th Endeavor company from Miami, after being selected into the program at Endeavor Global’s 66th International Selection Panel in Boston this week. Endeavor, a global nonprofit that selects, mentors and accelerates high-impact entrepreneurs from all industries, opened its Miami office with Knight Foundation support in 2013. Endeavor Entrepreneurs receive services that include mentorship and access to capital, global markets and talent.

Pincho Factory, a fast-casual restaurant chain created by cousins Nedal Ahmad, Otto Othman and Nizar Ahmad in 2010, brings street food to a casual setting. The name comes from pinchos or kebabs which, along with hamburgers, are the company’s signature menu items. Pincho Factory, with about 150 employees, has already expanded to six locations in South Florida, one in Orlando and has 15 stores in the pipeline. In 2015, Pincho Factory brought in about $3 million in revenue and projections for this year are to triple that figure, due to new restaurant openings and impressive traffic gains at existing stores, the company said in a Miami Herald article in July.

“We have big plans for the future, and with Endeavor’s world-class mentorship opportunities and resources, we know that Pincho Factory will continue to thrive in Miami and beyond,” Othman said on Friday. 

Pincho Factory joins a growing number of food and beverage startups in Miami that are gaining traction. In addition to Pincho, three other local food-related companies — DeliverLean, My Ceviche and ginnybakes — are in the Endeavor global network, and more are in the pipeline, said Laura Maydón, managing director of Endeavor Miami. “We’re looking forward to offering them a suite of services to help them accelerate their growth.”

In an Endeavor Miami study last year, Endeavor found that food and beverage is one of five areas that could sizzle for entrepreneurial activity in South Florida because the ingredients are already here. There’s a foodie culture here, expertise, a talent base and educational opportunities to augment progress, as well as a strong healthy and green trend to ride upon, the report found.

Endeavor’s ISP is the culmination of a rigorous three-day selection process. Steve McKean, a serial entrepreneur, Endeavor Miami mentor and Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge judge, participated as an ISP panelist. Selected Endeavor Entrepreneurs from around the world received unanimous votes from their panels. “The founders of this company embody what it means it be an Endeavor Entrepreneur: innovative, forward-thinking and eager to foster the growth of our Miami entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation’s Miami program director and Endeavor Miami board member.

Endeavor Global supports more than 1,200 high-impact entrepreneurs from over 780 companies across 25 countries. To nominate a South Florida company, visit www.endeavormiami.org.

Nancy Dahlberg: 305-376-3595; @ndahlberg

Read more: Pincho Factory’s burgers and kebabs win fans in South Florida and beyond

Read more: How millennial tastes shape a new generation of food startups

September 08, 2016

Meet WIN Lab Miami's first accelerator class; 8-month program begins this fall

WinLAB2

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Fashion, food and beverage, sports, travel and hospitality, education, media, music, healthcare, technology. Women-led startups in all of these industries will be part of the first class of the WIN Lab entrepreneurship accelerator.

FarraWIN (Women Innovating Now) Lab, an eight-month early-stage accelerator program developed at Babson, announced Thursday the 24 entrepreneurs from 21 companies that will take part in the first Miami program, with $800,000 in funding from the Knight Foundation. Nelly Farra, director of WIN Lab Miami (pictured here),  said 183 entrepreneurs applied, 80 of them went through second-round interviews, and 40 pitched to a panel of entrepreneurs for the final selections.

"All the women who were accepted into WIN Lab truly are thinking big about their businesses and really are these women I feel will be the next generation of women CEOs," said Farra, adding that nearly all of the businesses have an MVP (minimal viable product) and some market traction  and most already  are generating some revenue.  

WIN Lab will kicks off at the end of this month with a retreat, and then the women will meet weekly on Tuesday evenings to learn about finance, growth planning, pitching, leadership and technology.  "What we will be focusing on is growth -- positioning their companies to scale as they build the foundations of their businesses," Farra said.

