March 26, 2015

Start-Up City to feature social entrepreneurship contest with Miami Soup

When Start-Up City: Miami returns for a third year on Monday with a full day of speakers, panel discussions and networking, attendees will also get a taste of social entrepreneurship.

For the first time, Start-Up City: Miami is partnering with Miami Soup, a grassroots model for funding small to medium-sized projects designed to enhance the quality of community life. Throughout the conference, Start-Up City will feature three local social innovation projects; they will all present or show videos about their work and how their mission helps to “start-up” Miami; attendees of Start-Up will vote and select one project to be awarded a SOUP microgrant of $2,000.

Presenting will be:

Urban Paradise Guild, which aims to provide family gardens to 300 low-income families living in apartments in Opa-Locka, Hialeah and North Miami;


Upper Room Art Gallery, a non-profit global collection of artists and designers whose artwork specializes in organic and recycled materials and are focused on issues of global poverty, social justice and the environment; and

Rising Tide Car Wash, a scalable conveyorized car wash dedicated to the empowerment of individuals with Autism.

Start-Up Miami speakers include Chef and Crafted Hospitality owner Tom Colicchio, who will talk about how opening a new restaurant compares to launching a startup, Slack’s Bill Macaitis on its plan for the billion-dollar brand, Veronica Juarez on Lyft'sgoals in Miami and beyond, MIT Leadership Center’s Hal Gregersen on how to become a better leader and increase creativity, Vikram Dendi of Microsoft Research, who will discuss Skype Translator, and Square and LaunchCode cofounder Jim McKelvey's insights on partnering up to start up.

The event, presented by The Atlantic, CityLab and Knight Foundation, which will be at the New World Center in Miami Beach and tickets are $99. For the full list of speakers or to buy tickets:

February 23, 2015

Singularity University opens competition in Miami to address sea-level rise


 Hector Gabino El Nuevo Herald

According to research on Virginia Key by the University of Miami’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences, sea levels on Miami’s coast have risen 3.7 inches since 1996, and the rate of increase has been accelerating. If the rate of sea rise over the last five years holds steady for the next 50 years – and indications are it could rise faster – high tide levels in Miami would go up over five feet, leading to high risks of flooding and saltwater intrusion.

With the clock ticking, Silicon Valley’s Singularity University, a teaching organization and accelerator, launched its Global Impact Competition in Miami on Monday calling on innovators to find solutions for South Florida’s sea-level rise by using technology, The competition is supported by $70,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Two winners will receive full tuition to Singularity University’s 10-week Graduate Studies Program in Mountain View, Calif., this summer where they will work in teams with participants from around the world. The competition is open to all U.S. residents, but ideas must focus on of sea-level rise in South Florida. Applications can be submitted online until April 17. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to pitch their ideas during the closing event hosted in Miami. To apply, visit

"The Global Impact Competition offers Miami tech innovators and entrepreneurs a unique opportunity — inviting them to address a local challenge on an international stage," said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami. "The hope is that the competition will help forge new connections between Miami entrepreneurs and their counterparts across the globe, while helping to build the city’s network of innovators and problem-solvers so they can work together to address pressing community concerns."

Singularity’s Global Impact Competitions help identify promising innovators and connect them with mentorship opportunities and training, and after the program participants return to their communities and continue work to implement their ideas. "Sea-level rise poses a real threat to the future of Miami," said Rob Nail, associate founder and CEO of Singularity University. "We look forward to hearing from the innovators who are working to address this problem with technology and to connecting them with changemakers everywhere."

This program is one of a number of initiatives launched recently that call for innovators to solve South Florida’s environmental challenges. Last week, the nonprofit CappSci and the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science teamed up to offer a $1 million prize program to attract environmental and health solutions; one of its first challenges is coral reef restoration. Last fall, the Everglades Foundation announced a $10 million prize for a solution to the chronic problem of phosphorous pollution that has sickened the Everglades and coastal estuaries.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

February 19, 2015

$1 million innovation prize program coming to Frost Museum of Science


Rendering of Innovation Center planned for the Patricia and Phillip Museum of Science.  

