May 28, 2017

How to be selected for cohort 3 at StartUP FIU

Startupfiu

Pitch Day for StartUP FIU's Cohort 2

By Robert Hacker

StartUP FIU has just opened applications for the third cohort of its Empower Accelerator. The first two cohorts each received over 150 applications and we expect the same number by the June 11 deadline. The new cohort will begin the formal 14-week accelerator program in September and there is no cost or equity position given to participate. The program is open to both social and traditional entrepreneurs and their early stage companies.

The question we are most frequently asked is how can I improve the chances of being selected for the StartUP FIU accelerator.

 Coachability

We have interviewed over 90 applicants, worked with another 60 entrepreneurs that did not necessarily apply and advised the 39 teams comprising Cohorts I and II. The first thing all our staff are trained to look for is coachability--can the entrepreneur listen to critical feedback, thoughtfully consider it and make a reasoned adjustment. Every team in the program is assigned at least one mentor and these seasoned entrepreneurs are a critical success factor in incubators and accelerators worldwide. If the entrepreneur is not able to demonstrate they can take critical feedback from mentors and staff, their likelihood of commercial success and acceptance to the program is much lower.

 Problem Validation

Everyone who applies to Empower has a concept for a new business. Many applicants have a prototype or a beta, particularly the engineers. Surprisingly few have talked to potential customers about their problem, pain or need. After coachability, the next characteristic we look for is a demonstration of customer knowledge gained in the market. Of course, the best demonstration of customer knowledge may be revenue.

 Uniqueness

Competitive advantage, barriers to entry, what Warren Buffet calls moats--these are all descriptions of the same factors that can create value for customers and particularly shareholders. Perhaps the simplest way to demonstrate uniqueness is to describe the founder’s insight about the customer or problem that the company is addressing. Another effective technique is to describe the technology and simply describe how it is proprietary.

 Team

Entrepreneurship is the epitome of a team endeavor, hopefully beginning with co-founders and then building out the minimally necessary technical and management team. In our experience, companies with a team already established get more benefit out of the program and make more progress.

As we progress with the Empower Accelerator, we encounter an insatiable demand for all aspects of the entrepreneurship experience.  We are excited to be a part of Miami’s entrepreneurial support network and will continue to iterate to be able to offer different services for the multiple needs of the community and FIU.

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. His books on entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship are available on Amazon.

 

May 27, 2017

Calling all Miami area creators: WeWork holding regional contest awarding $1.5M+ in grants open to all

Wework%20lincoln%20road

The way we work is changing and WeWork believes that the way we recognize and reward work must change too. Miami entrepreneurs, SMBs, non-profits, artists or anyone with a great idea are eligible to compete for a grant from the $1.5 million-plus prize pool available at the Creator Awards South Regional Finals in Austin over June 26 and 27. But hurry, the application deadline is June 5.

What's exciting about the opportunity is that it's open to everyone (WeWork members, non-members, all industries, all stages, even folks who may just have a good idea) and that beyond the financial awards there will be two full days of public programming in Austin. This is the first year of what will become an annual program. 

Grants from $18,000 to $360,000 will be awarded in three categories: Incubate (ideas or projects); Launch (startups and nonprofits that have launched but still learning); and Scale (a record of success, ready for next level).  

Winners have ranged from a nonprofit teaching tech skills to low income individuals, to a new coalition of journalists who improve care for Alzheimers patients by writing their life stories, to a new trading platform for sustainable agriculture. (See photo from Washington DC regional event below)

"WeWork wants to honor all types of creators from entrepreneurs to artists to nonprofits. There are incredible things happening and big ideas being born in Miami every day,” said Adam Wacenski, WeWork’s General Manager for the South. “The Creator Awards is a new opportunity to share their ideas, connect with other creators and hopefully win a grant that can make a real difference in their work and in their life."

Here are the details:

WHAT: Entries are now open for the Creator Awards, a new global initiative from WeWork that will award $20 million-plus to entrepreneurs who are thinking in new ways, building fresh projects and achieving real change across all industries.

Miami applicants are eligible to compete for $1.5 million-plus at the Austin Regional Finals on June 26 and 27 and have the opportunity to advance to the Creator Awards Global Finals in New York in November where additional prizes will be awarded.