Each WINner, as the participants are called, will have a coach. Some include Cecile Alper-Leroux, Vice President of Innovation at Ultimate Software, Yamile Elias, Director of Business Innovation & Global Marketing for PepsiCo; Pamela Fuertes, Vice President of International Economic Development Programs for The Beacon Council; Julie Greiner, former Chief Corporate Officer of Macy's; and Teresa Weintraub, Managing Director at Merrill Lynch. Akerman will be sponsoring the 2016 program and providing legal education and support to the WINners.

The next WIN LAB public event will be a WIN Lab demo night on Oct. 27 at Venture Cafe, and there will be public WIN LAb  events monthly.

WIN Lab was born in the Boston area, Babson's home, in the fall of 2013. Miami is the organization's first expansion city.

Heatherjean MacNeil, co-founder and global director of WIN Lab who manages both the Boston and Miami programs, was impressed by the  high-quality applications from Miami. "Many of the applicants demonstrated high-growth potential that are eager to scale. This is very much reflected in Miami's inaugural WINners. Since the Lab in Boston focuses on the Babson student population, [Boston's] WINners are entrepreneurs that are both at the ideation and beta stage. Miami's WINners are post-proof of concept and positioned to grow."

MacNeil said the WIN Lab experience will be primarily the same in both  locations, but because of the support of the Knight Foundation, Miami's WINners also have access to CIC Miami's 24-hour co-working space in a dedicated WIN Lab area. There may be  virtual platforms to host a series of speed-networking events between both Labs  to further leverage the power of the WIN network, she said. "We look forward to raising the profile of these innovative, women leaders in Miami and beyond."

Here are the companies and the entrepreneurs who will be participating in the first group from Miami, announced at a community event  at Venture Cafe at CIC Miami Thursday night (WINners were introduced and gave their rocket pitches, pictured above).  Company descriptions provided by the entrepreneurs are provided below.

AASO: Luisa Santos

AASO believes that people want and deserve the ability to quickly make the freshest, highest-quality ice cream possible in the comfort of their home. Currently, the fastest option to make ice cream at home requires chilling a bowl in the freezer for a few hours then actively freezing for 25 minutes and delivers sub-par results. AASO enables its customers to make a serving of ice cream in less than five minutes using technology.

ALPHATECHBLOCKS: Marilu Rios Kernan

AlphaTechBlocks are traditional looking alphabet blocks that interact with our mobile apps, creating playful learning experiences for toddlers and preschoolers.

APOLLONIX: Terri-Ann Brown & Jessica Shin

Apollonix is an online exchange where dentists and dental laboratories can easily facilitate dental prosthetics transactions.

BAMMIES: Rosario Chozas & Julia Ford-Carther

Bammies is a fashion line that stands for business + jammies and is changing the way women get dressed. Bammies offers two capsule collections each year focused on minimizing morning decision fatigue as well as helping women use fashion to feel comfortable in their own skin.

BARRIO: Romina Ruiz-Goiriena

Not a network. Not an outlet. Not conforming to how you define Latino. We reach and breathe digitally—creating a Barrio of media properties.

ENDLESSLY ORGANIC: Stefani Paulinelli

Endlessly Organic is an organic buying club. Endlessly Organic sources the best farm fresh organic produce and delivers it to your home, neighborhood or workplace at a significant discount. Endlessly Organic's mission is to provide high-quality farm fresh organic produce to its members at a discount.

JAIMIE NICOLE: Jamie Nicole Shepard

JAIMIE NICOLE’s mission is to create innovative pieces of art in jewelry, by blending distinctive designs with absolute authenticity. It exists to provide its customers with a perfect mix of everyday luxury and simplicity through premium materials and product of unique elegance. Its products are thought and crafted to exceed its customers’ expectations.

LEMON CITY TEA: Gail Hamilton

Lemon City is founded and operated by first-generation American women, and strives to offer high-quality, ethically-sourced teas inspired by the crazy, complex, diverse, and exciting city we call home: Miami. Lemon City develops and curates its Miami-inspired teas with Latin American, Caribbean and South Floridian flavors in mind. From a complex summery mate, to a mango enhanced black iced tea and our soon-to-be-released signature Cafeci-té, our products proudly showcase this city's robust culture, vibe and energy.