By Nancy Dahlberg /

Imagine being able to watch and perhaps even contribute to the process of innovation in real time for a year. The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science and the science nonprofit CappSci plan to launch a worldwide contest and bring the winners to the museum to build their concepts for all to experience.

Through a $1 million gift from Ted and Pascale van Kipnis Caplow, CappSci and the museum Thursday plan to announce a five-year series of annual prize contests and inventors-in-residence programs to develop solutions in the health and environmental sectors. The announcements are planned as part of the museum’s Innovation & Engineering Weekend, which extends through Sunday, at its current Coconut Grove location.

Prizes to be offered in 2015: one for the best invention to restore coral reefs, and another to help people detect and reduce their exposure to carcinogens, the museum said.

Building on CappSci’s experience with global competitions, the CappSci Inventors program will solicit submissions of prototype inventions with local relevance and global significance from around the world beginning Thursday. Two winners will be awarded 12- to 18-month residencies at the $300 million science museum under construction in downtown Miami’s Museum Park. Entry forms and more details on the prizes are available at

In 2013, CappSci established the $1 million Caplow Children’s Prize, the world’s largest prize dedicated to saving the lives of children under the age of 5. But CappSci Inventors is the first contest CappSci has run with a residence program. The $1 million gift will support the program for five years.

CaplowMy goal is to find solutions to big problems, but I am also very excited about bringing the practice of science inside the four walls of the science museum,” said Ted Caplow, CEO of CappSci, an applied science company, and an engineer, social entrepreneur and philanthropist who lives in Miami.

Out-of-the-box thinking in both prize categories is needed now, Caplow said. “In the course of my lifetime, and I am 45, I have seen a complete change in the state of Caribbean corals. If you extrapolate that over another 30 or 40 years, scientists are saying that on this side of the world the reefs could be gone.”

While disappearing coral is a massive environmental problem, the healthcare prize tackles cancer. The challenge is to develop an innovative, affordable and portable technology to empower people to detect and/or avoid carcinogens, he said.

The winners of CappSci Inventors will get a $100,000 budget to support their research and be provided lab space at the museum, Caplow said. During their residencies, inventors build out and test their technologies while seeking feedback from the public. Museum visitors can watch the inventors work, read interactive daily project logs, and discuss details of the project with an intern who will serve as a knowledge liaison between the inventor and the public, Caplow said.

The inventors will give periodic talks at the museum, and CappSci and the museum will also provide mentorship. The CappSci Inventors program will end with a demo day, when the innovators can present their work to investors who may help fund commercialization, said Caplow, who is on the museum’s board.

“There’s an emerging science and technology scene here in South Florida and the museum has a vital role to play in making it visible,” said Gillian Thomas, president and CEO of Frost Science. “What I love about this is that anyone around the world can apply but you will see the whole process develop here. Whatever great inventions come out of it will be relevant here but could also work around the world.”

In addition to this gift, the Caplows have previously donated $1 million to the new museum’s five-floor Innovation Center, which will provide classes, maker’s activities, public demonstrations and workshops celebrating innovation and entrepreneurship while also exhibiting the latest global developments. Separately, Caplow’s team and the museum also want to develop a Science Barge, a floating, urban sustainable farm and environmental education center similar to one he founded in New York, but also with marine-related exhibits and programming.

The announcement on Thursday will be followed by a panel discussion on the importance of competitions, featuring local leaders in science, medicine and business. The panel will be moderated by Florida Board of Education member and nonprofit leader Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, and include marine biologist Dr. Andrew Baker from University of Miami, medical entrepreneur Dr. Maurice Ferré, and oncologist Dr. Nicholas C. Lambrou. For more information on Innovation & Engineering Weekend, visit

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

Posted Feb. 19, 2015


February 04, 2015

I Hacked Miami needs you: Join Code for Miami's hackathon Feb. 21

By Maggie Diaz-Vera / @codeformiami

Technology is rapidly changing how citizens communicate with their government, and Code for Miami wants everyone to help, regardless of their skillset and level of tech savviness.