WHO: WeWork, a global platform for creators with 140+ locations including Miami, Miami Beach, Dallas, Austin, Atlanta and coming soon to Houston, Nashville and Kansas City

WHERE: Residents of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia

WHEN: Application Deadline: June 5

Creator Awards South Regional Finals: June 26-27

In addition to financial awards, the South Regional Finals brings together everything it takes to make a life, not just a living. The two-day public event will include a pop-up market with local sellers, a series of master classes and workshops, a job fair as well as live pitches and an awards ceremony and celebration.

HOW: To apply or to nominate others: https://creatorawards.wework.com/

Wework Creator Awards DC-366_Credit WeWork

Photo taken at a WeWork Creator Awards regional finals event in Washington DC. Photo provided by WeWork. 

 

March 09, 2017

To help social entrepreneurial ventures grow, Social Venture Partners launches in Miami

 

Launch

Lauren Harper (center), founder of Social Venture Partners Miami, introduces the organization’s founding partners at the launch event Thursday at New World Center. SVP Miami will support selected social impact ventures with capital, mentoring and connections. Nancy Dahlberg ndahlberg@miamiherald

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

A new group of venture philanthropy funders will be taking young social impact ventures under its wing, offering mentoring, strategy advice and connections, as well as capital.

Social Venture Partners Miami (www.svpmiami.org) launched on Thursday and it is part of a global network of 3,500 venture philanthropists now in 43 cities in nine countries who have collectively invested more than $63 million in about 840 social ventures since 1997.

SVP partners are professionals, executives, entrepreneurs and community leaders; together they select social ventures in the community to back, and they contribute their time, talent, capital and connections to help the ventures grow, using a venture capitalist model to reap social returns.

At the launch of SVP Miami at the New World Center, Paul Shoemaker, the Seattle-based founder of the global Social Venture Partners and author of "Can’t Not Do," said every SVP chapter needs an energizer bunny and Lauren Harper, the founder of Miami’s chapter is that. “Join the movement, write your check, be a part of this network that is going to make Miami a better place,” said Shoemaker, who also spoke at the Philanthropy Miami event earlier in the day.

The idea is that SVP will be an on-ramp, helping promising concepts that already have traction to grow and become “venture ready” for social impact funders, said Harper. Over time, SVP Miami will mentor and fund a number of ventures. A big differentiator with other programs, she said, is that SVP plans to partner with the ventures they back for three to five years.

Harper also co-founded the Center for Social Change, a Miami co-working and education center for nonprofit and for-profit social ventures.

“The center does an incredible job bringing people together ... but more is needed,” said Harper, noting that Miami is a city of startups but not scaleups. “The SVP model provides the right combination of resources and capital to support social ventures that can scale. And this is the right time to do this in Miami.”

At the launch, attended by a couple hundred people, Harper introduced the founding partners – 11 so far.

“The big vision is we need to transform the way we give and the way we invest, the way we do business and the way we do nonprofit work,” Harper said. “Globally, there is a whole new movement and a whole new industry, a trillion dollar industry, called social impact investing that allows for financial returns social and environmental returns.

“I think Social Venture Partners will this be an amazing bridge that will bring the non-profit and for-profit world together to drive change.”

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg

READ MORE: The do-good Sharks pick a winner: pop-up barbershops

Lauren

Paul Shoemaker, founder of the global Social Venture Partners and author of “Can’t Not Do,” makes remarks at the SVP Miami launch event at the New World Center with Lauren Harper, founder of the Miami chapter. Nancy Dahlberg ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

 

February 09, 2017

WIN Lab Miami gets new director: Meet Carolina Pina

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 02, 2017

Meet the entrepreneurs in Cohort 2 of StartUP FIU accelerator

StartUP C2

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

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

Audio EP

Founder: Stephen Sullivan

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

BECOS

Founder: Jorge Arias

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

BENBO

Founder: Carolina Hoyos

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

Boatrax

Founder: David Villegas

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

Cargo42

Founder: Francine Gervazio

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

Clutch Couture Bags

Co-founders: Jordan Johnson and Tia Plagata

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

Container Retail

Founder: Charles Sims

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

Extreme Weather Experience

Founder: Erik Salna

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

Give Wink

Founder: Francine Delarosa

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

 