MUNDO LANUGO: Carla Curiel

Mundo Lanugo is a children's entertainment property that helps connect kids to universal values through the lens of the Hispanic culture, and promotes the Spanish language.

PALMPRESS: Jessica Do

Palmpress is a personal craft coffee press for hot and cold brew. Superb coffee, brewed by you.

PIERCE PLAN: Kelly Pierce

The Pierce Plan is the only Learning Management System (LMS) that automates a cumbersome process to ensure high school student-athletes are academically eligible per NCAA to play in college and academically prepared to compete in the classroom.

QUVEL: Katherine Clase

Quvel is an innovative limited edition casual footwear brand that allows customers to enjoy unprecedented degrees of customization and personalization at an unmatched value in the industry. Each shoe is made to order, carefully handcrafted and delivered at record speeds.

ROOMS2NIGHT: Anemone Hartmann

Rooms2night brings hotel e-commerce to independent and local hotels in rural areas of Latin America where good internet connection is not available. Rooms2night's software allows these hotels to gain access to a new market.

SCHOOL CLIMATE SOLUTIONS: Maribel Gonzalez

School Climate Solutions (SCS) is the premier online solution for 1st to 12th grade student success related to student safety, social emotional skills, and mental health. SCS provides online educational material that helps schools and districts implement and grow successful schoolwide programs that emphasize whole child development and positive school cultures.

STOW SIMPLE: Silvia Camps

Stow Simple is an on-demand storage company designed to eliminate the hassles of traditional self-storage. Developed with the customer in mind, Stow Simple will pick up, photo-catalog and store items in a fully climate controlled facility, which can be delivered back to the customer with the click of a button. Offering easy online scheduling, clients can see and access their belongings without ever having to visit a storage facility. [Stow Simple was also a 2015 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge winner.}

TAPTL: Mary Wolff

taptl is the world’s first company to invent, manufacture and sell customizable transparent touch-screens. Our displays can be used as windows, kiosks, directories, “TVs,” or computers for personal or business use.

THINK LIQUOR: Jamie Futscher

Think Liquor is redefining the traditional liquor store and becoming the #1 place to purchase alcohol. Bringing modern technology and premium customer service to the liquor industry. Removing the complexity and making it as easy to purchase wine & liquor online as it is for any other product.

UNA PIZCA: Andreina Morales & Ana Schloeter

Una Pizca is creating the most trusted cooking site in Latin America, offering curated recipes and cooking tips that are tested for quality and ease of use. At Una Pizca, we are bringing our love of food to every corner of Latin America, by breaking down regional language barriers.

UX GOFER: Jacqueline Stetson Pastore

UX Gofer is a web and mobile app that makes User Experience Research easier, faster, and more accessible.

ZUKE MUSIC: Arielle Cohen

Zuke Music is a networking and project management tool for music industry professionals with the ultimate goal of enabling better music discovery,collaboration, and promotion.

ZULUBOTS: Elizabeth De Zulueta

Zulubots is a consumer robotics company that focuses on the design and fabrication of assistive robots for the home.

"I am truly honored to be the director of this program  and very very excited to be be working with the caliber of the women that are in the program this year," said Farra. "This will be an exciting year for WIN Lab and an exciting year for Miami too."

Read more about the launch of WIN Lab Miami here and here.

Follow Nancy on Twitter @ndahlberg.

August 29, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Avenue Planet's VR puts you on world's finest shopping streets

Avenueplanet

Company name: Avenue Planet

Headquarters: Pipeline Brickell in Miami

Concept: Avenue Planet is developing a first-person, fully immersive 3D and virtual reality-based shopping experience platform. Users will be able to walk down 12 of the most famous shopping avenues on the planet (including Lincoln Road, Rodeo Drive, London’s Oxford Street and Tokyo’s Ginza), and browse and buy from some of the best stores in the world from the comfort of their own homes. Users simply plug their smartphones into a pair of VR-enabled goggles and are instantly transported to a premier, international shopping plaza.