On Saturday, February 21, Code for Miami and Miami Ad School will be hosting I <Hacked> Miami, a local CodeAcross 2015 hackathon. Launched by Code for America, CodeAcross is a national event set to inspire residents everywhere to become actively involved in their community.

Coinciding with International Open Data Day, Miami-Dade County will be opening its Open311 data to developers for the very first time, providing new opportunities to create citizen-focused applications in a creative, collaborative environment. But it’s not just developers who can help. Writers, designers, and anybody willing to learn can help with various projects including Miami Answers, which will create a platform for finding answers to citizens’ most frequently asked questions.

Code for America has chosen Miami-Dade County as a fellowship city for 2015. Selected among the best and brightest developers, designers, and project managers, Code for America Fellows spend a year partnering with volunteers and local governments to create open source solutions for government issues. This will be an chance for the community to meet with and discuss their personal experiences with the fellows to influence future projects.

While hacking is often seen as a daunting and unreachable skill only for the most advanced type of technology user, it is really just the ability to approach a problem in an unconventional way that leads to results. So come and join fellow Miami civic hackers on Saturday, February 21st at Miami Ad School to unlock the future of the community.

Follow along at #ihackedmiami and @codeformiami.

 Posted Feb. 4, 2015

January 12, 2015

Knight Cities Challenge announces 10 Miami finalists

A floating, urban sustainable farm and education center, a program matching inventors with local manufacturers and a “Department of Life” to promote a more inclusive, connected city were just a few of the 10 Miami finalists the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s inaugural Knight Cities Challenge.

The foundation’s national call for ideas to make communities more vibrant places to live in work attracted more than 7,000 submissions. The foundation announced on Monday its 126 finalists, who will all go on to compete for a share of a $5 million grant pool. Submitted ideas needed to benefit one or more of the 26 communities where Knight invests and focus on talent attraction and retention, economic opportunity or community engagement.

Finalists, which came from all 26 Knight communities, including 25 finalists from Detroit, including a plan to pair barbers with landscape contractors to transform overgrown vacant lots and a how-to guide to transform the ubiquitous and unsightly chain-link fence into galleries, gardens and grids promoting community connections. The 20 finalists from Philadelphia included an Immigrant Immigration Hub and a 2,600 cycling journey to chronicle the stories of the city. There were also multicity ideas, including one involving competitive street arcades creating a league of video gaming cities and another for a national maker contest culminating in Miami. "Through these new connections we hope to grow a network of civic innovators to take on community challenges and build solutions together," said Carol Coletta, Knight Foundation vice president for community and national initiatives.

Winners will be announced in the spring. The challenge is part of a three-year, $15 million commitment that Knight Foundation announced in the fall of 2014.

Finalists from Miami and Palm Beach County were:


Connective Tissue Plan and the Miami Department of Public Life by Gehl Studio (Submitted by Matthew Lister): Creating the nation’s first Department of Public Life to promote a more inclusive, connected, walkable Miami.

Future Museum Park: An Iterative Placemaking Experiment (Submitted by Rebecca Mandelman): Involving the public in the creation and design of Museum Park through interactive experiments to help developers understand the wants and needs of the community.

Guagua App (Submitted by Armando Ibarra): Creating a single platform for private jitneys and minibuses to provide inexpensive, on-demand, door-to-door transportation that fills substantial gaps in the local transit system.

Made in Dade (Submitted by Eric Burnard): Matching entrepreneurs and inventors with local manufacturers who can produce their goods to create a positive environment for talented creators while stimulating the job market.