GlanceHouse Cloud

Founder: Andrew Ritch

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

Mind&Melody

Founder: Cristina Rodriguez

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

SkillCourt LLC

Founder: Gudmundur Traustason

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

Stealth Simulation

Founder: Christian Gutierrez

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

Viera Academy

Founder: Carlos Raul Garcia

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

WeWomen

Founder: Dorothy Peck

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

Worcket

Founder: Sergio Klarreich

­

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

No Name Company

Founder: Megan Twomey

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

January 20, 2017

Why the Maker Movement can help bridge the social, economic and digital divides of our community

Makerfaire
Pablo Ricatti watches a 3D printer demonstration during the last Miami Mini Maker Faire, held at Young Arts Plaza. AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com

By RIC HERRERO and DALE DOUGHERTY

Herrero%20(2)Makers are a global community of talented innovators — designers, fabricators, artists, engineers, educators, entrepreneurs and civic leaders — driven by personal passions and a spirit of lifelong learning and creative hacking.

You will find them from Silicon Valley start-up founders and Burning Man artisans to Havana’s cuentapropistas and Barcelona’s urban hackers. They see objects and systems not as finished things, but as collections of components that can be remixed, repurposed and reimagined to shape worlds around them.

Some are entrepreneurs like Rodolfo Saccoman. He develops innovative products in Miami Beach such as the MATRIX Creator, an Internet-of-Things development board that enables software developers to build hardware applications regardless of their skill level. Others are educators like Willie Avendano and Nelson Milian of the 01 education lab in Wynwood. They foster a sense of agency and creative confidence in young students through hands-on STEAM-based learning.

DaleOthers are using tools for social good. For instance, architects Tony Garcia and Sherryl Muriente’s wonderful Biscayne Green public space project has shown us the power of urban prototyping and open collaboration to promote public transit and strengthen communal bonds in Downtown Miami.

The act of making is rooted in play, collaboration and curiosity. It develops a mindset that enables us to see ourselves as more than just consumers, but as creators with a bias toward action. Makers love to tinker with hardware and technology, but mostly see these as a means to an end. They combine domain expertise and traditional craftsmanship with modern tools such as digital fabrication, micro-controllers and data analytics to innovate solutions for themselves and their communities.

The maker mindset helps people better bridge the social, economic and digital divides in an era of technological acceleration and dislocation. When so many of today’s jobs are expected to disappear in coming years because of advances in artificial intelligence and automation, few skills become as important as collaboration, resourcefulness, communication and creative problem-solving. The maker movement helps nurture those skills, letting us look closely at the things around us, explore their complexity and identify opportunities to add value.

For makers to prosper in a community, they require physical spaces with access to tools and expertise that foster local productivity. In Miami, the Moonlighter makerspace makes fabrication tools available to people of all ages. The Discovery Lab at FIU’s School of Computing and Information Sciences has introduced vertically integrated programs to foster cross-disciplinary collaboration. And Miami Dade College hosts the Design for Miami and Make1 programs through its Idea Center, which teach students how to apply design thinking and prototyping practices to solve problems, along with Maker Faire Miami, the region’s largest showcase of maker talent and one of almost 200 such Maker Faires around the globe.

But that’s not all cities need to be productive. They also require community organizers who can leverage resources among the city’s schools and universities, libraries, museums and large and small businesses, in order to build a well-connected ecosystem of creative and learning environments where makers can thrive. They require business associations that recognize the need for vocational programs that prepare the local labor force for the current and future job market. They require city officials who embrace open data and work with civic hacking groups like Code for Miami to improve municipal services and address challenges such as affordable housing, homelessness and adapting to climate change. Finally, they need planning and zoning boards that minimize red tape and create more favorable conditions for urban production and entrepreneurship to flourish.

We want to grow the Maker Movement to include everyone, helping them become innovators in their own lives and communities. We also seek to expand the opportunities that makers have to innovate, defining shared missions that makers can join. We’re happy to see Miami off to such a promising start and are eager to help all who want to see it go further.