Story: When coming up with the idea for Avenue Planet, the company’s founding members had a clear mission: to deliver content in a digital environment that feels as though it is being experienced in the real world. With today’s advances in 3D development and the recent penetration of virtual reality (VR) headsets across the global markets, the vision for Avenue Planet is becoming a reality. The company is moving ahead with plans to deliver a platform where the lines between the offline, online and real word user experience start to fade.

Avenue Planet began its Miami operations in February 2014. The company’s corporate headquarters is based out of Pipeline Workspaces’ Brickell location with a development center in Barcelona and satellite offices in Porto and London. Avenue Planet launched the world’s first virtual reality art gallery at Art Basel in 2015. “We believed the international audience and diverse attendance of this international art fair would be the perfect venue to debut our VR platform that enables artists to tell the story behind their work in a different way with a completely immersive experience,” said Kabir Frutos (pictured above), who directs the company’s North and South American business activities, its principle market, and recruits and manages the brands within the platform.

Avenue Planet recently finished its proprietary payment technology allowing for seamless in-app purchases. The company is entering its final stages of development, and its platform will be ready to launch in the coming months. The Avenue Planet team is planning its launch campaign and working to secure partnerships with headset manufacturers in order to provide users with the best possible experiences.

Founded: Avenue Planet was founded in 2011 with virtual reality becoming its main focus in 2014.

Management team: Two founding partners, Bruno Carvalho and Sanjay Daswani, with an executive team that includes Kabir Frutos, North and South America director; Franco Casado, head of design and creative director; Cesar Couto Ferreira, head of Marketing and Partnerships; Daniel Abad, technology director and head of VR payment system; Filipe Mezquita, head of brand and advertising; and Hector Zapata, strategic technical director.

No. of employees: 19

Website: avenueplanet.com

Financing: Founder funded with $450,000; $250,000 in early stage funding; and, of course, much sweat equity.

Recent milestones reached: Created final version of first virtual reality payment system that does not require the use of a keyboard or input device, allowing for seamless in-app purchases and transactions; added five prominent brands to the Avenue Planet platform; acquired three strategic partners.

Biggest startup challenge: A lack of public knowledge around virtual reality. “This means that anyone that is brought into our ecosystem must experience the platform first-hand, which can present logistical challenges as we work with brands all over the world,” Frutos said.

Next step: “We are finalizing Lincoln Road within our platform, which will feature approximately 10 brands and 15 experiences, in time for our Q4 2016 launch event. We will also be making a formal announcement to the media that will include all the exciting companies and celebrities we are working with,” Frutos said. Stay tuned.

Strategy for next step: Continue building upon current relationships and establish new ones with people, partners and brands that want to invest and/or become part of this new ecosystem that will be used by many to access great content and live unimaginable experiences.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

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August 24, 2016

Does the world yearn for chicken and biscuits? Yardbird’s owner bets on it

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Photo by Patrick Farrell

The owner of 50 Eggs restaurant group of Miami said Yardbirds are planned for Dubai, Singapore and Beverly Hills for 2017 and London in 2018, while additional locations are being scouted. Its fast-casual concept, Spring Chicken, is expanding in South Florida, with a Miami Beach location opening Friday and an MIA restaurant slated to open in October.

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Will John Kunkel’s granny’s fried chicken be a hit in Singapore and Dubai? That’s the bet the founder of 50 Eggs, the Miami-based restaurant group, is making as it wings overseas with its signature Yardbird Southern Table & Bar abroad, expands its new fast-casual concept Spring Chicken and hatches a Latin-food concept for Las Vegas.

Just as the brand’s Miami Beach and Las Vegas restaurants have been winners with tourists and locals alike, Kunkel hopes the eclectic southern-style Yardbird menu — featuring Lewellyn’s fried chicken, inspired by his grandmother’s recipe — will make a smooth landing in both international cities when they open in 2017, along with a location in Beverly Hills. He said 50 Eggs is close to securing a London location for a 2018 Yardbird opening and also is scouting sites in Washington, D.C., and New York.