Multimodal, Linear Park by loCl (Submitted by Malik Benjamin): Building a linear park along the Florida East Coast Railway from downtown to the Little River residential and business district.

PlaceMaking Agency/Lab (Submitted by Eric Burnard): Establishing a new creative agency focused on building a cultural identity in neighborhoods and helping developers and entrepreneurs build ideas based on those cultural foundations, to create stronger neighborhood ties.

SmartPARCS @ North by Miami Dade College (Submitted by Lenore Rodicio): Improving Internet access in underserved communities by creating a community park system around Miami Dade College that will provide free WiFi hotspots and encourage community engagement.

The Talent Development Network by The Talent Development Network (Submitted by Steven Rojas Tallon): Helping talented Miamians stay in the city by connecting students with employers in seven target industries through a collaboration between all major academic institutions in the city.

Wild Planting for a Fruitful Future by PlantMatter (Submitted by Tiffany Noe): Strengthening Miami by providing residents with free fruit trees to plant in public spaces for all to share - turning the streets into a veritable edible park.

The Science Barge by CappSci (Submitted by Nathalie Manzano-Smith): To promote sustainability by creating the Science Barge, a floating, urban sustainable farm and environmental education center powered by renewable energy

Palm Beach County

The Community School, 2.0 by PLACE Planning & Design Inc. (Submitted by Robert Field): Initiating a public planning process to re-imagine a K-12 school and its facilities to more accurately reflect the needs of the community.

See the full list of finalists at

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter. 

Posted Jan. 12, 2015


December 15, 2014

Q&A with Maria Escorcia of Ashoka: Boosting entrepreneurship for social change


Photos by John Durr / Miami Herald Staff

By Nancy Dahlberg /

Changemakers can come from anywhere, including the corporate world. Just look at Maria Escorcia, director of the South Florida chapter of Ashoka, a nonprofit that supports a network of 3,000 social entrepreneurs around the world.

Escorcia spent six years managing a corporate social responsibility program for a large Colombian multinational corporation. During her first three years, she was based in Bogotá and was responsible for the company’s community relations and implementing social impact projects where the company operated. She designed and led a project that aimed to eradicate child labor in rural mining areas, for instance. As a result, she was invited to participate as one of the first private sector representatives in the government-led Colombian Forum of Child Labor Eradication.

During the company’s expansion in Latin America, she was offered the opportunity to create a corporate foundation in the newly acquired plant in Cabaret, Haiti. “I arrived to the island in January 2009 and stayed until late 2011, which gave me a glimpse of the country before, during and after the 2010 earthquake. The foundation I established in early 2009 played an active role in the relief and reconstruction efforts after the earthquake,” she said.

After that, Escorcia learned about Ashoka while working on her master’s degree in international development at the University of Pittsburgh. Ashoka’s founder and CEO, Bill Drayton, was receiving an award and gave a keynote speech.

“Up to that point, most of my professional experience had been managing corporate social responsibility programs for large private companies, and Ashoka’s model of supporting social entrepreneurs seemed like a great next step for advancing my efforts of creating social change,” Escorcia said. “I felt inspired when I learned about an organization whose mission is to build a world where we all have the freedom, confidence and support to solve problems and make a contribution to the common good.”

She joined the organization in 2013 working for the Miami office, and took over as director in June when the chapter’s founding leader, Lorena Garcia Duran,moved on to an Ashoka leadership position in Los Angeles. The South Florida office is relatively new, established in early 2012, but actively seeks to broaden its network of entrepreneurs and mentors, produces programs for youth and is works with local universities to establish “Changemaker Campuses,” among other projects.

Escorcia recently discussed Ashoka South Florida’s programs with the Miami Herald for this Q&A.

Q. You have an interesting background working for corporations and spending a large chunk of time in Haiti. What does that experience bring to the table in your role heading Ashoka South Florida?