Today (Jan. 20) at 4 pm: Join Make: Magazine founder Dale Dougherty and the international network of Maker Faire producers at Miami Dade College - Wolfson Campus to explore how the maker mindset is revitalizing our cities. Co-hosted by MANO, Miami Dade College and Maker Faire with the support of Knight Foundation, this event is open to the public and tickets are available via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/making-the-maker-city-opening-plenary-for-the-2017-maker-faire-global-summit-registration-30470654548

Ric Herrero is the co-founder and president of MANO Americas; reach him at ric@manaamericas.org. Dale Dougherty is the founder of Maker Faire and author of “Free to Make”; reach him @dalepd. This column was first published on the Miami Herald op-ed page Friday. 

Read past coverage of Miami Mini Maker Faire here.

 

 

January 17, 2017

Check out the 12 Miami finalists of the 2017 Knight Cities Challenge

A neighborhood market for Overtown, a civic innovation competition for college students and a network of mobile popup containers ready for activations are among the Miami finalists in the the third annual Knight Cities Challenge.

Chosen from a pool of more than 4.500 applicants, 144 concepts nationwide have made it to the finalist round, including 12 from Miami, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced Tuesday. The Knight Cities Challenge is a national call for ideas to make the 26 communities where Knight invests more vibrant places to live and work.

Winners, who will receive a share of up to $5 million, will be announced in the spring.

The finalists from Miami are:

95 Park by Omni Community Redevelopment Agency (submitted by Jason Walker): Giving the Omni community a place to gather by converting three blighted, vacant city blocks into a large urban park with businesses, a skate park, art installations and restaurants.

Dan Paul Park Recreation Center (submitted by Mauricio Velazquez): Transforming Dan Paul Park into an active recreation hub by installing soccer fields, bike paths and a playground.

Green Space Pop-ups by Audubon Florida (submitted by Eric Draper): Creating incentives for developers to lend private vacant land for green spaces in urban Miami-Dade.

Instant City: A micro-urban infrastructure (submitted by James Brazil): Creating a network of mobile pop-up containers to activate underused public spaces and carparks around the city.

Ludlam Days by Green Mobility Network (submitted by Mari Chael): Building momentum for the Miami Loop, a proposed 70-mile greenway, through a series of events and demonstrations.

Magic City Innovation Challenge by Venture Cafe Miami (submitted by Leigh-Ann Buchanan): Nurturing Miami’s native talent and emerging innovation ecosystem through a competition that challenges college students to solve real-world civic and business problems.

Miami Great Streets Program by Street Plans Collaborative (submitted by Anthony Garcia): Establishing a program within Miami-Dade County in partnership with local transportation nonprofit Green Mobility Network that advances low-cost, quick-build transportation and open space projects.

The MIA Market (submitted by Mauricio Velazquez): Reinvigorating Overtown while creating opportunities for residents and chefs by repurposing a vacant warehouse into a neighborhood market.

OurSchoolYards (submitted by Wifredo Fernandez): Bridging the divide between communities and their public schools by transforming underused school yards into public parks.

Rep(resentative) MIA by Engage Miami (submitted by Rob Biskupic-Knight): Breaking down barriers to civic participation by putting clear, actionable information about local elected officials directly into citizens’ hands.

WiFi Parks @ Overtown by Venture Cafe Miami (submitted by Leigh-Ann Buchanan): Bringing public Wi-Fi to parks in Overtown to improve digital access and encourage people to connect in the outdoors.

Civic Incite: Citizens Setting the Agenda (submitted by Civic Incite): Inspiring civic engagement with an online platform that tracks public meetings and legislation across cities to promote in-person engagement with local governments. Finalist in the “Multiple Cities” category.

In addition, there were two finalists from Palm Beach County: 12 for 12: Pop-up to Rent, with a plan to activate 12 empty storefront spaces as an economic catalyst for West Palm Beach, and The Tie Beam, which creates a public space parallel to the railroad tracks in downtown West Palm Beach that encourages pedestrian activity and integrates public art, transportation and urban design.

“The finalists use creativity and inventiveness to tackle community challenges and realize new opportunities, proposing ideas that are unique to their city, but also hold lessons and inspiration for civic innovators across the country,” said George Abbott, Knight Foundation director for community and national initiatives.

Last year, three Miami projects were winners: The Underline project, a linear park under the Metrorail, “Biscayne Green,” a pop-up park spearheaded by the Miami Downtown Development Authority underway now, and a civic technology user testing group. In total, they received $495,000 in funding.