“While there are amazing steakhouses and sushi and you-name-it that have expanded as national and international concepts, we don’t have another national competitor for what we do,” Kunkel said, speaking about Yardbird. “There are a lot of great mom-and-pop restaurants scattered, but we are the only ones ready to scale and that have figured out scale.” Kunkel recently returned from Singapore, where he handed out samples at an epicurean festival. “We’re growing the right way, reinvesting in the concept and varying the design and menu everywhere we go,” he said. “It’s an exciting time for Yardbird.”

Spring Chicken is also on the springboard. The fast-casual concept featuring quick-service casual dining focused on innovative menu items and fresh ingredients opened early this year in Coral Gables, and two months ago, it opened in Fort Lauderdale. This week, Spring Chicken will open in the original Miami Beach location of Lime Fresh Mexican Grill, the chain that Kunkel started in 2004, expanded to 16 locations and then sold in 2012.

Tuesday afternoon, dozens of employees were going through training for Friday’s opening. The space, at 1439 Alton Road, is smaller than the Coral Gables and Fort Lauderdale locations. The menu is more limited, too: It features chicken-tender meals, from $9.95 to family-size buckets, and a selection of sandwiches and salads starting at about $6. Also on Friday, LuLu’s Nitrogen Ice Cream is opening next door in the small three-building complex.

More than a year in the works, a Spring Chicken in Concourse D of Miami International Airport is slated to open in October. “You’ll be able to get your chicken and biscuits and a bourbon drink before your flight — that’s kind of fun,” Kunkel said. “It will help you sleep.” Over the next year, locations in Boca Raton, Pembroke Pines, Plantation and Aventura will likely open, he said, but no timetables have been set. National and international expansion is in the plan, and Kunkel said he is considering limited franchising.

In development is a new Latin concept, called Chica, in Las Vegas, with Miami executive chef Lorena Garcia, Kunkel said. The location will be announced in coming weeks and is planned to open next year. Kunkel described it as a “fun brand experience around Latin American flavors and cultures and cocktails” inspired by living in Miami.

Why so much expansion now? “With Yardbird, we see major influencer cities as a great way to build a long-term business strategy and help expose the brand, and we found the right sites and right deals,” Kunkel said. With Spring Chicken, that was a year in the making and 50 Eggs is largely using the expansion model developed for Lime, he added. “Fast-casual is the way people like to eat these days, at an affordable price point.”

"That said, it’s a challenging time for the industry, said Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst with NPD Group, which has been tracking the industry since 1976. Since March, traffic in the U.S. restaurant industry overall has stalled as business at full-service restaurants has dropped slightly and the once-hot fast-casual sector has slowed considerably. The fast-casual category in the second quarter of this year was up just 2 percent, compared to 7 percent growth a year ago, Riggs said, excluding results at Chipotle, which has been suffering financial fallout following an e. coli outbreak in 2015.

The fast-casual category is facing the same realities as its full-service brethren, she said. Cost increases have been passed onto consumers, and the price-value relationship may be getting out of whack, particularly with millennials who have been driving growth for fast-casual. “The only way to drive traffic in this market is by building brand loyalty and building frequency,” said Riggs said. “We’re still going, but we are not going as often.”

50 Eggs has about 450 employees now. With Yardbird’s three new restaurants planned for next year, the company will add another 500 employees, Kunkel said. In Miami, Spring Chicken’s growth will add about 150 employees for the South Florida economy, he added. 50 Eggs new headquarters, in a converted MiMo hotel on Biscayne Boulevard, will soon house a test kitchen and mixology lab that would be be open to the community for events.

But don’t expect Khong River House to reopen anytime too soon. The popular Miami Beach restaurant closed in 2015 and at the time Kunkel said it would reopen in Miami.

“It was one of my favorite restaurants and we still get calls in the office about it, but I’m not interested in doing anything full-service in Miami right now. I believe we are going to have a big shakeout period for restaurants — we have diluted the market in Miami,” Kunkel said. “The exception is fast casual: People are staying closer to home.”