A. I learned valuable lessons of what works best when managing organizations that create social change. I left the private sector reassured to see that a number of corporations understand their responsibility extends beyond their shareholders to the community at large. My corporate experience afforded me the opportunity to create change in the board room and on the ground working hand in hand with disadvantaged communities.

Q. How are Ashoka fellows chosen?

A. Ashoka fellows are leading social entrepreneurs who Ashoka recognizes have innovative approaches to social problems and the potential to change the pattern in their field. They possess the vision, creativity and extraordinary determination of the business entrepreneur but devote these qualities to introducing new solutions to social problems.

All Ashoka fellows must undergo a rigorous search and selection process that has been refined over 30 years. Each candidate is evaluated against five criteria, which aim to select only the most qualified candidates who exemplify innovation, creativity, an entrepreneurial quality, a drive for social impact and a high ethical fiber.

Continue reading "Q&A with Maria Escorcia of Ashoka: Boosting entrepreneurship for social change " »

November 20, 2014

Give Miami Day's goal: $5 million to make the community better


The Miami Foundation staff cheers after reaching a milestone last year.

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for this important message: Give to your favorite nonprofit today.

By Carli Teproff /

Nearly 16 years ago, Keri Brooke Heiken lost her life in a horrific car accident as she and four friends headed back to the University of Florida after spending a weekend in South Florida.

Since her death in 1998, her family has worked to keep Keri’s memory alive by giving $2,500 scholarships to high school seniors who have helped the community and want to make a difference in the world.

This year, the Keri Brooke Heiken Foundation, which in the past has held dinner and raffle fundraisers, is reaching out for donations in a new way.

It has joined The Miami Foundation’s Give Miami Day — a 24-hour period in which donations can be made online to more than 500 charities. The blitz begins 12:01 a.m. Thursday and runs for 24 hours.

“It’s an opportunity to reach a lot more people,” said Keri’s mother, Lori Heiken. “We have been working hard to spread the word.”

Give Miami Day, now in its third year, has gained popularity with each campaign, with more and more charities coming on board. This year, Give Miami will include 115 new charities — among them Goodwill Industries, the South Beach Chamber Ensemble, the South Florida SPCA Horse Rescue and Honor Flight South Florida.

Miami Foundation CEO Javier Alberto Soto said the momentum has been incredible. This year the foundation, a philanthropy incubator that helps charities with their fundraising, has even planned a block party from 6 to 9 p.m. in the West Plaza of the Miami Marlins’ stadium in Little Havana to give people a chance to mingle.

“I think we have created an event people look forward to each year to make our community better,” Soto said. “It’s about civic pride.”

And the pride has been contagious.

Returning charities including Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired Inc., Miami Herald Charities — which benefits the Wish Book project — and Shake-A-Leg Miami have been blasting the message through Facebook and through other social media platforms.

The Arsht Center, which is raising money for its Arts Education programs, has planned Dance Party on the Plaza to spotlight Give Miami Day and has encouraged the staff effort to raise money. Others including Heiken will hold an open house to thank supporters.

The way it works is simple: People can visit, look at the profiles of each charity and make a donation. Donations between $25 and $10,000 will qualify for a bonus for the recipient, distributed based on how much is raised and how much is collected in the bonus pool. The Miami Foundation, Knight Foundation and other sponsors have contributed as an “incentive” for giving, Soto said.

There are also about 20 prizes throughout the giving period to boost donations. The gifts include the $1,500 Early Bird Gets the Worm prize for the organization that receives the most individual gifts from midnight to 1:30 a.m., the $500 Good Morning, Sunshine prize for the organization that receives the gift made closest to the official sunrise at 6:43 a.m., and the $500 Giancarlo Stanton Home Run prize for the organization that receives the gift made closest to 1:54 p.m. celebrating the Miami Marlins all-time career home run leader.