Nationwide, applicants proposed a wide range of ideas, from technology to better connects local government with the public and increase voter engagement, to creating public spaces – parks, trails, pools, and even treehouses – that connect people from diverse backgrounds and contribute to economic growth. Many of the projects also address racial divides, blighted neighborhoods, and social and economic inequities.

Now in its third year, the challenge is part of a three-year, $15 million commitment that Knight Foundation launched in the fall of 2014. Since then, the Knight Cities Challenge has named 69 winning ideas. See the full list of 2017 finalists at knightcities.org.

January 10, 2017

New ClassWallet investment follows $1.1 million raised in Q4

RosenbergBy Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

ClassWallet, a Miami-based company that streamlines the tracking of education funds, has closed a new minority investment from Brentwood Associates.

For Brentwood, a private equity investment firm, ClassWallet represents its fifth education-related investment.  Several existing ClassWallet investors also participated in the funding round.
 
Founded by Jamie Rosenberg, ClassWallet is a platform for school systems to disburse and track funds. The company also is gaining traction with university athletic departments for per diem expense management, as well as with states for education savings account management, an integral component to school choice, Rosenberg said.  ClassWallet is used in over 850 schools and in some of the largest school districts in the United States, including Los Angeles Unified. 

The amount of the investment wasn’t disclosed, but Rosenberg said it was not part of the $1.1 million financing round ClassWallet raised in the fourth quarter of 2016 that brought the company’s total funding to more than $5.1 million. ClassWallet plans to use the new funds for sales and marketing. “We are getting great traction and have a scalable sales process in place, so it will be for accelerating growth,” Rosenberg said.

ClassWallet plans to release the latest version of its platform this month, which will allow schools to accept cash payments from parents without taking cash into the school building or classroom.  Several districts are already working with ClassWallet to implement the solution. “Brentwood brings a variety of value-add capabilities, including digital marketing and salesforce expertise, which will allow us to invest in new customer acquisition efforts and expand our distribution,” he said.
 
Brentwood Partner Eric Reiter added: “ClassWallet aligns well with our strategy of targeting growing companies with a differentiated product offering and high levels of customer loyalty and satisfaction.  ClassWallet’s patent-pending technology is highly innovative and satisfies a real need in a large addressable market.” 

 

November 27, 2016

Startup Spotlight: The Wynwood Coloring Book

Wynwoodcoloringbook

The Wynwood Coloring Book is a coloring book for adults inspired by the world famous street art of Wynwood. A second edition is planned, as well as a broader book featuring street artists from throughout the U.S.

Company name: The Wynwood Coloring Book, by AimfulMedia

Headquarters: MADE at the Citadel, 8325 NE Second Ave., Miami

Concept: The Wynwood Coloring Book is a coloring book for adults inspired by the world famous street art of Wynwood.

Story: As an entrepreneur, Diego Orlandini (pictured above) has always been passionate about ideas that are socially responsible and community-oriented and that deepen the human experience. He admires TOMS Shoes and similar companies that bring tangible positive social impact to their business models.

“Last year, when I was stressed trying to build AimfulMedia and writing a novel, my girlfriend at the time introduced me to a coloring book for adults. We imagined how cool it could be to color the murals of the city, and I saw that as the opportunity to put all my passions into one single project,” Orlandini said. Orlandini, a yoga enthusiast who traveled to India this summer, also discovered firsthand what research has shown to be true: Coloring can be a “mindful” way of relaxing and focusing.

Orlandini partnered with a number of Wynwood artists, and with the help of that community, the first edition of the $25 coloring book published in April. The 64-page book, made with high-quality environmentally friendly wood-free paper, features the work of 43 street artists, including Alex Senna, Mijares and Patch Whisky and includes a directory with information about each artist and work of art.

“The Wynwood Coloring Book is a lot of things. It’s a tool for mindfulness, to help people take a break from the hustle and remember a simpler time. It’s a souvenir for visitors who want to bring home a part of this place. And it’s a time capsule, capturing Wynwood at a pivotal moment in its young life, preserving today’s art long after it is painted over to make way for a new mural,” The New Tropic wrote earlier this year about the book.

The first printing of the Wynwood Coloring Book sold out in June and a second printing is nearly sold out. There will be one more printing before the next edition of Wynwood Coloring Book comes out featuring a new set of street artists. About 5,000 copies have been sold so far.