While he wants to wait at least a year to decide on the future of Khong River House in Miami, Kunkel said there is a hunger for innovative full-service restaurants in Fort Lauderdale, and he thinks the Las Olas area is a good home for another Swine, 50 Eggs’ pork-inspired brand located in Coral Gables: “Fort Lauderdale loves their barbecue.”

Nancy Dahlberg: 305-376-3595, @ndahlberg

READ MORE: How millennial tastes help shape new generation of food entrepreneurs

 

August 08, 2016

Startup Spotlight: Octopi making waves in maritime industry

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Company: Octopi (formerly Cetus Labs)

Headquarters: Venture Hive, 1010 NE Second Ave., Miami

Concept: Octopi builds and sells a modern and smart Terminal Operating System (TOS) that helps seaport terminal operators manage operations, track cargo, and communicate electronically in real-time with their commercial partners.

Story: Ninety percent of everything around you was carried over on a shipping container before it reached you. It’s the industry that puts food in your plate, clothes on your back and enables the success of e-commerce globally. Yet, very few companies are trying to solve the hard problems facing this industry, says Octopi co-founder Luc Castera.

“Our company was built with the mission to help the key players in this industry operate more efficiently using modern software. We are a team of software developers with lots of experience in developing modern software tools,” Castera said.

According to the International Chamber of Shipping, about 90 percent of world trade is carried by the international shipping industry, and the United Nations estimates that the maritime industry contributes about $380 billion to the global economy. It’s also one of Miami’s dominant industries.

“When we started learning about the shipping and maritime industry, we saw that there was a big opportunity to help companies in that space be more efficient using technology,” said co-founder Guille Carlos. “Everybody is impacted by the shipping industry so we feel like we can have a meaningful impact in the world by helping the players in this industry be more effective.”

Launched: Octopi went live with its first customer in October 2015.

Management team: Luc Castera and Guille Carlos [pictured above], who have more than 20 years of combined experience developing software. Previously, Castera was CTO of Intellum and Carlos was the first tech hire of FiveStreet, which was acquired by move.com in 2013.

Website: octopi.co

Financing: Bootstrapped. The co-founders said they are not in need of funding now but have had conversations with local investors and are building relationships with them in case they decide to raise funds in the future.

Recent milestones reached: In October 2015, Octopi went live with its first customer. In May 2016, the company signed a contract with Caribbean Port Services (CPS), which manages all the terminals at the port of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. With that contract, about 85 percent of all containerized cargo going to Haiti now goes through Octopi. In June 2016, Octopi completed its billing module, which allows the software product to interface with accounting software such as Quickbooks Online or Microsoft Dynamics GP.

Octopi (then called Cetus Labs) was also the winner of the 2016 early-stage Startup Showcase competition at eMerge Americas in April, winning $50,000, and it participated in the 2016 Venture Hive class.

Biggest startup challenge: Focus. Carlos says: “We see so many problems we could solve in the shipping and maritime industry but we must remain focused on the problem we are currently solving for terminal operators, and not get distracted by other product ideas.”

Next steps: To continue improving the product. “We love to work closely with new customers and involve them early as possible as we develop our product. This ensures that we are solving their problem and we are not developing software in a vacuum. As such, we are always looking for container terminals that have a forward-thinking executive team and that are willing to build a strong alliance with their software vendor. It’s a win-win situation: They help us build a great product, and they get a better software at a better price,” Castera said.

Mentor’s view: “This is exactly the type of startup we need more of in Miami,” said Mike Lingle, who mentors the team at Venture Hive. “My favorite thing about Luc and Guille is that they've built a sustainable business with real revenue and customers, and they don't need to raise money. They both write code, but they also take the time to learn how to run the business, drive sales and marketing, etc. ... The next step is to focus on sales and build a predictable revenue stream. B2B sales cycles are often long and involve multiple stakeholders, so it's important to focus on this sooner rather than later.”

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Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.