Last year, Give Miami Day received more than 10,000 individual gifts and raised $3.2 million to support 407 local nonprofit organizations. The Greater Miami Jewish Federation topped the leader board with $207,362.

Soto said the goal is to continue to have an “impact on South Florida.”

“There are a lot of charities doing a lot of great things and we want to recognize that.”

To Donate

What: The Miami Foundation’s Give Miami Day

When: Thursday through Friday

How: Visit and either click on the charity of your choice or search through the database. Donations between $25 and $10,000 qualify for a percentage of the bonus pool.

Social media: @MiamiFoundation on Twitter and Instagram and #givemiamiday.

For more information:


November 15, 2014

Miami's Continuity Forum, Ashoka highlight ideas that can change the world

By Nancy Dahlberg /

Peter Diamandis believes we are heading toward the most extraordinary time in human history.

Peter_Diamandis“That’s the world we live in today, a guy or gal in a garage can really start a company that can touch the lives of a billion people,” Diamandis, the CEO of the X Prize Foundation, told the social entrepreneurs and enthusiasts at the Continuity Forum, the Americas Business Council Foundation’s annual conference held Thursday and Friday at the Mandarin Oriental in Miami.

The reason this can happen is because the exponential growth of technology. Take the transistor, he said. “There’s been a 100-billion fold price-performance improvement over four years and it’s rocking our world.”

But it doesn’t stop there, said the CEO of Singularity University who studies artificial intelligence. In the future, sensors will be molecular in size and woven into everything that is produced. “Technology is that force that takes what is scarce and makes it abundant,” said Diamandis.

The X Prize is currently offering a $15 million challenge to build a piece of software to bring a child anywhere from illiteracy to basic reading writing and numeracy in 18 months. “My goal is that it goes on every single device manufactured, so every device going out there in the world is a teacher,” said Diamandis, the author of Abundance.

All kinds of big ideas were in abundance at the sold-out conference, attended by about 400. The event brought together a diverse lineup of speakers, including a Nobel prize winner in economics, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a world-renowned neuroscientist, a 20-year-old shark advocate, authors, environmentalists, political activists and artists.

Along with the thought-provoking TED-style talks, 23 fellows from Ashoka, the world’s largest network of social entrepreneurs, gave short presentations on their scalable companies and nonprofits that take aim at poverty, environmental challenges, healthcare, education reform and economic development. The abc* Foundation, through a partnership with Ashoka, will select three and give them $100,000 grants and two years of support.

Continue reading "Miami's Continuity Forum, Ashoka highlight ideas that can change the world" »

November 02, 2014

For Miami urban living, there is probably an app for that (or coming soon!)


By Nancy Dahlberg /

Andrew Bennett was beginning to question his decision to give up his car last year. The downtown Miami resident used the Metromover and trolley for some routes, but it didn’t go to Wynwood, where he works. Besides hitching rides with friends, he tried biking to his workplace but didn’t feel safe on two wheels in the traffic.

Then Lyft came along in May, and he has been using the ride-sharing service nearly every day, to commute to The LAB Miami and go to Miami Beach, where his girlfriend lives. While Bennett (pictured here) spends $6 to $15 for the rides, depending on distance, he has run the numbers and he is well ahead — considering the $150 charge to park in the building where he lives, as well as meters and tolls, the cost of insurance, gas and upkeep, and the car payment.

Bennett also says he arrives at his destination more relaxed than he would be otherwise. “You can save all the stress.” he said. “Life’s too short.”

Lyft is just one of the many smartphone-activated services popping up recently in South Florida. Whatever an urban dweller may need, it seems — transportation, parking, food and grocery delivery, even moving services — increasingly, there’s an app for that.

Here is a sampling:

Continue reading "For Miami urban living, there is probably an app for that (or coming soon!) " »

Urban tech startups: Smarter, nimbler, crazier

My Business Monday centerpiece story

01BM cover urban tech_CPJ

Photo by Carl Juste / Miami Herald

Miami-based Urban.Us invests in technology startups that could impact the future of cities and organizes an annual conference in Wynwood.