Orlandini also has plans to expand beyond Wynwood: “We are now embarking on the next bigger, larger project: A coloring book featuring over 100 artists around the country and a buy-one, give-one initiative that will come with it. For every book sold, we will place a textbook in the hands of schoolchildren in the developing world.”

Orlandini said he is working on a prototype for the national book now and will put out a call to artists in January.

Founded: 2015 (first book in 2016)

Management team: Diego Orlandini

Website: wynwoodcoloringbook.com

Financing: $5,000 via a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign. Hoping to raise $50,000 for a national project.

Recent milestones reached: The Wynwood Coloring Book is now available at Miami International Airport, Books & Books, several museum gift shops including PAMM, and top retailers in Wynwood, including The Wynwood Walls Shop, Glotman, Frangipani and Wynwood Letterpress. Faber-Castell approached the company and together they launched a Wynwood Coloring Book colored pencil set to accompany the book. The startup organized a coloring party at the Miami Book Fair that entertained hundreds of attendees, adults and children alike.

Biggest startup challenge: “Not having a mentor to guide me through the process was the biggest challenge,” Orlandini said. “I’m still looking for one!”

Next step: A coloring book with 100-plus artists and their street art from around the country and a buy one, give one program (for every book sold, the company will give a textbook to schoolchildren in the developing world). “Doing something like this has been a dream of mine since my college years,” he said.

Strategy for next step: With the rapid experience, important connections and growing audience as a result of The Wynwood Coloring Book, the company will implement the same lean process used to create this book, but at a much larger scale.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

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October 31, 2016

With $750K in new funding, what's ahead for The New Tropic? Expansion

Newtropicphoto

Photo from The New Tropic

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Boosted by growing community engagement and new funding, media company WhereBy.Us, publisher of The New Tropic, announced its first expansion outside South Florida. The Miami startup is taking its New Tropic business model to Seattle, “with more cities on the way,” said CEO and co-founder Christopher Sopher.

The New Tropic serves up a popular daily newletter, with about 30,000 subscribers. It offers stories and tools on its website, such as a how to decipher ballot initiatives or understand sea level rise and its engaging neighborhood guides. It also partners with organizations that run events, and produces some of its own; its recent debate watch event at Gramp's (pictured above) was packed. “Whether it is a forum on a really tough civic issue or it’s a beer tasting, these kinds of things are all happening in the same moment in Miami, and we think that is really fun,” Sopher said in an interview Friday.

Through the expansion, a Seattle team of journalists has started a sister company, Evergrey, which launched a digital newsletter last week with plans for a website and events to quickly follow. The New Tropic has raised $750,000 from Knight Foundation’s Enterprise Fund, the AGP Miami angel network, Tilia Media and other angel investors. WhereBy.Us’s staff has expanded from three to 13 in the past two years.

The funding will help Whereby.Us, co-founded by Rebekah Monson and Bruce Pinchbeck, expand to new markets but also  continue building a technology platform for serving and engaging the Miami community. The tech tools help the team understand what gets millennials and other residents motivated to want to experience the city so that The New Tropic can  help them get connected to issues they care by  serving up information useful in these pursuits. “We take a concept where there is a lot of interest, like the voter guide, and make it into something that fits the digital behavior of people, optimized for mobile and is ready for people to explore or share. We see big opportunities for those kinds of resources,” Sopher said.

In a medium post last week, Sopher described the research that went into launching The New Tropic two years ago with Rebekah Monson and Bruce Pinchbeck: “We vetted financial models, gathered advisors, and secured a bit of funding. But nothing tests your assumptions like a sudden impact with the real world. Fortunately, somewhere between exploring Miami’s dive bars, diving into transit policy, and running Pitbull for Mayor, The New Tropic started to catch on.”

The New Tropic will be launching a new version of its website in the coming months and plans a couple of local conferences in addition to expanding to new cities next year. The community-focused mission isn’t changing, Sopher said: “We’re diving deeper into it and running faster.”

He adds, “It’s easy to get lost in the coding or scaling or fundraising or some other aspect of building a company, but at the end of the day if you don’t understand the community you serve in a deep way, it’s hard to build something that lasts.”