By Nancy Dahlberg /

“Pop-up mass transit” that can be directed by the riders themselves. Services that not only find you a parking space but valet your car — wherever you are. Smart energy solutions that control heating and cooling based on when you are in the room or turn on the sprinklers only if Mother Nature isn’t cooperating.

These are examples of “urban tech” solutions aimed at simultaneously making it easier to live in cities and helping to reduce the carbon footprint. They join other solutions that have grown in popularity in the past couple of years: ride-, bike- and room-sharing, delivery services, and crowd-sourced information portals — all of which can be easily accessed with your smartphone.

The big idea: Reimagine the way things have been done for decades and come up with ways to make urban living more efficient, more convenient, and often cleaner and greener. Increasingly, it’s the small, nimble startups that hop on the opportunity.

“It is about the opportunity,” said Stonly Baptiste, co-founder of Urban.Us, a Miami startup born to serve this trend. “There are always going to be problems in cities, and we are going to continue to see interesting startups that are solving these problems.”

Baptiste, who has co-founded or helped run a number of tech companies, and fellow Urban.Us co-founder Shaun Abrahamson, (pictured above) an investor in early-stage companies, are among the early adopters trying to power the success of these startups. Urban.Us, a public benefit corporation that funds startups that help cities, has been growing a network of 300 advisors to help those startups and to identify new companies and trends. Urban.Us also convenes an annual conference in April, bringing to Wynwood some of the best urban tech entrepreneurs from around the world.

Some of these urban tech startups use the “sharing economy,” which allows people to take advantage of underutilized assets, like a spare bedroom or time in their schedule to drive. Uber and Lyft, both ride services that entered South Florida — in violation of local regulations — this summer, are perhaps the most visible of this new breed of technology and in hundreds of cities around the globe.

Other urban tech startups, such as Nest, are based on technology helping you to make your spaces — home, work, car — safer, as well as cleaner and greener. Still others, like Waze for traffic, use the crowd or social media to help you navigate the urban jungle.

Fueling this trend is this global urban reality: More than half the world now lives in cities, and in 30 years, 70 percent will live in cities, Abrahamson said. Large cities now consume two-thirds of the world’s energy and create over 70 percent of global CO2 emissions. In the United States, 80 percent of residents already live in cities, stretching resources. And with urban renaissances taking place in the heart of many cities, downtown neighborhoods are experiencing unprecedented growth.

You don’t have to look far to see this trend playing out: The population of downtown Miami — Brickell through Wynwood — has doubled since 2000, to a projected 80,750 residents in 2014. Forty-six percent of those residents are young professionals, ages 25 to 44, according to the Miami Downtown Development Authority’s just-released 2014 Demographics Report. During the day, 222,000 people inhabit Miami’s urban core.

And the growth is not expected to let up. The Miami DDA report projects a population of nearly 100,000 in five years. Fueling that projection: There are about 23,000 condo units currently in the pipeline in the greater downtown region, according to the DDA. Since 2000, more than 22,000 condo units have come online in downtown Miami.

Fort Lauderdale is also experiencing an urban living surge, with 23 condo towers now in some stage of development, according to CraneSpotter’s research. Locally and around the globe, cities struggle with how to handle the surge — from infrastructure to energy to transit to safety. Some governments are actively involved in addressing these issues. But increasingly, it is private businesses, particularly startups, that are creating solutions to ease conditions or potentially change habits.

“If cities don’t change dramatically in the next 30 years, then we have to rethink society. Mayors and people in the cities are ultimately going to decide what will happen with climate change. Who solves this? I don’t think it is fair to ask local governments to do this,” said Abrahamson, in an interview in Urban.Us’ Wynwood office.

Continue reading "Urban tech startups: Smarter, nimbler, crazier" »